What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

What We're Watching

US threatening Germany over Chinese 5G – The Trump administration is willing to cut intelligence-sharing with Germany unless Berlin bans Chinese equipment maker Huawei from its 5G networks. Washington is pressuring Europe more broadly to drop Chinese 5G suppliers over concerns they could give Beijing backdoor access to sensitive communications, data, and networks. Germany is crafting new regulations meant to address these concerns, but it won't impose a blanket ban that could anger China and push up the cost of building the new network. We're watching two things here: first, are those new German rules enough for the Trump administration? Second, will Trump's own (somewhat fickle) approach towards Chinese 5G suppliers (like Huawei) turn out to be as harsh as what he's asking of Europe?

Foreign effects of Trump's new budget – President Trump on Monday submitted his budget proposal for 2020 to Congress. Much of the media has focused on his request for $8.6 billion to build a border wall, which will spark a fresh confrontation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But our eyes are on the nearly 5 percent increase in military spending and sharp cuts to the budgets of the State Department and the US Agency for International Development. Trump will emphasize hard power over soft, and he'll use deep cuts to federal health insurance, the federal pension system, and other social programs to pay for it. The Trump budget doesn't matter much, since Congress controls spending, but it's a good indicator of the president's policy priorities.

What We're Ignoring

North Korea's Parliamentary Elections – The North Korean ruling party has won a stunning landslide victory in the country's latest parliamentary elections, a sign the North Korean people are thrilled with the job their leaders are doing. One noteworthy surprise: Kim Jong-un's name was not on the ballot. It's the first time a North Korean leader has not sought a seat in parliament. We're ignoring this story, because our intuition tells us that Kim's political position remains reasonably strong.

Mayors vs Google – Two mayors in Iceland insist that the Google Maps satellite images of their towns are hurting tourism by showing them covered in snow. "This snowbound image gets on my nerves," one of them told reporters. "I'll post a comment a day, until I get through to them." We're guessing these requests remain fairly low on Google's current to-do list. After all, the company is still – after five years – sorting out whether to show Crimea as part of Russia or Ukraine.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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