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.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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A Castro-less Cuba: Raúl Castro, younger brother of the late Fidel, is expected to retire on Friday as secretary-general of Cuba's ruling communist party. When he does, it'll mark the first time since the 1959 revolution that none of Cuba's leaders is named Castro. The development is largely symbolic since Castro, 89, handed over day-to-day affairs to President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2018. It's worth noting that US sanctions laws do specify that one of the conditions for normalizing ties with Cuba is that any transitional government there cannot include either of the Castro brothers. So that's one less box to tick in case there is a future rapprochement across the Straits of Florida. But more immediately, we're watching to see whether a new generation of leaders headed by Díaz-Canel will bring any serious reforms to Cuba. COVID has killed the tourism industry, plunging the island into an economic crisis that's brought back food shortages and dollar stores reminiscent of the early 1990s.

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16: Brazil's new plan to save the Amazon promises to curb deforestation, but not too much. Although it would reduce annual forest loss to the average recorded over the past five years, next year's target is still 16 percent higher than the Amazon's total deforestation in 2018, the year before President Jair Bolsonaro — who favors economic development of the rainforest — took office.

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Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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