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What We Are Watching

Saudi Arabia putting women's rights activists on trial – Just in time for International Women's Day, Saudi Arabia has announced that a dozen women rights activists will now face trial for seeking to "undermine the security" of the Kingdom. Members of the group were arrested last spring amid a crackdown that coincided with the move to lift restrictions on women driving. The apparent contradiction here reflects Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's authoritarian approach to modernizing a deeply conservative country: he has taken steps to liberalize certain aspects of society while also unleashing a ruthless crackdown on civil society that includes the jailing of activists and the government's murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

People on Twitter using AI to snoop on Chinese officials – Fair warning: we're not sure if this person who claims to have used facial recognition technology to spot officials who would otherwise be lost in the crowd at the opening of China's National People's Congress picking their noses and stifling yawns is for real. But just the idea that someone is using AI to literally watch the government of a country that's controversially using the same technology to augment its security state and crack down on millions of members of its ethnic Uighur Muslim minority is too good to pass up. The Communist Party isn't pleased.

What We Are Ignoring

A wild Washington love triangle – A carousing pair of bald eagles has been causing a stir in the US capital. Longtime partners Liberty and Justice were Washington's most famous nesting pair before Justice flew the coop last month, possibly to sow his oats after a mid-life crisis. After a few days fighting off a pair of rival suitors, including a dashing interloper named Aaron Burrd, Liberty shacked up with one of them and fled the nest herself. Later, as the local press put it, Justice returned, but found that Liberty had moved on. We're ignoring this story despite the poignant political metaphor, because the feathery soul-mates were recently spotted together again, and they deserve some privacy while they try to work things out.

Indian mustache groupies – Apparently we weren't the only ones who noticed Indian fighter pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's striking mustache. The fighter jock, who was released by Pakistan on Friday after being shot down over Kashmir last week, became an overnight hero and viral sensation, with young men from across India flocking to barbershops for the "Wing Commander Abhinandan" look. We're ignoring these pretenders, because there is only one Wing Commander Abhinandan.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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How was it that after decades of infighting, European nations were able to come together so quickly on an economic pandemic relief package? "I'm tempted to say because of COVID-19…because the triggering factor for the crisis was not the banks…not the bad behavior of some policy-makers somewhere in the region. It was actually this teeny tiny little virus..." European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde tells Ian Bremmer how a microscopic virus spurred the greatest show of international unity in years.


Watch the episode: Christine Lagarde, Leading Europe's United Economic Pandemic Response

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