What We're Watching

Explanations for the Assange arrest – Why did Ecuador's government allow UK police to arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday after providing him asylum in its London embassy for nearly seven years? Was it pressure from the US government, which wants to imprison him for revealing its secrets? Assange's ongoing political activities? His "discourteous and aggressive behavior" toward embassy staff? Threats by Wikileaks against Ecuador? Or did Assange fail to follow embassy rules that he must pay his own medical bills and clean up after his cat? (Those were actual rules.) It probably wasn't the cat, but your Signal authors can smell that litter box from across the Atlantic.

South African violence against migrants – Election season can be a dangerous time. Migrants from other African countries have again become the target of deadly vigilante attacks by South Africans in recent weeks. Guest workers from Malawi, Somalia, DR Congo, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe have all been victimized. Upcoming elections may be feeding the violence as politicians from multiple parties publicly blame African foreigners for many of South Africa's economic, security, and social problems.

The Swiss troll the Brits – For the first time in modern Switzerland's history, a court has overruled the result of a nationwide referendum. In 2016, Swiss voters were asked whether partners who live together should pay tax at the same rate as married couples. By a margin of 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent, voters said no. This week, Switzerland's Supreme Court voided that result on the grounds that the information provided to voters before the referendum was "incomplete." Said the court: "Keeping in mind the close result and the severe nature of the irregularities, it is possible that the outcome of the ballot could have been different." The vote will be re-run. We're watching this story to see the expressions on the faces of Britons when they hear about it.

What We're Ignoring

Cuban Protesters – Hundreds of Cubans marched through Havana this week to protest cruelty to animals. Organizers of the demonstration say it's the first independent march ever authorized by Cuba's Communist government. Your Signal authors love animals, including Julian Assange's cat, but we'll ignore this story until the Cuban state approves a march to protest cruelty to people who disagree with their government.

Polling on Democratic presidential candidates – The men and women running for president, those who've made it official and those who haven't, are already working hard to raise money and their public profiles. But these are early days. First votes in primaries and caucuses won't be cast for nearly 10 months, and we're still 11 weeks away from the first Democratic presidential debates (June 26-27). Current polls tell us little more than that voters are familiar with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, while the rest of the (ever-expanding) field is relatively unknown.

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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