What We're Watching: The Mueller Report, Strife in Sudan

The Mueller Report – On Thursday, the US Department of Justice is expected to release a redacted version of the nearly 400-page report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Much of the media will focus on what the report says about any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election, as well as any efforts by the President to obstruct the investigation. But we'll be watching to learn more detail on all the ways Russia tried to influence the last election and what can be done to prevent Moscow, or anyone else, from doing the same in 2020.

Strife in Sudan – Amid surging popular protests, Sudan's military ousted President Omar Bashir last week after 30 years in power and set up a "military council" to run the country for two years. When that didn't placate the streets, the defense minister who led the coup stepped down too. A protest spokesman says demonstrators want a fully civilian government and the prosecution of many former officials. We'll be watching to see whether the army keeps its cool. More importantly, senior military officials in Algeria and Venezuela are watching to see what happens when ousting a strongman isn't enough to quiet angry crowds.

What We're Ignoring: Underwater Meetings, Ukraine's non-Debate

Seychelles Underwater Cabinet Meeting – The President of the Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago, delivered a speech last weekend on the importance of protecting the world's seas. The broadcast earned international attention because the president, Danny Faure, delivered it from a submersible vehicle 400 feet beneath the surface of the sea. No one can ignore Faure's message on behalf of the world's oceans. But we're ignoring the stunt itself because in 2009 the government of the Maldives held an entire cabinet meeting underwater.

Ukraine's presidential debate – On Sunday, Ukraine's embattled President Petro Poroshenko held a debate against an empty podium after his opponent, the comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, skipped the event. Zelenskiy has now agreed to debate Poroshenko on Friday at Kiev's Olympic Stadium. The spectacle might be fun to watch, but we're ignoring the debate itself, because if Ukrainian voters cared about the finer points of policy right now, Zelenskiy (who plays a president on TV) wouldn't have made the runoff—much less find himself the odds-on favorite to be elected president this Sunday.

Amid the current need to continually focus on the COVID-19 crisis, it is understandably hard to address other important issues. But, on March 31st, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed landmark facial recognition legislation that the state legislature passed on March 12, less than three weeks, but seemingly an era, ago. Nonetheless, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the importance of this step. This legislation represents a significant breakthrough – the first time a state or nation has passed a new law devoted exclusively to putting guardrails in place for the use of facial recognition technology.

For more on Washington's privacy legislation, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Over the past decade or so, the European Union has weathered the global financial crisis, a migrant crisis, and the rise of populist nationalism. Sure, it's taken its fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, but the idea of a largely borderless Europe united by common democratic values has survived more or less intact.

Then came the coronavirus. The global pandemic, in which Europe is now one of the two main epicentres, is a still-spiralling nightmare that could make those previous crises look benign by comparison. Here are a few different ways that COVID-19 is severely testing the 27-member bloc:

The economic crisis: Lockdowns intended to stop the virus' spread have brought economic activity to a screeching halt, and national governments are going to need to spend a lot of money to offset the impact. But some EU members can borrow those funds more easily than others. Huge debt loads and deficits in southern European countries like Italy and Spain, which have been hardest hit by the outbreak so far, make it costlier for them to borrow than more fiscally conservative Germany and other northern member states. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, this imbalance nearly led the bloc's common currency, the Euro, to unravel.

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3.5 billion: There are now an estimated 3.5 billion people worldwide under some sort of coronavirus lockdown after residents in Moscow (12 million) and Nigeria's capital Lagos (21 million) were ordered to join the ranks of those quarantined at home.

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North Korea has zero coronavirus cases? North Korea claims to be one of few countries on earth with no coronavirus cases. But can we take the word of the notoriously opaque leadership at face value? Most long-term observers of Pyongyang dismiss as fanciful the notion that the North, which shares a border with China, its main trade partner, was able to avert the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. Many point to Pyongyang's lack of testing capabilities as the real reason why it hasn't reported any COVID-19 cases. To be sure, Kim Jong-un, the North's totalitarian leader, imposed some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world, well before many other countries – closing the Chinese border and quarantining all diplomats. The state's ability to control its people and their movements would also make virus-containment efforts easier to manage. We might not know the truth for some time. But what is clear is that decades of seclusion and crippling economic sanctions have devastated North Korea's health system, raising concerns of its capacity to manage a widespread outbreak of disease.

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As the coronavirus continues to ravage the world, all eyes now turn to the place where it all started. For more than two months, the 11 million residents of Wuhan, the Chinese industrial hub where the novel coronavirus was first detected, have lived under near complete lockdown.

Now, as China reports a dwindling number of new cases, the city's people are slowly emerging back into the daylight. Some travel restrictions remain, but public transportation is largely functioning again, and increasing numbers of people are cautiously – with masks and gloves and digital "health codes" on their phones that permit them to move about – going back to work.

The rest of the world, where most hard-hit countries have imposed various forms of lockdown of their own, is now keenly watching what happens in Wuhan for a glimpse of what might lie in store for the rest of us.

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