Hard Times for Volodymyr Zelensky

Not so long ago, you were Volodymyr Zelensky, beloved comedian and star of "Servant of the People," one of Ukraine's most popular TV shows. Then you decided you wanted a new project, a big challenge. Why play Ukraine's president when you could be Ukraine's president?


All you had to do was win an election, your first ever, by knocking off incumbent president Petro Poroshenko and former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. People knew and loved you. How hard could it be?

You won! Well done. And the political party you created, "Servant of the People," then won a solid majority of seats in parliamentary elections, giving you plenty of friendly lawmakers to help write your vision into law and to fight the endemic corruption that has long blocked your country's path forward.

So… 21 weeks later, how's it going?

For one thing, you now find yourself in the middle of what may become the biggest American political scandal in decades. Members of each major US political party want you to talk about one thing and shut up about another.

Democrats say Trump tried to strong-arm you into giving him dirt on one of his political rivals by withholding money that your country needs to face down challenges from Russia. Republicans, meanwhile, want to know what the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was doing to earn $50,000 per month from a Ukrainian natural gas company while his dad was Vice President.

Thanks to your new lead role in an American impeachment battle, some are now calling you Monica Zelensky.

Then there's that war with Russia you inherited, the one triggered by Russian-backed separatists that has killed 13,000 people in the disputed provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and forced 1.5 million people from their homes. Your new big idea to end this awful conflict is to consider a plan, first proposed by a former German foreign minister, that would allow elections in those two provinces, reincorporate them back into Ukraine with a "special status" that gives them some policy independence, disarm the separatists who've been shooting at your army, and give you back control of the border with Russia.

And for your trouble, Mr. President, protesters in the center of Kyiv have called you a traitor. They say these elections will formally recognize the theft of political power by separatists and prevent Ukrainian patriots from returning to their homes there. They say you have "surrendered" to Vladimir Putin.

Soon talks will begin with the French, Germans, and Russians to see if this deal can be made real. The devil is no doubt hiding in the details.

In the meantime, it's been a tough four and half months, Mr. President. You deserve a bit of comic relief at this point, and we're glad you got to meet Tom Cruise. For now, you're still pretty popular at home. You're known for your sense of humor and ample political talents, and you'll surely need both in months to come.

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

Donald Trump can still win re-election in November, but foreign governments read the same polls we do. They know that Joe Biden heads into the homestretch with a sizeable polling lead — both nationally and in the states most likely to decide the outcome. Naturally, they're thinking ahead to what a Biden foreign policy might look like.

They're probably glad that Biden gives them a half-century track record to study. (He was first elected to local office in 1970 and to the US Senate in 1972.) The six years he spent as ranking member, then chairman, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his term as co-chairman of the Senate's NATO Observer Group, and his eight years as Barack Obama's vice president tell them that he's essentially a "liberal internationalist," a person who believes that America must lead a global advance of democracy and freedom — and that close cooperation with allies is essential for success.

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On the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, explains why, in her view, Cold War analogies fall short as tensions between the US and China rise. Unlike the former Soviet Union, China is an economic powerhouse and a trade partner and technology provider to nations around the world. Simply cutting off ties with China seems untenable, but, as she asks, "How can you safely continue that integration, continue that interaction, with a country whose ideology you absolutely don't share, and that you fundamentally don't trust." The full episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television on Friday, July 31, 2020. Check local listings.

Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses technology industry news today:


What happened at the antitrust hearings this week?

Well, CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook testified in front of the Subcommittee in Antitrust of the House Judiciary Committee for five hours. There's a fair amount of nonsense and conspiracy talk, but mostly it was a pretty good hearing where the House members dug into questions about whether four companies abused their market positions to their advantage? Whether they used predatory pricing to drive competitors out of the market? Whether they used inside information from their services to identify and then copy and kill competitors? And the evidence that was presented, if I were to sum it up quickly, is, yes, they did do that. They did abuse their market power. But what wasn't presented was clear evidence of consumer harm. We know they acted in ways that distorted capitalism, but were people really hurt? That's a big question. I look forward to their report.