AMERICA’S SILLY SEASON

AMERICA’S SILLY SEASON

It happens in every democracy. Just before elections, public officials and their backers make wild promises and wacky accusations in a last-bid attempt to swing the vote’s outcome. In the United States, this is called “Silly Season.”


Next Tuesday, voters across the US will choose among candidates for 35 of 100 Senate seats, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 36 of 50 state governorships, and many other local posts. Representatives of both parties are now producing plenty of sound and fury, signifying not much of substance. But as he so often does, President Trump is dominating the conversation. He’s made two pledges in the past few days, both on immigration, that deserve a closer look.

First, Trump has promised an executive order to end so-called birthright citizenshipin the United States. Today, any person born in the US is considered a US citizen, a principle embedded in the US Constitution since 1868. This was the result of legislative battles following the US Civil War to ensure that former slaves could not be denied citizenship. In addition, contrary to claims by Trump, the US is one of dozens of countries that enshrine this principle in law.

No president has the power to change this. Only by amending the Constitution’s 14thAmendment, a process that requires a vote by two-thirds of members of each house of Congress or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures, can this be done.

Second, in response to a group of Central American migrants making their way north toward the US, Trump has said he will send up to 15,000 US soldiers to the border. That he can do. But US federal law prevents the US military from enforcing the law on American soil.

That means US soldiers can’t arrest immigrants, seize property, or take any direct action to prevent them from crossing the border. They can support National Guard personnel by fixing their equipment, helping them build concrete barriers, and maintaining their vehicles.

Trump can issue his order on citizenship, but US courts will strike it down. The troops can pose for photos at the border, but they won’t be repelling any immigrant “invasion.” Trump is making these promises, because he wants to ensure as many of his supporters as possible will turn out to vote for his party next Tuesday.

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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