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Cartoon Villains, Real Fears: Pooh and Jones

Cartoon Villains, Real Fears: Pooh and Jones

We’re living through a cartoonish period in global politics. Just look at the US and China, for example, where the fate of two very different cartoon(ish) characters reveals something important about each country’s biggest political fears.

Last week, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Chinese censors had bannedWalt Disney’s new Winnie-the-Pooh live-action film, Christopher Robin, from theaters. It’s part of an ongoing crusade against the portly, honey-addicted cartoon bear, which, it is widely agreed, bears a certain resemblance to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi’s opponents have made a meme of the lovable storybook character, using it to poke fun at the country’s most powerful leader since Mao. It seems absurd. Is China, the aspiring superpower, really so afraid that its leader can’t stand a little ribbing that it has to ban a cartoon bear? Xi isarguably the most powerful man on the planet, and cuts a strong figure as the head of a newly “confident” China. But as Beijing girds for a trade war with the US, the government doesn’t want a little bear to open the way for bigger criticism of China’s leadership. Millions of would-be Winnie-the-Pooh fans will just have to go see something else.

Meanwhile, in the US, a cartoonish villain has become a poster-boy for the country’s deepest anxieties. Fans of Alex Jones, a conspiracy-mongering talk radio host -- who, among other things, has spread baseless claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax -- can no longer find their favorite entertainer on Facebook, Apple, and YouTube. In recent days, those companies banned him from their services on the grounds that he was using hate speech. The fear here isn’t making a mockery of the national leadership, it’s that lies and disinformation will exacerbate divisions in society and undermine trust in institutions that are critical to a healthy democracy. Technically, there’s no free speech conflict – these are private companies. But their decision to deny Jones the use of their megaphone raises broader questions – does keeping the internet safe for democracy require rooting out poisonous speech? If so, should governments be regulating these companies more closely? Or does silencing someone like Jones just risk exacerbating the divisions he was inflaming in the first place?

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.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

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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