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?

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 200 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least eight Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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More Brexit shenanigans: Britons this week saw Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in upcoming elections. As a special bonus, they got to see Corbyn return the favo(u)r with a formal endorsement of Johnson. Most viewers in the UK will have understood immediately that these are the latest example of "deep fakes," digitally manipulated video images. The more important Brexit story this week is a pledge by Nigel Farage that his Brexit Party will not run candidates in areas held by the Conservatives in upcoming national elections. That's a boost for Johnson, because it frees his party from having to compete for support from pro-Brexit voters in those constituencies.

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80: More than 80 percent of the electronic voting systems currently used in the US are made by just three companies, according to a new report which warns that they are regulated less effectively than "colored pencils."

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Are we going to learn anything new from public impeachment hearings?

No, but like with Mueller, you know, people weren't reading the transcript, but they did actually listen to Mueller when he gave his speech. Now, the question is: Are they going to take anything different away from the public impeachment hearings? And the answer is, yes. They'll take very different things away, if they're watching on Fox or if they're watching on MSNBC. Still deeply divided and still can't imagine senators on the GOP impeaching, slash, convicting President Trump.

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