Cruel, Cruel Summer

As the temperature rose this summer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) many world leaders started to feel the heat. Here’s a look at five presidents and prime ministers who have seen their approval ratings fall significantly over the past several months.


Vladimir Putin, President of Russia: The world’s shrewdest strongman saw his approval rating plummet 12 points between May and July after his government proposed raising the retirement age and slashing pension benefits. More than 80 percent of Russians opposed the move, prompting the largest one-month polling tailspin in the history of Putin’s tenure. While his current rating of 67 percent is nothing to sneeze at, it’s his lowest since February 2014, just before he launched the wildly popular invasion of Ukraine.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France: The stirring triumph of Les Bleus in the 2018 World Cup did little to buoy President Macron’s popularity back home. After a scandal-plagued summer that saw the release of video footage showing Macron’s former chief bodyguard beating two protesters during the country’s May Day celebrations, France’s political wunderkind faces the biggest test of his presidency so far. Over the past three months, Macron’s approval rating has fallen by 16 points to a record low 27 percent.

Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina: Elected in 2014 in part to clean up years of his predecessors’ economic mismanagement, Macri’s gradualist approach has pleased no one: his reforms have been painful enough to put people on the streets, but not far-reaching enough to spur a fresh investment boom or economic surge. The outside world isn’t helping: higher US interest rates, economic slowdowns in Brazil and China (Argentina’s key partners) and a broader run on emerging market currencies have helped push the Argentine peso down more than 40 percent against the dollar this year, and Macri’s approval has fallen 14 points since June.

Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea: President Moon’s approval rating soared above 80 percent after his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this spring, but it’s fallen steadily since then – in part because of a mishandled minimum wage increase (too fast for employers, too slow for workers) and a summer heat-wave that boosted electricity bills. Still, let’s be serious: 58 percent is the envy of most democratically elected leaders these days, and maybe his planned upcoming visit with Kim Jong-un can give him a fresh boost.

Malcolm Turnbull, (former) Prime Minister of Australia: Ousted last Friday after a political knife fight within his own party, one major reason for the 9-point fall in Turnbull’s approval rating that culminated in his ouster was a botched plan to impose tighter emissions regulations. But there’s also a deeper structural crisis at play in Australia, where political squabbles have paralyzed government for years, and Turnbull’s own governing party is split between a faction drawn rightward by the rise of anti-immigrant populist politics and a more centrist faction that Turnbull represented. If you’re counting, Australia has gone through 6 changes of prime minister in the past ten years.

The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The world's climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions. Ultimately, we must reach "net zero" emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year.

While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That's why last week we announced an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft's carbon footprint. By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. We are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies.

Read more on the Official Microsoft Blog.

A potentially deadly new coronavirus that can be transmitted from one person to another is now spreading across China. Chinese state media say it has infected about 300 people and killed six, but the number of undetected or unreported cases is certain to be much higher. Complicating containment efforts, millions of people are on the move across the country this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family and friends.

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Norway's government breaks up over ISIS returnee – Norway's right-wing Progress Party said it will resign from the country's four-party coalition government over the prime minister's decision to bring home a Norwegian woman affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria. The woman, who left Norway for the conflict zone in 2013, was arrested shortly after arriving in Oslo with her two children, on suspicion of being a member of ISIS. Prior to her return, she had been held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other family members of ISIS fighters. The defection of Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party undercuts Prime Minister Erna Solberg's parliamentary majority, likely making it hard for her to pass laws in parliament. This case reflects an increasingly common problem for European countries: the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has largely collapsed but what should countries do about the return of former fighters and their families to societies that don't want them?

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20,000: Sri Lanka's president has acknowledged for the first time that some 20,000 people who disappeared during the country's brutal civil war are dead, dashing the hopes of families who had held out hope that their relatives were alive and in military custody. The conflict, which ended in 2009, split the country according to ethnicities, killing around 100,000 people, mostly Tamil rebels.

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.