Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

Will he or won’t he? — Later today, President Trump will decide whether to effectively scrap the Iran nuclear deal. We don’t think he’ll do it and, as UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson made clear on Thursday, US allies won’t back such a decision. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are working on legislation that would make the deal permanent by eliminating the “sunset provisions” on Iran’s nuclear restrictions. If Iran implements its long-term enrichment program — which the deal allows but Trump opposes — US secondary sanctions would be reimposed.


Protests in Tunisia — This is the place where the Arab Spring began. Tunisia is rightly considered the one true democratic success story that emerged from that upheaval, but its democracy has hardly been a model of stability. Hundreds have been arrested following anti-austerity protests in several cities. Seven years and nine governments later, the economic pain continues.

Boris Nemtsov Street — Here’s another sign that much of Washington doesn’t share President Trump’s benign view of Putin’s Russia. The Washington DC City Council voted Wednesday to rename the street in front of the Russian Embassy in honor of Boris Nemtsov, an opposition figure murdered near the Kremlin three years ago. Various makeshift memorials to Nemtsov in Moscow, installed by his supporters, have repeatedly been removed or vandalized. Maybe Russia will respond to Washington’s move by naming the street in front of the US Embassy in Moscow after Edward Snowden.

Kim Jong-un’s birthday — Dear Leader, you thought we forgot, didn’t you? You thought, “I’ll just execute anyone who tries to make my birthday (January 8) a national holiday so that no one over at Signal remembers the day and agonizes over what to get me this year.” Fat chance, old friend. Your Celine Dion tickets are in the mail!

What We're Ignoring

The cultural invasion of Iran — Iran’s High Council of Education has announced a ban on the teaching of English in primary schools to repel a “cultural invasion” from the West. Looks like an ineffectual response from Iran’s conservatives to recent protests in the country, the largest since 2009.

The Skype Inauguration — Pro-independence parties in Catalonia have reportedly agreed to inaugurate Carles Puigdemont, who remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels, as president via Skype. This is not a decision any intelligent algorithm would have made.

Norishige Kanai — A Japanese astronaut told the world this week that he had grown nine centimeters taller in space. That’s more than 3.5 inches. (It’s common for astronauts to grow two or three centimeters as a lack of gravity allows the spine to lengthen.) “I grew like some plant in just three weeks,” Kanai tweeted from space. “I’m a bit worried whether I’ll fit in the Soyuz seat when I go back.” Later, Kanai admitted a measurement mistake; he had grown just two centimeters or three-quarters of one inch. C’mon, Kanai-san, astronauts have to know how to measure things. We do like tweets from space though.

We pay little attention to the waves of the sea, yet they are the greatest unused source of renewable energy in the world. Meet ISWEC and Power Buoy, two interesting new technologies used to harness this energy. Learn more about the extraordinary power of waves in this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series, where we investigate interesting facts and trends about energy.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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