Matters of Life and Death: An Undead President and a Lonely Bird

With an approval rating of 9%, Brazilian President Michel Temer may be politically lifeless, but he is not actually dead. This last detail, however, has been lost on Brazil’s state pension fund, which stopped paying out Temer’s dole late last year, citing lack of proof that he is actually alive. All Brazilians are required to appear yearly, in person, to take a test — Temer didn’t do it.


In a macabre irony, Temer is currently trying to pass tough reforms to precisely the bloated pension system that thinks he is no longer among us, but it doesn’t look like he has the votes to do so. So, to recap: the Brazilian president is alive, but the reform of the pension system that thinks he is dead is probably dead.

Meanwhile a story from New Zealand, where a bird that lived alone on a remote island among concrete replicas of his own species has passed away after years of unrequited courtship. The bird, Nigel, was so enamored of the concrete fakes — which were set up to lure more birds like him to the island — that even when living members of his own species finally showed up, he ignored them.

The winning take here comes from my fellow Signalista Kevin Allison: “I can’t help but think that this is actually a metaphor for social media.”

To pull you out of that abyss of techno-existential despair, here are some….

How much material do we use to send a package? Too much. Does recycling help? Yes – but not really. Packaging material often accumulates as waste, contributing to its own "polluting weight." To solve our packaging dilemma, Finland came up with RePack: a "circular" solution for the reuse of material.

Learn more about RePack in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.

The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

But is Europe helping to make things better?

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In a new interview with Ian Bremmer for GZERO World, former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says that the single most important step to reopening schools in the fall is to control infection in the community. But as of now, too many communities across the United States have lost control of the Covid-19 virus. Opening schools will only become a possibility once a majority of people start practicing the "Three 'W's" ("Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance") and local and federal governments enforce stricter protective policies. The full episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television on Friday, August 7, 2020. Check local listings.

2,500: Google has deleted around 2,500 YouTube accounts linked to a coordinated misinformation campaign about Hong Kong, Chinese regime critics and China's coronavirus response. It's been a busy week for social media platforms cracking down on fake news, after Facebook and Twitter censored a post from US President Donald Trump for containing misinformation about COVID-19, and Brazil's Supreme Court ordered Facebook to block accounts tied to allies of President Jair Bolsonaro for spreading lies about judges.

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Jim Geraghty argues in a National Review op-ed that we shouldn't blame Trump for the fact that the US has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world. But though he's right that not everything is Trump's fault, Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Scott Rosenstein take out The Red Pen to show that the evidence he cites to let Trump off the hook doesn't hold water.

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