Thought for the Day: Friday, April 13

Thought for the Day: Friday, April 13

Yesterday (April 12) was “Yuri Gagarin Day,” a commemoration of the moment in 1961 when Gagarin (whose monument is pictured above) became the first human being to reach outer space. (See “Hard Numbers” below for some great stats.) Much can be said of Russia’s tortured history, but let’s remember that in less than 45 years, Russia went from a broken country that fought World War I barefoot to core of an empire that put the first man in orbit.


As Washington and Moscow trade threats over Syria and sanctions this week, take a moment to remember when US-Russian competition, at least in the area of manned space exploration, produced giant leaps for mankind.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

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28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

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Is America's real problem a "narcissism pandemic"? According to Tom Nichols, an Atlantic contributor and author of "Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault From Within On Modern Democracy,," the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the degree to which Americans expect things to come easily to them. "There is a real selfishness and self-absorption and narcissism that has come with living in a country that is peaceful, prosperous, affluent, super high standards of living—technological innovations that we now just take for granted that things just work." Ian Bremmer asks Nichols to suggest some solutions to the problem in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

Immigration has been a major challenge for the nascent Biden administration, testing the new US president's ability to placate moderates on both sides of the aisle, as well as the progressive wing of his own party. Biden initially pledged to keep the US' annual refugee cap at 15,000 — a "ceiling" set by the Trump administration, the lowest in US history. But after that move sparked swift backlash, Biden this week reversed course: 62,500 refugees will now be allowed to enter the US over the next six months. How does this compare to policies set by previous US administrations? We take a look at refugee admittance numbers since 1980.

India's COVID crisis hurts Africa: As COVID started to ravage India in March, New Delhi announced a ban on all vaccine exports to prioritize the domestic crisis. This development was a massive blow for the COVAX facility, which is relying on India's Serum Institute manufacturing the AstraZeneca shot for low-income countries. The impact of this export ban is now being felt acutely across Africa, where many countries have received a scarce number of doses. The World Health Organization says that at least seven African countries including Rwanda, Ghana, and Senegal have already exhausted all their vaccine supplies — and because of delays from India, will now need to wait several weeks for more to arrive. COVAX, which has received 90 million fewer doses to date than it was initially promised, says it needs an extra 20 million doses by the end of June to offset shortfalls caused by the worsening crisis in India. It's a worrying trend: while inoculation drives in places like the US, the UK and Israel are allowing their economies to reopen and life to slowly return to normal, many low-income countries will not return to normalcy for years, experts warn. To date, only 2 percent of all doses administered globally have been in Africa, despite the continent accounting for 17 percent of the global population.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

No more Netanyahu? Is Israel on the verge of new leadership?

Oh, we've seen this story before. I saw one commenter from the Israeli press saying, "Even a magician eventually runs out of rabbits to pull out of hats," but I'm not sure. Assuming that Netanyahu can't get this government together and it'd be knife-edge if he can and it won't last very long, the idea that the opposition could pull it together is also pretty low. It would be like seven parties together in a coalition, incredibly hard to do, which means Israel may be heading for a fifth election, which would be a problem except for the fact that their economy is doing pretty well right now and their vaccinations are fantastic. So, no, he might still be there for a bit.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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