Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Nicaragua’s violence — What began as a student protest over unpopular pension reforms continues to escalate. Rights activists say state security forces and masked pro-government gangs have killed 148 people since the eruption in April of protests against President Daniel Ortega’s government. Here’s yet another leader determined to keep power in order to avoid prison.


Petro’s Vote Count — Colombia is holding a presidential election on Sunday, and with center-right candidate Ivan Duque up 20 points in the polls, he’ll probably win. More interesting will be the vote-share that goes to his rival, leftwing candidate Gustavo Petro. This is the first election since a controversial peace deal with FARC guerillas opened space for a legitimate leftist contender at the presidential level. Many Colombians, faced with such a polarizing election, may spoil their ballots, but the amount of support for Petro will tell us something about how peace with the FARC has realigned Colombia’s traditionally center-right politics.

Kim’s Home Movie — Wondering how the Singapore Summit played on North Korean TV? Or whether North Korea is a serious contender for next year’s Oscar for best documentary? No need to watch the full 42 minutes of this, but the music alone makes this worth a bit of your time. Click here.

Kim search terms —Here’s a sign that China is now happy with Chairman Kim. The Chinese expression “Jin San Pang,” which translates as “Kim Fatty the Third,” has reportedly disappeared from Baidu, China’s largest search engine. This phrase wasn’t hard to find when Kim was testing missiles last year. It seems to have disappeared around the time Kim visited Beijing in March.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Coup speculation in Brazil —Signalista Alex Kliment on Brazil: After years of scandal, economic collapse, and soaring crime, nearly 40 percent of Brazilians say a military government might be a good thing. President Michel Temer recently had to publicly downplay talk of an imminent military coup. But unlike in 1964 — when the Brazilian army, with US support, toppled a left-wing nationalist president and ruled for 21 years — there isn’t a powerful elite today that would support a coup. Also, the generals may find ballots more useful than bullets: Leading presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, a rightwing former army captain who speaks fondly of the military dictatorship, has pledged to bring generals into more government roles if he wins.

Ethiopian Bank Robbers Well-informed Signal readers know successful developing countries face enormous urban infrastructure challenges as people flow from the countryside into overcrowded cities. As a result, they know better than to rob an Addis Ababa bank during rush hour. So how did these two bank-robbing chuckleheads not know that? After knocking over the Bole branch of Abyssinia Bank on Tuesday, these two got busted after abandoning their traffic-bound getaway car to flee on foot.

Animals climbing buildings — An ambitious raccoon became a real-time international sensation on Tuesday by scaling a 23-story building in Minneapolis as a (thankfully unknown) number of people around the world watched live via the Internet. The racoon was then captured on the roof and released safely into the wild. In future, your Friday author pledges he will no longer watch animals misbehaving on the Internet. I also renounce chocolate cake.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

It's been two months since President Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, paving the way for a bloody Turkish offensive in that region. (See our earlier coverage here.) What's happened since? A guide for the puzzled:

No "end date" for US troops in Syria – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said this week that the United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria. Back in October, President Trump pledged to withdraw the roughly 1,000 American troops deployed there. Since then, some American troops have left Syria altogether, while others were redeployed to defend nearby oil fields from ISIS, as well as from Syrian government troops and Russia. Now, there are roughly 600 American troops dispersed around Syria, and the remainder have been deployed in Iraq to stave off a potential ISIS resurgence. It's not clear if any troops have returned to the US. When asked about the chaotic comings and goings of US troops in Syria in recent months, the commander of US Central Command said frankly: there's no "end date" for American troops stationed there.

More Show less

Turkey's government has captured many thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its operations in northern Syria. Many of these prisoners have already been deported to some of the more than 100 countries they come from, and Ankara says it intends to send more. There are also more than 10,000 women and children – family members of ISIS fighters – still living in camps inside Syria.

These facts create a dilemma for the governments of countries where the ISIS detainees are still citizens: Should these terrorist fighters and their families be allowed to return, in many cases to face trial back home? Or should countries refuse to allow them back?

More Show less

What's the difference between Alphabet and Google?

Well, Google is the search engine, YouTube, all the stuff you probably think of as Google. Alphabet is the parent company that was created four or five years ago. And it contains a whole bunch of other entities like Jigsaw, Verily - the health care company that Google runs, Waymo - the self-driving car unit. Also, it's important to know Google makes tons of money. Alphabet, all that other stuff loses tons of money.

More Show less

The collapse of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria has given rise to a host of new challenges for governments around the world. Turkey has captured thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its offensive in northern Syria, many of whom are foreign nationals who left their home countries to fight with the Islamic State. To date, non-Middle East countries have mostly opposed ISIS fighters returning home, leaving them, and their spouses and children, in legal limbo. Here's a look at where these foreign fighters come from.