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.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

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