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.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Iran was involved in two naval incidents in the Gulf of Oman in recent days. The US, UK, and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack that killed two European nationals. Iran has rejected the accusations. Iran is also suspected in the "potential hijack" of a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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Does alcohol help bring the world together?

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