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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.

A decade ago, Bank of America established the Global Ambassadors Program with Vital Voices, and the results are phenomenal. We've provided 8,000 hours of training and mentoring, engaging 400 women from 85 countries and helping women around the world build their businesses.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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Less than a week before the US election, President Donald Trump is repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of the vote (if he doesn't win) over largely unsubstantiated claims of potential fraud in universal mail-in voting. But with absentee ballots coming in all-time highs in all states due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans worry that the system itself may not be able to handle such an influx of ballots, including those already cast by a record number of early voters. Whether or not you agree, Gallup data show that US citizens are now less confident that the election will be conducted accurately — and more concerned about election irregularities and voter suppression — than they were four years ago. We take a look at how Americans' views on these electoral integrity issues have changed from 2016 to 2020.

Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.

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Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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