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.

It was inevitable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make India's elections a referendum on Narendra Modi, and now that the vast majority of 600 million votes cast have been counted, it's clear he made the right call.

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Among the 23 men and women now seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to take on Donald Trump in next year's election, the frontrunner, at least for now, has spent half a century in politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, first elected to the US Senate in 1972, is the very epitome of the American political establishment.

Yet, the dominant political trend in many democracies today is public rejection of traditional candidates and parties of the center-right and center-left in favor of new movements, voices, and messages. Consider the evidence from some recent elections:

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It's Friday, and Signal readers deserve at least one entirely upbeat news story.

José Obdulio Gaviria, a Colombian senator for the rightwing Democratic Center party, is an outspoken opponent of government attempts to make peace with the FARC rebel group after 50 years of conflict.

On his way into a meeting earlier this week, Gaviria collapsed. It was later reported that he had fainted as a result of low blood pressure probably caused by complications following recent open heart surgery.

A political rival, Senator Julian Gallo, quickly came to his rescue and revived him using resuscitation skills he learned as—irony alert—a FARC guerrilla. CPR applied by Gallo helped Gaviria regain consciousness, before another senator, who is also professional doctor, took over. Gaviria was taken to hospital and appears to have recovered.

Because some things will always be more important than politics.