Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Nicaragua – Protests and a deadly crackdown continue in Nicaragua. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recently submitted a report to the Organization of American States. The title says it all: “Serious human rights violations in the context of social protests in Nicaragua.” According to the report, “the State’s repressive actions had left at least 212 people dead by June 19, 1,337 people injured and 507 people deprived of their freedom by June 6, as well as hundreds of people at risk after being victims of attacks, harassment, threats and other forms of intimidation.”


Terrorists vs plastic bags  The Al Qaeda linked al-Shabab terrorist group celebrated International Plastic Bag Free Day on Tuesday by banning the use of plastic bags in territories it controls in Somalia. Because plastic bags constitute a “serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike.” For the record, Al-Shabab is responsible for the rape and murder of hundreds of people, including an April 2015 attack on a university in Kenya that killed 148 students.

The US Postal Service – The US Postal Service has been ordered to pay $3.5 million for copyright infringement after mistakenly using an image of a Statue of Liberty replica in Las Vegas on a postage stamp. It’s not clear whether Federal Judge Eric Bruggink agrees with the statue’s creator that it is "fresh-faced, sultry and even sexier" than the original, but the artist will get the money either way.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Sophia the robot  A humanoid robot named Sophia met with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed this week. We’re impressed that she quickly and effortlessly learned to speak Amharic. But Sophia appeared with Mr. Abiy only after recovering several body parts she misplaced while travelling through Frankfurt airport, and though she’s female and a Saudi citizen, she’s not allowed to drive. So we’re just not that impressed with her.

Japanese food  psychic octopus named Rabio that correctly predicted all of Japan's World Cup match results was killed this week and made into sashimi. Your Friday author likes Japanese food as much as the next guy, but that’s just wrong.

Scientists, engineers and technologists are turning to nature in search of solutions to climate change. Biomimicry is now being applied in the energy sector, medicine, architecture, communications, transport and agriculture in a bid to make human life on this planet more sustainable and limit the impacts of global warming. New inventions have been inspired by humpback whales, kingfishers and mosquitoes.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

The drumbeat for regulating artificial intelligence (AI) is growing louder. Earlier this week, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, became the latest high-profile Silicon Valley figure to call for governments to put guardrails around technologies that use huge amounts of (sometimes personal) data to teach computers how to identify faces, make decisions about mortgage applications, and myriad other tasks that previously relied on human brainpower.

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January 27 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp. But even as some 40 heads of state gathered in Jerusalem this week to commemorate the six million Jews who were killed, a recent Pew survey revealed that many American adults don't know basic facts about the ethnic cleansing of Europe's Jews during the Second World War. Fewer than half of those polled knew how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and close to a third didn't know when it actually happened. Here's a look at some of the numbers.

1: The Greek parliament has elected a woman president for the first time since the country's independence some 200 years ago. A political outsider, Katerina Sakellaropoulou is a high court judge with no known party affiliation. "Our country enters the third decade of the 21st century with more optimism," Greece's prime minister said.

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A quarantine in China– Local authorities have locked down the city of Wuhan, the source of the outbreak of a new and potentially deadly respiratory virus that, as of Thursday morning, had infected more than 540 people in at least six countries. Other nearby cities were also hit by travel restrictions. Rail and air traffic out of Wuhan has been halted. Public transportation is shut, and local officials are urging everyone to stay put unless they have a special need to travel. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people, many of whom were about to travel for the Chinese New Year. We're watching to see whether these extraordinary measures help stem the outbreak, but also to see how the people affected respond to the clampdown.

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