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.

In July, Microsoft took legal action against COVID-19-related cybercrime that came in the form of business email compromise attacks. Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a damaging form of cybercrime, with the potential to cost a company millions of dollars. Even the most astute can fall victim to one of these sophisticated schemes. The 2019 FBI cybercrime report indicates that losses from Business Email Compromise attacks are approximately $1.7 billion, which accounts for almost half of all losses due to cybercrime. As more and more business activity goes online, there is an increased opportunity for cybercriminals to target people in BEC attacks and other cybercrime. Their objective is to compromise accounts in order to steal money or other valuable information. As people become aware of existing schemes and they're no longer as effective, the tactics and techniques used by cybercriminals evolve.

To read about how Microsoft is working to protect customers, visit Microsoft on the Issues

"Go ahead, take it," President Putin says to you.

"Take what?" you ask.

"This Covid vaccine," he continues, turning a small syringe over in his hands. "It's safe. Trust me. We… tested it on my daughter."

Would you do it? Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that a lot of people will say yes. On Tuesday he announced that Russia has become the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine, and that mass vaccinations will begin there in October.

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The global race is on to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. While it usually takes many years to develop and widely distribute vaccines, scientists around the world are now trying to get one ready within an unprecedented time frame: 12-18 months. And while there is some international cooperation in that effort, there's also fierce competition among countries, as everyone wants to develop a vaccine on their home turf first, not only for prestige, but also to get their citizens at the front of the line for the shots when they are available. There are hundreds in development, but to date only eight vaccines have progressed to Phase III of the clinical trial process, meaning they are being tested on thousands of people and the results are compared with those who receive a placebo drug. Phase III is the final stage before approval. Who's gotten there so far?

45: A new poll says that 45 percent of Italians would support leaving the European Union if the UK economy remains in a "good state" five years after Brexit. Calls for a national referendum on "Italexit" are gaining steam in Italy, where a new anti-EU party is capitalizing on the sentiment that the EU abandoned the country at its darkest hour with COVID-19 (despite Italy later getting the lion's share of the EU's coronavirus rescue package).

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Anyone with a pulse and a smartphone probably knows by now that the US-China rivalry is heating up these days, and fast. (If you know anyone who doesn't, get them a Signal subscription.)

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