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.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

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