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.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

It's been two months since President Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, paving the way for a bloody Turkish offensive in that region. (See our earlier coverage here.) What's happened since? A guide for the puzzled:

No "end date" for US troops in Syria – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said this week that the United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria. Back in October, President Trump pledged to withdraw the roughly 1,000 American troops deployed there. Since then, some American troops have left Syria altogether, while others were redeployed to defend nearby oil fields from ISIS, as well as from Syrian government troops and Russia. Now, there are roughly 600 American troops dispersed around Syria, and the remainder have been deployed in Iraq to stave off a potential ISIS resurgence. It's not clear if any troops have returned to the US. When asked about the chaotic comings and goings of US troops in Syria in recent months, the commander of US Central Command said frankly: there's no "end date" for American troops stationed there.

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Turkey's government has captured many thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its operations in northern Syria. Many of these prisoners have already been deported to some of the more than 100 countries they come from, and Ankara says it intends to send more. There are also more than 10,000 women and children – family members of ISIS fighters – still living in camps inside Syria.

These facts create a dilemma for the governments of countries where the ISIS detainees are still citizens: Should these terrorist fighters and their families be allowed to return, in many cases to face trial back home? Or should countries refuse to allow them back?

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What's the difference between Alphabet and Google?

Well, Google is the search engine, YouTube, all the stuff you probably think of as Google. Alphabet is the parent company that was created four or five years ago. And it contains a whole bunch of other entities like Jigsaw, Verily - the health care company that Google runs, Waymo - the self-driving car unit. Also, it's important to know Google makes tons of money. Alphabet, all that other stuff loses tons of money.

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The collapse of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria has given rise to a host of new challenges for governments around the world. Turkey has captured thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its offensive in northern Syria, many of whom are foreign nationals who left their home countries to fight with the Islamic State. To date, non-Middle East countries have mostly opposed ISIS fighters returning home, leaving them, and their spouses and children, in legal limbo. Here's a look at where these foreign fighters come from.