Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

Trump vs Bannon — What happens if the White House really finds itself at war with political arsonist Steve Bannon and ascendant conservative media outlet Breitbart? This story isn’t just Washington gossip. Someone is going to lose support from millions of Americans, and there are a lot more people loyal to Trump than to Bannon.


The guy who writes the weather report — From Wednesday’s Washington Post: “Bomb cyclone to blast East Coast before polar vortex uncorks tremendous cold late this week.” In the article’s first three sentences, we get “unforgiving cold,” “punished,” “assault,” “monster storm,” “hammer,” “exploding storm,” “winter hurricane,” “battering,” “damaging winds,” and “blinding snow.” That’s good stuff.

American lawnmowers — Another telling stat: Britain’s Royal Statistical Society informs us that two Americans are killed on average each year by immigrant Muslim terrorists, while 21 are killed by “armed toddlers,” and 69 are killed in lawnmower accidents. #KnowYourEnemy

What We're Ignoring

Trump’s Big Button — North Korea’s Kim Jong-un warned this week that he has a “nuclear button” on his desk. President Trump responded that he has one too and his is bigger. We’re ignoring this boast because Trump does not have a nuclear button. The president authorizes a nuclear strike via an order to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking US military officer. The chairman then passes the order to an airbase in Nebraska. The order is then sent in coded form to “on the ground” teams. The button on the president’s desk brings a Diet Coke, not Armageddon.

Burglary instructions — Contents of an unidentified Chinese burglar’s personal notebook got laughs across China this week. Among his notes, “Take different ways of escape based on the value of goods. Keep in mind to run first if the value is high. Escape quickly, hide, take cover and run far away.” We’ve seen this notebook only because the would-be thief was arrested with it in his pocket. And as he surely knows by now, sucking at burglary will kill your credit score.

The Eurovision Song Contest — I stopped watching in 1976 when “Pump Pump” by Finland’s Fredi and the Friends finished in 11th place. Watch for yourself and judge the scale of the injustice.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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