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.

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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