Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Trouble for US-Turkey – The US slapped sanctions on Turkey's justice and interior ministers this week in response to the continued detention of a US pastor. Andrew Brunson has been in custody for nearly two years. Turkey’s government says he’s a spy with links to terrorists. President Trump calls Brunson a “great Christian, family man and wonderful human being” who is “suffering greatly.” This is incident #743 in a lengthening list of grievances dividing these two governments. No one wants to be the one to blink, and this conflict could get worse.


Trouble in 3D – A US gun rights activist pledged this week to fight for his right to publish online blueprints for 3D-printed firearms all the way to the US Supreme Court after a federal judge blocked him from doing so. Thousands of people were able to download the instructions before the judge issued his order. There are many ways in which new technologies can strengthen the state at the expense of the individual. Here’s a technology that can do the opposite, by making it impossible for national or local governments to regulate the distribution of weapons. Consider the implications.

Trouble for Basic Income  The latest in a series of experiments with “guaranteed basic income,” a program that provides subsistence-level payments that allow people to pursue work without fear of lost benefits, was brought to an abrupt end in Ontario this week. The newly elected Doug Ford administration claimed it was already evident the program wouldn’t work. Critics say he killed the plan for political reasons. Either way, we’ll have to look to future programs in the Netherlands, Italy, and Scotland to learn whether and how these sorts of programs can help governments and workers cope with changes in the nature of work. An earlier experiment in Finland was canceled.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Egyptian Zookeepers – If you visit Cairo's International Garden municipal park, and a park employee tells you you’re looking at a zebra, ask yourself the following questions: Are its stripes parallel? Is its snout black? Is its face free of obvious paint smudges? If you answered no to these questions, check the ears. Are they small and pointy? If so, you’re looking at a donkey, and you should get out of there. It’s not as bad as that Chinese zoo that tried to pass off a dog as a lion, but it’s pretty bad.

Trump at the supermarket – President Trump claimed in a speech this week that Americans must present a photo ID to buy groceries. (His spokeswoman says he meant alcohol, but Trump doesn’t drink.) The point is clear: Don’t ask Trump to shop for you. This is not an area where he has a robust level of experience. You’ll have to buy your own groceries.

Plogging – The Swedes often invent good things, but “plogging” is not one of them. Plogging is the practice of picking up and disposing of litter while jogging. Your Friday author believes that picking up litter and running for exercise are both worthwhile enterprises, but that each deserves our full attention.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Get insights on the latest news about emerging trends in cyberspace from Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian:

This week we talk about one of my favorite topics, regulation. Laws are often framed as a barrier to innovation and not always recognized as a key enabler of freedoms and the protection of rights. But what's more is that regulation is a process, and one that can have tons of different outcomes. So, being in favor or against regulation doesn't mean anything. Except that those who oppose any changes are apparently benefiting from the status quo.

Is the world at a tipping point when it comes to regulating big tech?

And I would say absolutely. The outsized power of big tech is recognized more broadly because the harms are so blatantly clear. Harms to democracy, public health, but also to fairness in the economy are all related to the outsized power of unaccountable and under-regulated big tech. Now, what's significant is that this debate has finally hit home in the United States after it was already recognized as a problem in many other parts of the world.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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