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Pirates of the Caribbean —  Political and economic crises in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Haiti appear to be contributing to a  surge of piracy in the Caribbean Sea, according to recent reports. In some cases, corrupt officials onshore, particularly in Venezuela, may be complicit.

A disaster-proof city  — Is it possible to build a city that can withstand earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and other natural disasters? Developers in the Philippines are planning a project they call New Clark City about 60 miles north of Manila. They say it will be larger than Manhattan, able to house 1.2 million people, and pollution-free. Buildings will be constructed with a mixture of concrete and material from volcanic mudflows. “Good trick if you can do it,” as your Friday author’s grandfather used to say.


Aretha – We live in a world of special effects, where a machine can make anything look and sound real. We rarely see genuine take-your-breath-away miracles anymore. But that shocking, original, and beautiful voice was real, and it will live on. R-E-S-P-E-C-T


Pastafarians — The Dutch government has ruled that Pastafarianism is not a religion, denying a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the right to wear a colander on her head for passport and driver's license photos. She can still apply for asylum in New Zealand, which recognizes the church. Pastafarianism was founded in 2005 by an American man to protest the teaching of biblical creationism in science classes in US public schools.

AirBnB’s Great Wall sleepover contest — Airbnb recently announced an exciting new essay competition: Write 500 words on “overcoming cultural boundaries” and you can win the chance the  sleep on a watchtower on the Great Wall of China. The prize includes a short hike, a gourmet meal, and “traditional Chinese entertainment.” Chinese social media users said “What??” Then, Chinese authorities said no. Some cultural boundaries last longer than others.

Verdi lady — A woman in Slovakia was arrested last week for playing a four-minute aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” in her house with speakers on full blast. From morning until night.  For 16 years.  “I love Placido Domingo,” a neighbor told a reporter. “But not like this.”

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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