Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

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.

WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO

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

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

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.”

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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