Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Brazil’s embattled presidential candidates  Think Washington had a crazy political week? Here’s your update from Brazil ahead of next month's presidential election. Former President Lula remains in jail. His likely replacement as Worker’s Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, and center-right candidate Geraldo Alckmin were both charged with corruption. Front-runner Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed at a campaign rally and seriously injured.


Mauricio Macri – Elected in 2015 on the promise to restore Argentina’s economic health, Argentine President Mauricio Macri has imposed just enough austerity to inflict pain on the public without persuading investors the country can meet its financial obligations. A serious meltdown, provoked by conditions both inside and outside his country, has created a currency crisis. The peso has lost half its value against the dollar this year. This week, Macri took drastic action, sharply raising taxes and cutting the number of government ministries by half to reduce spending. The central bank has raised interest rates to 60 percent. Will it be enough? And can he remain a viable candidate for re-election next year while imposing more hardship on voters?

Iran’s oil customers  In anticipation of the return of sanctions on Iran’s oil in November, its exports fell by 18 percent from July to August. That’s in part because, surprisingly, China and India have sharply reduced purchases in line with Donald Trump’s demands. Neither will stop buying Iranian crude altogether, but the degree of compliance was unexpected. That’s not good news for Iran’s economy, or for those who hope Iran might continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear deal without US participation.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

North Korea at 70  China’s Xi Jinping is skipping North Korea’s 70th anniversary celebration this weekend, and we will too. If you’ve seen one goose-stepping military parade followed by a 3,000-person choreographed dance with a flashcard backdrop, you’ve seen them all. Maybe we’ll TIVO it.

Putin TV show – Nor are we likely to watch “Moscow Kremlin Putin,” a new TV show airing on Russian state television that aims to prove Vladimir Putin is even hunkier than we thought. Apparently, Putin remains in great shape, frightens wild animals, and has a “human, sincere attitude toward children.” We know that already.

The Austrian Kangaroo – Your Friday author was not amused when fellow Signalistas forwarded him a story about a kangaroo on the loose in Austria. Not Australia. Austria. “This is the kind of low-brow material you love to include on Fridays,” they seemed to suggest. Yes, I like stories about animals on the loose, but I’m not automatically going to write about a kangaroo hopping around Austria just because it includes great video, and the story is weird. Forget it.

As of this writing, the kangaroo remains at large.

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 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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