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.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Listen: In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer, Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Can "the Quad" constrain China?

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