Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Trump and Cuba — Last year, the Trump administration banned US citizens from doing business with dozens of entities linked to Cuba’s military and security services. In the process, the president indulged one of his favorite pastimes: undoing stuff Obama did. But 20 years ago, a report in Newsweek alleged that representatives of a Trump company had gone to Cuba to explore business opportunities in violation of the Cuba embargo. As Cuba moves beyond the Castros, might Trump want to outdo Obama again, this time by ending the embargo, while creating new opportunities for the family business?


Killer robots — To extend my fascination with 1968 another week, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the release of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the greatest film ever made that you should never start watching after 9pm. In other news, governments met in Geneva this week to discuss whether and how to regulate killer robots. Officials call them “Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems,” but they’re talking about killer robots.

Buhari’s bid —Despite unanswered questions about the state of his health, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari announced Monday that he’ll run for re-election. The vote will be held next February. Buhari is 75, and he spent several months in London last year receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness. In 2015, Buhari’s inauguration marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, since the country returned to democracy in 1999. But his poor health has contributed to fears that the corruption- and terrorism-plagued country lacks effective leadership. Within hours of his announcement, Buhari boarded a plane for London, though officials won’t say whether he plans to receive medical treatment there.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

The Myanmar verdicts — On Wednesday, a military court in Myanmar sentenced seven Myanmar soldiers to 10 years in prison with hard labor for “contributing and participating” in the murder of 10 Rohingya Muslims. The evidence suggests there were a whole lot more than seven people involved in crimes against the Rohingya. And as of this writing, two Reuters journalists arrested for investigating this crime are still in jail.

A “Protect Mueller” Law — The Senate Judiciary Committee may vote on a bipartisan bill designed to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Trump. The measure would reportedly give any special counsel 10 days after being fired to challenge the dismissal in court. We’re skeptical this proposal will ever go to the full Senate for a vote.

Hódmezővásárhely — Five weeks ago, I highlighted the Hungarian town of Hódmezővásárhely, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party had just taken a 16-point shock defeat in an election for mayor. “Is this a harbinger of electoral trouble for Orban,” I wrote? Hardly. Orban and Fidesz won a landslide victory in national elections this week. Extensive research (a one-minute Google image search) assures us that Hódmezővásárhely, aka “The Peasant Paris,” is a lovely town, but we’ll now go back to ignoring it.

"I think there are certain times where you have tectonic shifts and change always happens that way."

On the latest episode of 'That Made All the Difference,' Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia, shares his thoughts on the role we all have to play in bringing our communities and the environment back to health.

For many, Paul Rusesabagina became a household name after the release of the 2004 tear-jerker film Hotel Rwanda, which was set during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Rusesabagina, who used his influence as a hotel manager to save the lives of more than 1,000 Rwandans, has again made headlines in recent weeks after he was reportedly duped into boarding a flight to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, where he was promptly arrested on terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder charges. Rusesabagina's supporters say he is innocent and that the move is retaliation against the former "hero" for his public criticism of President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country with a strong hand since ending the civil war in the mid 1990s.

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Bibi's COVID scheming: With coronavirus cases spiking, Israel has imposed a second nationwide lockdown, the first developed country to go back to draconian measures of this kind since the spring. The controversial decision, which came as Israeli Jews prepared to celebrated the Jewish High Holidays, represents a certain failure of Prime Minister Netanyahu's handling of the pandemic, in which Israel emerged as a global case study in how not to reopen after the initial lockdowns. Polls show that two-thirds of the public disapprove of Bibi's handling of the crisis. Many critics suspect the second lockdown — which bans large public gatherings — isn't only about flattening the curve, but about quelling the anti-Netanyahu protests that have gained steam throughout the country in recent months. This all comes as the Israeli government faces an unprecedented crisis: it has failed to pass a budget in two years and its economy is in free fall, sparking fears of another election by year's end (the fourth in less than two years).

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Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor of Eurasia Group, discusses reasons the rapid global response to climate change warrants optimism on UNGA In 60 Seconds.

There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about climate change. Can you give me a reason to be optimistic?

I'm going to say something you don't hear set very often when it comes to climate change. You should be an optimist. You should be a skeptical optimist, but an optimist nonetheless. Let me explain what I mean. We are scaling up climate solutions faster than even the most ardent among us thought possible a decade ago. Consider this. In 2010, about half of US electricity was generated from coal. This year less than 20% will be, and it's trending towards zero at increasing velocity.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

It's UNGA week, very unusual New York to have the United Nations General Assembly meetings. You know, the city is locked down. It's almost always locked down this week, but usually you can't get anywhere because you've got all these marshals with dozens of heads of state and well over a hundred foreign ministers and their delegations jamming literally everything, Midtown and branching out across the city. This time around, the security cordon for the United Nations itself is barely a block, and no one is flying in. I mean, the weather is gorgeous, and you can walk pretty much anywhere, but nothing's really locked down aside from, of course, the fact that the restaurants and the bars and the theaters and everything else is not happening given the pandemic. And it's not just in the US, it's all around the world.

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