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.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Read More at Microsoft On The Issues.

What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

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Bolivia's polarizing interim president: After Bolivian president Evo Morales and his deputies were pushed out of office for rigging last month's presidential election, little-known opposition Senator Jeanine Añez took office as interim leader. Añez has promised to guide the country toward a "national consensus" ahead of new elections in January, but she's already risked deepening political divides. On day one, she lugged a giant bible into office, in a perceived swipe at Morales, who had elevated popular indigenous traditions that the ultra-conservative Ms. Añez once called "satanic." She's also abruptly reoriented the country's foreign ties toward Latin America's conservative governments. On her watch, at least eight pro-Morales protesters have been killed by the authorities. Morales himself, exiled in Mexico, says he's the victim of a coup and wants to run in the elections. Añez says he's barred, but his MAS political party still controls both houses of congress and has to be a partner for any smooth transition. Some compromise is necessary, but things don't seem to be going that way.

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2,887: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has now broken a century-old record to become the longest serving PM in Japan's history, at 2,887 days. It's a stunning feat for a premier who made a political comeback after quitting in 2007 due to a series of embarrassing scandals.

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