Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Nicaragua — Last week, hundreds of people hit the streets of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, to protest announced cuts to the country’s pension system. Men wearing motorcycle helmets and pro-government tee-shirts attacked the protesters with metal pipes and electric cables. In response, thousands of new demonstrators appeared, and demonstrations spread to other cities. Protesters and police were killed. Strongman president Daniel Ortega then rescinded the pension order, but the turmoil continues. As in Brazil, Turkey, and Ethiopia in recent years, a brutal response to a small protest has triggered something much more dangerous. Ortega’s two stints in power date to 1979. Has he outstayed his welcome? Serzh Sargsyan is calling on line one.


Biplab Deb — Earlier this month, a local Indian official named Biplab Depclaimed that Hindus invented the Internet thousands of years ago. His evidence? Referring to the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, written between 1,600 and 2,400 years ago, he asked, “How could Sanjaya [the king’s charioteer] give a detailed account and description to the blind king about the Battle of Kurukshetra? … We had Internet and a satellite communication system. It is not like Internet or media wasn’t available in the age of Mahabharata,” he said. Even fellow Hindu nationalists are having fun with this guy on the Internet.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

“Death to America” emojis — Signalista Kevin Allison notes that Iran’s government has launched a new messaging app that features “Death to America” emojis. Your Friday author’s personal favorite is an emoji of a chador-clad woman carrying a sign to protest Freemasonry. History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce, and then as kitsch.

The Royal Rumble — Signalista Gabe Lipton opened Wednesday’s New York Times to discover an ad featuring an invitation from “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” to witness a “Royal Rumble” wrestling event at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah. Our excitement faded when we saw that no actual Saudi royals will be wrestling. None of your Signal authors plans to attend.

Unjust Desserts — South Korea announced this week that, at the conclusion of the Moon-Kim summit, guests would be served a mango mousse with a decorative flag placed on top that contains a map of a unified Korea that includes small islands controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan. Tokyo was not amused.

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every household, changing the way we live our lives. The pandemic continues to reinforce the drive for cooperation between communities, governments and businesses in order to combat the threat.

Microsoft responded to the pandemic in its home state through efforts like donating protective equipment, making boxed lunches for families and using technology to better understand the spread of the virus over the last year. Now, we're sharing six ways Microsoft is pulling together with the community to lend a hand to fellow Washingtonians in 2021 including helping with vaccination efforts. To read more, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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Guilty: Eleven months after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, on a Minneapolis street corner, we finally have a verdict in the murder trial. On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of all three charges: second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The verdict was celebrated by advocates for racial justice and police reform. Last summer, video footage of Floyd suffocating to death as he cried out "I can't breathe" galvanized anti-racism protests across America (some of which turned violent) that went global. We're watching to see if the jury's verdict gives fresh impetus to the nationwide movement for police accountability and broader criminal justice reform, both of which have been met with fierce resistance from law-and-order conservatives and police unions. And we'll also be keeping an eye on the sentence, as Chauvin faces up to 75 years in prison for his crimes.

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120,000: Ukraine warns that Russia will soon have as many as 120,000 troops on its eastern border, a larger presence than when Moscow seized Crimea in 2014. Kyiv wants to join NATO to deter the Russian forces from invading the Donbas region, where about half the population are ethnic Russians.

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During a pandemic, the work of reporters around the world is particularly important to ensure transparency about the scope of outbreaks and the measures that governments are taking to contain them. But in many countries, press freedom has been declining since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Press freedom took a bit hit over the past year, as governments across the world doubled down on censoring media that criticized their handling of the pandemic, and locking up reporters for reporting the facts. Reporters Without Borders today published its annual World Press Freedom Index, which takes a microscope to every country, ranking the ability of its media to report freely and independently. Here's a look at how countries' scores have changed over the past year.

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on World In 60 Seconds (aka Around the World in 180 Seconds) and discusses Xi Jinping's message to the US, Russia's buildup at the Ukraine border, and Cuba's new leader.

What did you make of Xi Jinping's message to the US at China's annual Boao Forum?

Well, he didn't mention the United States directly, but he basically said that we don't accept hegemonic powers, we don't accept people that are setting the rules for other countries. Basically, consistently Xi Jinping saying that the Chinese want to be treated as equals with the United States. They're going to be rule makers for themselves. The Chinese political and economic system, every bit as legitimate as that of the United States. This is going to be a real fight. The American perspective is that the relationship between the two is going to be very competitive, whether it's a happy competition or an unhealthy competition depends on the Chinese. Xi Jinping's perspective is the Americans are not treating the Chinese with due respect. And that's going to play out on security, it's going to play out in climate, on the economy. I mean, you name it.

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One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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The Biden administration's much ballyhooed Earth Day Summit this week promises to be revealing. We're going to learn a little about what additional action a few dozen of the world's largest emitters are willing to take on climate change, and a lot more about which countries are willing to take such action at the behest of the United States.

Call it a situational assessment of the status of American power just shy of Biden's 100th day in office.

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