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 Strongman president Daniel Ortega then rescinded the pension order, but the turmoil continues.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.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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It's easy to judge the Pompeiians for building a city on the foothills of a volcano, but are we really any smarter today? If you live along the San Andreas fault in San Francisco or Los Angeles, geologists are pretty confident you're going to experience a magnitude 8 (or larger) earthquake in the next 25 years—that's about the same size as the 1906 San Francisco quake that killed an estimated 3,000 people and destroyed nearly 30,000 buildings. Or if you're one of the 9.6 million residents of Jakarta, Indonesia, you might have noticed that parts of the ground are sinking by as much as ten inches a year, with about 40 percent of the city now below sea level.

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Why do (most) world leaders drink together? It can get them to agree on stuff they wouldn't while sober. Booze "helps people get cooperation off the ground, especially in situations where cooperation is challenging," says University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland. Alcohol, he explains, allows you to "see commonalities rather than just pursuing your own interest," which may put teetotaler politicians — like Donald Trump — at a disadvantage. Watch his interview on the next episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader," creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.

It's been over a decade since the 58-year old, whom some have dubbed the "Trump before Trump" became prime minister. In that time he has, critics say, hollowed out Hungary's governing institutions and eroded the state's democratic characteristics.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…

Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!

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