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Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Boko Haram — Boko Haram is a terrorist group based in Nigeria’s northeast that’s blamed for the deaths of nearly 17,000 people over the past seven years. The group’s militants, who kidnapped 300 girls from a school in Chibok in 2014, have struck again, taking 110 girls, some as young as 11, from another school in the town of Dapachi. (More than 100 of the Chibok girls are still missing.) It took the Nigerian government several tries to admit what happened and begin a search — and some official statements still refer (absurdly) to the girls as “missing” rather than “abducted.” This will be a nightmare for parents of these girls and a central issue in next year’s presidential election.


Italy elections and the SPD vote — I know I said last week that I’m cynical about these two votes, but we’ll keep close watch of what happens this weekend. How far to the right will Italy swing? Will Germany’s center-left SPD join another Angela Merkel-led government or leave her to muddle through her fourth and final term without a governing majority?

Hódmezővásárhely — Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his nationalist Fidesz party have dominated Hungary’s politics and made trouble for the EU for the past eight years. But on the eve of national elections next month (April 8), the party got a big shock last Sunday: It lost a mayoral election by 16 percentage points in a town called Hódmezővásárhely, long considered a Fidesz stronghold. Is this a harbinger of electoral trouble for Orban? Is Hungary’s opposition finally united? Will our favorite anchors at CBSN try to make me pronounce the name of this town while we’re live on the air this morning at 9:30am? Stay tuned.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Russia’s Invincible Missile — President Putin announced on Thursday that Russia has developed “a low-flying, difficult-to-spot cruise missile with a nuclear payload with a practically unlimited range and an unpredictable flight path, which can bypass lines of interception and is invincible in the face of all existing and future systems of both missile defense and air defense.” One, no one has ever invented anything that can’t be made less useful by a future, not-yet-imagined invention. Two, Russia’s got 99 problems, but lack of an effective nuclear deterrent ain’t one. Mutually assured destruction lives on.

Russian graffiti — Graffiti takes many forms. It can express anger, love, pride, hunger for art, or all of the above. The one thing all these forms of graffiti should have in common is some degree of spontaneity. I hate to be cynical, especially after that outburst of cynicism in last Friday’s edition, but when Russian police get caught on video writing Putin’s name on walls and fences in advance of the upcoming election, well…. That just doesn’t feel very spontaneous. Judge for yourself.

Bill Gates on cryptocurrencies — During an ask-me-anything session on the popular Reddit website this week, Gates charged that anonymity makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies a “rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way” by allowing users to stock up on fentanyl and other dangerous drugs. This comment got our man Kevin Allison’sattention. “Bill, I’ve got bad news for you regarding dollars,” comments Kevin. “Have you seen the movie Scarface?”

Fortune Cookies — I had a delicious Thursday Chinese lunch, cracked open my fortune cookie, and was confronted with this: “Feeding a cow with roses does not get extra appreciation.” What is that? It’s like fortune cookies aren’t even trying anymore.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis

Should big business care about small business in these times?

The answer is yes and for many reasons. First, small business is the lifeblood of our economies. 45% of employment in emerging countries and 70% in the OECD comes from small and medium enterprises. Moreover, these enterprises have been badly hit by the crisis. Surveys indicate as many as 50% of European small to medium enterprises feel they may not survive over 12 months. While SMEs are relying on government support, larger companies do have a role to play. After all, this includes prioritizing small business and procurement by locking in demand for multiple years, thus facilitating access to good credit, paying receivables to small business in time and where possible, ahead of schedule. Cash flow matters most when you're small. Looking out for small businesses that have lower resilience. For example, financial institutions can lend more and in doing so, ensure deeper customer relationships in the future.

In his latest Financial Times op-ed, Martin Wolf argues that the US global role is at stake in this election and that a Trump re-election would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Jeffrey Wright grabbed the Red Pen to argue that a Trump presidency exists in part because of Americans' rejection of the US's post-war leadership role, and these feelings run deeper than the article suggests.

Today, we're taking The Red Pen to a recent op-ed published in The Financial Times from my good friend, the chief economics commentator Martin Wolf. Martin argues the global role of the United States is at stake on November 3rd, and that a Trump reelection would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. There's been a lot of this sort of thing recently. I know, we did it once, but if we do it twice, it's all over and I'm not there. To be clear, we don't totally reject what Martin is presenting in this piece. Rather, we'd argue that a Trump presidency exists because there were feelings that were present in the United States before he came along and they run a lot deeper than the article suggests. In other words, it's really not all about Trump.

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"The top priority will be to announce to the world that the United States they've known for decades is back." Former top Obama diplomat and current CEO of the think tank New America Anne-Marie slaughter predicts an American revival on the global stage if Joe Biden wins the presidency. But at a time when the United States has never been more divided, can any nation, even the world's most powerful, be a global leader if it cannot even keep its own house in order? Ian Bremmer's conversation with Slaughter is part of a new episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: How a "President Biden" could reshape US foreign policy

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