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.

"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.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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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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