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.

The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The world's climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions. Ultimately, we must reach "net zero" emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year.

While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That's why last week we announced an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft's carbon footprint. By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. We are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies.

Read more on the Official Microsoft Blog.

A potentially deadly new coronavirus that can be transmitted from one person to another is now spreading across China. Chinese state media say it has infected about 300 people and killed six, but the number of undetected or unreported cases is certain to be much higher. Complicating containment efforts, millions of people are on the move across the country this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family and friends.

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Norway's government breaks up over ISIS returnee – Norway's right-wing Progress Party said it will resign from the country's four-party coalition government over the prime minister's decision to bring home a Norwegian woman affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria. The woman, who left Norway for the conflict zone in 2013, was arrested shortly after arriving in Oslo with her two children, on suspicion of being a member of ISIS. Prior to her return, she had been held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other family members of ISIS fighters. The defection of Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party undercuts Prime Minister Erna Solberg's parliamentary majority, likely making it hard for her to pass laws in parliament. This case reflects an increasingly common problem for European countries: the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has largely collapsed but what should countries do about the return of former fighters and their families to societies that don't want them?

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20,000: Sri Lanka's president has acknowledged for the first time that some 20,000 people who disappeared during the country's brutal civil war are dead, dashing the hopes of families who had held out hope that their relatives were alive and in military custody. The conflict, which ended in 2009, split the country according to ethnicities, killing around 100,000 people, mostly Tamil rebels.

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.