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.

We pay little attention to the waves of the sea, yet they are the greatest unused source of renewable energy in the world. Meet ISWEC and Power Buoy, two interesting new technologies used to harness this energy. Learn more about the extraordinary power of waves in this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series, where we investigate interesting facts and trends about energy.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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