Watching and Ignoring

Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

The “Do Not Congratulate” Leak — The story is straightforward. Senior national security aides advised President Trump to avoid congratulating Vladimir Putin on his election victory, given Russia’s unacknowledged intervention in the US election, poisoning accusations against Russia in the UK, and other issues. Trump ignored this advice and congratulated him anyway. But our real interest in this story comes down to two questions: Who leaked this to the press and why? The leaker is someone with direct access to both the advice Trump received and the content of the call. That’s someone very, very close to the president. And why leak this? Is it someone’s concern over Trump’s relationship with Putin? Anger that Trump ignores advice? A warning of some kind? It’s not unreasonable to wonder if it might have been outgoing National Security Advisor HR McMaster or someone who worked for him.This story bears close watch.


Rising Tides and Stormy Skies — The World Bank says 143 million people could be displaced by climate change by 2050. The highest totals are likely to be in Sub-Saharan Africa (86 million), South Asia (40 million) and Latin America (17 million). HSBC, a bank, says the most vulnerable individual countries are likely to be India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Bangladesh.

Fake Democracy — More on British firm Cambridge Analytica, which has manipulated democracy through a propaganda campaign using social media channels built from data harvested from voters’ Facebook pages without their knowledge. Video has emerged of a senior Cambridge Analytica official bragging that during Kenya’s bitterly disputed presidential election last year, “we wrote all the speeches, and we staged the whole thing.” The company denies all wrongdoing. The Kenya vote pushed political and ethnic tensions to dangerous levels following accusations the results were faked and a court ordered a rerun of the entire vote. The two main candidates, winner Uhuru Kenyatta and failed challenger Raila Odinga, have since taken steps to ease tensions. But with the release of this new video, an opposition figure has demanded a full investigation.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Confused Citizens on Alert for Jihad — Munir Zanial, an aerospace engineer working in Kansas, was a dues-paying member of an organization called the Spirit Boeing Employees Association. Last September, Mr Zanial, a Muslim and native of Malaysia, rented some lakefront property owned by the organization to host a party honoring Malaysia’s Independence Day and the end of Ramadan. An unidentified person saw a Malaysian flag at the event and called the FBI to report a US flag “desecrated by ISIS insignia,” according to press reports. The FBI investigation didn’t last long, but the employee group then terminated Mr Zanial’s right to host parties without informing him, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, which has now filed suit on Mr Zanial’s behalf.

India’s Third Front — In recent years, voters in European countries like France and Italy have cast aside traditional political parties in favor of new (or rebranded) ones, and many Americans would love to see Republicans and Democrats face real third-party competition. Is there now an emerging national movement in fast-changing India that can compete on the national stage with center-right and center-left alliances led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP and the Congress Party respectively? The chief ministers of Telangana and West Bengal provinces will reportedly join forces to launch a new alliance, known as the “Third Front,” which will represent different castes and communities and won’t affiliate with the BJP or Congress. But this new grouping will only change the game if/when parties based in BJP states join the alliance. That hasn’t happened yet.

Truth in Translation — Your Friday author returned yesterday from the Antipodes, aka Australia and New Zealand, where he was told the following story: In 1770, on landing in northeast Australia and seeing a kangaroo for the first time, Captain James Cook asked a native of the place what the animal was called. The man replied “kangaroo,” a word which, roughly translated from the northeast Aboriginal language of Guugu Yimidhirr, means “I don’t speak English, you overdressed, pasty-faced weirdo and therefore have no idea what you’re asking me. Please repair your ship quickly and go someplace else.” I’m ignoring the sad reality that this story isn’t true and intend to go on repeating it.

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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