Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Poland’s Patriots — Know who really knows how to make the Kremlin mad? Poland, which announced this week it will spend $4.75 billion to purchase the US-made Patriot missile defense system. But maybe Russia won’t care now that it has the invincible, hypersonic, zig-zagging missile.


Italy’s worst-case scenario? — The Five Star Movement and The League, Italy’s new populist, powerhouse political parties, seem to be edging closer to forming a government. An Italian friend recently told me he had voted for The League this year for the first time because he wanted a government that would “disrupt” Italian politics. It won’t lead Italy out of the EU or Eurozone, but this particular combination might take “disruption” of Italian politics to a whole new level.

The Suidlanders — Racial tensions made news in South Africa this week. Viral video of a white woman repeatedly hurling racial insults at a black policeman bought her a three-year jail sentence. But South Africa’s racial furies are spilling across borders. The so-called Suidlanders, a group that wants to prepare white Christian South Africans for an oft-predicted race war, have been forging new ties with likeminded radicals in the US, Europe, and Australia, and amplifying their indignation in right-wing media in those and other countries.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Assange Unplugged — We won’t be hearing from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, still stuck in Ecuador’s embassy in London, at least for a while. Ecuador has cut his Internet connection to prevent him from making mischief that gets Ecuador in trouble.

Uzbek gardens — According to state media, Uzbekistan’s government has warned homeowners they better start contributing to the country’s self-sufficiency by using their property to grow food and raise animals. The government’s message is simple: If our inspection of your home doesn’t turn up greenhouses, livestock, and/or chickens, your property taxes will triple. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is walking the walk on this one. He reportedly keeps more than 100 chickens of his own and regularly trades eggs for meat and yogurt. But agriculture already accounts for half the country’s jobs. Who wants to bring their work home?

Mozart for dogs — Police dogs in Madrid have tough jobs, and there’s a new plan to manage their stress levels by pumping classical music into their kennels. The idea is to create something called the “Mozart Effect,” the calming influence the great masters are thought to exert on beasts of every description. But recent studies conducted right here at Signal Headquarters have found that Mozart is too frothy for most canines, and Beethoven has way too much presto agitato for the liking of small dogs, particularly dachshund and chihuahua puppies. Dogs of all sizes tend to prefer Chopin, or even Rachmaninoff.

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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Vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens before the rest of the world, has been effective for rich nations like the United States and Israel. But leaving behind so much of the global population isn't just a humanitarian issue. It could prolong the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization's Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, who argues that what the global vaccination effort most urgently lacks are doses, not dollars. In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, she calls for a large increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and suggests we may be seeing alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

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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