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.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Iran was involved in two naval incidents in the Gulf of Oman in recent days. The US, UK, and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack that killed two European nationals. Iran has rejected the accusations. Iran is also suspected in the "potential hijack" of a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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Does alcohol help bring the world together?

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