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.

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Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

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What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

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World leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome, October 2021

This week, the World Health Organization’s governing body agreed to begin multinational negotiations on an agreement that would boost global preparedness to deal with future pandemics. The WHO hopes that its 194 member countries will sign a treaty that helps ensure that the global response to the next pandemic is better coordinated and fairer.

The specifics remain to be negotiated over the coming months – and maybe longer – but the stated goal of those who back this plan is a treaty that will commit member countries to share information, virus samples, and new technologies, and to ensure that poorer countries have much better access than they do now to vaccines and related technologies.

Crucially, backers of the treaty insist it must be “legally binding.”

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Abortion rights and anti-abortion demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court while the court holds a hearing on a Mississippi abortion ban, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court began hearing arguments on an issue that has had Americans fighting — and in some cases killing — each other for 50 years: abortion.

The court must decide whether a recent Mississippi state law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy is legal and, more broadly, whether it runs counter to the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973.

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Coronavirus in Deutschland - Covid-19-Dashboard des Robert Koch-Institut 01.12.2021:

67,186: Germany announced Thursday that people who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 will be subject to new restrictions, including being unable to enter stores and gather in large groups. This comes as Germany recorded 67,186 new cases Thursday, hundreds more than the previous day, according to the Robert Koch Institute. Hospitals are filling up and Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz, who comes into office next week, says he would support broad vaccine mandates.

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S2 Episode 7: Why biodiversity loss matters to governments and investors


Listen: Are global leaders finally taking needed action on environmental issues? Coming out of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, we've seen governments agree to a certain set of policies to fight climate change. But that isn't the only urgent environmental issue we face. The twin problem of climate change AND biodiversity loss are a serious threat to not just governments, but also investors.

The latest episode of Living Beyond Borders, a special podcast series from GZERO brought to you by Citi Private Bank, looks at how important biodiversity is to the global economy, and what leaders need to do to prevent further loss. Moderated by Caitlin Dean, Head of the Geostrategy Practice at Eurasia Group, this episode features Anita McBain, Managing Director at Citi Research, heading EMEA ESG Research; Harlin Singh, Global Head of Sustainable Investing at Citi Global Wealth; and Mikaela McQuade, Director of Energy, Climate and Resources at Eurasia Group.

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The Graphic Truth: Abortion laws around the world

While the debate over fetal rights vs a woman’s right to choose is particularly ferocious in the US, it’s also a divisive issue in many parts of the world, particularly in countries where the Catholic Church holds influence. We take a look at abortion laws globally, as well as countries with the highest and lowest official abortion rates.

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