WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Trump’s phone calls – So… Russian and Chinese spies are listening in on phone calls from the president of the United States because he refuses to stop using his personal phone? Sounds like a story we’ll be hearing more about. President Trump has dismissed the report as “wrong,” “long,” and “boring.”


Cameroon corruption – Earlier this week, Clement Atangana, president of Cameroon’s Constitutional Council, announced his finding that President Paul Biya, in power since 1982, had won a seventh term as president and that opposition charges of fraud were without grounds. Later in the week, Cameroon’s government issued a public tender for construction of a $475,000 house for Mr. Atangana. Your Friday author is sure this is just a crazy coincidence, but we’ll keep watching just in case.

Ethiopia’s First Female President – Ethiopia’s parliament has appointed Sahle-Work Zewde to be the country’s first female head of state. The post of president is ceremonial in Ethiopia; real power lies with the prime minister. But Zewde insists this is still an important moment for her country. “In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalizes women as decision-makers in public life.” For the moment, she is Africa’s only female head of state.

Us vs Them: The American Gender Edition – A new poll on US midterm elections from Quinnipiac University found that Democrats lead among women on a generic congressional ballot by a margin of 58 percent to 33 percent, and that Republicans lead among men by 50 percent to 42 percent. If the election results match this poll, this will be the largest gender gap in US midterm elections in 60 years.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Death comes to Russia – Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that any foe who launched a nuclear war on Russia would “drop dead without time to repent” while Russians would accept death and “go to heaven as martyrs.” This week, a man dressed as the grim reaper roamed the streets of the Siberian city of Kurgan to ask passersby which of these two options they would personally prefer. Results were inconclusive. Death has reportedly appeared in Kurgan before to protest “alcoholism, poor highway maintenance, and swimming in dangerous waters.”

Lurking saints – A Catholic Evangelical group has created a game called “Follow JC Go!” an imitation of Pokémon Go that lets players finds saints or Bible characters instead of little green monsters. Players can also raise their scores by collecting virtual water, food and "spirituality.”

Egypt Expels Mickey and Donald – Last month, a province north of Cairo announced a plan to remove Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck from classroom walls in favor of art depicting Egyptian “military martyrs.” Your Friday author is fine with this, because he much prefers Bugs Bunny to Mickey and Daffy Duck to Donald—and has no opinion on Egyptian military martyrs.

Complaints about clever dogs – Someone called Betsy Reyes of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma claims to have photographic evidence that her dog, Princess, is pretending to be a stray to persuade the night crew at a local McDonald’s restaurant to give her food. “If you see my dog @ the McDonald's on shields, quit feeding her fat ass bc she don't know how to act … She's not even a stray dog.” wrote Reyes. We’re ignoring you, Betsy, and we hope McDonalds will too, because we think canine initiative and ingenuity should be rewarded. #I’mLovingIt

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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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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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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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

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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For Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee, protesting at the Games is fine — as long as it doesn't "interfere" with the competition itself or awards ceremonies. The Olympics, in his view, are an oasis of calm in the middle of an increasingly tense world, and "we shouldn't be spoiling that by pointing out the obvious , which is that there are social and political problems." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World on US public television.

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Does alcohol help bring the world together?

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How should athletes protest at the Olympics?

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