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

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every household, changing the way we live our lives. The pandemic continues to reinforce the drive for cooperation between communities, governments and businesses in order to combat the threat.

Microsoft responded to the pandemic in its home state through efforts like donating protective equipment, making boxed lunches for families and using technology to better understand the spread of the virus over the last year. Now, we're sharing six ways Microsoft is pulling together with the community to lend a hand to fellow Washingtonians in 2021 including helping with vaccination efforts. To read more, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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Guilty: Eleven months after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, on a Minneapolis street corner, we finally have a verdict in the murder trial. On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of all three charges: second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The verdict was celebrated by advocates for racial justice and police reform. Last summer, video footage of Floyd suffocating to death as he cried out "I can't breathe" galvanized anti-racism protests across America (some of which turned violent) that went global. We're watching to see if the jury's verdict gives fresh impetus to the nationwide movement for police accountability and broader criminal justice reform, both of which have been met with fierce resistance from law-and-order conservatives and police unions. And we'll also be keeping an eye on the sentence, as Chauvin faces up to 75 years in prison for his crimes.

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120,000: Ukraine warns that Russia will soon have as many as 120,000 troops on its eastern border, a larger presence than when Moscow seized Crimea in 2014. Kyiv wants to join NATO to deter the Russian forces from invading the Donbas region, where about half the population are ethnic Russians.

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During a pandemic, the work of reporters around the world is particularly important to ensure transparency about the scope of outbreaks and the measures that governments are taking to contain them. But in many countries, press freedom has been declining since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Press freedom took a bit hit over the past year, as governments across the world doubled down on censoring media that criticized their handling of the pandemic, and locking up reporters for reporting the facts. Reporters Without Borders today published its annual World Press Freedom Index, which takes a microscope to every country, ranking the ability of its media to report freely and independently. Here's a look at how countries' scores have changed over the past year.

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on World In 60 Seconds (aka Around the World in 180 Seconds) and discusses Xi Jinping's message to the US, Russia's buildup at the Ukraine border, and Cuba's new leader.

What did you make of Xi Jinping's message to the US at China's annual Boao Forum?

Well, he didn't mention the United States directly, but he basically said that we don't accept hegemonic powers, we don't accept people that are setting the rules for other countries. Basically, consistently Xi Jinping saying that the Chinese want to be treated as equals with the United States. They're going to be rule makers for themselves. The Chinese political and economic system, every bit as legitimate as that of the United States. This is going to be a real fight. The American perspective is that the relationship between the two is going to be very competitive, whether it's a happy competition or an unhealthy competition depends on the Chinese. Xi Jinping's perspective is the Americans are not treating the Chinese with due respect. And that's going to play out on security, it's going to play out in climate, on the economy. I mean, you name it.

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One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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The Biden administration's much ballyhooed Earth Day Summit this week promises to be revealing. We're going to learn a little about what additional action a few dozen of the world's largest emitters are willing to take on climate change, and a lot more about which countries are willing to take such action at the behest of the United States.

Call it a situational assessment of the status of American power just shy of Biden's 100th day in office.

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