WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Macron’s Next Challenge– All French leaders seem eventually to face the same problem: Reform plans provoke resistance from workers and students. The protesters win public support. The president or prime minister is forced to back down—and then pilloried for his weakness. Tomorrow, Emmanuel Macron faces “Blocage du Novembre 17,” a protest in which people wearing yellow sweaters plan to block more than 1500 roads all over France to protest his diesel tax. A new poll says 65 percent of the public supports the protest and 42 percent intend to participate.


The Rise of China – Not sure we’re right about the power of the moving image? Check out this motion graphic on the rise of China.

Cuban officials in American hotels –A Hilton hotel in southwestern Japan turned away the Cuban Ambassador to Japan this week, citing US sanctions on the island nation. Japanese officials are furious. The US government should have learned decades ago that no good can come from pushing Cuban officials out of American hotels.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Rubber Lenin –Speaking of being forced from one’s lodgings, Vladimir Petrov, a Russian lawmaker, says it’s too expensive to keep former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin on display in the Red Square Mausoleum, where his body has been exhibited since his death in 1924. He proposes burying Lenin in 2024 on the 100th anniversary of his demise. He does believe the Mausoleum should remain open, perhaps with a rubber version of Lenin instead. This is not fake news. Your Friday author knows the story of Rubber Lenin is true, because he saw it in Pravda.

Duterte power naps – On Wednesday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a man who has cultivated an image as a virile, no-nonsense problem-solver, missed four scheduled meetings at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore. Apparently, he was sleeping. Don’t worry, said a presidential spokesman. Duterte doesn’t sleep as we do. These were “power naps.”

Gait recognition – What good is facial recognition surveillance software if the camera can’t see your face? In China, authorities have begun using software that can identify a person by body shape and how they walk. This will never work, in our opinion, because clever people can easily adjust their gait.

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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