What We’re Watching: A Dangerous Escalation in Hong Kong

What We’re Watching: A Dangerous Escalation in Hong Kong

Bullets in Hong Kong — For the first time since Hong Kong's democracy protests began 4 months ago, a participant in the demonstrations has been shot with live ammunition. The severity of clashes between lightly armed protesters and the police has grown in recent months, but violence spiked sharply yesterday as tens of thousands of protesters marched in a "Day of Grief" meant to contrast with Beijing's lavish observance of the 70th anniversary of communist China's founding. Until now, the authorities in Hong Kong have used water cannons, truncheons, and tear gas rather than bullets, as the government weighed the risks of cracking down more forcefully. Now that lethal force has been used, we are watching to see if all sides step back from the brink, or dive over the edge into a much more serious confrontation. Can't lie: we're worried.


Who's running Peru? After Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra dissolved Congress yesterday in a last ditch bid to hold fresh elections, lawmakers refused to leave the building and instead appointed Vice President Mercedes Araoz as acting head of state. Vizcarra, who took office in 2018 when his predecessor resigned amid a sprawling graft scandal, has won popular support by tackling corruption. But his opponents, who control Congress, have blocked some of his anti-graft measures and resisted calls for fresh elections. Perhaps it's only a coincidence that the opposition leader is in jail facing corruption allegations of her own. The legality of Vizcarra's move -- which his opponents say is a coup that brings back bad memories of Peru's dictatorship -- will be settled by the courts. But Peru, one of South America's fastest growing economies, now has a more immediate problem: who runs the place? Vizcarra has the loyalty of the armed forces, but the standoff with Congress is unresolved and protesters are in the streets.

Boris Johnson's disappearing runway — The UK prime minister is preparing to unveil the country's latest formal proposal for a new Brexit deal on Wednesday, and it doesn't look promising. A leaked UK proposal for customs checks located away from the physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was promptly slapped down by leading Irish politicians as a "non-starter" after details emerged late on Monday. Johnson says the critics haven't got his plan quite right, but with time running out ahead of the 31 October deadline to leave the EU, there aren't many more opportunities left to find a solution that can a) deliver the Brexit Boris has promised, b) satisfy the EU and c) get through a skeptical Parliament. We may have a much clearer idea by the end of this week whether a deal is possible or whether the Brexit plane is careening off the end of the tarmac with "no deal".

What We're Ignoring

Uganda's fashion police Ugandan civilians who sport a red beret are now risking life imprisonment, according to a new law that designates the hats as military-use only. It just so happens that the red beret is also the sartorial signature of pop star turned political hopeful Bobi Wine and those who support his bid to oust long-serving president Yoweri Museveni in 2021 elections. (Read Willis' profile of Wine here.) We are ignoring this one because Wine and his supporters are already doing the same. No word yet from French Marxists or 1980s New York vigilante icon Curtis Sliwa though...

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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It's easy to judge the Pompeiians for building a city on the foothills of a volcano, but are we really any smarter today? If you live along the San Andreas fault in San Francisco or Los Angeles, geologists are pretty confident you're going to experience a magnitude 8 (or larger) earthquake in the next 25 years—that's about the same size as the 1906 San Francisco quake that killed an estimated 3,000 people and destroyed nearly 30,000 buildings. Or if you're one of the 9.6 million residents of Jakarta, Indonesia, you might have noticed that parts of the ground are sinking by as much as ten inches a year, with about 40 percent of the city now below sea level.

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Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader" creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.

It's been over a decade since the 58-year old whom some have dubbed "the Trump before Trump" became prime minister. In that time he has, critics say, hollowed out Hungary's governing institutions and eroded the state's democratic characteristics.

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Why do (most) world leaders drink together? It can get them to agree on stuff they wouldn't while sober. Booze "helps people get cooperation off the ground, especially in situations where cooperation is challenging," says University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland. Alcohol, he explains, allows you to "see commonalities rather than just pursuing your own interest," which may put teetotaler politicians — like Donald Trump — at a disadvantage. Watch his interview on the next episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…

Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!

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