What We're Watching: Brazilian ultras reject Bolsonaro, Syrian election "shocker", US baseball is back

What We're Watching: Brazilian ultras reject Bolsonaro, Syrian election "shocker", US baseball is back

The torcidas turn on Bolsonaro: Brazil's football fans, particularly the organized ultras popularly known as the torcidas, are famous around the world for the passion, intensity, insanity, and joy with which they celebrate their country's brand of the beautiful game. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, is widely known for the aggressive patriotism, hyper-masculinity, and man-of-the-people image he works to project. That's why some outside Brazil might assume that Brazil's hardcore football fans are major supporters of Bolsonaro, but that assumption ignores the fault lines particular to Brazil's political and sporting culture. In fact, ultras from some rival teams have joined forces in recent days to denounce Bolsonaro's approach to both crime (too heavy) and COVID-19 (too light). In part, this is because many Brazilian ultras are working-class supporters of the leftist Workers Party, the party that Bolsonaro bitterly opposed and then defeated in the last election. Many more low-income ultras live in favelas in Brazil's major cities, which have been especially hard-hit by the coronavirus.


Syria votes (sort of): Surprising precisely zero people, the Baath Party — led by President Bashar al-Assad — came in first in Syria's legislative elections on Sunday, winning 177 of the 250 seats up for grabs in parliament. In a country at war with itself for almost a decade, it should also come as no shocker that turnout barely reached 33 percent, down from 57 percent just four years ago — despite the government reopening polling stations in former rebel-held areas. The Syrian opposition denounced the result as a "farce" because most displaced people were not able to cast ballots, but that will matter little to the Baath Party, which has kept a stranglehold on power since a 1963 coup. The wider issue now is whether (or not) the ruling party will use its ample parliamentary majority to do something to help ordinary Syrians, who are coming under increasing pressure to make ends meet amid the country's economic implosion. Meanwhile, fresh US sanctions threaten to cut off Syria from some of the international funding it badly needs to rebuild its shattered economy and infrastructure.

US baseball opens in closed ballparks: Seventeen weeks late, Opening Day has finally arrived. It's a red-letter day for American sports as major league baseball opens a coronavirus-abbreviated season, in which cardboard photographs will replace human fans in the stands. Signalista Alex Kliment wants you to know (again) that the New York Mets will win this year's World Series. Signalista Willis Sparks wants you know that Kliment will be wrong about that for the 34th year in a row. There is also an election-year political angle here: Given poor approval numbers for President Trump's handling of the coronavirus, any perceived return to normal summertime life in America can offer a political boost. On the other hand, Washington DC's baseball club opted against having the president or a former baseball star throw out the ceremonial first pitch of their season: instead they chose infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. "Normalcy" remains a relative concept. Play ball.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

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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More than 930 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have already been administered globally, and another 1 billion more are expected to be manufactured by the end of May. Most of the manufacturing is concentrated in a small group of countries. While some — like China, for instance — are exporting roughly half of the shots they make, others — mainly the US — are keeping most of the supply for domestic use. Meanwhile, export controls have been a particularly thorny issue in the European Union and India, where governments have come under intense pressure to stop sending vaccines to other parts of the world amid sluggish rollouts at home. We take a look at what the world's top manufacturers are doing with the vaccines they are producing.

Ian Bremmer explains how a fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, in the summer of 1969, set the conservation movement ablaze in the United States. A TIME Magazine article about the fire led to the Clean Water Act, creation of the EPA, and the first Earth Day—April 22, 1970. Over 50 years later, citizens of the world agree that climate change is a global emergency. But how can nations come together to find solutions that are truly attainable?

Watch the GZERO World episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

US President Joe Biden's highly anticipated two-day climate summit opens on Thursday, when dozens of world leaders and bigshot CEOs will gather (virtually) to try to save the planet. Above all, the US is looking to showcase the idea that "America is back" on climate change. But will other countries buy it?

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55: EU governments on Wednesday reached a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by the end of the decade. The commitment is in line with the bloc's broader goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050.

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