What We're Watching: German Politicians vs the Internet

AKK – Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer ("AKK"), the leader of Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union and Angela Merkel's choice to succeed her as Chancellor, has called for regulation of political opinions on the internet during election campaigns. Her proposal came in response to a German YouTube star's viral video that accused the governing party of failing to address climate change. Her idea has provoked intense criticism, in particular from free speech advocates. Not a good look just after her party took a hit in the European Parliament elections. We're watching to see how much damage she's inflicted on her political future.


Netanyahu on the Clock – Today is the deadline for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition government following last month's elections. If he fails, Israel might face a repeat vote for the first time in its history. The stakes are especially high for Netanyahu, who faces indictment on corruption charges. If he can form a government, he can try to pass laws that would give him immunity from prosecution while in office. For the moment, the ultra-orthodox and ultra-nationalist parties that are Netanyahu's likeliest potential coalition partners are still holding out in hopes of winning policy concessions.

What We're Ignoring: Bad Maps in East Africa

Fatwas on the Greenback – There are many ways to manage a currency crisis. Religious scholars in Pakistan have declared a fatwa against the hoarding of dollars in order to stop people from buying the US currency as fears rise that Prime Minister Imran Khan's cash-strapped government will soon devalue the Pakistani rupee. We're skeptical a fatwa will be enough to solve this problem.

Ethiopia's New Maps – Ethiopia's foreign ministry has said it's sorry for any "confusion and misunderstanding" after publishing a map of Africa on its website that erased neighboring Somalia by incorporating its territory within Ethiopia's borders. It's a touchy subject, given wars between the two countries in the 1960s and 70s and Ethiopian intervention inside Somalia in more recent years. But those who see something sinister at work should consider that the map also shows the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo as a single country, and it doesn't show South Sudan at all. In other words, the Ethiopian foreign ministry may just have really bad mapmakers.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

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