What We're Watching: Mass Arrests, Libya's Spiral, A Floating Unicorn

What We're Watching: Mass Arrests, Libya's Spiral, A Floating Unicorn

Mass Arrests in the US – On Sunday, US immigration police will begin a multi-day, nationwide operation to arrest thousands of people believed to be living in the United States illegally, according to press leaks from US officials. If this happens—similar plans have been postponed before—President Trump will say he is simply enforcing US law. His critics will insist he's capsizing the lives of thousands of people, including children, for political gain. The less predictable part of this story is the human drama that thousands of arrests will create—and the political firestorm that will surely follow.


Libya's Downward Spiral – A new report suggests that Libya's civil war is becoming bloodier and that the country is now "spiraling further downward." There's no end in sight to the fight between the internationally-recognized, UN-backed Government of National Accord and the so-called Libyan National Army, led by former Libyan general Khalifa Haftar and reportedly backed by Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. On July 5, the UN Security Council formally condemned an airstrike on a migrant detention camp in a suburb of Tripoli that killed 53 people. No one has admitted responsibility for that attack. A bid by Haftar to capture Tripoli has bogged down. And despite a UN arms embargo in place since 2011, Libya remains "awash with weapons."

Miracles on Italian Beaches – Imagine: You're a newlywed enjoying a holiday on a beautiful Sardinian beach. You're floating on an inflatable unicorn. But then you fall into the water, which is unexpectedly cold, and your medical condition makes it impossible for you to move your legs. A strong wind then blows away your unicorn. You are now swallowing large amounts of salt water, and you begin to lose consciousness. Not to worry, because Olympic bronze medal-winning swimmer Filippo Magnini, sunbathing on the beach with his TV star girlfriend, has been alerted to your plight, and he's only too happy to save you. Apparently, this is the sort of thing that actually happens on Italian beaches.

Off to the races – You can, and should, experience the thrills of the annual World Wife-Carrying Championships right here. But then there's also this excellent T-Rex race. We're watching for your responses to know which race you like better and why.

What We're Ignoring:

Putin's Love of Birds – In a recent speech, Russia's president warned that wind turbines are dangerous: "Wind-powered generation is good, but are birds being taken into account in this case? How many birds are dying?" Research from the London School of Economics estimated in 2014 that there could be anywhere from 9,600 and 106,000 bird deaths a year from wind energy in the UK by 2020. (That's a fairly broad guess.) Their research also found that about 55 million British birds are killed each year by British housecats. We're not doubting Putin's well-documented love of birds, but maybe his position as president of one of the world's leading producers of oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy has skewed his judgment on this one.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on the biggest development in US politics this week:

So, the scriptwriters for 2020 have thrown as a real curveball, introducing the most explosive element in US politics, just six weeks before the election. The tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be remembered as a trailblazing jurist, but also a reliably liberal vote on a court that was divided along ideological lines with a five-four conservative majority. This has the potential to upend the presidential election. And likely will motivate turnout on both sides. But also, importantly for president, Trump could remind some Romney voting ex-Republicans who were leaning towards Biden why they were Republicans in the first place. Which means that it has the potential to push some persuadable voters back towards the president.

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(Some) Thais fed up with royals: In their largest show of force to date, around 18,000 young Thai activists took to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday to rally against the government and demand sweeping changes to the country's powerful monarchy. The protesters installed a gold plaque declaring that Thailand belongs to the Thai people, not the king — a brazen act of defiance in a country where many view the sovereign as a god and offenses against the royal family are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Activists also got the royal guards to accept a letter addressed to King Vajiralongkorn with their proposed reforms. We're watching to see if the Thai government — made up mostly of the same generals who took over in a 2014 coup and then stage-managed last year's election to stay in power — continues to exercise restraint against the activists. So far, some protest leaders have been detained but they are growing bolder in their defiance of the military and the royal family, the two institutions that have dominated Thai politics for decades. Prime Minister and former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is in a tough spot: many young and liberal Thais will hate him if he cracks down hard on the peaceful protesters, but not doing so would make him look weak in the eyes of his power base of older, more conservative Thais who still venerate the monarchy and are fine with the military calling the shots in politics.

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32: Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra survived an impeachment vote on Friday after only 32 out of 130 lawmakers supported his removal for allegedly trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. Vizcarra was in peril just a week ago, but the case for impeachment lost steam after the president was backed by the military and influential opposition leaders who insist the country needs stability to fight COVID-19.

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