What We're Watching: Something Insane Over Paris

What We're Watching: Something Insane Over Paris

Le Flyboard - I could describe the sight of a guy holding a rifle flying around on a hoverboard above France's Bastille Day festivities this weekend, but you should just see the video yourself, courtesy of president Macron. The Flyboard is a drone powerful enough to carry a standing person at speeds up to 118 miles per hour (190 km/h) for short periods of time. We are watching this because it is absolutely next-level awesome, and also because we suspect it won't be long before these things start to change the face of warfare – maybe of crime too?

A Warning in Nigeria – Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has sent a public letter to current President Muhammadu Buhari warning, among other things, that ongoing violence between farmers and herders could lead to a "Rwanda-type genocide" of ethnic Fulanis. More broadly, unchecked violence could lead to "dismemberment of the country." These two men are political rivals, and Obasanjo has written open letters before. But given ethnic tensions that have led to hundreds of recent murders in the country and continuing attacks from the Boko Haram terrorist group, these are warnings worth watching. Nigeria is home to about 200 million people, and it is Africa's largest economy.

A big vote in Europe – German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has won the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and other EU leaders for her bid to be the next president of the European Commission, the 28 member bloc's executive body. To win that post later today, she'll need an absolute majority among the 746 European members of parliament. The vote – which will occur via secret ballot – is too close to call. She is liked by the center and center-right, but not the left. It's a good early test of EU unity after a hotly contested election for the European Parliament a few weeks ago. We'll soon know whether she'll be setting the agenda in Brussels for the next five years or whether Merkel and other leaders of an increasingly fractious EU will have to go back to the drawing board.

What We're Ignoring

Toxic Paradise in Russia - Limpid turquoise waters shimmer in the summer sun. The beautiful people paddle about and pose for selfies that garner millions of likes on social media. You can practically hear the pulse of Balearic house music emanating from the photos…Welcome to the Maldives….of Siberia. Yes, we're talking about a lake outside the smallish Russian city of Novosibirsk that has become an object of cult obsession this summer. The catch? It's actually a man-made waste site for a nearby electrical plant. The vivid blue isn't the result of pristine shallow waters, white sands, and coral reefs – it's actually an aquamarine stew of toxic salts and oxides flushed into the water by Heating and Electrical Station Number 5. We are ignoring (just barely though) the urge to enjoy a post-apocalyptic dip.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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