What We're Watching &What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Priyanka Gandhi – With elections due by May and Narendra Modi's BJP still the dominant force in Indian politics, the entrance onto the national political stage of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, whose father, grandmother, and great-grandfather all served as Congress Party prime ministers, deserves attention. She's widely considered more charismatic than her older brother Rahul, the party's current leader. After upset wins for Congress in three recent state elections, does she have the political talent to bring her party back to the center of Indian politics?

US Federal Workers – The shutdown stalemate looks set to continue. As the US enters Day 35 of a partial government shutdown, we're watching how federal employees respond. With the approach of tax season, the Trump administration has ordered 30,000 employees of the Internal Revenue Service to work without pay. Will they? This question will be repeated across other federal agencies. Look for more stories about large numbers of federal employees who don't show up for work.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Your Job Frustrations You don't have to be a US federal employee to be fed up with a bad job situation, but there's no way you have it as bad as UK Prime Minister Theresa May does. Check out this "behind-the-scenes footage" from part of her day, from an ad created by a job search site.

Japanese otters Last year, the Japanese city of Susaki named a live otter with a large social media following to be its honorary tourism ambassador. The city also has a guy in an otter costume as its official mascot. But then a second guy in an otter costume began filming himself performing reckless stunts and committing apparent crimes, some of them a little creepy. Confusion ensued. We're ignoring this madness, because if we really started following it, we'd never get any work done.

Wrecking the global economy's hopes for a relaxing late-August Friday, China and the US have taken fresh shots at each other in their deepening trade war.

First, China announced new tariffs on US goods in response to US levies on China's exports that are set to take effect next month.

Trump responded with a vintage tweet storm, lashing out at China and demanding that US firms stop doing business there. The Dow plunged as markets waited for the next shoe to drop. And drop it did: later in the day Trump announced higher tariffs on nearly everything that China exports to the United States.

Why now? Bear in mind, all of this comes right as Trump is leaving for this weekend's G7 summit in France. That gathering already promised to be a testy one – but with the global economy slowing, the impact of Trump's increasingly nasty trade war with China will add fresh tensions to the occasion.

So where are we in the trade war now? Here is an updated list of what measures each side has imposed to date, and what's next. Both sides have a lot at stake, but from the looks of it, the list isn't going to get shorter any time soon.

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.