What We're Watching: Brazil's Dam Disaster

Brazil's dam disaster – Hundreds of people are still missing after a dam burst in the central Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, sparking an avalanche of mud and mining waste that killed and injured many. This is the second deadly dam accident for Brazilian mining giant Vale in just three years, and it could prove politically damaging for Brazil's recently inaugurated president, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro ran as a pro-business and anti-regulation conservative, pledging to cut onerous environmental regulations. We'll be watching to see how he responds to growing pressure to crack down on one of Brazil's most important industries.


A breakthrough in Afghan peace talks? – US and Taliban negotiators have reportedly agreed in principle to a framework deal to bring about an end to America's longest war. Under the agreement, the US would commit to the eventual withdrawal of its 14,000 troops in return for a Taliban-backed ceasefire and peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government. To date, the Taliban has refused to talk to the central government in Kabul, whose authority it views as illegitimate. On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a nationally televised address in which he applauded the agreement and called on Taliban to embrace direct talks. We're watching to see if the latest development represents a real step toward peace or is instead an effort by the Trump administration to dress up a predetermined decision to leave Afghanistan.

What We're Ignoring:

The United Arab Emirates' gender inclusiveness awards UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum handed out awards for "best government entity supporting gender balance," "best federal authority supporting gender balance," and "best gender balance initiative" at a ceremony on Sunday celebrating progress toward greater gender inclusion within Emirati government agencies. There was just one problem: the recipients were all men. The optics are terrible, and we're ignoring these awards. But, to be fair, the UAE does boast the best gender equality record in the Arab world, according to a UN study. It also recently doubled paid leave for new mothers to 90 days, unlike the US, which doesn't have a nationwide paid maternity leave policy.

"Red scarves" protests in France – It's been more than 11 weeks since tens of thousands of gilets jaunes – or "Yellow Vest" – protesters began occupying intersections in cities and towns across France. Now the weekend protests, which have sparked France's worst street violence since the late 1960s, have spawned a counter-movement. Enter the "red scarves," who turned out in the thousands over the weekend to denounce the "insurrectional climate" created by the rowdy yellow vests. We're all for calm, civil debate here at Signal, but it's hard to see how a protest movement calling for moderation can sustain enough energy to make a difference. In protest against this sartorial tomfoolery, your Signal authors have decided to don white berets.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was experiencing "brain death," citing a lack of coordination and America's fickleness under Donald Trump as reasons to doubt the alliance's commitment to mutual defense. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. Its cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. But disagreement about burden sharing has gained increasing salience in recent years. In 2014, the bloc agreed that each member state would increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective GDP over the next decade. But so far, only seven of 29 members have forked out the money. Here's a look at who pays what.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 200 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least eight Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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More Brexit shenanigans: Britons this week saw Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in upcoming elections. As a special bonus, they got to see Corbyn return the favo(u)r with a formal endorsement of Johnson. Most viewers in the UK will have understood immediately that these are the latest example of "deep fakes," digitally manipulated video images. The more important Brexit story this week is a pledge by Nigel Farage that his Brexit Party will not run candidates in areas held by the Conservatives in upcoming national elections. That's a boost for Johnson, because it frees his party from having to compete for support from pro-Brexit voters in those constituencies.

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80: More than 80 percent of the electronic voting systems currently used in the US are made by just three companies, according to a new report which warns that they are regulated less effectively than "colored pencils."

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