What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

A New Arms Race The US and Russia have now both officially pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). A key piece of the global arms control regime constructed by Moscow and Washington during the Cold War, the INF Treaty prohibits land-based missiles with ranges between 300 and 4,000 miles. The US signaled its intention to pull out last year, saying Russia was violating its terms, and noting that China isn't even party to the pact. Now Moscow has bolted as well, and we are watching, with no small degree of unease, to see whether this prompts a new global arms race. Remember the 1950s civil defense drills in New York? We don't either, but these photos from the era are chilling.

A New Wiosna (Spring) in Poland? An openly gay LGBT activist is leadinga new leftist party breaking ground in conservative Poland. Robert Biedron, a former mayor from the Western border town of Slupsk, hopes that the upcoming European parliamentary elections in May can be a springboard for his Wiosna (Spring) party to launch a domestic political movement. He has growing support among young city-dwellers disenchanted with the conservative nationalism of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party. But Wiosna may struggle to expand its base in Europe's most Catholic nation. We're watching to see whether a political spring has sprung for Poland.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Curbing Germans' Need for Speed Germans love driving fast almost as much as Americans love their guns. It's no surprise then that a recent proposal to limit speeds on the country's famously freewheeling Autobahn (to an oozing 75mph) didn't go over well. Proponents of the idea say it would close one-fifth of the current gap in Germany's 2020 carbon emissions goals. But when a German transport minister imposed similar restrictions in the 1970s, they lasted just four weeks. We're ignoring this story because we're confident Germans will put their foot down – and then speed off into the sunset.

Trump-Churchill comparisons – A new report suggests 60 percent of President Trump's day is consumed by unstructured "Executive Time," much of which is spent watching cable news, reading newspapers, and making phone calls. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich responded to the report by comparing the president's habits to those of the famously misanthropic UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill. We're ignoring the comparison though because Churchill wrote 17 books during his lifetime and won World War II.

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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