What We're Watching: The Brexit war of words

The Brexit War of Words – The French and Italians aren't the only ones trading verbal jabs in Europe this week. After European Council President Donald Tusk speculated publicly on a "special place in Hell" for Brexit supporters who lack "even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely," Brexit-backer Sammy Wilson of Northern Ireland attacked Tusk as a "devilish, trident wielding, euro maniac." This is good stuff. We're big fans of hilariously creative insults.

Judgment Day in Kuala Lumpur – Judgment Day is nearly here for Najib Razak. On February 12, the former Malaysian prime minister's corruption trial is scheduled to begin in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysians are expecting to hear prosecutors explain how Najib amassed multiple homes and sacks of cash, jewelry, and other luxury items, as well as $681 million in his private bank account. Has Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia's most dynamic economies, really turned a corner on corruption? We'll be watching for the verdict.

Japan's Elderly Crime Wave – In 1997, about 5 percent of crimes in Japan were committed by people over the age of 65. By 2017, the percentage had risen to 20. Why? Some say Japan's pension system isn't generous enough and that the elderly are choosing prison, where they're guaranteed three meals a day, over poverty. Others add that many older Japanese would rather live within a prison community than isolated and lonely on the outside. Whatever the cause, this is a problem worth studying in all countries with fast-expanding populations of pensioners.

What We're Ignoring:

Shaolin Sheep – Can sheep do Kung Fu? See for yourself. Your Friday author is ignoring the threat posed by flying sheep, because he would never do anything to get a sheep this mad.

Russian Witches – Forget the "witch hunt" in Washington. The Signal team has located the real thing in Moscow. On Tuesday, a group of self-described Russian witches gathered in the Russian capital for a "circle of power" intended to strengthen Vladimir Putin and return his enemies to the abyss. They wore black robes and chanted things like "Come up with the greatness, power of Russia, direct the way of Vladimir Putin right and correctly." We're ignoring this hocus pocus, because we're frankly even less worried by this than by sheep who do Kung Fu.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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More than 930 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have already been administered globally, and another 1 billion more are expected to be manufactured by the end of May. Most of the manufacturing is concentrated in a small group of countries. While some — like China, for instance — are exporting roughly half of the shots they make, others — mainly the US — are keeping most of the supply for domestic use. Meanwhile, export controls have been a particularly thorny issue in the European Union and India, where governments have come under intense pressure to stop sending vaccines to other parts of the world amid sluggish rollouts at home. We take a look at what the world's top manufacturers are doing with the vaccines they are producing.

Ian Bremmer explains how a fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, in the summer of 1969, set the conservation movement ablaze in the United States. A TIME Magazine article about the fire led to the Clean Water Act, creation of the EPA, and the first Earth Day—April 22, 1970. Over 50 years later, citizens of the world agree that climate change is a global emergency. But how can nations come together to find solutions that are truly attainable?

Watch the GZERO World episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

US President Joe Biden's highly anticipated two-day climate summit opens on Thursday, when dozens of world leaders and bigshot CEOs will gather (virtually) to try to save the planet. Above all, the US is looking to showcase the idea that "America is back" on climate change. But will other countries buy it?

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55: EU governments on Wednesday reached a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by the end of the decade. The commitment is in line with the bloc's broader goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050.

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