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.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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It's easy to judge the Pompeiians for building a city on the foothills of a volcano, but are we really any smarter today? If you live along the San Andreas fault in San Francisco or Los Angeles, geologists are pretty confident you're going to experience a magnitude 8 (or larger) earthquake in the next 25 years—that's about the same size as the 1906 San Francisco quake that killed an estimated 3,000 people and destroyed nearly 30,000 buildings. Or if you're one of the 9.6 million residents of Jakarta, Indonesia, you might have noticed that parts of the ground are sinking by as much as ten inches a year, with about 40 percent of the city now below sea level.

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Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader" creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.

It's been over a decade since the 58-year old whom some have dubbed "the Trump before Trump" became prime minister. In that time he has, critics say, hollowed out Hungary's governing institutions and eroded the state's democratic characteristics.

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Why do (most) world leaders drink together? It can get them to agree on stuff they wouldn't while sober. Booze "helps people get cooperation off the ground, especially in situations where cooperation is challenging," says University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland. Alcohol, he explains, allows you to "see commonalities rather than just pursuing your own interest," which may put teetotaler politicians — like Donald Trump — at a disadvantage. Watch his interview on the next episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…

Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!

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