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.

We're used to seeing electric, gas and wood-burning ovens, but can you imagine baking pizza in a solar-powered oven? That technology was invented in the latest episode of Funny Applications, where Eni's budding researchers imagine new uses for technology.

Watch now.

It looks like China's leadership has finally had enough of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.

In a speech on Thursday to the national people's congress, a symbolic confab of the country's ruling elite, Premier Li Keqiang announced a new national security law that would outlaw secessionist activity and criminalize foreign influence in Hong Kong. The measure, an explicit response to recent pro-democracy protests there, would also permit mainland China's security agencies to operate openly in the city.

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Indonesia becomes an epicenter: Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, is now considered an epicenter of the pandemic, after it suffered its biggest daily surge in cases Thursday with over 900 new infections. The country of 260 million has the largest outbreak in Southeast Asia, recording about 20,000 cases and 1,300 deaths, though a recent study suggested that as few as 2 percent of the country's coronavirus infections may have been reported. When pressed on why Indonesia is experiencing a surge in cases while the curve appears to be flattening in neighboring countries, Indonesian health authorities blamed the public's flouting of social distancing guidelines. But critics say the government has sent wishy-washy messages on how to stop the disease's spread, as demonstrated by the fact that only four of Indonesia's 34 provinces have applied widespread social-distancing restrictions. Meanwhile, as the country's 225 million Muslims prepare to celebrate the end of Ramadan this weekend, popular markets have been overwhelmed by shoppers buying food and clothing, with little guidance or enforcement of large-scale social distancing measures. Indonesia's public health system is grossly underfunded, and experts warn that given the shortage of hospital beds, medical equipment and staff, the situation could deteriorate fast in the coming weeks.

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This is not the 2020 that Vladimir Putin had in mind.

As the year started, Russia's president was crafting plans for changes to the constitution that would permit him to stay in power for (at least) another 16 years. A rubber stamp public referendum was to be held in April. Then, in May, he was to welcome foreign leaders to Moscow for a grand celebration (parades, concerts, fireworks, and a reviewing stand atop Lenin's Mausoleum) marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's triumph over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War.

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Have you ever read a major op-ed and thought to yourself, "no! no! no! That's just not right!" Us too. This week, Ian Bremmer is joined by analysts Kelsey Broderick and Jeffrey Wright to take the Red Pen to former World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick's Wall Street Journal op-ed.

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