What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE ARE WATCHING

Jair Bolsonaro, Smut Lord – This is NSFW unless your W is covering global affairs. Last Thursday, the Brazil's president asked, in a tweet, "what is a golden shower?" This after he'd posted video in which a half-naked man dances lewdly atop a bus stop in Rio de Janeiro and then allows another man to urinate on him. Bolsonaro – a social ultraconservative posted the vid, it seems, as evidence of his country's moral degeneration, a plague he blames on the Brazilian left. He then recorded a Facebook Live video in which he criticized (and showed) sex education textbooks that feature illustrations of genitalia. We're watching to see if Bolsonaro's polarizing passion for culture wars gets in the way of the economic reform and anti-corruption promises which were major reasons many people voted for him.

Impeachment Talk – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in Washington, said that impeaching President Trump would be too divisive and that "he's just not worth it." Other Democrats, especially those running, or considering running, for president will now have to respond. This response will be among the most strategically important political decisions they will make this year. Impeachment is an issue that can, in principle, fire up the Democratic base, but it risks alienating moderates while handing Trump an issue that, in turn, inflames his own most fervent supporters.

WHAT WE ARE IGNORING

Russian police arresting balloons – Over the weekend, thousands of Russians protested new laws that tighten state control over the internet. The demonstrations, among Russia's largest in recent years, illustrate the risks that the government faces as it tries to curtail internet freedoms that Russians have become accustomed to. Though authorities permitted the demonstrations, police in Moscow arrested half a dozen activists for flying "unmanned aerial devices" without a license. The devices in question? Small blue helium balloons. We're ignoring this flagrant war on joy, but we're also heading over to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew our balloon flying licenses. Back in a few hours…

Assurances that killer robots won't kill us – In response to some bad press that the US army is working on "AI-powered killing machines" the Pentagon has updated a request for companies that can help it build a new gun system that can "acquire, identify, and engage targets at least three times faster than the current manual process." Everyone can calm down, according to the Pentagon: the not-at-all-sinisterly named Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) will abide by US Department of Defense Directive 3000.09, which requires human input into any decision to kill. We're ignoring this fracas, because "lethality" is an overused military buzzword [KAK1] because this totally doesn't sound like the beginning of a bad made-for-cable movie or anything.

It was inevitable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make India's elections a referendum on Narendra Modi, and now that the vast majority of 600 million votes cast have been counted, it's clear he made the right call.

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Among the 23 men and women now seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to take on Donald Trump in next year's election, the frontrunner, at least for now, has spent half a century in politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, first elected to the US Senate in 1972, is the very epitome of the American political establishment.

Yet, the dominant political trend in many democracies today is public rejection of traditional candidates and parties of the center-right and center-left in favor of new movements, voices, and messages. Consider the evidence from some recent elections:

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It's Friday, and Signal readers deserve at least one entirely upbeat news story.

José Obdulio Gaviria, a Colombian senator for the rightwing Democratic Center party, is an outspoken opponent of government attempts to make peace with the FARC rebel group after 50 years of conflict.

On his way into a meeting earlier this week, Gaviria collapsed. It was later reported that he had fainted as a result of low blood pressure probably caused by complications following recent open heart surgery.

A political rival, Senator Julian Gallo, quickly came to his rescue and revived him using resuscitation skills he learned as—irony alert—a FARC guerrilla. CPR applied by Gallo helped Gaviria regain consciousness, before another senator, who is also professional doctor, took over. Gaviria was taken to hospital and appears to have recovered.

Because some things will always be more important than politics.