Hard Numbers: The UN is Running Out of Money

12 billion: Brazil's government, which earlier this year rejected aid to put out raging fires in the Amazon, now says that if other countries really want to preserve the rainforest, they should put their money where their mouth is: by sending Brazil some $12 billion a year to pay farmers not to develop their lands. Critics note that this would have no real effect since most fires are set illegally.


2,759: Police in Nigeria allegedly demanded a bribe of 1 million Naira ($2,759) to release a local software developer after arresting him on suspicion of being an internet scammer, simply because he was carrying a laptop. Nigeria's scammers are legendary, but the thriving local tech community in Lagos says corrupt shakedowns of talented pros like this are common and that they worsen brain drain from Africa's largest economy. #StopRobbingUs

230 million: The United Nations is facing a funding shortfall of $230 million and could run out of money by the end of this month, according to the organization's Secretary General. A third of member states, including the US and much of Latin America and Africa, have not paid their dues in full. Here's a map of the delinquents.

40 million: Facebook's policy of deliberately inflating video viewership numbers led to a class action suit that will now result in a $40 million settlement for advertisers. Some journalists have pointed out that none of this money will go to the many print hacks who lost their jobs amid the frantic push to "monetize video." Amen.

Electricity consumption in our homes contributes 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. What if we could transform this huge contributing factor into a solution? That's what Eni's luminescent solar concentrators can do. These transparent, colored slabs can be inserted into home windows to capture solar energy and generate electricity. By adjusting to the brightness and temperature of your home, they can even save you money on heating and air conditioning costs.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

How did an entire country's media spread false news for a night?

Fascinating case study in France over the weekend. For less than a day, we thought that the most wanted men in the country had been caught in Scotland. Turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The so-called news was actually reported quite carefully at first, on Friday night with careful words. But the language quickly moved from conditional to categorical and therefore, to misinformation through human error. What you have here is the tension between being first and being right, which has always been present in journalism but is more and more as you have these 24 hour news channels, social media, and the incredible economic pressure on news sites that are advertising based and therefore click based.

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Donald Trump announced a fresh "phase 1" trade deal with China last week, part of his ongoing bid to reduce the United States' huge trade deficit with China. The US has been buying more from China than China buys from the US for decades, but since coming into office Trump has made reducing that deficit central to his "America First" agenda. It's not easy to do. Consider that in 2018, after two full years of the Trump administration, the trade deficit with China actually swelled to its highest level since the Clinton years. That's because many perfectly healthy economic factors contribute to a trade deficit: stronger economic growth under Trump has meant more demand for foreign goods, so as long as the economy keeps humming along, it will be hard for Trump to reduce the deficit. Likewise, the strong US dollar makes foreign goods cheaper for US consumers to import, while China's own economic slowdown in 2018 decreased Chinese demand for American goods. For a historical perspective on all of this, here's a look at how the US-China trade balance has developed under each US president going back to 1993.

On Friday, we detailed the main arguments for and against President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from a pocket of northern Syria where their presence had protected Washington's Kurdish allies against an attack from Turkey. We then asked Signal readers to let us know what they thought.

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Dangerous Chaos in Syria – Turkey's military move into northern Syria had two stated goals: to push Kurdish fighters inside Syria further from Turkey's border and to create a "safe zone" inside Syria in which Turkey could place up to two million Syrian refugees currently living in camps inside Turkey. But the Kurds have now allied with Syria's army, which is backed by Russia, and these forces are now moving north into that same territory toward Turkish troops and Arab militias backed by Ankara. Meanwhile, large numbers of ISIS fighters and their families have escaped prisons where Kurds had held them captive. Turkey's President Erdogan vows to press ahead with his operation until "ultimate victory is achieved." Pandora's Box is now wide open.

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