Hard Numbers

300: It will cost $300 billion to rebuild Syria, according to the UN. Even as the carnage continues, Iran and Russia are already quietly waging an uncivil war to get in on those lucrative construction contracts.


55: A majority of global executives (55%) say protectionist policies would benefit domestic businesses by helping them compete against global rivals. In part this reflects increased competition from Chinese firms, which are advancing globally with firm state backing that businesses in other countries often lack.

7: Railway police in China nabbed 7 criminal fugitives since beginning the use of facial-recognition glasses to screen passengers during the Lunar New Year travel rush. Developers of the glasses say they can identify individuals from a database within one-tenth of a second. Would you trade a ticket scan for a facial scan?

2.6: South Korea will pay $2.6 million to cover travel, lodging, and cheerleading expenses for North Koreans attending the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Money well spent? Maybe not. South Koreans are lukewarm on the North-South Olympic goodwill show, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un will still want a nuclear ICBM after closing ceremonies.

Zero: Not a single US state saw improvement in its physical, financial, or social health last year, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Red states and Blue States are both seeing gray these days — and that will play in the mid-term elections this fall.

Technology has played a big role in accelerating globalization. While it's our business to advance technology, we also believe that technology should respect and even help protect the world's timeless values. That conviction has led us to announce a new and fourth pillar to Microsoft's AI for Good portfolio – our $125 million, five-year commitment to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of society's biggest challenges. This new pillar will focus on AI for Cultural Heritage. Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

Does Boris Johnson strengthen or weaken the US-UK relationship?

Well I mean strengthens it in so far as he and Trump like each other. They're both oriented towards Brexit. They're kind of right-wing populists that aren't ideologically moored. But will it last? Boris could flip on a dime on any major issue as can Trump. So it's kind of volatile. Plus they both really love the media and when they're in front of each other with other people the potential to - I mean Boris upsets people and Trump easily takes offense. So this could easily go south.

Will Iran release the captured UK oil tanker?

I mean over time I suspect it will. But remember the UK has an Iranian tanker as well, so it's much more likely they work these things out together even if they're not explicitly linked, than suddenly the Iranians say, "Oh I'm sorry. Here's your tanker"

Will protests continue in Hong Kong?

It certainly seems that way. The question is what will China do about it? Xi Jinping is now saying that they are reaching the danger zone and the ability of the Chinese to hit back and hit back hard is real. I worry about those protesters.

Will Robert Mueller reveal anything new when he testifies on Capitol Hill?

I highly doubt it. He said very clearly that he does not intend to go beyond what was in his report. So Democrats looking for bombshells on collusion or obstruction are likely to be disappointed.

Can President Trump expand his electoral college edge in 2020?

Well he thinks he can. He thinks he can win in places like Minnesota and New Hampshire. I think it's more likely that he just hangs on to the Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that got him there in 2016.

Should the governor of Puerto Rico resign?

Absolutely. Governor Rossello should resign. He's lost the confidence of the island. Puerto Rico needs a fresh start particularly after all these terrible text messages. He should definitely resign.

Finally for The Rant: today's rant is on Elizabeth Warren who put out a report today saying the economy is on the brink of collapse. It was very alarmist, certainly there are problems with the economy. Issues that could be fixed but she risks sounding like she's yelling fire in a crowded theater with calls like that.

"A regime willing to kill en masse to stay in power,' Karim Sadjadpour, an expert on Iranian, discusses the challenges facing the rise of democracy within the country.

Avi Loeb, The Chair of Harvard University's Astronomy Department, delves into the search for extraterrestrial life.