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.

Ferrera Erbognone, a small town in the northern Italian province of Pavia, is home to one of the most cutting-edge computing centers in the world: Eni's Green Data Center. All of the geophysical and seismic prospecting data Eni produces from all over the world ends up here. Now, the Green Data Center is welcoming a new supercomputing system: HPC5, an advanced version of the already powerful HPC4. Due to be completed by early 2020, HPC5 will triple the Green Data Center's computing power, from 18.6 to 52 petaflops, equivalent to 52 million billion mathematical operations per second.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

A few days ago, the New York Times published a bombshell report on the Chinese government's systematic oppression of Muslims in Western China. The story was about many things: human rights, geopolitics, Chinese society – but it was also about technology: Beijing's repression in Xinjiang province is powered in part by facial recognition, big data, and other advanced technologies.

It's a concrete example of a broader trend in global politics: technology is a double-edged sword with sharp political consequences. Artificial intelligence, for example, can help develop new medicines but it can also support surveillance states. Social media helps nourish democracy movements and entertains us with cat memes, but it also feeds ISIS and 4Chan.

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Increasingly violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong have dealt a major blow to the city's once booming economy. Tourism – an economic lifeline in that city – has dropped, and retailers are suffering from a sharp decline in sales. Now, six months since the unrest began, Hong Kong has recorded its first recession in a decade, meaning its economy has contracted for two consecutive quarters. Here's a look at how Hong Kong's quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) growth has fared during the past two years.

Tehran's Next Move: "We don't want an Islamic Republic, we don't want it," was the chant heard among some protesters in Tehran over the weekend after the government announced a 50 percent fuel price hike meant to fund broader support for the country's poor. Under crippling US sanctions, the country's economy has plummeted, unleashing a "tsunami" of unemployment. What started Friday as nationwide economic protests took on a political coloring, as protestors in some cities tore up the flag and chanted "down with [Supreme Leader] Khamenei!". The unrest seems to be related, at least indirectly, to widespread demonstrations against Tehran-backed regimes in Iraq and Lebanon as well. Economically-motivated protests erupt in Iran every few years, but they tend to subside within weeks under harsh government crackdowns. So far, the authorities have shut down the internet to prevent protestors from using social media to organize rallies. But Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps has warned of more "decisive action" if the unrest continues.

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