Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching:

Saudi Vegas — Last year, Saudi Arabia announced plans to build a Las Vegas-sized city near Riyadh that will host cultural, entertainment and sporting events in a country that has little history of any of these things. Next month, the kingdom will get its first public movie theaters after a 35-year ban. This week, the government announced plans to invest $64 billion over ten years to promote tourism and to give Saudis more opportunities to get out of the house. Imagine the controversies to come.


Rohingya and social media — In Myanmar, about 90 percent of people have a mobile phone, making Facebook an important source of news in that country. Unfortunately, fake news is as prevalent in Myanmar as in other countries, and some have planted false accusations against the Muslim-minority Rohingya population to support a campaign of murder, rape, and arson against the group by Myanmar’s Army, forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh. The UN says it’s the fastest mass expulsion of people since the genocide in Rwanda nearly a quarter century ago.

Billy Graham — In an age of anonymous vitriol and political bitterness, it is still possible, maybe essential, to honor the sincerity and integrity of those with whom we have profound, fundamental disagreements. Christian evangelist Billy Graham passed this week. Among other things, he was the most charismatic public speaker this author has seen. Graham was far from a perfect practitioner of all he preached, particularly on questions that combined sexuality and civil rights, but he was also that rare leader, spiritual or political, who shunned personal profit and treated others with care.

What We're Ignoring

Justin Trudeau’s Trip to India — You have to see the photos to understand why we’re averting our eyes. And there are plenty of them.

Wilbur Ross — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross won the award for “Least Romantic Thing Ever Said” this week. Referring to the viability of commercial space operations, he said “I think a lot depends upon how successful we are in turning the moon into a kind of gas station for outer space.” Wilbur just fatally compromised his (admittedly limited) future as Hollywood’s next romantic leading man.

Another Kazakh alphabet — About four months ago, we let you know we were ignoring Kazakhstan’s new written alphabet, because we expected further changes. Our prediction was deadly accurate. Earlier this month, Kazakhstan’s government announced that it’s changing the alphabet againthis time because over-used apostrophes just completely freaked people out. The apostrophes have now been replaced by accents. (That’ll solve it.) There are other changes, but don’t try to memorize them. They’ll probably change it again soon.

In the southern Italian region of Basilicata, home to the Val d'Agri Oil Centre known as COVA, hydrocarbon processing has undergone a radical digital transformation. COVA boasts one of the world's first fully digitized hydrocarbon plants, but why? Two primary reasons: infrastructure and information. Val d'Agri has the largest onshore hydrocarbon deposit in mainland Europe. The site is expansive and highly advanced, and the plant features a sophisticated sensor system built to capture massive amounts of data. Maintenance checks, equipment monitoring, inspections and measurements are tracked in a fully integrated digital system designed to prevent corrosion and ensure cleaner, more sustainable natural gas processing.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

For a president gearing up for a fierce re-election fight next year, President Trump has a lot to worry about. Democrats are now taking more of the US political spotlight. The latest opinion polls don't look good for him. There are signs that the strong US economy, Trump's top selling point, may begin to wobble.

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Chinese Pigs – Beyond a trade war with the US and unrest in Hong Kong, now Chinese officials are wrestling with an even more basic political problem. Pork is the favorite meat for many of China's 1.4 billion people, and some analysts treat pork consumption as an important indicator of the financial well-being of China's middle class. A serious outbreak of African Swine Flu is expected to push pork prices 70 percent higher over the second half of this year, which will hit ordinary Chinese pockets hard. By some estimates, half of China pigs have been culled, but there are also reports that some farmers have avoided the expense of slaughtering infected pigs, raising fears that the disease will continue to spread. The central government takes this problem seriously enough to call on local officials to boost large-scale hog farming. So far, China's "Year of the Pig" is just not going well.

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Buy or sell: The iPhone

I'll make both arguments. First, buy. The new iPhone 11 didn't blow people's mind. But it's a pretty good phone. But what is most impressive is they lowered the prices on many of their phones and they offer a really good trade ins. So you can take your old iPhone, trade it in, get a discount on a new one. It's a pretty good deal. On the other hand, if the question is more: Is the iPhone still the unadulterated leader in innovation? Maybe not. The event was not quite as transformative as some of these events have been.

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1.2 million: Surging jihadist terrorism in Burkina Faso has pushed the country to the brink of humanitarian crisis, as attacks displace people from their homes and destroy critical infrastructure and hospitals. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1.2 million Burkinabe are threatened with famine and malnutrition, and access to healthcare has dwindled. Experts say the violence is a spillover from the scourge of jihadism in neighboring Mali.

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