Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

Padmaavat — A new film opened this week in India. Padmaavat, based on a 16th century epic poem, is the story of a fictional Hindu queen and legendary Muslim king. Spoiler alert: He kills her husband in battle, and she protects her honor by throwing herself on his funeral pyre.


Rumors that an earlier version of the film included a dream sequence of romance between the Muslim king and Hindu queen, denied by the filmmaker, have provoked death threats against the cast and bomb threats against theaters showing the film. Courts have blocked attempts to ban the film. Riots followed the opening, and a group of 300 women has petitioned the Indian government for the right to kill themselves to protest the film. As we’ve noted before, the rise in Hindu extremism in India is a disturbing trend that deserves close watch in 2018.

Brazil Beyond Lula — On Wednesday, an appeals court in Brazil upheld a corruption conviction against former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula, that bars him from running for president again this year. This court won’t have the last word on that, but the smart people we talk to think Lula probably wouldn’t win even if he were allowed on the ballot, whatever this week’s polls say. Brazilians will likely vote for change this October. We’ll be watching in coming weeks to see what form that change might take.

What We're Ignoring

Iran’s Austerity — Iran’s parliament will soon approve a request from President Hassan Rouhani for a more-than-40 percent cut in the popular cash transfer program that triggered localized unrest earlier this month. This is part of Rouhani’s ongoing effort to get Iran’s financial house in order. Expect more protests around the country, some of them colorful, but public anger in unlikely to have any bigger impact on government this time around.

Saudi Arabia’s Camel Beauty Contest — At the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a traditional dromedary beauty contest now held outside Riyadh, camels are judged by, among other things, the size and shape of their lips, cheeks, heads, and knees. For many years, your Signal team has condemned the objectification of camel beauty. But no more protests. We’re ignoring this contest going forward because a dozen camels were disqualified this year for using Botox. Think this story is fake? It isn’t. Ask the Italian Postal Police.

The Academy Awards — Speaking of rigged contests, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced nominees for this year’s Oscars on Tuesday, and for the 90th year in a row, not a single member of your Signal team was nominated. Wish I could say we’re surprised.

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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