QUIZ INTERLUDE: SPOT THE AUTHORITARIAN COUNTRY

Kevin is out this week, but he sent in this quiz to help shed some counterintuitive light on the increasingly fraught relationship between tech companies, governments, and consumers.


Imagine two countries:

Country A: In recent months, the government has reprimanded internet giants for “inadequate” privacy policies and forced the boss of one company to apologize for trawling users’ shopping histories for clues about credit-worthiness without their consent. Meanwhile, the CEO of a large search engine caught public flak for saying that customers were willing to trade privacy for convenience.

Country B: An unelected leader worried about keeping his grip on power already employs tens of thousands of censors to police what people are saying online. Now he’s instructed his technocrats to build an artificial intelligence technology that will automatically detect and delete banned speech.

Can you guess which countries these are?

ANSWERS: DID YOU NAIL IT?

Country A is . . . China, where internet giants Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu have been hit for mishandling mountains of user data. Make no mistake, China’s Great Firewall remains solid as ever, the Social Credit System is developing, and Xinjiang may be the most developed experiment in tech-totalitarianism on earth. But the fact that officials and executives are moved to respond to rising privacy concerns shows the Chinese population isn’t just meekly accepting it all.

Country B isn’t a country at all, folks — it’s . . . Facebook! Mark Zuckerberg is stepping up internal policing of extremist content and “fake news” to keep US and European regulators at bay. At last count, over two billion people log into Facebook each month — more people than live in the US, Europe, and China combined. Facebook is distinctly *not* a democracy and, for better or worse, it’s beginning to exercise ever-more control over what people see, hear, and think.

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

In late 2017, Zimbabwe's long-serving strongman Robert Mugabe was deposed by the army after 37 years in power. Amid huge popular celebrations, he handed over the reins to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former spy chief. It was an extraordinary turn of history: Mugabe, one of Africa's last "Big Men" and a hero of the country's liberation war to end white minority rule, went out with barely a whimper, placing Zimbabwe — stricken by economic ruin and international isolation — in the hands of "The Crocodile."

Mugabe has since died, but almost three years after his departure, Zimbabwe's woes continue.

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As the world prepares to mark the 75th anniversary since American forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, global non-proliferation efforts, first codified in Cold War-era treaties, are in jeopardy. While the overall number of nuclear weapons continues to decrease — mainly because the US and Russia have set about dismantling retired weapons — both countries, which account for 90 percent of the world's total nuclear arsenal, continue to modernize their nuclear weapons programs. Meanwhile, the New START treaty, which limits the number of long-range nuclear weapons that each side can deploy to about 1,500 apiece, is at risk of collapsing. Here's a look at which countries have nuclear weapon stockpiles and who's ready to use them.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, we are in August, summer, should be taking it a little easier. Coronavirus not taking the stress levels off but hopefully giving people the excuse, if you're not traveling so much, be close with your families, your loved ones and all that. Look, this is not a philosophical conversation, this is a talk about what's happening in the world, a little Quick Take for you.

First of all, you know, I'm getting a little bit more optimistic about the news in the United States right now. Yes, honestly, I am. In part because the caseload is flattening across the country and it's reducing in some of the core states that have seen the greatest explosion in this continuation of the first wave. Yes, the deaths are going up and they should continue to for a couple of weeks because it is a lagging indicator in the United States. But the fact that deaths are going up does not say anything about what's coming in the next few weeks. That tells you what's happened in the last couple of weeks.

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TikTok, ya don't stop: The wildly popular video app TikTok has been in the crosshairs of American lawmakers for many months now. Why? Because the app is owned by a Chinese company, raising national security concerns that it could funnel personal data on its 100 million American users to the Chinese government. The plot thickened in recent days after President Trump abruptly threatened to ban the app altogether, risking a backlash among its users and imperiling US tech giant Microsoft's efforts to buy the company's North American operations. After a weekend conversation between Microsoft and the White House, the sale negotiations are back on but US lawmakers say any deal must strictly prevent American users' data from winding up in Chinese Communist Party servers. The broader fate of TikTok — which has now been banned in India, formerly its largest market, and may be broken up under US pressure — nicely illustrates the new "tech Cold War" that is emerging between China and the United States. A Microsoft/TikTok deal is expected by September 15. Tick..Tock.

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