Starved for Loyalty in Venezuela

Let’s imagine that you are hungry. Very, very hungry. So hungry, in fact, that you have lost more than 20 pounds over the past year because of a political and humanitarian crisis caused by your government.


Now let’s imagine that a representative of that government shows up with boxes of food. You can have one of the boxes, but only if you can prove — by scanning your national ID card — that you voted in the last election, which they rigged to keep themselves in power.

This dystopian scenario is currently playing out daily in Venezuela, where the government of President Nicolas Maduro has harnessed the power of technology to turn food into an instrument of repression.

At the end of 2016, Maduro launched the Homeland Card (Carnet de la Patria) a government-issued ID — developed by the Chinese tech giant ZTE — that details its holder’s socioeconomic status, benefit entitlements, and participation in elections. About half of the country’s 30 million citizens carry them so far.

In principle, this system makes it easier to prevent electoral fraud and target benefits to those who need them, particularly among poorer people who lack other forms of identification. But in practice, the government has used it to enforce loyalty and, critically, to boost turnout ahead of what will be a manifestly unfree presidential election in May, which the fractured opposition has chosen to boycott.

Using scarce food to coerce loyalty from a starving population is neither new nor unique to the 21st century Bolivarian revolution, of course. (Here’s a video of it happening in Syria last week.)

But the Venezuela story shows how technology can increase the efficiency of repression when it’s in malevolent hands. A harrowing reminder that the benefits of surrendering personal data to governments (or companies) extend only so far as the good intentions of the people who control it.

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less