THREE STORIES IN THE KEY OF: THE LIVING DEAD

People can’t always choose where they die, but where they lie afterwards can have huge political significance across borders and generations.


First, to North Korea, where the United States has long pressed Pyongyang to return the bodies of American service members killed in the Korean War. The issue is at the center of Trump’s overtures to North Korea – after the Singapore summit he announced that the remains of hundreds of US soldiers were to be returned as a gesture of North Korean goodwill. But after a rocky follow-up meeting in Pyongyang last weekend, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said more talks were needed to hash out the details. If the dead can’t be returned, the living will surely have a much harder time negotiating any tenable nuclear deal.

Next, to Israel, where the government still wants to find the body of Eli Cohen, perhaps the most famous spy in the country’s history. As an Arab Jew who impersonated a playboy Syrian businessman in Damascus in the 1960s, Cohen was an invaluable asset to Israeli intelligence. In 1965, his cover blown, the Syrians publicly hanged him in Damascus, but his work helped Israel to avoid defeat in the Six-Day War two years later. Last week, it emerged that Mossad had spirited Cohen's watch out of Syria earlier this year, but his body remains (somewhere) there. Here’s a thought: if Bashar al-Assad wants some accommodation with Israel as part of a settlement to the waning Syrian civil war, returning Cohen’s body could be low-cost goodwill gesture. One catch: the body has been moved so many times that apparently not even Syrian intelligence is sure where it is.

Lastly, to Spain where the country’s new socialist government has stoked controversy by reviving a proposal to move the body of former dictator Francisco Franco from an elaborate cliffside shrine outside of Madrid (pictured above) to a more modest location. Franco, who ruled Spain with an iron fist for some forty years until his death in 1975, remains a divisive figure in the country. Many conservative Spaniards feel nostalgia for his strongly centralized, Spanish nationalist rule, and about 35 percent of those polled say they oppose the plan to move his bones. Just under half of Spaniards, meanwhile, said it should happen. The stigma of Franco’s regime – the last of Southern Europe’s right-wing dictatorships to fall – has made it harder for far-right parties to take root in Spain than elsewhere. But with Spain now facing a surge of migrants – a challenge that has stoked right-wing groups elsewhere in Europe – could efforts by the government to suppress Franco’s memory backfire?

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less