Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

Shifting Saudi Arabia — A Saudi prince paid $1 billion to make corruption allegations go away — and maybe to offer fealty to soon-to-be king Mohammad bin Salman. This is yet another sign that MBS is firmly in charge.


Narita, Japan — Narita is known for both its international airport, which many a weary traveler wishes was a little closer to Tokyo, and its freshwater eels. How then to design the city’s mascot? With more than 800,000 votes, Narita has won a contest for Japan’s best regional mascot by creating a character that is half airplane/half eel. We’ll be watching next year to see this thing defend his/her/its crown.

“Mad” Mike Hughes — Apparently unaware of the works of Tom Friedman, self-taught rocket-builder Mike Hughes has promised to shoot himself 1,800 feet into the California sky in a scrap-metal rocket to take photos that prove the Earth is flat. We’ll be watching to be sure this idiot doesn’t land on us.

What We're Ignoring

War of the Roses: Part II — Faced with news that Britain’s Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markle next year, you’re probably worried that the bride’s Roman Catholicism could prevent Harry from one day becoming king. You don’t need to sweat this one. By the time Harry weds Meghan next May, he’ll be sixth in line for the throne, with two toddlers and a baby ahead of him in the queue. This guy loves mischief, but he’s no Richard III, so the kids are safe. Also, new rules went into effect two years ago that allow royals to marry Catholics, so you can safely go back to worrying about Brexit.

Venezuela’s chances of producing more oil — Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro named an army general with no energy experience to run PDVSA, the state-owned oil firm, in a country that draws more than 90 percent of export revenue from oil. That’ll go well.

The price of bitcoin — Bitcoin began 2017 at less than $1,000 and this week topped $10,000. I continue to ignore this story, because I never invest in things I don’t understand. #CryptoTulips

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, it has a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. Last week, in furtherance of those commitments, Microsoft shared a grooming detection technique, code name "Project Artemis," by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function.

Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

Meng Wanzhou, CFO of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, is under house arrest in Vancouver and could be extradited to the United States. What is she accused of, and what are the political implications of prosecuting her? Cybersecurity expert Samm Sacks discusses the case with Ian Bremmer.

Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.

Ian Bremmer breaks down the current situation as China rapidly expands its technology sector and carves its own path globally in cyberspace. He discusses the history of the economic relationship between the two nations, and the geopolitical consequences of the decoupling. While Huawei and the current legal action against its CFO Meng Wanzhou are the biggest tech flashpoints between the U.S. and China at the moment, that is just the tip of a very large iceberg that some analysts believe is a new Cold War.

Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for twenty years, but he has a problem: his current presidential term ends in 2024, and the constitution prevents him from running for re-election then.

As a result, the question of what he'll do in 2024 has been on the minds of Russia's oligarchs, spooks, bureaucrats, and a lot of ordinary folks, as well. After all, over the past two decades, Putin has made himself, for better and for worse, the indispensable arbiter, boss, and glue of Russia's sprawling and corrupted system of government. As the current speaker of Russia's legislature once said, "Without Putin, there is no Russia." Not as we currently know it, no.

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