Watching/Ignoring

​​​​​​WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

China’s Secret Weapons — US chipmaker Qualcomm abandoned a $44 billion deal to buy Dutch counterpart NXP on Wednesday after a deadline passed with no word from China’s antitrust regulators. Beijing’s approval was the only obstacle holding up the merger. The White House had lobbied hard for this deal, and President Trump spent plenty of political capital bailing out ZTE, a Chinese tech giant pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by US penalties. The saga is another reminder that the US-China trade war isn’t just about tariffs, and that both countries have many weapons at their disposal. The risk of escalation has just gone up.


Zimbabwe’s Election — Since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has never had an election without Robert Mugabe. That streak will end on Monday. And this will be a vote worth watching. All political parties have been able to hold rallies without police interference, and US an European election observers have been welcomed for the first time in 16 years. In addition, Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission says its new fingerprint ID system will help prevent the cheating that has marred past elections.

US politics adrift — A vandal attacked Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a pickaxe this week, and someone reportedly boarded and set adrift a $40 million 163-foot yacht owned by Trump administration official Betsy DeVos. Some will find these stories funny. Others, like your Friday author, believe there are 100,000 legitimate forms of protest, and vandalism is not one of them. It’s also the last thing the current US political climate needs.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Steve Bannon — First came news the most overrated man in Washington was headed to Europe to launch a pan-European far-right political movement. Because Europeans who win votes with anti-American rhetoric badly need American help. Then came word that Bannon is in regular contact with former UK foreign minister and political bad boy Boris Johnson. Add Nigel Farage, and we’ll have that scene at the end of the film This Is Spinal Tap where the washed-up metal band reunites for a tour of Japan.

Zuckerberg’s Taste in Art — Facebook is having an awful week, but here’s yet another reason why it’s hard to sympathize. The Flemish tourist board accused Facebook this week of censoring a number of posts featuring paintings by Flemish masters—apparently because they included nudity. Let’s be crystal clear: Your Friday author is no fan of all those pudgy little cherubs Rubens has inflicted on us, but Zuckerberg better not be messing with Breughel the Elder.

Putin’s Inflatable Trojan Horse? — A soccer ball Vladimir Putin gave Donald Trump during their Helsinki summit reportedly contains a chip that can transmit information to nearby cell phones. (For the record, this is not satire). We’re ignoring this story because Trump’s well-known aversion to sports that provoke perspiration suggests Russian intelligence is much more likely to learn what 12 year-old Barron Trump wants for dinner than any presidential secrets.

Every day thousands of people legally cross back and forth between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on their way to jobs, schools, doctor's appointments, shopping centers and the homes of family and friends. This harmonious exchange has taken place for more than 400 years, uniting neighbors through shared social ties, geography, history and, most importantly, an interlinked economy.

Beyond the people and goods, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez also converge in a cross-border flow of ideas, ambition and aspirations that have shaped the region for centuries. This forward-looking spirit is what attracted Microsoft to the region in 2017, when it launched Microsoft TechSpark to create new economic opportunities and help digitally transform established industries with modern software and cloud services. It's also why Microsoft announced on Monday that it is expanding the TechSpark El Paso program to include Ciudad Juárez and making a $1.5 million investment in the binational Bridge Accelerator. Read more about the TechSpark announcement here.

Since Syria's brutal civil war began eight years ago, millions of Syrians have fled their country to escape the bombs and bullets. But hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Syria's borders, where they languish in packed refugee camps. The al-Hol camp in northern Syria is sprawling, and of its nearly 70,000 residents, some 11,000 are family members of foreign ISIS fighters, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The surprise American withdrawal from northern Syria last week paved the way for Turkey and Syria's Bashar al-Assad to move in. Some 160,000 civilians have now fled the border region that Turkey is bombarding, deepening a humanitarian crisis in a stretch of Syria that had been relatively secure since the defeat of ISIS's self-declared caliphate back in March. Here's a look at the camps for displaced people in the area.

Syria is quickly turning into US President Donald Trump's most significant foreign policy blunder to date. It's looking like it might be for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, too.

On Monday, the Trump administration announced a fresh wave of sanctions on Turkey, in a bid to get Erdogan to halt his invasion of Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria. Yes, you may recall, that's the same invasion that the US green-lit last week by withdrawing American troops from the area.

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Mozambique's democracy test Mozambicans voted yesterday in an election that will test a fragile peace accord between the ruling Frelimo party, led by president Filipe Nyusi, and Renamo, a former rebel group-turned-opposition party. The two factions were on opposite sides of a Cold War-tinged civil war that killed an estimated 1 million people between 1977 and 1992. Frelimo, which has ruled Mozambique since independence, has been losing popularity due to a corruption scandal, but is likely to hold onto power at the national level. Renamo, which foreswore violence just two months ago in exchange for electoral reforms that will help the party, will be hoping to make regional gains that allow it to win some key governorships. Disputes over the final vote count and even outright fraud or violence are possible in coming days, particularly if Renamo fails to make its hoped-for gains.

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What's the update at the Syria-Turkey border?

Well, it is increasingly in the hands of Assad and the Russians, who the Kurds have flipped with. The United States withdrawing some troops away from the border, the Turks coming in, but they going to be limited in how much they can do given the fact that ultimately, Assad and Russia has most the firepower and Turkey does not want that fight.

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