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.

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Even with innovations in fintech and digital payments, roadblocks related to basic infrastructure like electricity and internet connectivity still prevent many migrant workers from being able to transfer money to their families back home with a truly digital end-to-end flow. While more workers can send money digitally today, the majority of people still receive funds in cash. Read more about why public-private partnerships are key to advancing the future of global money movement and why it matters from experts at the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

Watch Ian Bremmer's interview with Nicholas Thompson in an upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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