Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Trouble for US-Turkey – The US slapped sanctions on Turkey's justice and interior ministers this week in response to the continued detention of a US pastor. Andrew Brunson has been in custody for nearly two years. Turkey’s government says he’s a spy with links to terrorists. President Trump calls Brunson a “great Christian, family man and wonderful human being” who is “suffering greatly.” This is incident #743 in a lengthening list of grievances dividing these two governments. No one wants to be the one to blink, and this conflict could get worse.


Trouble in 3D – A US gun rights activist pledged this week to fight for his right to publish online blueprints for 3D-printed firearms all the way to the US Supreme Court after a federal judge blocked him from doing so. Thousands of people were able to download the instructions before the judge issued his order. There are many ways in which new technologies can strengthen the state at the expense of the individual. Here’s a technology that can do the opposite, by making it impossible for national or local governments to regulate the distribution of weapons. Consider the implications.

Trouble for Basic Income  The latest in a series of experiments with “guaranteed basic income,” a program that provides subsistence-level payments that allow people to pursue work without fear of lost benefits, was brought to an abrupt end in Ontario this week. The newly elected Doug Ford administration claimed it was already evident the program wouldn’t work. Critics say he killed the plan for political reasons. Either way, we’ll have to look to future programs in the Netherlands, Italy, and Scotland to learn whether and how these sorts of programs can help governments and workers cope with changes in the nature of work. An earlier experiment in Finland was canceled.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Egyptian Zookeepers – If you visit Cairo's International Garden municipal park, and a park employee tells you you’re looking at a zebra, ask yourself the following questions: Are its stripes parallel? Is its snout black? Is its face free of obvious paint smudges? If you answered no to these questions, check the ears. Are they small and pointy? If so, you’re looking at a donkey, and you should get out of there. It’s not as bad as that Chinese zoo that tried to pass off a dog as a lion, but it’s pretty bad.

Trump at the supermarket – President Trump claimed in a speech this week that Americans must present a photo ID to buy groceries. (His spokeswoman says he meant alcohol, but Trump doesn’t drink.) The point is clear: Don’t ask Trump to shop for you. This is not an area where he has a robust level of experience. You’ll have to buy your own groceries.

Plogging – The Swedes often invent good things, but “plogging” is not one of them. Plogging is the practice of picking up and disposing of litter while jogging. Your Friday author believes that picking up litter and running for exercise are both worthwhile enterprises, but that each deserves our full attention.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky sat down yesterday with Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron for a meeting in the Elysée Palace in Paris for peace talks. This was the first-ever meeting between Putin, Russia's dominant political force since 2000, and Zelensky, who was a TV comedian at this time last year.

Fears that Putin would use Zelensky's inexperience to back him into a deal on Russian terms weren't realized, but the relationship between the two has only just begun.

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Macron not backing down over pensions – Despite five days of mass unrest that has paralyzed Paris' public transport system and dented both tourism and Christmas retail, the government will stand firm on a proposal to reform and unify the country's 42 different pension plans. France's pension system, one of the most generous of any major industrialized country, has major budget shortfalls that contribute to the country's ballooning deficit. Last year, Macron abandoned a proposed fuel price hike that ignited the Yellow Vest movement. But overhauling France's "welfare state" was central to his 2017 election platform, and acquiescing to protesters this time around would be political suicide. France's prime minister – tapped to lead the pension reform project – is expected to announce the plan's final details tomorrow. We're watching to see how this might escalate things further.

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4: The World Anti-Doping Agency handed Russia a four-year ban from all major sporting events, precluding its participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, and soccer's 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Russia has three weeks to appeal the ban, which its prime minister says is the result of "chronic anti-Russian hysteria."

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Are we seeing the creation of a parallel universe for US and Chinese tech industries?

I think the answer is yes. In the past, US has dominated the world in technologies from P.C. operating systems, semiconductors, to servers, and even Internet. But ever since the rise of mobile technologies, China has really leveraged the large market with a huge amount of data and now is beginning to innovate and build great mobile apps on which there's a large amount of data being collected.

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