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.

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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