Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Putin’s Secret Weapon  President Trump took a shot at the Federal Reserve chair this week. “I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates,” he told Reuters after arguing that China and Europe are manipulating the values of their currencies. To understand the value of an independent central bank, the president should read this excellent profile of Russian central banker Elvira Nabiullina. She’s the primary reason that crisis-prone Russia has a relatively healthy banking sector, strong reserves, and low inflation. President Putin stays out of Nabiullina’s way—and makes sure others do, as well.


Israa al-Ghomgham  It might be another first for Saudi women. Two months after the Saudi government lifted a decades-old ban on women driving automobiles, Israa al-Ghomgham may become the first Saudi woman put to death for a political crime. Her offense? According to Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, prosecutors have charged her with “participating in protests in the [majority-Shia] Qatif region, incitement to protest, chanting slogans hostile to the regime, attempting to inflame public opinion, filming protests and publishing on social media, and providing moral support to rioters.”

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Complaints about Jakarta's traffic — Are the Indonesian capital’s legendary traffic jams as bad as advertised? Not if you’re a superhero like President Joko Widodo. Maybe you saw James Bond and Queen Elizabeth parachute into London’s Wembley Stadium to open the 2012 Olympics. Now check out Joko’s opening of the Asian Games. (He gets down to business at about the 1:30 mark.)

Illegal aliens — This week, the Miami Herald endorsed Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, who is running for a seat in the US House of Representatives vacated by Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Rodriguez Aguilera said in a 2009 television interview that when she was seven years old, she boarded a spaceship occupied by three tall aliens who spoke to her telepathically. And that’s not weird at all.

Ferrera Erbognone, a small town in the northern Italian province of Pavia, is home to one of the most cutting-edge computing centers in the world: Eni's Green Data Center. All of the geophysical and seismic prospecting data Eni produces from all over the world ends up here. Now, the Green Data Center is welcoming a new supercomputing system: HPC5, an advanced version of the already powerful HPC4. Due to be completed by early 2020, HPC5 will triple the Green Data Center's computing power, from 18.6 to 52 petaflops, equivalent to 52 million billion mathematical operations per second.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

A few days ago, the New York Times published a bombshell report on the Chinese government's systematic oppression of Muslims in Western China. The story was about many things: human rights, geopolitics, Chinese society – but it was also about technology: Beijing's repression in Xinjiang province is powered in part by facial recognition, big data, and other advanced technologies.

It's a concrete example of a broader trend in global politics: technology is a double-edged sword with sharp political consequences. Artificial intelligence, for example, can help develop new medicines but it can also support surveillance states. Social media helps nourish democracy movements and entertains us with cat memes, but it also feeds ISIS and 4Chan.

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Increasingly violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong have dealt a major blow to the city's once booming economy. Tourism – an economic lifeline in that city – has dropped, and retailers are suffering from a sharp decline in sales. Now, six months since the unrest began, Hong Kong has recorded its first recession in a decade, meaning its economy has contracted for two consecutive quarters. Here's a look at how Hong Kong's quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) growth has fared during the past two years.

Tehran's Next Move: "We don't want an Islamic Republic, we don't want it," was the chant heard among some protesters in Tehran over the weekend after the government announced a 50 percent fuel price hike meant to fund broader support for the country's poor. Under crippling US sanctions, the country's economy has plummeted, unleashing a "tsunami" of unemployment. What started Friday as nationwide economic protests took on a political coloring, as protestors in some cities tore up the flag and chanted "down with [Supreme Leader] Khamenei!". The unrest seems to be related, at least indirectly, to widespread demonstrations against Tehran-backed regimes in Iraq and Lebanon as well. Economically-motivated protests erupt in Iran every few years, but they tend to subside within weeks under harsh government crackdowns. So far, the authorities have shut down the internet to prevent protestors from using social media to organize rallies. But Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps has warned of more "decisive action" if the unrest continues.

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13 billion: Building a single state-of-the-art US aircraft carrier costs about $13 billion, a figure that exceeds total military spending by countries like Poland, the Netherlands, or Pakistan. But as China's ability to hit seaborne targets improves, the Economist asks if carriers are "too big to fail." (Come for that, stay for the many strange Top Gun references in the piece.)

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