Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Shinzo Abe — With scandals back home and an approval rating of 26.7 percent, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe needed a boost from his Mar-a-Lago meeting with President Trump. He returns to Tokyo with no waiver on US steel tariffs, no US steps back toward the Transpacific Partnership, and no guarantees Trump will remember Japan’s interests if/when he sits down with Kim Jong-un. Can Abe keep his job through a long hot summer and survive his party’s leadership election in September?


Turkey’s elections — Why call for elections on June 24 when you could wait until November 2019? Because you want to catch the opposition napping, and because you expect your leadership will look much better in two monthsthan it will next year. Turkey’s economy is headed in the wrong direction. Its adventure in Syria has reached the limits of the military’s capabilities. And there’s reason for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fear that familiarity with his leadership will only further polarize his country. We’ll watch to see how hard he must work to win.

The Middle East’s Culture Wars — Last month, an Iranian woman was sentenced to two years in prison for becoming the latest to remove her headscarf in public. This week, the head of the department of Islamic guidance in the Iranian city of Mashhad was arrested after video appeared that showed men and women dancing together at a local shopping center. Meanwhile, Saudi filmgoers (!) ate popcorn and enjoyed screenings of the popular film Black Panther as Saudi cinemas reopened for the first time since 1979. That’s the year Saudi society became much more conservative in response to the Islamic revolution in rival Iran.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Macron’s understanding of Trump — Following comments from French President Macron that he had convinced President Trump to keep US troops in Syria, the White House quickly reiterated its goal to withdraw troops… because Trump loves it when other people take credit for his decisions. The two men will have a chance to discuss their differences during a very interesting meeting next week.

The WhatsApp call to prayer — In response to complaints about noise pollution, authorities in Ghana are calling on Muslims to broadcast the call to prayer via WhatsApp instead of loudspeakers. I’m not Muslim, a technophobe, or a fan of cacophonous racket. But it’s a call to prayer. Maybe other sources of sound could move to quiet mode.

Last week, in Fulton, WI, together with election officials from the state of Wisconsin and the election technology company VotingWorks, Microsoft piloted ElectionGuard in an actual election for the first time.

As voters in Fulton cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, the official count was tallied using paper ballots as usual. However, ElectionGuard also provided an encrypted digital tally of the vote that enabled voters to confirm their votes have been counted and not altered. The pilot is one step in a deliberate and careful process to get ElectionGuard right before it's used more broadly across the country.

Read more about the process at Microsoft On The Issues.

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its "technological sovereignty" by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.

More

Communal violence in Delhi: Over the past few days, India's capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades. This week's surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India's Muslims and the law's Hindu nationalist defenders. Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday. We're watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government responds – Delhi's police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.

More

Ian Bremmer's perspective on what's happening in geopolitics:

What are the takeaways from President Trump's visit to India?

No trade deal, in part because Modi is less popular and he's less willing to focus on economic liberalization. It's about nationalism right now. Hard to get that done. But the India US defense relationship continues to get more robust. In part, those are concerns about China and Russia.

More

27,000: The Emir of Qatar has decreed a $27,000 fine and up to five years in prison for anyone who publishes, posts, or repost content that aims to "harm the national interest" or "stir up public opinion." No word on whether the Doha-based Al-Jazeera network, long a ferocious and incisive critic of other Arab governments, will be held to the same standard.

More