Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Italian contradictions — The populist Five Star Movement and Lega will now form a government after all. As Gabe Lipton wrote for us on Wednesday, they face some very tough choices. Polls indicate that 57 percent of Italians favor both a universal basic income and big tax cuts, promises offered by these two parties. More government spending and less government revenue is a questionable idea for a country with the highest debt-to-GDP ratio of any EU country not named Greece. A new government in Rome doesn’t mean things have gotten any simpler.


Somali pirates — Incidents of piracy off Somalia’s coast jumped from 16 in 2015 to 27 in 2016 and to 54 in 2017, according to an annual report released by an anti-piracy NGO. The main source of the increase appears to be official complacency — fewer patrols and fewer precautions onboard ships.

Fredie Blom’s bad habit — South African Fredie Blom wants to quit smoking. He’s wanted to quit for a long time. We all know cigarettes can cause health problems, and Fredie blames the devil for his addiction. But we shouldn’t worry too much about his repeated failure to kick the habit, because Fredie Blom is 114 years old.​

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

The Larrea Letter — Billionaire businessman German Larrea published a letterthis week warning Mexico’s business community of the risks of electing a “populist” candidate as Mexico’s president. But a new poll this week showed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the obvious target of this letter, with a 26-point lead on his nearest challenger ahead of the one-round July 1 presidential election. That’s probably because voters are less worried about the fortunes of Mexico’s business elite than about issues like security and corruption on which Lopez Obrador polls well.

The Trump-Kim Summit — President Trump invited Kim Kardashian to the White House on Wednesday to discuss “prison reform,” because… um…

A North Korean Burger Joint? — In a report published this week, CIA analysts argued that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, but agency officials also say Kim Jong-un might open a Western hamburger franchise in Pyongyang as a gesture of goodwill toward President Trump. Even if I found myself unexpectedly in Pyongyang and ravenously hungry, your Friday author wants no part of a North Korean Happy Meal.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Read More at Microsoft On The Issues.

In recent years, Republicans have come to dominate most of the state legislatures in the US. Ironically, it was during the Obama-era that the GOP made major headway in states that had long been considered safely blue. State legislatures are now redder than they've been in nearly a century, and in most parts of the country, one party holds all the levers of power. For the first time since 1914, there's only one split legislature in the entire country: Minnesota. To be sure, some state races are bucking the trend: Kentucky and Louisiana, both deep-red states, recently elected Democratic governors. Here's a look at how Democratic and Republican control of state legislatures has evolved over the past four decades.

Forty years ago, Islamic extremists angry at the Saudi government's experiments with social liberalization laid siege to the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

The attack came on the heels of the Iranian revolution across the Gulf, putting the House of Saud and its American backers in a precarious spot. Tehran had challenged Saudi Arabia's Islamic legitimacy from without, while jihadists were now doing the same from within. For a few days it seemed as though the world's most important oil producer – and the custodian of Islam's holiest places – might be in danger of collapse.

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Forty years ago today, dozens of bearded gunmen stormed the holiest site in Islam, the Grand Mosque at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

They held the complex for two weeks before a French-trained Saudi force rooted them out, but the fallout from the attack went on to shape the modern Middle East in ways that are still with us today: in the scourge of transnational jihadism and the deepening rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

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