Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Boko Haram — Boko Haram is a terrorist group based in Nigeria’s northeast that’s blamed for the deaths of nearly 17,000 people over the past seven years. The group’s militants, who kidnapped 300 girls from a school in Chibok in 2014, have struck again, taking 110 girls, some as young as 11, from another school in the town of Dapachi. (More than 100 of the Chibok girls are still missing.) It took the Nigerian government several tries to admit what happened and begin a search — and some official statements still refer (absurdly) to the girls as “missing” rather than “abducted.” This will be a nightmare for parents of these girls and a central issue in next year’s presidential election.


Italy elections and the SPD vote — I know I said last week that I’m cynical about these two votes, but we’ll keep close watch of what happens this weekend. How far to the right will Italy swing? Will Germany’s center-left SPD join another Angela Merkel-led government or leave her to muddle through her fourth and final term without a governing majority?

Hódmezővásárhely — Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his nationalist Fidesz party have dominated Hungary’s politics and made trouble for the EU for the past eight years. But on the eve of national elections next month (April 8), the party got a big shock last Sunday: It lost a mayoral election by 16 percentage points in a town called Hódmezővásárhely, long considered a Fidesz stronghold. Is this a harbinger of electoral trouble for Orban? Is Hungary’s opposition finally united? Will our favorite anchors at CBSN try to make me pronounce the name of this town while we’re live on the air this morning at 9:30am? Stay tuned.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Russia’s Invincible Missile — President Putin announced on Thursday that Russia has developed “a low-flying, difficult-to-spot cruise missile with a nuclear payload with a practically unlimited range and an unpredictable flight path, which can bypass lines of interception and is invincible in the face of all existing and future systems of both missile defense and air defense.” One, no one has ever invented anything that can’t be made less useful by a future, not-yet-imagined invention. Two, Russia’s got 99 problems, but lack of an effective nuclear deterrent ain’t one. Mutually assured destruction lives on.

Russian graffiti — Graffiti takes many forms. It can express anger, love, pride, hunger for art, or all of the above. The one thing all these forms of graffiti should have in common is some degree of spontaneity. I hate to be cynical, especially after that outburst of cynicism in last Friday’s edition, but when Russian police get caught on video writing Putin’s name on walls and fences in advance of the upcoming election, well…. That just doesn’t feel very spontaneous. Judge for yourself.

Bill Gates on cryptocurrencies — During an ask-me-anything session on the popular Reddit website this week, Gates charged that anonymity makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies a “rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way” by allowing users to stock up on fentanyl and other dangerous drugs. This comment got our man Kevin Allison’sattention. “Bill, I’ve got bad news for you regarding dollars,” comments Kevin. “Have you seen the movie Scarface?”

Fortune Cookies — I had a delicious Thursday Chinese lunch, cracked open my fortune cookie, and was confronted with this: “Feeding a cow with roses does not get extra appreciation.” What is that? It’s like fortune cookies aren’t even trying anymore.

Technology is changing the way modern geologists locate precious resources and harness energy. With supercomputers capable of processing geophysical data from all over the world, geologists are reconstructing models of the subsoil to identify hydrocarbon deposits. The efficiency of these powerful data processors can scan massive rock formations to help laboratories analyze geological systems. While today's modern geologists still have a compass and hammer to collect samples, petaflops of computing power are changing energy research at lightning speed.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Are e-Cigs an example of tech gone wrong?


There's a real tradeoff in e-cigarettes. To the extent that people stop smoking regular cigarettes to use e-cigarettes, that's good. To the extent that new people who wouldn't have been smokers, particularly young people, start smoking, that's bad. Now there are real societal problems and health problems and the data show that there are lots of new people starting to smoke. I don't think of it as much as a tech problem though or tech gone wrong as much as a social problem.


Moviepass has shut down. Final thoughts?


Moviepass was this insane business. You pay them ten dollars a month and then they let you see all the 2D movies you want. That was one business plan. They had about 20 business plans. It's kind of just, there lots of tech companies where the business model is: pay us a dollar and we'll pay you two dollars. And then they say to the venture capitalists: "Look we're growing. Give us more money." Of course that's going to run out.


Nostalgia. What's the next old tech about to make a resurgence?


Snapchat. A year ago, it looked like they were poached. That Instagram was just going to knock them out. And now, everybody's using Snapchat again.

Following another inconclusive election this week, Israel's politics are in turmoil, and the man at the center of the battle to form the next government is neither the embattled prime minister nor the opposition leader who appears to have bested him.

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Justin Trudeau's Bid to Save Face – Canada's prime minister shouldn't play dress-up anymore. An unfortunate series of outfits he and his family wore during a visit to India in 2018 drew widespread mockery, and now there are old photos and video of Justin Trudeau wearing brown and black makeup on separate occasions at costume parties years ago. Trudeau has acknowledged that the costumes are racist and apologized profusely. It'll be up to Canadian voters to decide on October 21 just how seriously they take these spectacular lapses of judgment and good taste. In the meantime, Signal readers can enjoy this video of Trudeau throwing himself down a flight of stairs.

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30: A U.S. drone strike aiming to hit an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan, killed at least 30 civilians. There are around 2,000 ISIS fighters in Afghanistan, but some have been known to switch alliances between different insurgent groups, according to the US military.

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