Watching and Ignoring

Something to Watch:

Boats doing U-Turns in the middle of the ocean — If you think the twists and turns of the US-China trade threats/tensions/truces are confusing, try being the captain of a cargo ship plying a route between the two countries. Last month, a vessel carrying sorghum from the US to China did not one, but two U-turns on the high seas in response to shifting signals on agriculture tariffs between Beijing and Washington. You can trace the trails of trade uncertainty on maps monitored by Bloomberg here.


Something to Ignore:

Italy’s new prime minister — Italy’s Five Star Movement and Lega finally agreed on a compromise candidate to lead the first all-populist government in Western Europe: Giuseppe Conte, a law professor with no previous government experience. He’ll be at best a referee and at worst a figurehead in a government where the real decisions (and divergences) lie with Five Star’s leader Luigi Di Maio and Lega’s Matteo Salvini. Remember, both parties made promises — Lega wants tax cuts, Five Star wants universal income — that would blow up Italy’s budget and call into question the country’s ability to remain in the Eurozone.

America's internet giants are being pulled into political fights right and left these days. Speech – what can be said, and who can say it – is increasingly at the center of those controversies. Consider these two stories from opposite sides of the world:

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Italy's prime minister resigns – Giuseppe Conte, the caretaker prime minister appointed to mediate an uneasy governing alliance between Italy's anti-establishment 5Star Movement and the right-wing Lega party, resigned on Tuesday. Rather than wait for a no-confidence vote triggered by the rightwing Lega Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Conte stepped down on his own terms. Salvini, who's popularity has been rising, had hoped that by triggering snap elections he could get himself appointed prime minister, will now have to wait for Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, to decide what comes next. While Lega and smaller right-wing allies want a new vote, center and left-wing parties are apparently working to see if they can form a majority coalition – perhaps including 5Star -- that would allow Mattarella to appoint a new government without fresh elections. We're watching to see how the dust settles in Europe's third-biggest economy.

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300: The US tested a new medium-range cruise missile on Sunday that flew more than 300 miles. This marks the first time the US has tested a weapon that would have violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War era pact that was officially abandoned three weeks ago, sparking fears of a new global arms race.

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