WHAT WE'RE WATCHING - WHAT WE'RE IGNORING - WHAT WE'RE SMOKING

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Fake news in Brazil – Oi, Brazilian voters: You know that picture of former President Dilma Rousseff as a young woman rubbing elbows with Fidel Castro? Yeah, the one your mother in law just blasted out on WhatsApp? It’s a fake. So is the pic of right-wing frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro walking into a hospital with a smile on his face – allegedly proof that his recent stabbing at a campaign rally was staged. According tofact checkers, fake news and misinformation are surging across WhatsApp ahead of a deeply polarizing presidential runoff later this month.  After the vote, which Bolsonaro is almost assured to win, expect an extremely polarized debate over effects of disinformation on the election and the legitimacy of the next president.


Fake moon in China – We at Signal have been closely following China’s push to create its own global models for finance, trade, and technology – but now it appears that Beijing’s ambitions rise higher than that still. The southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu has announced plans to launch an “illumination satellite” to light up the night sky better than the moon. This fake moon – because that’s what it is, a fake moon – will be eight times brighter than the real moon and able to cast light over a distance of 10-80 kilometers.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

People going postal over Trump’s mail decision – The White House this week said the US is ditching the 144-year old global agreement under which countries agree to deliver each other’s mail, and has ordered the US Postal Service to charge more for deliveries from China. Some people are dismayed. But since 1969 the Universal Postal Union pact has given favorable shipping rates to poorer countries – one of those countries being… China! American e-commerce companies have rightly complained that this puts them at a disadvantage: according to calculations by The Atlantic, if you’re in Virginia it’s cheaper to have a packet of eyebrow razors shipped from China than from North Carolina. There is plenty to critique in Trump’s habit of busting up international norms, but on this one he’s right. We’d bet that China – and others – will renegotiate over the next year, before the US withdrawal formally takes effect.

Canine views on Brexit – Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun, as the saying goes. Well, earlier this month about a thousand dogs – and their owners – marched on Britain’s parliamentto demand a fresh referendum on whether the UK should still leave the European Union. Granted – as we wrote earlier this week – the process of negotiating  “Brexit” has become more complicated than most Britons seemed to foresee. But rerunning the referendum still seems like a long shot. Unless those dogs know something…

WHAT WE'RE SMOKING

Canadian stuff – On Wednesday, Canada became the first major economy to legalize the recreational use of marijuana (Uruguay has been there since 2013.) The Canucks are already prodigious producers and smokers: Canada’s 36 million residents blazed up an estimated 773 tons of weed last year, worth around $4.2 billion, and (illegally) exported another $765 million. Over time, Canada’s decision will offer a unique look at legalized weed’s impact on the budget (marijuana is taxed) and on social issues (incarceration rates and drug use). We also relish the thought of Justin Trudeau cutting the rug while legally stoned.

Technology has played a big role in accelerating globalization. While it's our business to advance technology, we also believe that technology should respect and even help protect the world's timeless values. That conviction has led us to announce a new and fourth pillar to Microsoft's AI for Good portfolio – our $125 million, five-year commitment to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of society's biggest challenges. This new pillar will focus on AI for Cultural Heritage. Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

Does Boris Johnson strengthen or weaken the US-UK relationship?

Well I mean strengthens it in so far as he and Trump like each other. They're both oriented towards Brexit. They're kind of right-wing populists that aren't ideologically moored. But will it last? Boris could flip on a dime on any major issue as can Trump. So it's kind of volatile. Plus they both really love the media and when they're in front of each other with other people the potential to - I mean Boris upsets people and Trump easily takes offense. So this could easily go south.

Will Iran release the captured UK oil tanker?

I mean over time I suspect it will. But remember the UK has an Iranian tanker as well, so it's much more likely they work these things out together even if they're not explicitly linked, than suddenly the Iranians say, "Oh I'm sorry. Here's your tanker"

Will protests continue in Hong Kong?

It certainly seems that way. The question is what will China do about it? Xi Jinping is now saying that they are reaching the danger zone and the ability of the Chinese to hit back and hit back hard is real. I worry about those protesters.

Will Robert Mueller reveal anything new when he testifies on Capitol Hill?

I highly doubt it. He said very clearly that he does not intend to go beyond what was in his report. So Democrats looking for bombshells on collusion or obstruction are likely to be disappointed.

Can President Trump expand his electoral college edge in 2020?

Well he thinks he can. He thinks he can win in places like Minnesota and New Hampshire. I think it's more likely that he just hangs on to the Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that got him there in 2016.

Should the governor of Puerto Rico resign?

Absolutely. Governor Rossello should resign. He's lost the confidence of the island. Puerto Rico needs a fresh start particularly after all these terrible text messages. He should definitely resign.

Finally for The Rant: today's rant is on Elizabeth Warren who put out a report today saying the economy is on the brink of collapse. It was very alarmist, certainly there are problems with the economy. Issues that could be fixed but she risks sounding like she's yelling fire in a crowded theater with calls like that.

"A regime willing to kill en masse to stay in power,' Karim Sadjadpour, an expert on Iranian, discusses the challenges facing the rise of democracy within the country.

Avi Loeb, The Chair of Harvard University's Astronomy Department, delves into the search for extraterrestrial life.