Signal

In recent years, the accelerating cross-border flow of migrants fleeing violence and poverty has remade the politics of Europe and the United States. A startling new study from Stanford University warns that the conflicts we've seen to date may just be the opening act of a much larger and more dangerous drama.

Here's the study's argument in brief:

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President Donald Trump again dramatically escalated the stakes in the US-China rivalry on Wednesday with a move that made headlines in the US while landing like a grenade in Beijing.

The US Commerce Department announced yesterday that Huawei, China's leading tech company and already the source of major controversy, has been added to a list that prevents US tech suppliers from selling to Huawei without a license. That's even more important than the executive order, also published yesterday, that bans US telecom companies from using Huawei equipment.

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Voters in Australia head to the polls tomorrow to elect a new government. Though few outsiders closely follow politics in this country, this election tells interesting stories about three of the most important issues in today's world: Immigration, climate change, and managing changing relations with China. It's also a country with a steady economy—but lots of political turnover.

Consider:

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An American Constitutional Crisis – A "constitutional crisis" arises when a confrontation among branches of government can't be resolved by existing law. The US Constitution gives Congress the responsibility of oversight of the president and his administration, and it grants the president certain privileges, as well. Some Democrats now argue that the Trump administration's refusal to provide congressional committees with access to requested witnesses and documents, including the unredacted Mueller Report and President Trump's tax returns, has created such a crisis. But the Constitution provides for three branches of government. Congress is already taking Trump to court on multiple issues. If the president or Congress refuses to comply with coming court rulings, then the US will face a true constitutional crisis. We're not there yet, but the danger is growing.

Austrian McDonald's – On Tuesday, we told you about Burger King's new plan to deliver fast food to motorists stranded in traffic jams in Mexico City. Here's some good fast-food news for US citizens travelling in Austria who have lost their passports and are craving a milkshake. The US Embassy in Vienna announced this week that McDonald's restaurants across Austria will serve as mini embassies for American tourists, who can receive limited consular services there.

What We're Ignoring: Guatemala's Dirty Politics and a Tidal Wave of Euro-Kitsch

Guatemala's Presidential Field – Guatemala's Constitutional Court has ruled that Zury Ríos cannot compete in the country's June 16 presidential election because she's the daughter of former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, the world's first former head of state to be charged with genocide in his own country. Guatemalan voters can still choose between former first lady Sandra Torres, who faces charges of embezzlement, perjury and tax fraud, and former attorney general Thelma Aldana, who is under investigation for campaign finance irregularities.

Eurovision – We're ignoring Europe's famed song contest because it takes place in non-European Israel, non-European Australia is among the favorites to win, some of the performances give kitsch a bad name, and because the Russians don't consider the voting important enough to hack. And as we've seen, Russians will hack anything.

3.79 million: About 3.79 million babies were born in the US in 2018, taking the annual birth rate to its lowest point in three decades. Births in the US have fallen in 10 of the past 11 years.

40: North Korea is now coping with its worst drought in nearly 40 years, according to state media. Drought creates food shortages and the potential for unrest, which might help explain why Kim Jong-un has returned to missile launches to win new economic concessions.

2 billion: In nominal terms, trade between the United States and Soviet Union in the late 1980s totaled $2 billion a year. Current trade between the United States and China is $2 billion a day.

0.26: When Theresa May is forced to resign as UK prime minister in coming weeks, the 120,000 members of the Conservative Party will choose a new party leader, and that person will automatically become Britain's prime minister. In this way, just 0.26 percent of the UK electorate will choose their country's next head of government.

If you're like 1.5 billion other people on the planet – or if you are Jared Kushner – you conduct a lot of your personal or business conversations on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app that says it's largely impervious to snoopers, hackers, and spooks.

But according to a bombshell report in The Financial Times earlier this week, the app has long contained a critical flaw that's enabled hackers to tap into your smartphone just by placing a WhatsApp voice call to you.

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Persian Gulf dangers growing by the day – Iran-backed Houthi rebels used drones to attack two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia yesterday, just two days after a mysterious attack on Saudi oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Tensions are flaring dangerously: a Saudi daily led its Tuesday edition with the headline "On the Verge of War?", while Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted that these recent "accidents" were authored by the US and Israel to trigger a conflict. Hanging over all of this: the Times reported that the Pentagon is exploring plans to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East. What could possibly go wrong?

Sudan Standoff – Following mass demonstrations that began in December, thousands of protesters in Khartoum have occupied the square outside Sudan's national military headquarters since April 6. First, they demanded the end of strongman Omar Bashir's 30-year dictatorship. They got that on April 11, but they refused to go home until the army promised to form a civilian-led government. Last weekend, it seemed like progress was being made in talks between army generals and protest organizers. But on Monday gunfire erupted. At least five protesters and one soldier were killed. We're watching to find out whether someone, perhaps in the military, is trying to prevent the generals and protesters from making a deal.

What We're Ignoring: North Korean virtues & Chinese officials' feelings

North Korean Wisdom and Honesty – For the first time ever, the US last week seized a North Korean cargo ship that was flouting international sanctions on the North's coal exports. Pyongyang, which depends on a vast network of clandestine ships to trade in international markets, wasn't pleased. Yesterday, it called on the US to "carefully reconsider" its "daylight robbery" of the ship, called the Wise Honest, saying the move violated the spirit of cooperation between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. We're ignoring North Korea's complaints, because its neither Wise nor Honest to invoke cooperation just days after firing off a volley of ballistic missiles.

Irreparable Harm to China's Feelings – On Monday, a man was arrested in eastern China for giving his dogs "illegal" names. Apparently, the man thought it would be funny to name his dogs "Chengguan," a word that refers to city officials who fight petty crime, and "Xieguan," which is an informal community worker. The man then publicized his joke on social media. State officials explained the arrest by claiming the man had "caused great harm to the nation and the city's urban management, in terms of their feelings." We're ignoring this story because this man has failed at the relatively easy task of giving dogs funny names, but also because we're confident his offense poses no real threat to China or its urban management.