Sudan's Show Trial: Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's ousted strongman, is now finally in the dock to face charges of butchery and corruption. For the moment, the country's new strongman Mohamed Hamdan "Hemeti" Dagolo and the military council he leads are sharing power with a civilian opposition alliance. An agreement signed last weekend promises elections and civilian rule. We're watching to see how a new regime, led by the gunmen who enabled the old regime's atrocities, will make the case against its former boss—and how the opposition will respond.

Foreign aid under the knife: The Trump administration is reportedly advancing a plan that would end billions of dollars in foreign aid funding, and it claims it has the authority to do this without approval from Congress. The White House says much of this money is wasted on governments that don't support US policies. Critics of the cuts charge that, beyond the humanitarian value of foreign aid, the money benefits the United States by helping to stabilize countries and regions plagued with violence and poverty, reducing the risk they'll produce war, terrorism, and refugees. We're watching to see how hard Republicans in Congress push back on this plan.

Smokey Bear Meets Hungry Goat: Portugal has faced a surge of forest fires in recent years, for two reasons: temperatures are rising as the earth warms, and flammable brush and forests are being left untended as more and more people leave the countryside for opportunities elsewhere. But authorities have hit upon a decidedly low-tech solution, the Times reports. It turns out that the country's Algarve goats love to graze on precisely the underbrush that serves as kindling for forest fires, so the government is working with local shepherds to have their flocks do just that. The catch? Urbanization means that there are precious few qualified shepherds left... #HerdHelpWanted

What We're Ignoring

Our speakers (and yours): A presenter at a big hacking conference in Las Vegas last week warned that saboteurs could hijack internet-enabled home sound systems, headphones, or other connected speakers to make them emit ear-piercing – and possibly psychologically destructive – noise. This is on top of the already established fact that a well-placed cue in a TV ad (or an episode of South Park) can trigger your electronic in-home assistant to order cat foodor worse – on Amazon. We're ignoring our newfangled Wi-Fi speakers, because we're worried hackers are hiding inside them. We'll fire up the turntable instead. #HiFiNotWiFi

In just a few days, some four million people in India could find themselves without a country. If that happens, it would quickly become the largest crisis of stateless people on the planet.

This is happening in Assam, a hilly, landlocked state at the eastern edge of India along the Bangladeshi border. (The famous "Assam" tea comes from there.)

Back in the early 1970s, during Bangladesh's war of independence from Pakistan, millions of Bengali Muslims fled across the border into Assam, dramatically shifting the province's demographics and leading to tensions with Assam's Hindu majority. Nearly half a century later, Assam has the largest Muslim minority of any Indian state except Kashmir.

In the mid-1980's, India's government determined that any refugee who crossed the border into Assam after Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 should be a citizen of Bangladesh, not of India. Since then, successive Indian governments have tried to determine which Assam residents have paperwork that proves they lived in India before that date.

But for many people, finding the right documents – and reading them, in a state where a quarter of the population is illiterate – is challenging, if not impossible.

Last year, the Assam state government finally published a draft National Registry of Citizens (NRC) which lists everyone who is legally resident in Assam. Four million people, mostly Muslims who have been living in India for decades, were not on the list. Those people have until August 31to prove a pre-1971 claim to residence or they will be deemed illegal.

The Indian government, like all governments, has the right and responsibility to know who is living on its territory and under what circumstances. But there are two big complications in the case of Assam.

First, what happens to these 4 million human beings if India officially marks them as illegal? Bangladesh has said it will not accept the deportation of millions of people who have been living in India for almost 50 years. Many of these 4 million people were born inside India after 1971. Should those people be "returned" to a country they've never known? Assam authorities are reportedly building detention camps that could constitute a horrific human rights violation.

Second, the Assam crackdown looks like the prelude to a broader bid by the national government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to discriminate against India's Muslims.

This spring, the BJP announced that it wants to extend the citizenship registry to the whole country in a bid to remove anyone who isn't a "Buddhist, Hindu, or Sikh." Interior Minister Amit Shah, who headed the BJP in the runup to its sweeping (re)election victory last year, has called Bengali Muslims "termites" and pledged to throw them into the sea.

The BJP is flush with power after the last election – but seeking to marginalize India's 177 million Muslims from what it means to be "Indian" risks destabilizing a precarious balance among faiths and ethnicities in the world's largest democracy.

A pivotal weekend in Hong Kong – Some 300,000 demonstrators are expected at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Sunday, in the 11th straight week of protests. Chaotic and partly violent demonstrations shut down Hong Kong International Airport this week, and tensions are high. Chinese paramilitary forces are reportedly drilling on the mainland close to the Hong Kong border. Xi Jinping, the president of China, knows a military crackdown would cripple Hong Kong's reputation as a stable financial center and could hurt the Chinese economy more broadly. But he may eventually conclude he has little choice but to snuff this out before other restive regions of China get similar ideas. The tenor of the marches this weekend will offer a clue about which way it's likely to go.

Maduro's crackdown on the military – One reason Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has survived an economic collapse, a popular revolt, assassination attempts, and a failed coup by opposition leader Juan Guaido is that the military brass has stuck with him. For one thing, they are tied to the regime's lucrative illegal businesses and black market schemes. But there's also now a stick to go along with that carrot: The New York Times describes Maduro's "growing reliance on torture" and purges of military officers – including alleged coup-plotter Captain Rafael Acosta, who died after being beaten and electrocuted to in a Venezuelan military hospital. We are watching closely to see if there is a point where Maduro screws up the calibration of carrots vs sticks and finds himself at the business end of a rifle in the Miraflores palace.

Trudeau's woes – In many ways Nicolas Maduro's polar opposite, Canada's prime minister has a lot going for him: dreamy good looks; a decent – if not overwhelming – majority for his Liberal Party in Parliament; and a generally safe, resource-rich country with millions of lakes, friendly people, big skies and (relatively) small problems. But earlier this week, an independent ethics commissioner ruled that the prime minister had breached the country's conflict of interest laws earlier this year when he pressured prosecutors to ease off of a bribery investigation of a major Canadian construction firm, because of fears about job losses. Trudeau has accepted the report's findings, but isn't resigning. We're watching to see how this simmering scandal affects Canada's upcoming national elections in October.

Something your salmon friends will never believe – You are a salmon. You are trying to get upriver so you can mate and die. Also you must avoid bears and bald eagles. Now there is a dam in your way of your favorite river. This is a problem. You pause an— WHAT IS HAPPENING. SUDDENLY YOU ARE BEING SHOT THROUGH A PNEUMATIC TUBE AND… just look at this thing.

What We're Ignoring

Japanese robotic tails Researchers at Japan's Keio University have developed a wearable robotic tail that they say could help elderly people and others with balance problems steady themselves. Look, we know that managing an ageing population is one of Japan's most pressing challenges. We also know that automation is one way that countries with shrinking workforces can better support a growing population of retirees. But giving people tails seems like a less efficient way to address these problems than, say, tweaking immigration policy ever so slightly to bring in more young workers, no?

As topsy-turvy as global politics has been over the past several years –Brexit, Trump, the rise of anti-establishment leaders in France, the Philippines, Italy, Pakistan, and Brazil, the surge of the European far right and so on – it's all unfolded during a time when the global economy was actually doing pretty well.

So what happens when the inevitable recession hits? Earlier this week, markets suffered their worst day of the year as investors confronted that question.

Germany's economy, the world's fourth-largest, is shrinking. China's factories are churning at their slowest rate in 17 years. The trade fights between the US and China, the US and Europe, and South Korea and Japan involve countries that together account for half the global economy. And worries about a chaotic British exit from the EU aren't helping either.

Even more worrying than these individual trends, through, is that the zero-sum politics driving all this disruption might also make a global economic swoon harder to get out of.

During the last big economic crisis in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the world's major economies were able to compromise and coordinate their responses to the recession in ways that avoided an even deeper downturn.

In today's more cutthroat political environment, that kind of cooperation is a lot less likely -- particularly if a downturn fuels even more of social and political polarization within countries that has empowered economic nationalists in the first place.

We're not in a recession yet. But buckle up, because when the next downturn hits, politics is going to make it harder to contain the pain.

530 billion: As the US-China trade war hit its stride last year, wealthy Chinese lost $530 billion, primarily through their exposure to the Chinese stock market.

12,000: Turkey has begun bringing home the children of foreign ISIS fighters, and has already reunited more than 200 children with their relatives. But more than 12,000 foreign women and children remain trapped in Syria and Iraq, and most of the countries they are from haven't been as willing as Turkey to welcome them back.

80: The IMF says there are now more $100 bills in circulation than $1 bills. Didn't notice, huh? That's because more than 80 percent of those C-notes are being held overseas, as are 60 percent of all US bills overall. While US politics might be topsy-turvy these days, the shot-callers of the world are still All About the Benjamins.

29: South Africa's unemployment rate rose to 29 percent in the second quarter of 2019, the highest figure in more than a decade. Rising joblessness underscores the challenges for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who led his African National Congress party to a slim victory in elections in May on the promise of economic reform and growth.

The Chinese Army Stirs in Hong Kong –Yesterday the Chinese army in Hong Kong released a video of its troops undergoing anti-riot training, while the local garrison commander warned street protesters not to threaten the "life and safety of Hong Kong citizens" or upend the "one country two systems" model of governance (Hong Kong is part of China but enjoys more freedoms than the mainland.) Until now, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China has stayed out of the eight-week long, increasingly ferocious standoff between protesters and local police. But as the unrest grinds on and protesters increasingly take aim at mainland control over the territory, we are watching to see whether Beijing is about to take more drastic action to suppress dissent.

Brazil's Prison Problem – Earlier this week a fight between rival gangs in a Brazilian prison left close to 60 people dead. Sixteen of them had been decapitated. The clash at the Altamira complex in northern Brazil came just two months after a riot in another prison killed 55. Brazil is one of the most violent countries on earth, and rightwing President Jair Bolsonaro was elected in part on promises to "stuff the jails" with criminals. But the country's prison system is already hopelessly overcrowded – more than 700,000 prisoners (almost half of whom are in pre-trial detention) languish in facilities designed to hold just 400,000 people.

India's Sectarian Tensions Go Global on Social Media – Team 07, a group of five 20-something Indian Muslims famous for their viral comedy videos on the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, will soon be appearing in a Mumbai court to face criminal charges. They were arrested after a local Hindu nationalist political party complained about a video where the group, commenting on the recent lynching of a Muslim man, appeared to encourage the victim's relatives to seek revenge. We're watching this story closely for what it tells us about sectarian divides in India, but also to see how Chinese social media giants navigate tricky local politics far from home.

What We're Ignoring

Kim's gonna Kim – North Korea earlier this week fired two short-range missiles into the sea in the second round of weapons tests that Kim Jong-un has conducted since his meeting with Donald Trump at the DMZ last month. The move signals that Kim may be displeased: with the slow pace of talks with the US, South Korea's decision to buy a bunch of new US-made fighter jets, and upcoming joint US-South Korea military drills. We are ignoring the move, however, because Kim's good friend Donald Trump doesn't seem much fazed by the rocket tests – he has in fact sought to downplay them. The bigger question remains: can Kim get the US to agree to sanctions relief in exchange for merely freezing his nuclear program, rather than abandoning it altogether? The clock is ticking.

It's August. And you, a worldly and dedicated reader of Signal, are finally on vacation at your favorite beach getaway. The out-of-office reply is on, your phone is off, the sun is out, and the waves are rolling in. A gentle breeze ruffles the corner of your towel, seagulls wheel overhead, you gaze out at the sea.

Look, there on the horizon, the slate gray silhouette of a container ship inches ever so slowly across the ocean. How beautiful. How peaceful. How soothing.

How impossible… not to wonder if that ship might be headed for trouble in the Strait of Hormuz.. Wait, wait, maybe it's plying its way to the Arctic, to cross those new, hotly contested trade routes through the melting polar ice…

Or, hang on second, how much of the stuff on that cargo ship is affected by the US-China trade war? The two sides have put tariffs on $360 billion worth of each other's goods already. And now Trump says he'll slap a 10% duty on another $300 billion of Chinese exports starting September 1st! He's not happy with the slow pace of US-China trade talks. He's annoyed that the Chinese aren't buying more American products like they said they would. Now he wants to really turn the screws on Xi Jinping, especially since the Chinese economy is slowing and...

No, no, back to the beach, you say to yourself. Relax. Zen. This is your vacation. Chill. The beach is where people go to tan, relax, read, sip goofy frozen drinks, play ridiculous "sports" like paddleball, and also discuss the strategic options available to the world's second largest economy. Oh, yes. China's entire leadership, you now remember, will soon retreat to the secretive beach resort of Beidahe for their annual policy confab.

This year the conversation over the Beidahe early bird buffet sure will be something: Xi Jinping and his advisers not only have to craft a response to Trump on the trade war – fight back, wait him out, or cave? -- but they also need to decide how to handle the Hong Kong protests, which are now increasingly targeting Beijing's control over the territory itself.

Enough! You dip your toes into the sand, close your eyes. This is your time off. Your time away from thinking about global politics. You've even managed to swear off reading Signal for a few days. If possible.

Lulled by the susurrant rush of surf, you are dozing in your chaise longue when suddenly you are jolted awake by a shrill chirping sound. A few feet away, a man rolls over on his beach blanket, cursing under his breath. He plunges his hand into a tote bag and pulls out a cell phone, and you notice that it's made by … Huawei!

You cannot escape.

Forget debates on policy, this president has a political superpower the likes of which we have never seen. And the media just sings right along…