What We Are Watching: New EU Migrant Plan, A Governor on the Ropes, Trump’s Kashmir Curveball

A new EU plan for refugees – French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that 14 EU countries now back a new plan for handling refugees rescued from the Mediterranean Sea. Details of the plan are vague, but at least one important country is not on board: Italy, where right-wing interior minister Mateo Salvini has chased away rescue boats and accused other member states of turning his country, often the first landing point for migrants from Africa, into "the refugee camp of Europe." Differences of opinion across the EU have hampered efforts to hammer out an effective union-wide migrant policy. That hasn't stopped people fleeing dire conditions in Africa and the Middle East: at last count, nearly 32,400 migrants had arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean since January.

Ricky on the Ropes – Puerto Rico's embattled governor Ricardo "Ricky" Rossello says he'll step down after his term ends next year but not before then. He's even willing, he says, to face impeachment – but he won't resign. That won't play well with the hundreds of thousands of protestors now demanding his ouster over unpopular austerity policies, a corruption scandal, the botched response to Hurricane Maria, and a recent leak of Rossello's vulgar and offensive chat messages. Can Ricky really ride this out, hoping that the protesters lose momentum in the summer heat? Or will he succumb to popular pressure, opening up a broader contest for power and potentially reopening basic questions about the relationship between Puerto Rico and Washington?

Claims on Kashmir – Kashmir is a territory claimed by both India and Pakistan. Sporadic fighting over it has killed tens of thousands over the past three decades. On Monday, President Donald Trump told visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the US president to mediate this dispute. Khan was no doubt surprised and delighted: international mediation on Kashmir is a long-standing Pakistani goal. Not so for India, which continues to insist that Kashmir's status can be decided only by direct talks between India and Pakistan. Enraged opposition lawmakers in India have demanded that Modi explain himself. India's foreign ministry responded that "no such request [of Trump] has been made." We're watching to see what Modi himself will say.

What we are ignoring:

Rumors about dead strongmen – It's been a busy week on the are-they-dead-or-aren't-they front. First came the rumors that Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, a renowned trance DJ and rapper whose deft marksmanship recently earned him a mention in this newsletter, had died from kidney failure. Then it was Recep Tayyip Erdogan's turn in the rumor mill. On Monday night, several news reports of dubious provenance suggested that the Turkish president had suffered a heart attack and died. We're ignoring these rumors until we see some better sources or hear from the leaders themselves. But we do want to point out that more transparent governments don't usually suffer from this particular brand of fake news.

Internationally, food security is under threat from drought, while agriculture is subject to thin margins and complex global trade. There is also pressure to do more with less to ensure food security for the global population. Because of this, farmers are driven to get the most out of every harvest, even if that short-term focus may have long-term ill effects on the soil and their yield. Farmers in the U.S. are now turning to Ag-Analytics, a leader in AI solutions, to help address these concerns. Sharing Microsoft's goal to help monitor, model and manage Earth's natural resources with cloud and AI, the company brings precision agriculture to fruition in a platform that helps farmers leverage data to make decisions. Read more on Microsoft on the Issues.

Are The US and China on Collision Course in The South China Sea? Senator Chris Coons talks about China's ambitions for a blue water navy and what it means for US security.

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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.

President Trump pays homage to a 1980s New York legend to explain his trade policy.

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?