What We're Watching: A Test For Peace in Mozambique

Mozambique's democracy test Mozambicans voted yesterday in an election that will test a fragile peace accord between the ruling Frelimo party, led by president Filipe Nyusi, and Renamo, a former rebel group-turned-opposition party. The two factions were on opposite sides of a Cold War-tinged civil war that killed an estimated 1 million people between 1977 and 1992. Frelimo, which has ruled Mozambique since independence, has been losing popularity due to a corruption scandal, but is likely to hold onto power at the national level. Renamo, which foreswore violence just two months ago in exchange for electoral reforms that will help the party, will be hoping to make regional gains that allow it to win some key governorships. Disputes over the final vote count and even outright fraud or violence are possible in coming days, particularly if Renamo fails to make its hoped-for gains.


Governments vs cryptocurrencies – Last month, we asked whether you'd put more trust in government bureaucrats or Mark Zuckerberg to handle your money, and explained why some governments don't like Facebook's new Libra cryptocurrency. In recent days, several of Facebook's partners on the project have bowed out, evidently because the political heat got too intense. Meanwhile, US security regulators last week took "emergency action" to halt an effort by Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging service, to launch a new digital currency that would have bypassed the traditional dollar-based payment system. We're watching this broader clash between cryptocurrencies and governments because it shows how techno-utopian dreams can often crash up against a simple political reality: governments won't willingly surrender their control over money.

UK pomp and EU circumstance – Queen Elizabeth II opened the UK's new session of Parliament on Monday by laying out Prime Minister Boris Johnson's legislative agenda. Any ceremony involving people in tights with titles like Black Rod and the Rouge Dragon Pursuivant would usually be worth watching on that basis alone. But this year the high drama of Brexit lent extra weight to the pomp. With the clock ticking towards the UK's October 31 EU exit date, Johnson is trying yet again this week to win approval for a Brexit deal at the European Council. But "important matters" are still unresolved, according to one Brussels official. If the UK and EU can't agree on a deal, the prime minister will have to request a three-month extension from Parliament, something he's loath to do. Even if Johnson does get Brussels to endorse a deal outline by the end of October – a big if – he can't be sure that a majority of MPs would approve it; Johnson could then call an early election to try break the deadlock. We're watching to see how this chaos unfolds in the weeks ahead, but we're pretty sure the answer is more Brexit. Sigh.

What We're Ignoring:

LeBron James, China expert – The second-greatest basketball player of all time (I'm from Chicago, don't @ me) waded into the controversy over the NBA and China on Monday, saying Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey "wasn't educated on the situation" when he made comments on Twitter supporting Hong Kong protestors. Morey's comments earlier this month angered China and dragged the league into a political and human rights brouhaha in one of its most important growth markets. A subsequent NBA apology and James's comments drew rebukes from people who have accused the NBA, and players who refuse to criticize China, of cowardice. We're ignoring the temptation to dunk on LeBron for claiming to be an expert on China-Hong Kong relations, because he later clarified that he wasn't commenting on the substance of Morey's words, only the fact that he tweeted them out. Of course, that opens a whole other can of worms…

Ferrera Erbognone, a small town in the northern Italian province of Pavia, is home to one of the most cutting-edge computing centers in the world: Eni's Green Data Center. All of the geophysical and seismic prospecting data Eni produces from all over the world ends up here. Now, the Green Data Center is welcoming a new supercomputing system: HPC5, an advanced version of the already powerful HPC4. Due to be completed by early 2020, HPC5 will triple the Green Data Center's computing power, from 18.6 to 52 petaflops, equivalent to 52 million billion mathematical operations per second.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

A few days ago, the New York Times published a bombshell report on the Chinese government's systematic oppression of Muslims in Western China. The story was about many things: human rights, geopolitics, Chinese society – but it was also about technology: Beijing's repression in Xinjiang province is powered in part by facial recognition, big data, and other advanced technologies.

It's a concrete example of a broader trend in global politics: technology is a double-edged sword with sharp political consequences. Artificial intelligence, for example, can help develop new medicines but it can also support surveillance states. Social media helps nourish democracy movements and entertains us with cat memes, but it also feeds ISIS and 4Chan.

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Increasingly violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong have dealt a major blow to the city's once booming economy. Tourism – an economic lifeline in that city – has dropped, and retailers are suffering from a sharp decline in sales. Now, six months since the unrest began, Hong Kong has recorded its first recession in a decade, meaning its economy has contracted for two consecutive quarters. Here's a look at how Hong Kong's quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) growth has fared during the past two years.

Tehran's Next Move: "We don't want an Islamic Republic, we don't want it," was the chant heard among some protesters in Tehran over the weekend after the government announced a 50 percent fuel price hike meant to fund broader support for the country's poor. Under crippling US sanctions, the country's economy has plummeted, unleashing a "tsunami" of unemployment. What started Friday as nationwide economic protests took on a political coloring, as protestors in some cities tore up the flag and chanted "down with [Supreme Leader] Khamenei!". The unrest seems to be related, at least indirectly, to widespread demonstrations against Tehran-backed regimes in Iraq and Lebanon as well. Economically-motivated protests erupt in Iran every few years, but they tend to subside within weeks under harsh government crackdowns. So far, the authorities have shut down the internet to prevent protestors from using social media to organize rallies. But Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps has warned of more "decisive action" if the unrest continues.

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13 billion: Building a single state-of-the-art US aircraft carrier costs about $13 billion, a figure that exceeds total military spending by countries like Poland, the Netherlands, or Pakistan. But as China's ability to hit seaborne targets improves, the Economist asks if carriers are "too big to fail." (Come for that, stay for the many strange Top Gun references in the piece.)

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