What We're Watching: A Win Against Malaria and Cuba's Ostrich Obsession

Progress on Malaria – This week saw a potentially important victory in the war against malaria, which kills one child somewhere in the world every two minutes. Children under five are most at risk, especially in Africa. The southern African nation of Malawi began a landmark large-scale pilot program to immunize young children against malaria with the first vaccine that gives partial protection against the disease. The vaccine will protect only one-third of children under two years old from severe malaria, but clinical trials suggest those immunized are likely to have less severe cases of the disease. Smaller trials found that the vaccine prevented four in 10 cases of malaria in babies aged between five and 17 months.

Cuba's Ostrich Obsession – General Guillermo García Frías, a 91-year-old revolutionary comrade of the late Fidel Castro, raised eyebrows recently when he said on Cuban state television that Cubans should eat more ostrich. But it was his suggestion that an ostrich can produce more meat than a cow that pulled viewers out of their seats and onto social media, where they created some hilarious memes at the general's expense. Black comedy aside, this episode should set off alarm bells in the Cuban government. More Cubans now have Internet access, including on mobile phones, and hardships have only sharpened their sense of humor.

What We're Ignoring: Indonesian Hiccups and Scottish Independence

A Hiccup in Prabowo's Strategy – Opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto declared victory following Indonesia's April 17 election. Though official results won't be announced until next month, Prabowo appears to be one of the very few people on Earth who believe he'll be Indonesia's next president. His claim is so dubious, in fact, that his vice-presidential running mate, Sandiaga Uno, did not appear on stage with him during his "victory" speech. When asked to explain his absence, Sandiaga claimed he'd had a debilitating attack of "non-stop hiccups." Sandiaga has since appeared with Prabowo, but he doesn't look happy about it.

Another Scotland Independence Referendum – Scotland will hold another referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced this week. She intends the vote to be held before May 2021, when the current term ends for Scotland's parliament. A referendum on this question failed in 2014 by a margin of 55-45 percent, but Sturgeon hopes that frustration and fear provoked by Brexit will flip the score. We're ignoring this story (for now) because much will happen over the next two years.

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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