What we're watching: China wants to commercialize the moon

What we're watching: China wants to commercialize the moon

China's $10 trillion plan to commercialize the moon: Even for a country famous for its ambitious, headline-grabbing plans, this one's a doozy: China is mulling a new "Earth-moon space economic zone" that would create $10 trillion of new economic value by 2050. For context, that's nearly double China's current GDP. It may be half-baked, but don't dismiss the plans as pure science fiction: Beijing has been pumping money into its rocket program and even landed a probe on the dark side of the moon in January. We'll be watching China's plans with a wary eye on Washington too. If President Trump can't stomach the idea of China out-foxing the US on technology and trade, he's going to really hate it if the Communist Party tries to beat the USA at making a fortune in space. Space Force: battle stations!


"Leftwing bandits" vs "racist misogynists" in South America: Last week's presidential election in Argentina, won by the Peronist Fernandez-Fernandez ticket, has pitched the country leftward again. That could spell big trouble for ties with neighboring Brazil, which is currently governed by far-right firebrand President Jair Bolsonaro. The bilateral sniping has already started. Bolsonaro has called Argentina's new leaders "red bandits" and threatened to kick the country out of Mercosur, the region's largest trade bloc (he can't do it, but it's the thought that counts.) Meanwhile, Alberto Fernandez, Argentina's president-elect, has called Brazil's president a "racist, misogynist" and openly supported Brazil's jailed leftwing former President Lula, whom Bolsonaro and his followers despise. Not in recent memory have South America's two largest economies been so far apart ideologically, and that bad blood will soon taint two key regional issues: the crisis in Venezuela, where Buenos Aires is likely to be more sympathetic to the Maduro regime; and the future of the massive Mercosur-EU trade deal, which has yet to be ratified on both sides of the Atlantic.

Saudi Aramco's stock price: Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that it would proceed with the long-awaited initial public offering of its state-run oil company, Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest petroleum producer. The IPO, which could be the largest in history, has been held up amid weak oil prices and the controversy surrounding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's alleged role in the death and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashogghi last year. We're watching this story in two ways: Narrowly, to see how this monster actually prices: MBS, who had originally hoped to fetch a $2 trillion valuation by selling part of Aramco, may well have to accept a lower price than he originally wanted. But we're also watching the broader political implications, since taking Aramco public is the centerpiece of the crown prince's ambitious (and potentially risky) plan to wean Saudi Arabia off its reliance on oil.

What We're Ignoring:

Mr Mukhlis' moralizing: You can draft laws that criminalize adultery, if you like. You can even prescribe quasi-medieval punishments for it. Like, publicly-lashed-by-a-masked-man-holding-a-rattan-cane type of punishments. But if you're going to do that, ideally you want to avoid getting caught by the police, in a car near the beach, making out with a woman who isn't your wife. That's exactly what happened recently to Mukhlis bin Muhammad, a religious leader from Indonesia's ultra-conservative Aceh province, where a strict version of Islamic sharia law has been in place for more than 15 years. The wayward Mr Mukhlis, who was part of the council that drafted the region's tough adultery rules, was lashed 28 times for his transgressions. We're going to go ahead and assume it's okay to ignore Mr Mukhlis' moralizing from now on.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on the biggest development in US politics this week:

So, the scriptwriters for 2020 have thrown as a real curveball, introducing the most explosive element in US politics, just six weeks before the election. The tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be remembered as a trailblazing jurist, but also a reliably liberal vote on a court that was divided along ideological lines with a five-four conservative majority. This has the potential to upend the presidential election. And likely will motivate turnout on both sides. But also, importantly for president, Trump could remind some Romney voting ex-Republicans who were leaning towards Biden why they were Republicans in the first place. Which means that it has the potential to push some persuadable voters back towards the president.

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(Some) Thais fed up with royals: In their largest show of force to date, around 18,000 young Thai activists took to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday to rally against the government and demand sweeping changes to the country's powerful monarchy. The protesters installed a gold plaque declaring that Thailand belongs to the Thai people, not the king — a brazen act of defiance in a country where many view the sovereign as a god and offenses against the royal family are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Activists also got the royal guards to accept a letter addressed to King Vajiralongkorn with their proposed reforms. We're watching to see if the Thai government — made up mostly of the same generals who took over in a 2014 coup and then stage-managed last year's election to stay in power — continues to exercise restraint against the activists. So far, some protest leaders have been detained but they are growing bolder in their defiance of the military and the royal family, the two institutions that have dominated Thai politics for decades. Prime Minister and former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is in a tough spot: many young and liberal Thais will hate him if he cracks down hard on the peaceful protesters, but not doing so would make him look weak in the eyes of his power base of older, more conservative Thais who still venerate the monarchy and are fine with the military calling the shots in politics.

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32: Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra survived an impeachment vote on Friday after only 32 out of 130 lawmakers supported his removal for allegedly trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. Vizcarra was in peril just a week ago, but the case for impeachment lost steam after the president was backed by the military and influential opposition leaders who insist the country needs stability to fight COVID-19.

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