What We’re Watching: Hariri’s out, Wong’s out, the Kurds are (maybe) out

Lebanon's PM throws in the towel: After two weeks of widespread anti-government protests, Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced yesterday that he and his government would resign, paving the way for new elections. Years' worth of rage over government corruption and bleak job prospects exploded in mid-October when the government proposed a tax on calls made using free internet messaging services. But it's unclear whether this will be enough for protesters, whose signature chant "all of them means all of them" emphasizes that they want to upend the entire political class. Hariri's resignation also defied Hezbollah, the political party and militia group, which is a crucial member of the country's national-unity government and has rejected calls for an early election. As of now, there's no sign that the protesters are willing to back down, or that Hezbollah will agree to resign from government.


Time runs out in northern Syria: According to a Russia-Turkey agreement, all Kurdish militants are now supposed to have withdrawn from the Turkish-administered "safe zone" that extends 20 miles into northern Syria. The Russians say the Kurds are out, but Turkey isn't ready to confirm that, and there are concerns that Turkey is preparing to charge further into Syria than agreed. After all, Ankara is openly aiming to ethnically cleanse the region of Kurds, in order to resettle it with up to two million Syrian Arab refugees currently living in Turkey. At the same time, Turkish soldiers have clashed with Syrian army troops for the first time. This means that Turkey, a NATO member, is now patrolling a safe zone cleared of former US allies with Russia, while also shooting at Syrian soldiers backed by...Russia.

A big candidate barred in Hong Kong: Joshua Wong, Hong Kong's budding pro-democracy activist, was barred on Tuesday from running in district council elections slated for November 24, because he has been "advocating or promoting self-determination" for the territory. Pro-Beijing candidates usually dominate local polls in Hong Kong, but months of political unrest over the mainland's encroachment on Hong Kong's freedoms have prompted a surge in the number of pro-democracy candidates running. Wong, the former student leader of the 2014 Umbrella movement, is the only banned candidate out of more than 1,100 contenders. Pro-democracy candidates and pro-Beijing incumbents are vying for seats that will give them a say in the nomination of Hong Kong's next leader.

What We're Ignoring:

The spy who stole al-Baghdadi's underwear: The operation to capture or kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was successful because of months-long cooperation between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US military. While these missions are often top secret, a rather unusual detail of the daring raid has been released: to make sure that US forces were trailing the right terrorist, a Kurdish spy stole al-Baghdadi's underwear in order to test his DNA and confirm a match! While it's comforting to know that US-Kurdish intelligence sharing paid off, we're ignoring this because, frankly, it's TMI.

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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