What we're watching: Kim Jong-Un's weird frozen cosplay

Catalonia's violent revolt: Violent protests have roiled the Spanish region of Catalonia for days since the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to lengthy jail terms over their roles in the illegal 2017 independence referendum. Separatists have torched cars and rubbish bins. Police are shooting at them with rubber bullets, and at least 100 people have been hurt. Damages in the Catalan capital of Barcelona have already topped 1 million euros, and neither side shows signs of backing down. To the contrary. Quim Torra, Catalan government chief, has now pledged to hold a new independence vote within two years. As Spain heads to national elections next month, its fourth in four years, we're watching to see if the renewed focus on the separatist movement might swing voters, particularly if these protests get worse.


Kim Jong-un riding a horse up a snowy mountain: North Korea's state-run news agency released a series of propaganda photos of Kim Jong-un gliding across a powdered mountain atop a regal white horse. Twitter was abuzz with witty commentary about the photos, and rightly so: they're as amusing as you'd think, perhaps even rivaling Vladimir Putin's iconic bare-chested horse-riding snaps. But the propaganda could actually be a sign of something more than just the Dear Leader's wintry equestrian bliss. The backdrop for the shoot, Mount Paektu, has a sacred meaning in North Korean regime folklore: it's the mythical birthplace of Kim II Sung – Kim's grandfather and the founder of North Korea – and it was a tactical base during the Korean War. In the past, Kim Jong-un has visited the site before making major geopolitical moves. We're going to resist the urge to speculate here, but we're watching to see what Kim has in store now that he's come down from the mountain.

Canada's unpopular candidates battle it out: Canadians will head to the polls on Monday to elect a prime minister, ending six weeks of campaigning that has focused more on personality and ad-hominem attacks than on policy. Justin Trudeau, the sitting prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party, and the Conservative Party's Andrew Scheer, have been polling neck and neck, but neither is expected to win an outright majority, raising the prospect that a smaller party might emerge as powerbroker in forming a parliamentary majority. Trudeau's popularity has dipped in recent months after a series of scandals that dealt a blow to his finely-honed progressive image. Chief among them were photos that emerged showing that he'd worn blackface and brownface two decades ago. In what appeared to be a last-minute ditch to boost his prospects, Trudeau received an endorsement from President Obama, who's popular among Canadians. But after a contentious campaign will this be enough to get the incumbent over the line?

What We're Ignoring:

Pete Navarro's imaginary friends: Much of Donald Trump's policy against China has been shaped by one of his top advisers, the Harvard-trained economist Peter Navarro, author – most famously – of the book Death By China. But it now appears that one of Mr. Navarro's own top advisers is an imaginary person. Many of Mr. Navarro's books feature a character named Ron Vara, who exudes an earthy sort of wisdom with bons mots like "don't play checkers in a chess world" or slightly crazier musings like, "only the Chinese can turn a leather sofa into an acid bath." Mr. Vara, whose name is an anagram of his creator's, is a convenient figment of Navarro's imagination. However, Mr. Navarro, whose hardline views on China carry a lot of weight in the West Wing, is not.

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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