What We're Watching: Kim Jong-un's New Weapon

North Korea's Dangerous New Weapon – North Korea and the United States have announced that a new round of nuclear talks will begin in coming days. The DPRK marked the occasion on Wednesday by test-firing a new type of ballistic missile, one able to carry a nuclear weapon, from a platform at sea. This was more than just North Korea's 11th weapons test this year alone. This missile can be launched from a submarine, a development that changes the game on calculations of which countries are in range of North Korean missiles. The talks, still expected to take place soon, should be interesting.


Iraq Protests – Baghdad and other major cities are under curfew after days of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. So far, 18 people have been killed, and hundreds injured. Demonstrations are common in Iraq. But these protests, which began over a lack of jobs, are the largest in years and seem uncharacteristically spontaneous. (There's no party boss whipping them up.) After years of war, occupation, and a brutal fight with ISIS, Iraq's economy continues to struggle. The need to balance relations with the US and neighboring Iran doesn't make life easier. Abdul Mahdi's government is barely a year old. As public anger rises, how much longer can he last? And if he falls, who – inside the country or beyond – will be jockeying for power?

Justice Delayed in Kashmir – Since Indian troops moved into Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, and India's government stripped the territory of its partial autonomy, an uneasy calm has taken hold. The internet remains down. Mobile phone connections are still suspended. Many schools and businesses remain closed. The streets are quiet. But frustration is growing for many residents. Thousands of locals have been arrested, but there are reportedly only two judges assigned to manage the petitions filed to advance their cases. It remains unclear whether justice delayed will become justice denied.

What We're Ignoring

Hong Kong Mask Ban – Hong Kong has now seen large—sometimes violent—pro-democracy protests for 16 weeks. In response, the territory's embattled government is reportedly set to announce a ban on wearing masks in public places, an ordinance that hasn't been used in more than half a century. There are four good reasons to ignore the possibility that protesters will voluntarily shed masks. One, many don't believe the local government has any democratic legitimacy. Two, they're not big fans of colonial-era laws. Three, they don't want Chinese officials to identify them. Many of those now wearing the masks are already violating the law as part of their protest.

Electricity consumption in our homes contributes 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. What if we could transform this huge contributing factor into a solution? That's what Eni's luminescent solar concentrators can do. These transparent, colored slabs can be inserted into home windows to capture solar energy and generate electricity. By adjusting to the brightness and temperature of your home, they can even save you money on heating and air conditioning costs.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

How did an entire country's media spread false news for a night?

Fascinating case study in France over the weekend. For less than a day, we thought that the most wanted men in the country had been caught in Scotland. Turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The so-called news was actually reported quite carefully at first, on Friday night with careful words. But the language quickly moved from conditional to categorical and therefore, to misinformation through human error. What you have here is the tension between being first and being right, which has always been present in journalism but is more and more as you have these 24 hour news channels, social media, and the incredible economic pressure on news sites that are advertising based and therefore click based.

More Show less

Donald Trump announced a fresh "phase 1" trade deal with China last week, part of his ongoing bid to reduce the United States' huge trade deficit with China. The US has been buying more from China than China buys from the US for decades, but since coming into office Trump has made reducing that deficit central to his "America First" agenda. It's not easy to do. Consider that in 2018, after two full years of the Trump administration, the trade deficit with China actually swelled to its highest level since the Clinton years. That's because many perfectly healthy economic factors contribute to a trade deficit: stronger economic growth under Trump has meant more demand for foreign goods, so as long as the economy keeps humming along, it will be hard for Trump to reduce the deficit. Likewise, the strong US dollar makes foreign goods cheaper for US consumers to import, while China's own economic slowdown in 2018 decreased Chinese demand for American goods. For a historical perspective on all of this, here's a look at how the US-China trade balance has developed under each US president going back to 1993.

On Friday, we detailed the main arguments for and against President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from a pocket of northern Syria where their presence had protected Washington's Kurdish allies against an attack from Turkey. We then asked Signal readers to let us know what they thought.

More Show less

Dangerous Chaos in Syria – Turkey's military move into northern Syria had two stated goals: to push Kurdish fighters inside Syria further from Turkey's border and to create a "safe zone" inside Syria in which Turkey could place up to two million Syrian refugees currently living in camps inside Turkey. But the Kurds have now allied with Syria's army, which is backed by Russia, and these forces are now moving north into that same territory toward Turkish troops and Arab militias backed by Ankara. Meanwhile, large numbers of ISIS fighters and their families have escaped prisons where Kurds had held them captive. Turkey's President Erdogan vows to press ahead with his operation until "ultimate victory is achieved." Pandora's Box is now wide open.

More Show less