What We're Watching: Macron on the Mic, Wings over South Asia

Macron takes the stage – France's embattled President Emmanuel Macron has spent a few weeks listening to the French people, and now he's set to speak about what he's learned. In a speech tomorrow, Macron will unveil several policy proposals – including tax cuts and measures to increase government accountability – meant as a response to the issues of inequality and the urban-rural divide that gave rise to the Yellow Vests protest movement. The speech, initially planned for last week, was postponed when the Notre-Dame cathedral went up in flames. It will be the most politically significant moment of Macron's flagging presidency. Can he turn things around?

The Inglorious Bustards of Pakistan – Since the 1970s, wealthy Gulf Arab falconers have flocked to Pakistan to hunt a fiercely startled looking bird called the MacQueen's Bustard, whose flesh is considered an aphrodisiac. Conservationists say overhunting has put the species in danger, and some Pakistanis have objected for years to foreigners plundering their natural riches. But Pakistan not only makes good money selling the hunting licenses, the cash-strapped country is also dependent financially on Saudi Arabia, whose princes are avid falconers. We're watching, hawk-eyed, to see if Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan is willing to ruffle Riyadh's feathers over this. We doubt it.

What We're Ignoring: A Zero Summit

The Putin-Kim Summit – Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet North Korea's Kim Jong-un for the first time at the Russian port city of Vladivostok, not far from the border between their two countries, later this month. We expect little of substance to come from this. North Korea has nothing that Russia needs and can't pay a decent price for anything the Russians would sell. And saddled with sanctions of its own, Russia is unlikely to serve Kim a free lunch to revive his economy. Both men can use the meeting to enhance their international prestige, and Putin certainly loves to pique Washington, but that's about it.

Steve Bannon's "Gladiator" School – Former Trump advisor and poster boy for the slovenly, anti-globalist set Steve Bannon has leased a 13th century Italian monastery in Italy for 19 years (!) to serve as an academy to train populists. Bannon calls it a "gladiator school for culture warriors" that can "save Western civilization." Because nothing says anti-elitist friend of the working man like an academy housed within an Italian monastery. The school's formal name is the Academy for the Judeo-Christian West. We're ignoring this story because we're skeptical that Europeans need an American to explain populism to them, but the film version of this could be spectacular.

Last week, in Fulton, WI, together with election officials from the state of Wisconsin and the election technology company VotingWorks, Microsoft piloted ElectionGuard in an actual election for the first time.

As voters in Fulton cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, the official count was tallied using paper ballots as usual. However, ElectionGuard also provided an encrypted digital tally of the vote that enabled voters to confirm their votes have been counted and not altered. The pilot is one step in a deliberate and careful process to get ElectionGuard right before it's used more broadly across the country.

Read more about the process at Microsoft On The Issues.

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its "technological sovereignty" by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.

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Communal violence in Delhi: Over the past few days, India's capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades. This week's surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India's Muslims and the law's Hindu nationalist defenders. Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday. We're watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government responds – Delhi's police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.

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Ian Bremmer's perspective on what's happening in geopolitics:

What are the takeaways from President Trump's visit to India?

No trade deal, in part because Modi is less popular and he's less willing to focus on economic liberalization. It's about nationalism right now. Hard to get that done. But the India US defense relationship continues to get more robust. In part, those are concerns about China and Russia.

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27,000: The Emir of Qatar has decreed a $27,000 fine and up to five years in prison for anyone who publishes, posts, or repost content that aims to "harm the national interest" or "stir up public opinion." No word on whether the Doha-based Al-Jazeera network, long a ferocious and incisive critic of other Arab governments, will be held to the same standard.

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