What We're Watching: More details about Xinjiang

More details about Xinjiang: The world already knew that China has imprisoned more than a million ethnic Uighur Muslims and other minorities in camps in the country's far-west Xinjiang province. Beijing says the prisoners are volunteers receiving job training. Rights groups say they're locked in mass incarceration "re-education camps" designed to indoctrinate ethnic minorities. But a classified blueprint of the system that's been leaked to the media now details life on the inside. The camps reportedly have watch towers, double-locked doors, and video surveillance "to prevent escapes." What's more, the Chinese state is evidently using the camps to train its artificial intelligence programs for use in mass surveillance. This is the largest incarceration of people based on an ethnic or religious identity since the Holocaust. We're watching for any sign the governments of predominantly Muslim countries, the US, or Europe will take meaningful action against the Chinese government.


Press crackdown in Egypt: Over the weekend, Egyptian authorities raided the offices of the digital publication Mada Masr, one of the country's last bastions of independent investigative journalism. Top editors were arrested, and there's a decent chance it had to do with the site's publication, just days earlier, of a report that strongman President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi's son had been quietly removed from his senior role in the intelligence services due to poor performance. Though Mada Masr is well-accustomed to the security apparatus' techniques used to intimidate journalists, the clampdown has been more aggressive since anti-government protests broke out in September. Egypt ranks 163rd of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders.

A breakthrough in Bolivia? Supporters of ousted president Evo Morales have reached a deal with the new interim government to ease tensions and pave the way to new presidential elections. Under the pact, approved over the weekend by a Congress that Morales' MAS party still controls, lawmakers will appoint a new electoral board that will set the date for a vote early next year. Morales himself will not be permitted to run. Pro-Morales groups and unions have agreed to take down hundreds of road blockades that have strangled the Bolivian economy in recent weeks, and interim-president Jeanine Áñez has begun meeting with pro-Morales activists. But things aren't exactly going swimmingly: Morales' party wants to exempt him from prosecution for backing the blockades, while the new interior minister wants to jail him for the "rest of his life."

What We're Ignoring

The Pope's call to banish nuclear weapons. Look, it's not that we are opposed to eliminating the world's most dangerous weapons. It's just that only one of the nine nuclear powers has a majority of people who consider themselves Catholics—and just 15% of French adults say they are "practicing." Which leads us to the old line: "And how many divisions does the Pope have?"

This month, a bipartisan group of legislators in Washington state presented new legislation that could soon become the most comprehensive privacy law in the country. The centerpiece of this legislation, the Washington Privacy Act as substituted, goes further than the landmark bill California recently enacted and builds on the law Europeans have enjoyed for the past year and a half.

As Microsoft President Brad Smith shared in his blog post about our priorities for the state of Washington's current legislative session, we believe it is important to enact strong data privacy protections to demonstrate our state's leadership on what we believe will be one of the defining issues of our generation. People will only trust technology if they know their data is private and under their control, and new laws like these will help provide that assurance.

Read more here.

Let's be clear— the Middle East peace plan that the US unveiled today is by no means fair. In fact, it is markedly more pro-Israel than any that have come before it.

But the Trump administration was never aiming for a "fair" deal. Instead, it was pursuing a deal that can feasibly be implemented. In other words, it's a deal shaped by a keen understanding of the new power balances within the region and globally.

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For months now, the US has been lobbying countries around the world to ban the Chinese tech giant Huawei from building the 5G data networks that are going to power everything from your cell phone, to power grids, to self-driving cars. US security hawks say allowing a Chinese company to supply such essential infrastructure could allow the Chinese government to steal sensitive data or even sabotage networks. On the other hand, rejecting Huawei could make 5G more expensive. It also means angering the world's second-largest economy.

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The end of the interim in Bolivia? – Mere months after taking over as Bolivia's interim president, Jeanine Áñez has decided that "interim" isn't quite permanent enough, and she now wants to run for president in elections set for May 3. Áñez is an outspoken conservative who took over in October when mass protests over election fraud prompted the military to oust the long-serving left-populist Evo Morales. She says she is just trying to unify a fractious conservative ticket that can beat the candidate backed by Morales' party. (Morales himself is barred from running.) Her supporters say she has the right to run just like anyone else. But critics say that after promising that she would serve only as a caretaker president, Áñez's decision taints the legitimacy of an election meant to be a clean slate reset after the unrest last fall. We are watching closely to see if her move sparks fresh unrest in an already deeply polarized country.

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1: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally indicted on corruption charges Tuesday, making him the first sitting prime minister to face trial in Israel's history. The charges came hours before Netanyahu was set to meet President Trump for the unveiling of the US' long-anticipated Mideast peace plan.

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