What we’re Watching: Trump's Warring Impulses on Iran

War With Iran Or...Not? — On Thursday, Iran shot down a US drone over the Persian Gulf. Tehran says the craft was in its airspace, while Trump says it was over international waters and that Iran made a "big mistake" (though he also said he thought it was not "intentional"). This is the latest provocation in a tense situation between the US and Iran, and Trump seems to have competing impulses here. On the one hand, he needs to appear tough on Iran and has hinted that there will be a response. But on the other, as he stressed to the press on Thursday, he campaigned in 2016 on getting the US out of "endless" foreign military entanglements. We are watching to see not only how he squares that circle in response to the drone hit, but how he balances these impulses more broadly as he seeks re-election. In fact, reports emerged this morning that Trump had abruptly called off a pre-dawn plan to hit Iranian missile and radar sites. It's unclear if this was due to a change of heart or a logistical complication. But that giant thudding sound you hear? It's National Security Adviser John Bolton, who's been spoiling for an Iran strike for years, banging his head and mustache against the wall. So close!

Putin's Puffed-up Poll Numbers — Earlier this month, Kremlin-backed polling agency VTsIOM asked Russians which politicians they trusted. Putin scored just over 30%. The Kremlin wasn't happy about it and just five days later, VTsIOM altered the question to ask whether respondents trusted Putin or not — his new score was 72.3%. Neat trick! But Putin's broader approval ratings, as measured by independent pollster Levada, have fallen sharply since his re-election for a fourth term, and especially after the government introduced a pension reform plan that sparked protests across the country. Putin tried to reassure his people yesterday during his annual live call-in show, but we're watching to see if the trend continues and what Putin, now nearing 20 years in power, can do about it.

What We're Ignoring

Nigeria's Cash-Quaffing Wildlife — Somebody owes the gorillas of Nigeria's Kano state a serious apology. Some of the gate fees recently went missing from the Kano Zoo and local media reported that the money — 6.8 million naira or about $22,000 — had been eaten by a hungry gorilla. Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano state governor, pointed out that the zoo has no gorilla and has reported the matter to local anticorruption authorities. The news comes just weeks after a woman in Benue state claimed that $100,000 trusted to her care had been eaten by a snake. We are ignoring these incidents because given the level of local corruption, cash is still much more likely to disappear into the pockets of real officials than into the mouths of phantom animals.

Technology is changing the way modern geologists locate precious resources and harness energy. With supercomputers capable of processing geophysical data from all over the world, geologists are reconstructing models of the subsoil to identify hydrocarbon deposits. The efficiency of these powerful data processors can scan massive rock formations to help laboratories analyze geological systems. While today's modern geologists still have a compass and hammer to collect samples, petaflops of computing power are changing energy research at lightning speed.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Are e-Cigs an example of tech gone wrong?


There's a real tradeoff in e-cigarettes. To the extent that people stop smoking regular cigarettes to use e-cigarettes, that's good. To the extent that new people who wouldn't have been smokers, particularly young people, start smoking, that's bad. Now there are real societal problems and health problems and the data show that there are lots of new people starting to smoke. I don't think of it as much as a tech problem though or tech gone wrong as much as a social problem.


Moviepass has shut down. Final thoughts?


Moviepass was this insane business. You pay them ten dollars a month and then they let you see all the 2D movies you want. That was one business plan. They had about 20 business plans. It's kind of just, there lots of tech companies where the business model is: pay us a dollar and we'll pay you two dollars. And then they say to the venture capitalists: "Look we're growing. Give us more money." Of course that's going to run out.


Nostalgia. What's the next old tech about to make a resurgence?


Snapchat. A year ago, it looked like they were poached. That Instagram was just going to knock them out. And now, everybody's using Snapchat again.

Following another inconclusive election this week, Israel's politics are in turmoil, and the man at the center of the battle to form the next government is neither the embattled prime minister nor the opposition leader who appears to have bested him.

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Justin Trudeau's Bid to Save Face – Canada's prime minister shouldn't play dress-up anymore. An unfortunate series of outfits he and his family wore during a visit to India in 2018 drew widespread mockery, and now there are old photos and video of Justin Trudeau wearing brown and black makeup on separate occasions at costume parties years ago. Trudeau has acknowledged that the costumes are racist and apologized profusely. It'll be up to Canadian voters to decide on October 21 just how seriously they take these spectacular lapses of judgment and good taste. In the meantime, Signal readers can enjoy this video of Trudeau throwing himself down a flight of stairs.

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30: A U.S. drone strike aiming to hit an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan, killed at least 30 civilians. There are around 2,000 ISIS fighters in Afghanistan, but some have been known to switch alliances between different insurgent groups, according to the US military.

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