What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

Ukraine and Russia – In October, the Orthodox Christian Church patriarch in Istanbul announced he would recognize a new Ukrainian church that's independent of Russia. This news has triggered intense debate within the Ukrainian church and angered the Kremlin.


Tomorrow, Ukrainian religious leaders are set to hold a "unification assembly" to establish the new church and choose its leader. Watch for provocations, even confrontation, in coming days between Russia and Ukraine in breakaway regions of Ukraine and in the Black Sea.

A "Cyber-attack" on China – Despite encouraging signs of compromise in the US-China trade war, we're watching for a possible US escalation against suspected Chinese hacking after revelations of a massive Beijing-sponsored infiltration of the US hotel chain Marriott. In coming days, the US may claim China has violated the cyber-espionage agreement Chinese President Xi Jinping made with former president Barack Obama. That might lead to an indictment of hackers accused of working for Chinese security services, a significant escalation in the broader US-China standoff over cyber-security.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Russian Robots – During its coverage of a technology forum held each year to celebrate "future intellectual leaders of Russia," a Russian state television channel praised the highly modern design of "Robot Boris," which demonstrated a few interesting dance moves in front of a live audience and bragged that it "knows mathematics well." Turns out "Robot Boris" was a guy in a robot suit.

Chicken logs – On Thursday, US fast-food chain KFC announced the grand unveiling of the "KFC 11 Herbs and Spices firelog." Light this thing up, and it smells like fried chicken. Reaction in our office ranged from "Where can I get one?" to "That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard." Your Friday author considers this "firelog" an affront to human dignity, but I'm ignoring this debate because my time is better spent watching for fake robots and trying to figure out Brexit.

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