What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Japan vs South Korea – On December 20, a Japanese military plane encountered a South Korean destroyer in the waters between the two countries. Japan says the South Korean ship locked onto its plane with missile-targeting radar. South Korea says the Japanese plane was flying dangerously low and the radar "was not intended to trace any Japanese-controlled aircraft." Both governments can score political points at home by escalating the war of words, and as he prepares for another summit with President Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un can be happy to see two US allies fighting with one another.

Strikes in Mexico – A faction of the national teachers' union is now blocking railroad lines in one state while manufacturing workers are on strike in another. Work stoppages and protests may well become a new sign of the times in Mexico, because many union leaders believe new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be sympathetic to their demands. If one group scores significant concessions, other unions will face pressure from members to use the same tactics. That can boost wages for underpaid workers, but there are also reports of shortages of food staples as a result of railroad blockades.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Fear of Dogs in Tehran – It is now illegal for residents of Iran's capital to walk dogs or to "drive them around" in automobiles. The city's police chief explained that dogs create "fear and anxiety" among members of the public. Iranian authorities say that dogs are unclean and a menace. But they also consider dog ownership an imitation of Western lifestyles, and that may be the true source of their fear and anxiety.

Complaints about Russian Post Office Beer – To boost the profitability of its postal service in remote areas, Russia now permits post offices to sell beer. Some customers have complained that beer sales undermine the dignity of the Russian Post, but we suspect the Russian thirst for beer will ensure this plan works. Officials also say they hope to help Russians find high-quality beer in places where citizens risk alcohol poisoning from alternative low-quality alcoholic products.

Ferrera Erbognone, a small town in the northern Italian province of Pavia, is home to one of the most cutting-edge computing centers in the world: Eni's Green Data Center. All of the geophysical and seismic prospecting data Eni produces from all over the world ends up here. Now, the Green Data Center is welcoming a new supercomputing system: HPC5, an advanced version of the already powerful HPC4. Due to be completed by early 2020, HPC5 will triple the Green Data Center's computing power, from 18.6 to 52 petaflops, equivalent to 52 million billion mathematical operations per second.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

This week, the process of impeaching President Trump entered the critical phase as the House of Representatives held its first public hearings. The battle lines are now drawn.

The Democrats say that there is compelling evidence that Trump withheld badly needed military to aid to an ally at war to pressure that country's government to provide him with personal political benefit by helping him discredit a political rival.

The Republicans say that the evidence comes mainly from witnesses with little or no direct contact with the president, and that the military aid was delivered to Ukraine without the Ukrainian president taking the actions Trump is alleged to have demanded.

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The fight for the Nile: In recent days, the Trump administration has tried to mediate three-way talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on their long-running dispute to access the waters of the Nile. In short, a 1929 treaty gave Egypt and Sudan rights to nearly all Nile waters and the right to veto any attempt by upstream countries to claim a greater share. But in 2011, Ethiopia began work on the so-called Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile tributary from where 85 percent of the Nile's waters flow. The project, due for completion next year, will be Africa's largest hydroelectric power plant. Egypt, which draws 85 percent of its water from the Nile, has made threats that raised fears of military action. We're watching as this conflict finally comes to a head early next year.

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13: More than 13 percent of US adults, 34 million people, report having a friend or family member who has died in the past five years because they couldn't afford medical treatment, according to a new Gallup poll. Polls show that voters consider healthcare a high-priority issue in next year's US elections.

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What were the reasons behind the rise of the Vox Party in the Spanish general election?

I think it was basically the question of Catalonia, the unity of the Spanish nations. And VOX played very hard on that particular issue and it was eating into the support of the other center-right forces there. So, it has now established itself fairly firmly on the Spanish political scene with the consequences that that will have.

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