What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

The Brexit War of Words – The French and Italians aren't the only ones trading verbal jabs in Europe this week. After European Council President Donald Tusk speculated publicly on a "special place in Hell" for Brexit supporters who lack "even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely," Brexit-backer Sammy Wilson of Northern Ireland attacked Tusk as a "devilish, trident wielding, euro maniac." This is good stuff. We're big fans of hilariously creative insults.

Judgment Day in Kuala Lumpur – Judgment Day is nearly here for Najib Razak. On February 12, the former Malaysian prime minister's corruption trial is scheduled to begin in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysians are expecting to hear prosecutors explain how Najib amassed multiple homes and sacks of cash, jewelry, and other luxury items, as well as $681 million in his private bank account. Has Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia's most dynamic economies, really turned a corner on corruption? We'll be watching for the verdict.

Japan's Elderly Crime Wave – In 1997, about 5 percent of crimes in Japan were committed by people over the age of 65. By 2017, the percentage had risen to 20. Why? Some say Japan's pension system isn't generous enough and that the elderly are choosing prison, where they're guaranteed three meals a day, over poverty. Others add that many older Japanese would rather live within a prison community than isolated and lonely on the outside. Whatever the cause, this is a problem worth studying in all countries with fast-expanding populations of pensioners.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Shaolin Sheep – Can sheep do Kung Fu? See for yourself. Your Friday author is ignoring the threat posed by flying sheep, because he would never do anything to get a sheep this mad.

Russian Witches – Forget the "witch hunt" in Washington. The Signal team has located the real thing in Moscow. On Tuesday, a group of self-described Russian witches gathered in the Russian capital for a "circle of power" intended to strengthen Vladimir Putin and return his enemies to the abyss. They wore black robes and chanted things like "Come up with the greatness, power of Russia, direct the way of Vladimir Putin right and correctly." We're ignoring this hocus pocus, because we're frankly even less worried by this than by sheep who do Kung Fu.

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And go deeper on topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence at Microsoft on The Issues.

Last weekend, world leaders, security experts, and business executives flocked to the Hotel Bayrischer Hof in Munich for the 55th annual Munich Security Conference. What's the Munich Security Conference? Think of it a bit like Davos, but with policymakers in dark suits rather than billionaires in Gore-Tex.

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Speaking of trans-Atlantic rifts, we've written previously about the US pushback against Huawei, arguably the world's most geopolitically significant technology company. The Trump administration has been trying to convinceits European allies to ban the Chinese tech giant from their next-generation 5G information networks, citing national security risks. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even warned of consequences for countries that don't toe Washington's line on the issue.

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Over the past 20 years, hundreds of millions of people in China have been pulled out of poverty by their country's staggering economic growth. Beijing today is a rising power on the global stage. That's all pretty great, and yet the country still ranks beneath war-torn Libya and perpetually melancholy Russia in the United Nations World Happiness Report. This week's Economist hazards a guess about what really makes people smile or scowl, but here's how China stacks up for joy against other countries.