What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

What We're Watching

US threatening Germany over Chinese 5G – The Trump administration is willing to cut intelligence-sharing with Germany unless Berlin bans Chinese equipment maker Huawei from its 5G networks. Washington is pressuring Europe more broadly to drop Chinese 5G suppliers over concerns they could give Beijing backdoor access to sensitive communications, data, and networks. Germany is crafting new regulations meant to address these concerns, but it won't impose a blanket ban that could anger China and push up the cost of building the new network. We're watching two things here: first, are those new German rules enough for the Trump administration? Second, will Trump's own (somewhat fickle) approach towards Chinese 5G suppliers (like Huawei) turn out to be as harsh as what he's asking of Europe?

Foreign effects of Trump's new budget – President Trump on Monday submitted his budget proposal for 2020 to Congress. Much of the media has focused on his request for $8.6 billion to build a border wall, which will spark a fresh confrontation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But our eyes are on the nearly 5 percent increase in military spending and sharp cuts to the budgets of the State Department and the US Agency for International Development. Trump will emphasize hard power over soft, and he'll use deep cuts to federal health insurance, the federal pension system, and other social programs to pay for it. The Trump budget doesn't matter much, since Congress controls spending, but it's a good indicator of the president's policy priorities.

What We're Ignoring

North Korea's Parliamentary Elections – The North Korean ruling party has won a stunning landslide victory in the country's latest parliamentary elections, a sign the North Korean people are thrilled with the job their leaders are doing. One noteworthy surprise: Kim Jong-un's name was not on the ballot. It's the first time a North Korean leader has not sought a seat in parliament. We're ignoring this story, because our intuition tells us that Kim's political position remains reasonably strong.

Mayors vs Google – Two mayors in Iceland insist that the Google Maps satellite images of their towns are hurting tourism by showing them covered in snow. "This snowbound image gets on my nerves," one of them told reporters. "I'll post a comment a day, until I get through to them." We're guessing these requests remain fairly low on Google's current to-do list. After all, the company is still – after five years – sorting out whether to show Crimea as part of Russia or Ukraine.

Last week, in Fulton, WI, together with election officials from the state of Wisconsin and the election technology company VotingWorks, Microsoft piloted ElectionGuard in an actual election for the first time.

As voters in Fulton cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, the official count was tallied using paper ballots as usual. However, ElectionGuard also provided an encrypted digital tally of the vote that enabled voters to confirm their votes have been counted and not altered. The pilot is one step in a deliberate and careful process to get ElectionGuard right before it's used more broadly across the country.

Read more about the process at Microsoft On The Issues.

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its "technological sovereignty" by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.

More

Communal violence in Delhi: Over the past few days, India's capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades. This week's surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India's Muslims and the law's Hindu nationalist defenders. Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday. We're watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government responds – Delhi's police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.

More

Ian Bremmer's perspective on what's happening in geopolitics:

What are the takeaways from President Trump's visit to India?

No trade deal, in part because Modi is less popular and he's less willing to focus on economic liberalization. It's about nationalism right now. Hard to get that done. But the India US defense relationship continues to get more robust. In part, those are concerns about China and Russia.

More

27,000: The Emir of Qatar has decreed a $27,000 fine and up to five years in prison for anyone who publishes, posts, or repost content that aims to "harm the national interest" or "stir up public opinion." No word on whether the Doha-based Al-Jazeera network, long a ferocious and incisive critic of other Arab governments, will be held to the same standard.

More