17 January 2019

Ukraine’s Crumbling Economy

By Ekaterina Zolotova

The country’s persistent economic strife is veering toward crisis.

Ukraine is in internal disarray. Driving the disarray is its deteriorating economic situation. While poor economic conditions predate the 2014 revolution, the subsequent Russia-backed insurgencies and annexation of Crimea exacerbated the underlying economic problems and forced Ukraine to attempt a rapid reorientation toward the West. Ukraine staved off potential disaster in December when the International Monetary Fund, as part of its four-year assistance program, approved a new $3.9 billion standby loan, $1.4 billion of which has been disbursed. (Ukrainian government debt is now approaching 70 percent of gross domestic product.) But the program is just a Band-Aid. This year will be a serious test for Ukraine, as millions of citizens – already hurting from the current conditions – will feel the pinch of economic reforms mandated by Ukraine’s creditors.

The Weaponization Of Artificial Intelligence


Introduction

Technological development has become a rat race. In the competition to lead the emerging technology race and the futuristic warfare battleground, artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming the center of global power play. As seen across many nations, the development in autonomous weapons system (AWS) is progressing rapidly, and this increase in the weaponization of artificial intelligence seems to have become a highly destabilizing development. It brings complex security challenges for not only each nation’s decision makers but also for the future of the humanity.

The reality today is that artificial intelligence is leading us toward a new algorithmic warfare battlefield that has no boundaries or borders, may or may not have humans involved, and will be impossible to understand and perhaps control across the human ecosystem in cyberspace, geospace and space (CGS). As a result, the very idea of the weaponization of artificial intelligence, where a weapon system that, once activated across CGS, can select and engage human and non-human targets without further intervention by a human designer or operator, is causing great fear.

Most of the world’s businesses are unprepared for grim reality of cyberattacks

by John Kennedy

How resilient are organisations to cyberattacks and other disruptive shocks? Not very.

The majority of firms around the world are unprepared for dealing with cyberattacks, a new PwC survey has revealed.

According to the Digital Trust Insights survey, just 39pc of executives are confident that they have sufficient cybersecurity controls and only 53pc practise proactive risk management of their digital transformation.

‘The importance of maintaining data integrity will only grow as companies make more data-driven decisions with the aid of artificial intelligence’
– WILL O’BRIEN

When it comes to the boardroom, only 27pc of executives say their boards are getting adequate metrics on cyber and privacy risk management. Only half of businesses across the world say they are building resilience to cyberattacks.

Cyberattack on Treasury bonds could be the missing ingredient for next economic crisis


Trust is the fuel that makes the global financial system work — yet thanks to sophisticated operations by foreign government hackers who are increasingly willing to target that system, the risk of deliberate systemic disruption has never been greater. Even worse, soaring sovereign debt accumulated by governments worldwide has created an especially weak link susceptible to attack.

A dramatic rise in borrowing, especially by governments, has set the stage for a cyberattack to cause disruption that could cascade throughout the global economy. According to reporting by Bloomberg, U.S. Government debt is near $22 trillion — 40 percent of GDP — up from $9 trillion in 2007. Global debt of all kinds now tops $247 trillion, a staggering 320 percent of global GDP. These greater levels of debt are linked to higher levels of systemic financial vulnerability, according to a study by Columbia University’s Project on Cyber Risk to Financial Stability.

Blockchain’s Occam problem


Blockchain has yet to become the game-changer some expected. A key to finding the value is to apply the technology only when it is the simplest solution available.

Blockchain over recent years has been extolled as a revolution in business technology. In the nine years since its launch, companies, regulators, and financial technologists have spent countless hours exploring its potential. The resulting innovations have started to reshape business processes, particularly in accounting and transactions.

Amid intense experimentation, industries from financial services to healthcare and the arts have identified more than 100 blockchain use cases. These range from new land registries, to KYC applications and smart contracts that enable actions from product processing to share trading. The most impressive results have seen blockchains used to store information, cut out intermediaries, and enable greater coordination between companies, for example in relation to data standards.

With China looming, intelligence community backs AI research

By: Justin Lynch 

The U.S. government wants to boost its artificial intelligence capabilities or risks being left behind by the private sector and China.

In the last two years, that’s meant new AI initiatives from the Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the intelligence community. Now, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is requesting information about research efforts on “cutting-edge machine learning techniques.” IARPA posted the formal request for information Dec. 4. The deadline for industry to submit information is Jan. 17.

“Of specific interest is the respondent’s knowledge of, and experience implementing, current, cutting-edge machine learning techniques,” the intelligence community’s research arm said. Respondents are required to have top secret clearances to work on the project, according to the IARPA listing.

Re-establishing U.S. Space Command is a great idea

Frank A. Rose

Last year, much of the U.S. national security space community’s attention was focused on the Trump administration’s proposal to create a sixth military service, the Space Force, which would be responsible for training and equipping military space forces. While most experts agree that the changes in the threat environment, especially Russia and China’s development of anti-satellite weapons, require the United States to think differently about how we operate in space, no consensus has emerged as to whether creating a Space Force is the right solution to the problem.

However, in a December 18, 2018 speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence announced that President Trump had signed an executive order establishing U.S. Space Command as the 11th combatant command in the U.S. military. Unlike the military services, which are responsible to training and equipping military forces, combatant commands provide command and control of military forces. Pence said that U.S. Space Command’s primary mission will be to “integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military. It will develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will enable our warfighters to defend our nation in this new era.” Establishing U.S. Space Command would be independent of a decision by Congress to create a Space Force.

5 Common FAFSA Mistakes


Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Dept. of Education, helps make a college education possible for every dedicated mind by providing more than $150 billion each year in grants, loans, & work-study funds. For more info, visit StudentAid.gov.

While you are focused on completing your college applications, don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA form! The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, and you should fill it out now if you plan to go to school between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020!

Just make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes:

1. Not Completing the FAFSA Form

We hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA form is too hard.” “It takes too long to complete.” “I’ll never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. For one, contrary to popular belief, there is no income “cut-off” when it comes to federal student aid. The FAFSA form is not just the application for “free money” such as the Federal Pell Grant, it’s also the application for Federal Work-Study funds and federal student loans. In addition, why would you say no to grants or scholarships from other organizations? Many states, schools, and scholarship organizations require a complete FAFSA form in order to provide aid to students. If you don’t complete the FAFSA form, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college.It doesn’t take too much time to complete, and now there’s the option to fill out the FAFSA form on your phone or tablet with the new myStudentAid mobile app!

Why the British army tested robots in muddy fields

By: Grant Turnbull 

Senior British army officers have signaled their intent to accelerate the fielding of several unmanned — and increasingly autonomous systems — following successful army trials at the end of 2018, but much like other forces around the world the United Kingdom faces challenges from how to modify archaic acquisition processes, to overcoming technical issues.

In December, the British army concluded its landmark experimentation exercise known as Autonomous Warrior, in which the service evaluated more than 50 unmanned systems from industry over a month-long period in the south of England.

16 January 2019

Japan’s Growing Strategic Footprint in South Asia

By Sarbhanu Nath

With attention focused on the rapid rise of China and its increasing influence in the South Asian neighborhood, it would be easy to overlook the increasingly engaged role that Japan is playing in the same region. The fact that Japan is taking notice of the changing geopolitical realities of the world is evidenced from the changes it is making in its defense outlook along with the economic engagement of Japan with major South Asian nations. Japan already has strong ties with India and is increasing its engagement with countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Japan enjoys a largely positive image in Bangladesh with millions of dollars of direct invest and hundreds of Japanese nationals residing in Bangladesh. The Matarbari deep sea port is being developed by a Japanese consortium and will ease the pressure on Chittagong port. The important geographical location of the port and rising economic potential of Bangladesh prompted Japan to invest in the operation, which is sure to yield long-term benefits. To date, Japan has been the largest donor to Bangladesh with almost $1.8 billion given in loan support in 2018.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: A PRECARIOUS YEAR FOR AFGHANISTAN

by Soraya Parwani

The United Nations Strategic Review of 2017 reclassified Afghanistan from a post-conflict state to an active conflict state. As we enter 2019, the conflict not only remains active, but rather it is worsening. In the past year, there have been an additional 550,000 civilians displaced and 3.3 million people pushed past emergency levels of food insecurity. Another 6.3 million people need some form of humanitarian and protection assistance. The battlefield has been less favorable to the Afghan forces who have already absorbed 46,000 casualties. Continuing into 2019, the weakening security situation, political stalemate, and tense ties between the United States and Afghanistan’s regional neighbors will act as stumbling blocks to any attempts to bring an end to the conflict.

On the Battlefield: the Taliban and the United States

Tailoring Expectations: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Scenarios in Afghanistan

Tamin Asey

From the very beginning the Afghan war has been about expectations management – why is the US there and what does it intend to achieve and what is the end state and a theory of victory? Nobody expected the United States and its NATO allies to turn Afghanistan into another Switzerland nor did the Afghans and international community foresee the prevailing political deadlock and military stalemate. Increasingly - the Afghan war has become a war of dignity for the US army and its NATO allies. A defeat in the hands of a few AK47 wielding ragtag force calling themselves, the Taliban, with safe havens across the border in Pakistan will only refresh the memories of Vietnam in the Pentagon and the broader security establishment in the United States. United States and its NATO allies cannot afford the stain of another Vietnam on their track record especially so when their Russian counterparts, albeit with questionable military tactics, are winning the war in Syria against a more complex enemy. 

Though, every liberating army becomes an occupation force after a short period of time in the eyes of local population especially in Afghanistan, if it does not deliver a bare minimum, on its originally stated mission objectives. The problem has been that the US and NATO forces kept jumping from one mission statement to another, from one NATO summit to another, promising consolidation of gains and defeating the Taliban and their terrorist allies to no avail. Every US four star General when assuming charge of the multinational forces in Afghanistan called for a mission review, tweaked a few things, presented a report to US Department of Defense asked for more resources and political support, assured NATO allies in various NATO forums of success around the corner but went out of the door leaving a more unstable Afghanistan behind. Here we are eighteen years later with a resurgent Taliban and US/NATO achievements not only not consolidated but more fragile than ever and the Afghan state weaker with an unusual President in the White House, a growing war fatigue in the west and a divided Washington over the fate of its military engagement in the country.

Russia and the Taliban: Talking With Terrorists

By Samuel Ramani

On December 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the Taliban’s interests should be taken into account in the Afghanistan peace negotiations, as the organization administers a large amount of Afghan territory. When probed further on this issue at his annual year-end press conference, Putin claimed that public negotiations between the United States and the Taliban were “probably inevitable,” and that Russia would support a peaceful resolution to the conflict that engages all major political forces in Afghanistan. 

In spite of this conciliatory rhetoric from Putin and Russia’s decision to host the Taliban at a multilateral forum in Moscow on November 9, 2018, Russia continues to officially label the Taliban a terrorist group. Russia’s decision to designate the Taliban as a terrorist organization was made in February 2003, after the Taliban endorsed Chechnya’s bid for independence and attempted to sell 500 heavy weapons to Chechen rebels via a Saudi charity, al-Haramain.

Lose-lose scenario for Europe from ongoing China-US negotiations

BY: ALICIA GARCÍA-HERRERO 

While there is no clear winner from the US-China trade tensions, the way in which the negotiations between the US and China are shaping up does not bode well for the European Union (EU). If China were finally to massively increase its imports from the US to buy back its future, it needs to substitute imports from other parts of the world, leaving missed opportunities borne by US allies, especially the European Union. Further, should China offer the concession that the US has requested in terms of banning import tariffs for some previously targeted sectors, this can only be another bad news for those sectors in Europe, except for the parts of the value chain that are produced in the US and exported to China. As such, we should expect a trade diversion away from Europe and in favour of the US.

Within this context, European exporters would find it hard to benefit from filling the gap left by either the American or Chinese exporters. As most of the benefits of a US-led trade war for Europe would have come from the Chinese market and not so much the US one due to the sectoral similarities of US and EU exports into China, the key European beneficiaries that were supposed to replace US exports: car manufacturers and aircraft producers (by substituting US exports into China in the event of higher tariffs) shift to be the losers in a quick deal between China and the US is reached.

U.S., China: Hints of Optimism Emerge From Trade Talks


A 90-day trade truce between China and the United States is scheduled to end March 1. Even if the two economic powers agree to extend the truce or settle their trade differences, the increasingly complex nature of their bilateral relations will remain. Washington will also continue its various offensives against Beijing by taking measures to restrict exports, protect core technologies and challenge China in Taiwan and the South China Sea.

What Happened

The ‘China shock’ has not been as bad as Donald Trump thinks


The ‘China shock’ has not been as bad as Donald Trump thinks Growth in service sector jobs belies the president’s vision of American ‘carnage’ GILLIAN TETT Add to myFT While so-called manufacturing jobs have shrivelled, this does not capture what has happened to 'manufacturing firms' © Bloomberg Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Save to myFT Gillian Tett JANUARY 10, 2019 Print this page90 If you were to ask most ordinary American voters what has happened to their country’s manufacturers in recent years, they might howl with horror or mutter about “carnage”. After all, Donald Trump swept to power alleging that Chinese competitors have “killed” American factories and jobs. Hence the simmering US-China trade war, and this week’s high-stake talks in Beijing. 

5 maps that explain China's strategy

George Friedman 

At the same time, aside from relatively minor forays into the South and East China Seas, China has avoided significant involvement in the troubles roiling in the rest of Eurasia.

There is a gap between what is generally expected of China and what China actually does. To understand what China's actual national strategy is, it is helpful to follow the logic inherent in the following five maps.

This post was originally written in January 2016.

How China hopes to play a leading role in developing next-generation nuclear reactors

Alice Shen

China is pushing ahead with ambitious plans for its nuclear industry, including developing cleaner and safer next-generation technology.

A particular focus is a plan to develop the world’s first large-scale thorium-powered, molten-salt reactors – which could generate less radioactive waste and help reduce the reliance on fossil fuels to reduce the world’s energy needs – by 2020.

The head of one of the country’s research programmes said Chinese researchers had mastered the technology in laboratories and now aimed to be the first in the world to make it commercially viable.

'If you enter a camp, you never come out': inside China's war on Islam

by Lily Kuo

The Luopu County No 1 Vocational Skills Training Centre is hard to miss. It emerges suddenly, a huge campus towering over hectares of farmland.

Outside the compound, surrounded by tall white concrete walls lined with barbed wire and surveillance cameras, a police car patrols while several guards carrying long batons stand watch. The centre, which straddles a highway, is bigger than most of the surrounding villages – about 170,000sq metres. A banner on one building says: “Safeguard ethnic unity.”

Half a dozen people stand on the roadside, staring at the buildings. No one is willing to say exactly what this prison-like facility is or why they are waiting on its perimeter. Images of Xinjiang, China, taken in December as part of a Guardian investigation into the mass detention of Uighur Muslims in China. Photograph: Lily Kuo for the Guardian

Keeping China–US cyber conflict off the cards

Author: Lyu Jinghua, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 

Cyber relations between China and the United States have always been an integral part of the bilateral relationship. As debate on whether the two countries are entering a new Cold War intensifies, similar concerns about their cyber relations are arising: are the two destined for rivalry in the cybersphere? If so, how can cyber conflict be prevented or limited? 

Despite some differences in cyberspace, convergent interests have generally been greater than divergent ones between the largest (China) and the most advanced (the United States) cyber powers. Both are tempting targets for malicious actors and vulnerable to destructive cyber attacks. So both have vested interests in fighting against cyber crimes, countering cyberterrorism and promoting cyber norms. These overlapping interests facilitated the successful completion and release of United Nations Group of Government Experts (UN GGE) consensus reports in 2013 and 2015. 

Data Sheet—8 Predictions for U.S.-China Economic Relations in 2019

By AARON PRESSMAN and CLAY CHANDLER

This is the web version of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

Rising tensions between the United States and China was one of the biggest stories of 2018. That rift promises to dominate global headlines again in 2019. Apple CEO Tim Cook cited it this week as one of the reason’s for Apple’s problems.

Herewith, eight predictions for relations between the world’s two largest economies in the coming year:

Trump and Xi will agree on a trade deal that forestalls further tariffs—but the accord will neither eliminate China’s trade surplus with the U.S. nor put an end to the trade war. The two sides are actively engaged in negotiating terms of a settlement. A final deal may well include substantial concessions from Beijing. Even so, the trade math hasn’t changed. There’s virtually no way China can buy enough American soybeans, jets, or natural gas to achieve Trump’s goal of reducing the Chinese surplus to zero. And it remains unlikely Beijing will commit to specific verifiable targets for measuring China’s performance in protecting U.S. intellectual property rights.

When Chinese hackers declared war on the rest of us

by James Griffiths

Late one Wednesday in March 2015, an alarm sounded in the offices of GitHub, a San Francisco–based software firm. The company’s offices exemplified the kind of Scandinavia-meets-soullessness style that has spread out from Silicon Valley to take over modern workplaces: exposed wood, open spaces, and lots of natural light. Most employees were preparing to leave, if they hadn’t already. Outside, the sun had started to set and it was balmy and clear.

Alarms weren’t uncommon at GitHub. The company claims to maintain the largest repository of computer code in the world. It had some 14 million users at the time, and prides itself on maintaining its service and staying online. GitHub’s core product is a set of editing tools that allow large numbers of programmers to collaborate on software and keep track of changes as bugs are fixed. In October 2018, Microsoft would buy it for $7.5 billion.

Will Xi Jinping Be China’s President For Life?


Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, made waves among Chinese academics and China-watchers in July with a published essay denouncing President Xi Jinping’s hard-line policies. The essay has been cited in numerous Western media outlets as a “rare rebuke” of Xi. 

The incident and other rumors of internal party dissent led Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute, to wonder whether Xi has “passed his peak.” The pushback among elites, which McGregor characterizes so far as “whisperings,” have mainly been concerned with the Mao-like cult of personality surrounding Xi, who has amassed power unseen in China since Mao Zedong.

The president of China may be finding, as Tom Mitchell wrote in the Financial Times, that “with absolute power has come absolute responsibility.”

China’s Perilous Taiwan Policy

MINXIN PEI

WASHINGTON, DC – The unfolding geopolitical contest between China and the United States has been described by many as a new cold war. If it ever becomes a hot one, the flash point could be Taiwan, owing in large part to Chinese policy toward the island. 

China’s government suspended diplomatic contact with Taiwan in June 2016, because the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which had just returned to power, refused to recognize the so-called 1992 Consensus, the political basis for the One China principle. Since then, however, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has pursued a moderate policy, disappointing hardline DPP supporters.

That is not good enough for China, which has continued to tighten the screws on Taiwan. For example, it persuaded five other countries to follow it in severing diplomatic ties, reducing the number of countries that maintain formal relations with the island to just 17. China has also taken steps to stifle tourism from the mainland: whereas nearly 4.2 million mainland-Chinese tourists visited Taiwan in 2015, when the pro-Beijing Kuomintang government was in power, the total fell to just 2.73 million in 2017.

How China could dominate science Should the world worry?


Today the country that the May Fourth students helped shape is more than ever consumed by the pursuit of national greatness. China’s landing of a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon on January 3rd, a first for any country, was a mark of its soaring ambition. But today’s leaders reject the idea that Mr Science belongs in the company of Mr Democracy. On the contrary, President Xi Jinping is counting on being able to harness leading-edge research even as the Communist Party tightens its stranglehold on politics. Amid the growing rivalry between China and America, many in the West fear that he will succeed.

There is no doubting Mr Xi’s determination. Modern science depends on money, institutions and oodles of brainpower. Partly because its government can marshal all three, China is hurtling up the rankings of scientific achievement, as our investigations show (see article). It has spent many billions of dollars on machines to detect dark matter and neutrinos, and on institutes galore that delve into everything from genomics and quantum communications to renewable energy and advanced materials. An analysis of 17.2m papers in 2013-18, by Nikkei, a Japanese publisher, and Elsevier, a scientific publisher, found that more came from China than from any other country in 23 of the 30 busiest fields, such as sodium-ion batteries and neuron-activation analysis. The quality of American research has remained higher, but China has been catching up, accounting for 11% of the most influential papers in 2014-16.

Eye on China: 'Complex & Grave' Times

1. Political & Ideological Work

The Standing Committee of the Politburo held a meeting on Monday to examine to a series of work reports. The process of the PSC reviewing work reports from this wide a range of actors began in 2015. The statement issued after the meeting provides a glimpse into the leadership’s thought process. It described the international situation as “complex and grave” and called on “leading Party members’ groups” within key bodies like the NPC, CPPCC, SPC and SPC to “closely follow the CPC Central Committee with Xi at the core in terms of thinking, political orientation and action."

A few other noteworthy points from the statement were the emphasis on party discipline, the eight-point decision on improving Party and government conduct and “fighting against any practice of formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism.” My purpose in emphasising these isn’t to state that this is unusual. Rather, it’s a reminder that translating central policy into local action continues to remain a challenge.

U.S. Withdrawal From Syria So Far Is Only Equipment, American Official Says

 by Philip Issa and Zeina Karam 

A U.S. defense official says no American troops have withdrawn yet from Syria, but some military cargo has been pulled out.

The official said the movement of equipment is part of what the military calls the start of a deliberate withdrawal from Syria, where about 2,000 troops have been working with a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State group.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not yet been publicly announced.

The official provided no numbers, but said the equipment withdrawal is under way and that an unspecified number of additional U.S. troops have been brought into Syria to assist with the withdrawal process. These include troops to provide additional security.

This is a clarification after news reports early Friday that the U.S. has begun a “deliberate withdrawal” from Syria…

Why Banks in Morocco Are Spreading the Wealth Around Africa-


Moroccan banks' expansion across Africa will allow Moroccan businesses to invest and integrate better into the continent, gaining lucrative market access. Morocco's economic integration with African countries — including current negotiations for a free trade agreement — will, in turn, attract foreign manufacturers to increase investments in Morocco. Morocco will need to address its high level of domestic unemployment to ensure stability.

A new source of foreign direct investment is emerging in many sub-Saharan African nations: the kingdom of Morocco, situated right on the continent itself. Owing in part to quick and decisive reforms in 2011, Morocco largely avoided the Arab Spring turbulence that shook other parts of the Arab world in North Africa and the Middle East. And in recent years, solid growth in the manufacturing, tourism and energy sectors, as well as a rapidly expanding financial sector, has fueled the development of a very strong Moroccan economy. As long-dominant European banks gradually disappear from Africa, Morocco is using its newfound financial muscle to project power across the continent in the hopes of becoming a wealthier and more internationally influential country, but it still needs to address problems at home if it wants to remain one of the most stable states in Africa.

Phil Walter's Five Rules for Counterinsurgency from a U.S. Perspective


On December 19, 2018, United States President Donald Trump ordered the withdraw of U.S. military personnel from Syria[1]. On December 21, 2018, Trump also ordered the withdraw of approximately half of the 14,000 military personnel currently deployed to Afghanistan[2]. The optimist in me hopes that Trump's decisions mark the beginning of the end of 17 years of wars that pursued unachievable political objectives, were conducted in a manner counter to the U.S. preference for and competency in state-on-state warfare, and were an unjust[3] expenditure of lives and treasure. The pessimist in me wonders if Trump will follow through on these decisions.

As I am prone to do, and in order to be as useful to the reader as possible, I have distilled all my thoughts related to counterinsurgency in the five rules below. Please note that these are not guidlines, not principles, but rules[4]. As such, adherence to these rules is not optional, unless you desire to fail. My greatest hope is that the U.S. does not engage in counterinsurgency ever again and thus my five rules are never needed. My long experience tells me that the U.S. will absolutely engage in counterinsurgency again and I hope my five rules below can be of value whenever that time comes. 

Weighing the Wrath of the Referendums

By Reva Goujon


Referendums are a compelling tool to engage the public when it has lost faith in the ability of political institutions to uphold a social contract. It is little wonder, then, that referendums have seen a resurgence alongside the rise of populism in parts of the world. 

Referendums come with considerable risk: Power-hungry leaders can use them to consolidate their authority while well-intentioned democratic leaders can see their moves spectacularly backfire when nuance is lost in popular debate.

Even as the chaos of Brexit is seen as a cautionary tale, a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice may have the effect of encouraging more referendums by EU states looking to bargain on matters of national sovereignty.

The Future Can Be Shaped with Evidence-Based Dialog


I always enjoy visiting the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), and most recently read “Entering 2019: Challenges and Opportunities,” by President Igor Ivanov of RIAC, himself also former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004). I agree with everything he writes, particularly the incapacity of the United Nations “system,” the importance of national sovereignty as a building block for peace, and the lack of any sustainable foundation for global management.

What he does not do, perhaps deliberately given that President Vladimir Putin is now and will always be the senior intelligence officer in Russia, is address the fundamental fact that it is the failure of intelligence in the USA and Russia particularly, in China and Iran with confidence, and in Western Europe with malice aforethought – there intelligence is about chaos and false flag operations and facilitating the smuggling of drugs, guns, gold, cash and migrants including small children, all for profit by the few – that has left the ships of state adrift at sea and often high on the rocks, their keels broken.

Bolsonaro Could Realize His Critics’ Worst Fears—and His Supporters’ High Hopes

Frida Ghitis 

The new year marked the beginning of a new era for Latin America’s largest country. Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right winner of Brazil’s presidential election, assumed office amid a remarkable swirl of contrasting expectations. While the former army captain’s incendiary declarations during the election campaign last fall sparked fears among millions of Brazilians and others abroad, a less noticed phenomenon took shape in the weeks leading up to his inauguration on Jan. 1: Brazilians, by large majorities, are optimistic about his tenure.

In two surveys last month, Brazilian pollsters found that a stunning 75 percent of respondents approved of Bolsonaro, and two-thirds expected the new administration to bring about a turnaround in Brazil’s economic fortunes. That is notable, and a bit of a head-scratcher, considering that for years the most popular politician in the country has been former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a leftist leader who made his name as a union organizer and a campaigner for social justice, essentially embracing policies that Bolsonaro diametrically opposes.

How to Stop a Democratic Free Fall When Populists Are in Power

Joshua Kurlantzick

Since the mid-2000s, democracy has regressed in nearly every part of the world. The global monitoring organization Freedom House has recorded declines in global freedom for 12 years in a row. In Thailand, Bangladesh and Turkey, democracies have all but collapsed. Countries where democracy seemed to be making gains in the early 2010s, like Myanmar and Cambodia, have slid backwards, with Cambodia reverting to one-party rule. Some states where democracy was believed to be well-rooted, such as Poland and the Philippines, have regressed under populists with authoritarian tendencies. Their democracies have not fully collapsed but are in grave danger, as leaders pack courts, jettison judges and threaten the media.

In a recent article for The Washington Post, I outlined how hard it will be for these countries to rebuild free political systems. As a recent study by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change found, elected populists tend to hold office, on average, more than twice as long as elected non-populist leaders, giving them considerable time to undermine democracy. The same study found that some populist leaders often expand executive power dramatically and foster widespread corruption.

The Yellow Vests and French State Security

By Ronald Tiersky

During last Saturday’s Yellow Vest protests in Paris, a group of toughs used a hijacked construction vehicle to break into the courtyard of the building where the government spokesman has his office. Benjamin Griveaux, the spokesman, was hustled out amid the threat of violence. The incident shocked people across France. The Gilets Jaunes protests that have attracted wide supportthroughout the country seemed this time to have crossed a line. 

Officials including President Emmanuel Macron denounced the violence as “an assault on the Republic,” an overused cliché that needlessly dramatizestensions. Still, a prominent Yellow Vest leader a few months ago did raise the idea of trying to break into the Elysée Palace.

This latest twist in the Yellow Vest plot made me think of a conversation I had in the Elysée some 30 years ago, when I was writing a book on President Francois Mitterrand. I was interviewing Hubert Vedrine, at the time Mitterrand’s chief of staff.

CES 2019: A Visual Anthology


The premier conference of the consumer electronics industry, CES provides some of the world's largest firms with a chance to debut new products and showcase conceptual and experimental products on the bleeding edge. More than 50 years after its founding, the event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show brings thousands of people to Las Vegas each year. Chinese and U.S. companies are increasingly competing in the realm of consumer electronics, but many European countries are becoming concerned about the privacy implications that new technologies present. As technology continues to advance and open up new possibilities, the implications for security, transport, privacy and banking are shaping and are being shaped by the world of geopolitics.

How Google Tracks Your Personal Information

Patrick Berlinquette

When lazy journalists are pessimistic about Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, they say stuff like: “Even Orwell couldn’t have predicted that we’d willingly bring Big Brother into our own homes.”

What they fail to mention is our willingness to exchange privacy for convenience didn’t start with the advent of virtual assistants. It started in the early 2000s, when people—in return for having access to Google products and seeing more relevant ads—allowed Google to have all their data.

Today, Google provides marketers like me with so much of your personal data that we can infer more about you from it than from any camera or microphone.

There have never been more opportunities for marketers like me to exploit your data. Today, 40,000 Google search queries are conducted every second. That’s 3.5 billion searches per day, 1.2 trillion searches per year.

Top 10 AI Startups to Watch in 2018

Dominic Stapleton

From redefining talent management by evaluating job candidates on innate and emerging strengths by removing conscious and unconscious biases from hiring decisions as eightfold.ai does today to providing a self-service AI platform that is always learning from analytics as Anodot does, machine learning startups are fascinating to track. International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that spending on AI and ML will grow from $12B in 2017 to $57.6B by 2021, attaining a 48% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). Please see the latest roundup of machine learning forecasts and market estimates, 2018 for more market data on machine learning’s exponential growth.

“AI will be a true differentiator for companies in the future. The companies that have mastered it will take off, those who haven’t will dwindle (just like companies choosing to embrace software and the internet early on),” Scott Stephenson, founder and CEO of Deepgram, an automatic speech recognition company, told Crunchbase News in an email.

Deepfakes and the New Disinformation War

By Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there is nothing that persuades quite like an audio or video recording of an event. At a time when partisans can barely agree on facts, such persuasiveness might seem as if it could bring a welcome clarity. Audio and video recordings allow people to become firsthand witnesses of an event, sparing them the need to decide whether to trust someone else’s account of it. And thanks to smartphones, which make it easy to capture audio and video content, and social media platforms, which allow that content to be shared and consumed, people today can rely on their own eyes and ears to an unprecedented degree.

Therein lies a great danger. Imagine a video depicting the Israeli prime minister in private conversation with a colleague, seemingly revealing a plan to carry out a series of political assassinations in Tehran. Or an audio clip of Iranian officials planning a covert operation to kill Sunni leaders in a particular province of Iraq. Or a video showing an American general in Afghanistan burning a Koran. In a world already primed for violence, such recordings would have a powerful potential for incitement. Now imagine that these recordings could be faked using tools available to almost anyone with a laptop and access to the Internet—and that the resulting fakes are so convincing that they are impossible to distinguish from the real thing.

How artificial intelligence will affect the future of energy and climate

Elizabeth Sablich

This report is part of "A Blueprint for the Future of AI," a series from the Brookings Institution that analyzes the new challenges and potential policy solutions introduced by artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

In a 2017 article for Foreign Affairs, Kassia Yanosek and I advanced the hypothesis that the biggest impacts of the information technology (IT) revolution may be felt far outside IT—in the traditional industries of oil, gas, and electricity.[1] That’s because IT was transforming how those industries function. That logic of transformation may be especially profound when looking at a subset of the IT revolution: artificial intelligence (AI).

Other essays in this series explain what’s happening with AI and why it is such an important technical revolution.[2] In this essay, I’ll look at how AI might be affecting the supply and demand for energy and the implications of AI for how modern society uses energy: climate change. In a nutshell, the message is that AI helps make markets more efficient and easier for analysts and market participants to understand highly complex phenomena—from the behavior of electrical power grids to climate change.