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Tech’s Total War — Corona Cancel Culture — The Young and The Westless

The world doesn’t fit in a template, so with Global Translations I’ll try to deliberately change it up each week to best serve you. This week, we’ve seen a record high of 65 degrees in Antarctica (and possibly aliens contacting Canada). The world is supposed to be diversifying but female CEOs keep getting turfed. But…

The world doesn’t fit in a template, so with Global Translations I’ll try to deliberately change it up each week to best serve you.

This week, we’ve seen a record high of 65 degrees in Antarctica (and possibly aliens contacting Canada). The world is supposed to be diversifying but female CEOs keep getting turfed. But cheer up! You aren’t fighting a trillion locusts as Ugandans are, and I’ve got this video for you proving that cartoon ricochet sounds are real.

Global word of the week: Bombogenesis

Don’t forget to check this week’s Sustainability Spotlight for S&P Global CEO Doug Peterson’s insights on the market’s voracious climate data appetite, Laurence Tubiana, the French diplomat and climate activist who drafted the Paris climate deal and Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, who discussed the need for mixed-income communities.

MESS IN CHINA

THE LIMITS OF GLOBALIZATION: With Chinese industry remaining largely shuttered, I sat down Thursday morning with Doug Paterson, CEO of the ratings agency S&P Global to quantify the impact on the global economy. If anyone knows, it would be him and his team: Paterson’s a data guy deep into China (“We’ve had 1600 meetings!”) via a local ratings agency he bought. Paterson started confident, noting S&P’s Asia-based economists predict Chinese GDP growth will drop to 5 percent in 2020, and that the impact should be contained. There was even light humor around this month’s work-around for companies operating in China: the “world’s biggest remote working experiment.” But when I asked him why S&P doesn’t have more scenarios mapped out, he said it’s because they can’t yet: “There’s a lot of caveats. We don’t have certainty about the data,” Paterson said, stressing “we’re not epidemiologists.” He’s canceled his own next trip to China, and that’s a good summary of Coronavirus right now.

Known unknowns: Incomplete Chinese data; flaws in a key medical test; lack of global antibody data; and the virus incubation period (now re-estimated to be 24 days). There are also limits to how many people can be tested daily, while sick Chinese are either being turned away from hospitals or prevented from buying cold and flu medicines. With citizen journalists disappearing also, this could go anywhere.

CANCEL CULTURE COMES TO CORONA — HUGE GLOBAL CONGRESS IMPLODES: They tried banning people from Wubei, then quarantining Chinese delegates, then banning handshakes. In the end, organizers of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona gave up. Anyone who’s previously attended MWC has visceral memories of its massive scale and crammed exhibition spaces: great for infections. With all the world’s biggest tech and telecom companies either withdrawing or actively considering it, a 100,000 person congress imploded — taking down the world’s 5G launchpad and the best chance small companies and start-ups have each year to sell their wares and ideas to the big players. When one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors, with only small and indirect China links, can be hit like this, recession alarm bells should be ringing.

Recession tea leaves: Outside China, S&P’s chief economist Beth-Ann Bovino believes U.S. economic growth will halve to 1 percent in Q1 2020 (also due to Boeing’s massive production hit). If that hits slow-growth Europe, the continent could easily tip into recession by July. The EU is still insisting it doesn’t need to revise down its 2020 growth forecasts, and like many organizations is banking on the virus being under control by March. The World Health Organization now says it is “way too early” to predict when infections might peak (it could be as late as June). Any later than April and the economic effects will be global and severe because China provides one-third of total global growth and is the lynchpin in its biggest supply chains.

NEVER WASTE A GOOD CRISIS: China is deploying an array of contactless systems, such as giant robot disinfecters, drones for food and drug deliveries, and even the 3D printing of hospital isolation rooms.

KEEP ABREAST: #COVID19 is the tag experts are using online. The Lancet has a Coronavirus resource center. Capital Economics has the best daily economic charts and South China Morning Post has great maps. Also note: there’s a major gender gap (men are three times as likely to die) but the good news is mothers are not passing the virus on during pregnancy.

Germophobe U.S. President is set to travel to India Feb. 24. Since germophobes don’t like risk — Michael Crowley has more — don’t be surprised if that changes.

THE YOUNG AND THE WESTLESS

MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE PREVIEW: Expect a weird vibe when Munich hosts 135 leaders and ministers this weekend. POLITICO has six reporters on the ground and organizers are touting the attendance of the foreign ministers of China, Japan, India and South Korea, while also pushing the theme “Westlessness.” Conference supremo Wolfgang Ischinger says it’s not European navel-gazing but the “widespread feeling of uneasiness and restlessness in the face of increasing uncertainty about the enduring purpose of the West.” Read the conference report.

World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will be in Munich defending his organization’s fluffing of President Xi’s ego and slow response to Coronavirus. Speakers include Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, and Nancy Pelosi, but we’re watching Mark Zuckerberg, who comes off these days as a monarch with a hearing problem, and a Saturday panel with Sergey Lavrov (back from Latin America) and Mike Pompeo (en route to the Middle East and Africa). POLITICO has details of Zuckerberg’s speech here.

Germany’s cybersecurity chief struck a pessimistic tone at a pre-Munich cyber conference : “If you talk about digital sovereignty, we don’t have it. And we’ll never have it,” Arne Schönbohm said. Matthew Karnitschnig explains how Europe’s planned geopolitical year has fallen apart in just five weeks.

Corridor talk: Watch for movement on the Three Seas Initiative (a pro-American infrastructure plan) and lots of huffing about Chinese spying (see Huawei and U.S. indictment of four Chinese military officials over the Equifax hack). Germany itself has an “immiment” decision coming on who can build its 5G networks. The battle is between a diminshed Angela Merkel, who is dovish on Huawei, and her party’s ascendent hawks.

TECH-TOCK, TECH-TOCK

GEOTECH — ZUCKERBERG’S BRUSSELS FAUX PAS: The Facebook CEO will be at EU HQ Monday repeating the errors of a litany of American CEOs (Jack Welch, Steve Ballmer and Tim Cook, among them): meeting with European Commissioners at one minute to midnight before they issue a big policy or decision. In this case, data and AI regulation plans on February 19 (read the AI plan obtained by POLITICO here). It’s a mistake because Europe’s commissioners make their decisions at the end of years-long processes based on mountains of data. They want early cooperative input, not last minute-meetings. Expect Zuckerberg’s meetings to be filled with complaints about Facebook’s tax payments, it’s low investment in partial fact-checking and its back-tracking on a promise not to merge WhatsApp and Facebook data.

BEYOND ZUCKERBERG, THE TECHLASH WAGONS ARE CIRCLING: It’s not just Facebook, and not just in the EU: Tech companies are slowly losing battles with authorities on multiple fronts. On tax: U.S. Internal Revenue Service is taking Facebook to court next week seeking $9 billion in back payments since 2008 (after it moved its base to Ireland). On antitrust: Judge Colm Mac Eochaidh of the EU General Court told Google on Thursday he saw the company’s favoritism of its own shopping service as the equivalent of the company landing on “Go to jail” on the Monopoly game board. A final ruling is pending. On content: the U.K. government proposes that social media companies would face hefty fines and their employees may be criminally prosecuted for failing to combat online illegal content, mirroring actions proposed by Australia in December.

Dutch judges this week stopped the Dutch government using AI to detect welfare fraud because they deemed it a human rights violation. A system called “SyRI” (System Risk Indicator) is banned because it compiled and analyzed 17 different categories of government data to identify people it deems likely to commit benefit fraud, instead of working on actual evidence. The next target for legal activists is Austria, where a computer system is ranking jobseekers in three different categories based on their likelihood of finding a job.

Watch out EU: Trump seeks Europe’s antitrust crown: The White House wants a 71 percent increase in funding for the Department of Justice’s antitrust team, and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission changing how it is looking at tech mergers. The point is to significantly increase pressure on the biggest tech companies. Instead of looking for individual smoking guns, it’s now taking the view that the last 10 years of tech mergers have been a bonfire of gunpowder.

Bright spot: Bloomberg ❤️Tech: Democratic presidential nominee Mike Bloomberg’s campaign asked hundreds of tech leaders on a private conference call to refer their most talented tech colleagues and friends to its operations in New York, while Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison will host a Trump fundraiser Feb. 19.

WINNERS AND LOSERS OF GLOBAL DIGITAL TAX: The OECD says a global digital tax deal would rake in up to $100 billion annually, in its preliminary calculations. The biggest cash losers of would be so-called investment hubs (which facilitate tax minimization) such as Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. More than half of the tax receipts would come from 100 large multinational companies.

INEQUALITY — WHY PARASITE MATTERS: We all see something of ourselves in Bong Joon-ho’s multiple Oscar-winning film Parasite. The director calls this his “stairway” film, a take on classic upstairs-downstairs stories. The film transcends language and geographic barriers by illuminating the tenuous lives and aspirations of both the winner and loser families in the film. Inequality and deception are both eviscerated, “showing you the terrible, explosive weight of reality,” the director told Vulture. Watch it now, if you haven’t already.

POWER PLAYS AND ELECTIONS

GERMANY — MERKEL’S JOB AND COUNTRY’S DIRECTION UP FOR GRABS, AGAIN. More on How Angela Merkel Blew It.

INCREDIBLE SHRINKING PALESTINE: While 94 percent of Palestinians oppose the Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, no country was willing to put forward a pro-Palestinian resolution at the U.N., usually a hotbed of anti-Israel views. Some claim the plan will deliver a permanent Israeli apartheid rule over Palestinians, but the other power play here is that the Trump team is exploiting Palestine’s unwillingness to leave old plans and methods behind. Palestine is sidelined as a result.

TRUMP GIVES A DAM ABOUT AFRICA: Ethiopia is close to opening the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam — Africa’s largest. Egypt is furious because for millenia it reaped the benefits of the Nile, and now it will be beholden to Ethiopia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Ethiopia next week to get Ethiopia’s signature on a draft water rights deal the Trump administration has brokered (Trump’s own Nobel Peace Prize power play).

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADER JAILED: U.S. Senators and Representatives have urged the government to stop politicized investigations, yet a Georgian court has sentenced opposition leader Gigi Ugulava to a three-year prison term for misusing public funds. Paul Stronski, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Georgian officials think that with Trump disengaged, “there will be no repercussions from senior administration officials.”

THIS WEEK’S FULL SUSTAINABILITY SPOTLIGHT IS HERE.

BP REALITY CHECK: European oil giant BP promised this week to go carbon neutral by 2050, joining Shell, Repsol and Equinor in including end-user emissions in calculating its carbon footprint and related targets. That sets them apart from America’s less ambitious oil majors, but there’s little love coming from skeptical scientific and climate communities. BP first branded itself as “Beyond Petroleum” in 2000, then gave us the Gulf oil spill and divested from a chunk of its renewable investments. This week’s announcement came without explanation of how BP will meet its targets, which are set for 2050 when virtually every current employee will be long gone. 2020’s golden rule: there are no free passes left for climate offenders.

LEFT HAND, RIGHT HAND: Which sustainability advocates thought it was a good idea to fly two individually wrapped cookies from Europe to Washington to thank your author for joining one of their recent events? In addition to winging their way to DC, the cookies arrived in five layers of plastic and paper packaging, and came with a card promising to the “plant 10 trees” in my honor.

AFRICAN UNION EXPLAINED … As African leaders exit their latest summit, there are many unanswered questions so here’s a look at what the African Union does the other 51 weeks of the year. The AU has big goals (a set of targets called Agenda 2063 resembles the EU in shape and scale, ranging from high-speed train to outer space goals). In integration terms the AU is roughly where the EU was in the early 1970s. What Africa needs most of all is jobs: given it has the world’s youngest population and its highest youth unemployment rate. The median age is just 20 and the World Bank says more than 300 million new jobs are needed by 2050.

AU priorities in 2020: African Single Market (known as Continental Free Trade Area), Joint counterterrorism capabilities (which is code for French troops unwelcome) in the conflict-ridden Sahel region, and “Silencing the Guns”.

Who are the AU big guns: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia and Angola.

The boss: Former Chad Prime Minister Moussa Faki is chairperson of the AU. He wants to be Africa’s Jacque Delors: the one who makes the AU a formidable political power player.

The promoter: Amira El Fadill, of Sudan, is the AU’s commissioner for social affairs and pushes for the free flow of people, goods and services across borders.

The brains: Hadiza Mustapha, of Nigeria, the AU’s peace and security adviser, is said to be the mastermind behind its diplomacy on matters such as the war in Libya.

Outside In: What roles are global players taking in a continent frequently abused by or dependent on outsiders? China pumped infrastructure and an imported workforce into Africa over the last decade (Beijing even built the African Union’s gleaming new headquarters in Addis Ababa) but the EU is now muscling in to support Africa’s single market. The EU would love that export market and to have Africans not feel the need to migrate to Europe. The U.S. appears to have no strategy but Mike Pompeo makes a much delayed visit this week. Canada is mostly interested in African votes for its U.N. Security Council bid (it nailed one).

DISRUPTED DIPLOMACY: The old rules are fraying. See in my story here how Karen Pierce is going to make a splash as the U.K.’s new ambassador to Washington. She’ll need to be more subtle than Uganda’s ambassador. Georgia’s government — which depends on U.S. security backing to stay independent from Russia — finally ended a two-year blockade against a new U.S. Ambassador to Tsiblisi, with Kelly Degnan taking up the post. Meanwhile, President Trump fired his EU ambassadsor Gordon Sondland, leaving him without a chief envoy to the world’s biggest market for the second time in two years. Sweden is the latest country to feel the effects of China throwing its diplomatic weight around.

VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB

As Needed for Pain: A Memoir of Addiction, with a heavy dose of Condé Nast gossip (Dan Peres)

I Don’t Want to Be the Strong Female Lead (Brit Marling, New York Times)

In Ghana the mentally ill are in chains, literally (Tracy McVeigh, Guardian)

How I Lost My Faith In America (Michael Fullilove The Atlantic)

MS is meticulously destroying me (Paraic O’Donnell, Irish Times)

How China’s Belt and Road is reshaping Earth’s biggest land mass (The Economist)

THANKS to Global Translations editor John Yearwood, Luiza Ch. Savage, Nahal Toosi, Blake Hounshell, Matt Kaminski, P.J. Joshi, Gavin Bade, Natalie Fertig, Melissa Heikkilä.

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