Global risks 2035 update

From the Atlantic Council. Headlines are:

  • The unipolar world of the 1990s, when the United States was the world’s sole superpower, is definitively over and will no longer be a realistic option for any president.
  • An absolute United States’ decline is not inevitable, but an open conflict with China increases those risks considerably.
  • A deep economic reversal in China could trigger a widespread economic meltdown that leads to a worst-case scenario of slower growth and a return to protectionism and political destabilization.

No real surprises, really.

Full report (pdf) here


Facebook keeps digging itself into the hole

From a report in the Washington Post highlighted by Charles Arthur:

The Arizona ad, paid for by The Committee to Defend the President, is one of roughly two dozen such ads that two pro-Trump super PACs have purchased on Facebook over the past five months, according to an analysis of Facebook’s advertising archive by The Washington Post. Some of the ads falsely suggest that Democrats are purging voter rolls; others direct viewers to some version of a voter-registration form, but only after they submit information, such as their names, email addresses and political affiliations.

Responding to an inquiry from The Post, Facebook said this weekend that it was removing four of the voting-related ads for violating its policies. A spokesperson for the tech giant said it would send other ads purchased by another pro-Trump group, Great America PAC, to third-party fact-checkers to verify their assertions about states purging voter rolls.

Charles’s comment:

So Facebook won’t allow ads that might lead to voter suppression. Apart from the ones it allows. It’s exhausting; Facebook says it won’t allow something, journalists find multiple examples of it allowing something, repeat. The simple solution would be to ban political ads.

Yep. Remember Denis Healey’s First Law of Holes: when you’re in one, stop digging. And the funniest thing of all is that, in terms of Facebook’s revenues, political ads earn peanuts.

LATER The NYT is reporting that some Facebook employees are getting agitated about the decision to give politicians’ ads a free run.


The Boeing 737 MAX story — and its implications

This morning’s Observer column:

Here’s a question. Well, two questions, actually. One: how could an aircraft manufacturer long celebrated for its commitment to engineering excellence produce an airliner with aerodynamic characteristics that made it unstable under some circumstances – and then release it with remedial computer software that appeared to make it difficult for pilots to take control? And two: why did the government regulator approve the plane – and then dither about grounding the model after it had crashed?

The aircraft in question is the Boeing 737 Max. The regulator is the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The questions are urgent because this model has crashed twice – first in the Java Sea last October with the deaths of 189 people, and then in Ethiopia in March with the deaths of 157 people. Evidence retrieved from the second crash site suggested that the plane had been configured to dive before it came down. And the Ethiopian transport minister was quoted by Al-Jazeera on 4 April as saying that the crew “performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft”. The FAA initially reaffirmed the airworthiness of the plane on 11 March but then grounded it on 13 March.

The full story of this catastrophe remains to be told, but we already know the outlines of it…

Read on