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Thursday Thinkers: Deep Dive news


Hello and welcome!

There’s a huge amount of information to read and digest at the best of times, but even more so now during this period of uncertainty and volatility. I hope Deep Dive helps explain some of the key topics and offers insights on issues beyond the headlines.

As always, I look forward to your ideas and feedback.

Stay healthy,
Sara x

THE NEW COLD WAR? Flag: United States on Twitter Twemoji 13.0.1 Flag: China on Twitter Twemoji 13.0.1

Diplomats, political analysts and journalists agree that US-China relations sunk to a new low this week, with quarrels and disputes on multiple fronts.

It’s hard to concisely summarise the flurry of activity, but these are the highlights: the White House will stop Hong Kong’s special trade privileges; Washington formally opposed parts of Beijing’s South China Sea claims; and the UK banned Huawei from its 5G market.

President Trump praised his administration’s tough stance on China – a sentiment echoed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. These developments sent Chinese state media into overdrive, with editorials slamming “increasingly insane and hostile attacks“, and criticising the White House for “smearing China maliciously“.

With the two superpowers at loggerheads, the consensus is that a degree of decoupling is par for the course, but a military standoff still remains unlikely.

#ITSMYDAM

Another geopolitical bust-up that’s gaining traction is the row between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a multi-billion dollar mega dam.

Tensions between the three countries have been simmering amid the decade-long construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The reason: the giant infrastructure project will impact the flow of the Nile, a vital natural resource in the region.

Cairo calls the GERD an “existential” threat and wants clearer details of its operations. As for Sudan, it’s expected to benefit from the surplus electricity generated by the dam, however, Khartoum has expressed concerns about Addis Ababa’s unilateral control.

Although recent talks failed to go anywhere, conflicting reports suggested that Ethiopia had already started filling the reservoir, further infuriating Egypt.

The GERD is revealing historic rifts, particularly resentment about how Egyptians apparently see themselves as “masters of the Nile“. Meanwhile, Ethiopia is driving a social media campaign to stir up patriotism under the hashtag ‘Itsmydam’.


HACK ATTACK

As the pandemic accelerates our use of smart technologies, nefarious actors are finding innovative ways to exploit the gaping holes in cyber security plans.

On Thursday, it was reported that hackers allegedly linked to Russian intelligence services (code name: Cozy Bear) had targeted organisations trying to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The alert was issued by authorities in the UK, US and Canada. They said it wasn’t a sabotage effort but an attempt to steal valuable research. Moscow firmly denies the accusations.

The more public IT attack, however, happened the night before when Twitter suffered an unprecedented breach. It seems sophisticated Bitcoin scammers hijacked the official ‘blue tick’ accounts of Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Kanye West, Joe Biden and many others.

Despite the peculiar tweets, several followers did pay up and it’s estimated the perpetrators collected some US$110,000 in less than 2 hours. It’s not yet known if they had access to private messages as well. The FBI is investigating the incident.

SECRETS AND SCANDAL

There’s been endless speculation about the fate of Ghislaine Maxwell following her surprise arrest in New Hampshire on 2 July.

On Tuesday, the British socialite and confidante of Jeffrey Epstein made an appearance – via video link – at a hearing in New York. US prosecutors are charging her with recruiting, grooming and sexually abusing underage girls. Maxwell pleaded not guilty while her legal team argued that “she is not the monster she’s been portrayed as”.

The judge rejected Maxwell’s bail request after prosecutors described her as an “extreme” flight risk. In a filing, they said she had tried to flee when FBI agents arrived at her property. They also found Maxwell’s mobile phone wrapped in tin foil in a bid to evade detection.

She will remain in custody until her trial kicks off in July 2021.

“Ghislaine Maxwell is denied bail, will stand trial in 2021” (NBC News)
(NOT) SHOWING AT CINEMAS THIS SUMMER

In a normal world, most of us would’ve gone to the cinema this weekend to watch Christopher Nolan’s latest extravaganza, Tenet.

The star-studded thriller was initially slated for release on 17 July but that date was pushed back to 31 July – and now Warner Bros. has delayed the premiere to 12 August.

Will Tenet actually come out before September, or is autumn/winter a safer bet? No one in Hollywood really knows at this stage. Weirdly, the film’s release is turning into a barometer of public appetite for regular, group activities – albeit with face masks and social distancing.

Should Nolan and Warner Bros. just bite the bullet and forego cinemas for a streaming platform? Netflix and Hulu aren’t slowing down, plus HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock were launched during the health crisis. Additionally, the Oscars organisers changed eligibility rules to allow VOD movies in the 2021 Academy Awards.

Or, should we wait patiently to give Tenet the big screen treatment it deserves? After all, Nolan is an auteur who’s delivered Memento, The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception etc. And, of course, there’s the matter of money – Tenet‘s budget is north of the US$200 million mark.

Fellow movie fans, what do you think is the best option?

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