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Risky Bets    

 The Conservatives are tired and corrupt, and it’s time for a change

Risky Bets

Britain’s Conservative Party, beset by an aura of decay, corruption, and mismanagement since the Boris Johnson era, got more bad news last week. It was revealed that individuals close to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the campaign placed bets on the July 4 election date in the days and hours before he announced it.

A police officer from his personal protection team, his parliamentary aide, the campaign director and chief data officer at Conservative HQ, and the latter’s wife, a Tory candidate, are all being investigated as to whether they had sufficient inside knowledge to classify their bets as illegal.

Sunak is refusing to suspend the candidates until the allegations are proven, strictly speaking correct protocol, but it fails to read the political mood — that the Conservatives are tired and corrupt, and it’s time for a change. It’s an echo of 1997, when repeated scandals wore down Conservative PM John Major, and made space for a fresh-faced Tony Blair to lead Labour to its largest postwar landslide.


Awkward Alliance

Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s turned Florida into one of the most conservative states, and Gavin Newsom, who governs California, bastion of liberalism, have found themselves unlikely allies on the issue of smartphones for children. An almost-certainly horrified Newsom has rushed to point out that he hasn’t followed DeSantis’s complete ban on smartphones in schools, he’s merely legislating for tighter restrictions on smartphones in classrooms. Both governors are fathers of young children, which is apparently enough to trump their vast differences on almost everything else. It’s another chapter in the fightback against Big Tech, with parents increasingly concerned about the effects of smartphones and social media on their children’s mental health.


Israeli Intelligence

No, not Mossad, Shin Bet, or any other of Israel’s storied spy agencies. Russian-born and Israeli-bred Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s cofounder and former chief scientist, announced that he’s starting an AI research firm with two Jewish fellow AI experts, with offices in Palo Alto and Tel Aviv. They’re looking for world-leading talent to help them develop safe superintelligence systems that are smarter than humans, so they’ve turned to the Start-Up Nation. Made despite the ongoing war, and calls from the progressive left to divest from Israel, this decision proves that the progress of technology supersedes politics or (deeply misguided) principle.


“We’re so outnumbered and divided.”

—An unusually self-aware observation for a climate activist from Polish environmental protester Dominika Lasota. The Greta Thunberg mania that sprang up after her 2019 “How dare you” speech to the UN Climate Summit has evaporated in the face of a public backlash against the costs of eco-zealotry and the antics of activists, as well as more pressing global concerns. The climate campaign movement itself has fragmented, with some embracing the Gaza conflict as their new project, now that the world has stopped listening to their apocalyptic warnings.


Who’s Up

Former Dutch PM Mark Rutte, a pragmatic conservative who’s been elected by NATO member states as the alliance’s secretary general. He’s previously proved adept at soothing Trump’s ruffled feathers; in 2018, he diffused a tense NATO meeting by claiming that member states had upped their contributions, and it was all thanks to Trump. It’s an attribute that will be crucial if Trump is reelected; the former president has been complaining for years that other NATO countries aren’t paying their fair share and threatening to reduce US funding if they don’t ante up.


Who’s Down

Sheng Thao, mayor of Oakland, California, whose home was raided last week by the FBI. The progressive Democrat, who is the first American Hmong to lead a major US city, is already facing a recall vote, having overseen soaring crime and a municipal debt crunch. The reason for the raid remains unclear, but the spectacularly unfortunate timing for Thao further diminishes her chances of political survival.


$3.3 Trillion

Microsoft’s current value, making it the world’s most valuable company. It edged ahead of Apple and chipmaker Nvidia, which briefly held the top spot. The tussle is yet another sign that the race for AI supremacy is determining who will dominate the global economy.


“Macron? Meh”

Emmanuel Macron hails from Amiens, a picturesque city in northern France, full of historic and cultural attractions, just the kind of chic place that would produce a suave politician like the French president. But when the BBC tried to find Macron fans in his hometown, they came up short. Voters are worried about immigration, squeezed by the cost of living, and fed up with the centrist status quo.

Most people the broadcaster spoke to said they would vote for Marie Le Pen’s National Rally, reckoning that it’s moved on from its neo-Nazi tendencies under Le Pen’s father, and only she can deliver the change that the French are crying out for. Given that nearly 40% of Amiens is under 25, it hammers home the new political reality — that France’s right is surging among all demographics, at the expense of the beleaguered establishment.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1017)

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