Weekly Briefing 28 February 2020

This week's biggest headline:

COVID-19 has spread to 48 countries and six continents, causing global markets to tumble and imperilling Donald Trump's presidency.

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Asteroid Impact

NASA discovered a 100m wide asteroid travelling 20k mph this week just as it was barrelling toward earth. It missed by 2.3 million miles, or about 10x the distance from the earth to the moon.

Four more asteroids will approach earth tomorrow. The biggest measures 90m in diameter, and the closest will pass around 750k miles from earth, which is still comfortably outside the moon's orbital sphere.

In news closer to home, a meteor exploded over Arizona and California on 26th February.

Civil Unrest

Horrific scenes in Delhi this week as their worst riots in decades left 38 dead. Hindu mobs attacked Muslims that were protesting a discriminatory citizenship law.

Riot police clashed with local protestors Tuesday and Wednesday in Greece this week. The locals were protesting plans to create closed migrant detention camps.

Another United Nations report cited income inequality as a major cause of political turmoil. "Rising inequality creates discontent, political dysfunction and can lead to violent conflict," the report warns.

Epidemic Disease

We continued our daily updates on COVID-19 this week. If you missed any, you can view the archive on our site or sign up to receive them here.

Since last week, deaths have increased by 28% to well over 2,800, while confirmed cases now exceed 83k.

The situation has very much moved away from a focus on the Chinese mainland and toward the virus's spread globally. Outbreaks have now been reported in at least 48 countries.

Italy was a focal point this week as a number of cities and villages reported cases there. A half-term holiday hotspot, northern-Italy seeded the disease in a number of tourists who then brought the virus home with them.

Meanwhile, cases in South Korea surged past 2,300. A popular K-pop boy band has cancelled a series of concerts, disappointing over 200,000 teenaged girls.

Both South America and Africa reported their first victims, leaving Antarctica as the only-remaining coronavirus-free continent.

More than 20 vaccines are in development around the world, according to the WHO, but it's unlikely anything will be ready for several months at the earliest.

Check out the link to our daily updates above for more detail.

Extreme Weather

The UK will be hit with heavy storms for the third weekend in a row, as Storm Jorge is expected to bring more floods.

Costs of extreme weather are set to rise 20% by 2040 with an additional $100,000,000,000 per year to be added on due to climate change, according to the University of Cambridge's Climate Change Business Risk Index.

Financial Collapse

The US stock market endured its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis amid coronavirus-related panic-selling. The Dow Jones is now in negative territory for the last twelve months and has seen seven straight days in the red.

40% of global CFOs have warned of "major decrease" in demand due to COVID-19, and it is very likely the virus will be the excuse given during all negative earnings calls throughout 2020.

Though it's too early to tell, it's very likely the virus could put an end to the current bull market, which is the longest on record.

recession in 2020 would almost certainly mean the end of Donald Trump's presidency.

Global War

At least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in a Russia-backed Syrian attack Friday morning. Turkey claims to have killed over 300 Syrian soldiers in retaliation.

Turkey is a member of NATO, which raises significant concerns the conflict could escalate into a full-blown international crisis.

Should Ankara choose to invoke Article 5, the rest of NATO member countries would be compelled to give her their support.

Article 5 has only been invoked once, in response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Article 5 Highlights

  • Collective defence means that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.
  • The principle of collective defence is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
  • NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
  • NATO has taken collective defence measures on several occasions, for instance in response to the situation in Syria and in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
  • NATO has standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence efforts on a permanent basis.


The Subterranean Challenge is a competition aimed to promote search and rescue robots. Funded by DARPA, the competition is pushing the boundaries of what robots can find, in what conditions, and where.

Given DARPA's mission, it's not a huge leap to imagine these robots repurposed to search and destroy.

“Worrying about AI turning evil is a little bit like worrying about overpopulation on Mars,” according to Andrew Ng, one of the world's most prominent AI experts. 

Oren Etzioni, the CEO of the Allen Insititute for AI, cited this quote in perhaps the most arrogant piece of writing on the danger of AI we've seen in some time. Honestly, it's what the machines would want him to say...

Carter Hopkins

Carter is a former US Army Ranger, US Army intelligence officer, and counterintelligence officer with the Defence Intelligence Agency. He has a BA in Political Science from UCLA and an MA in Security Studies from Georgetown.

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