What we’re watching: Scorching California, Gulf states threaten Netflix, possible Putin-Xi meeting

California’s dystopian heat wave

Californians brace for massive power outages as the state of 40 million people endures an unprecedented heat wave with triple-digit temperatures. With residents turning up air conditioners, state officials say energy use across the state is reaching record levels. (The power grid is under additional pressure due to extreme heat, making power transmission less efficient.) Meanwhile, California’s independent grid operator called for power rationing between 4 and 9 p.m. intensive equipment such as dishwashers and washing machines. Indeed, the heat wave and power shortages indicate that extreme weather events related to climate change are hitting developing and developed countries alike. (With a GDP of $3.4 trillion in 2021, California’s economy is the largest in the US, surpassing countries like India and France.) As several wildfires have broken out in Southern California in recent days, Governor Gavin Newsom warned that “we are heading into the worst part of this heat wave.”


gulf swallow for netflix

Several Persian Gulf states have threatened to take legal action against the US-based streaming giant unless it censors any content that violates “Islamic and social values”. The salvo came from a Riyadh-based commission representing the interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council media. No specific offenses were listed, but the concern is believed to center around programming that includes LGBTQ characters or themes. It’s unclear how big the Middle East market is for Netflix: the company groups the region together with Africa and Europe in its annual reports. But the real challenge may be closer to home: Netflix recently weathered a backlash from progressives angry over a Dave Chappelle comedy special that poked fun at transgender people. Would meeting Riyadh’s content demands stir up a similar storm? As our friends at Eurasia Group pointed out earlier this year, culture wars are a constant and often dead-end battle for businesses these days.

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Putin-Xi: From best friends to “it’s complicated”

The Kremlin says that Vladimir Putin will meet Xi Jinping next week at a regional security meeting in Uzbekistan. If confirmed, it will be the first in-person conversation between the Russian and Chinese presidents since early February, when Putin attended the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics less than three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. It will also be Xi’s first trip outside of China since early 2020, a major milestone for the architect of China’s zero-COVID policy. The two have a lot to talk about since their last meeting, during which they displayed a bilateral bromance that turns out to have limits. Xi was not happy about the Russian invasion, but perhaps he hoped that the war would be quick and that the West would not have time to respond. That clearly did not happen, and the conflict seems more destined for a freeze than a negotiated settlement. What’s more, China is feeling the heat for not engaging with Ukraine at a time when its lagging economy can hardly afford to lose foreign investment dollars. Russia, for its part, needs China to continue to buy Russian oil that is outside Western markets, albeit at bargain prices, and to remain its most powerful “friend.”

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