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One last shot at the Saudi crown prince?

One last shot at the Saudi crown prince?

Saudis got bad news this week: Their taxes are going up and the housing allowance the state provides for government employees will be cut. (Most Saudis work for the government.) The need for belt-tightening is obvious. Oil prices are less than half what they were a year ago, despite a new Saudi production cut meant to prop them up, and the coronavirus is having a big impact on the kingdom's economy. The state has ordered a full lockdown across the kingdom from May 23-27 at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.


This is also bad news for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler. His father, 84-year old King Salman, remains on the throne, but it's MBS who controls the kingdom's foreign and domestic policy. And it's MBS who bears responsibility when things go wrong.

The 34-year-old crown prince is known for three things: expensive foreign-policy failures, bold social reforms, and the iron fist he uses to defend both.

His mistakes abroad include a costly war in Yemen without positive result, a failure to contain Iran's regional influence, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the continuing damage it inflicts on the kingdom's reputation, and an oil price war with Russia that he had to abandon.

His domestic policy centers on his bold vision for the kingdom's future. To boost long-term economic potential, MBS has angered social conservatives by allowing women to drive, to move more freely in society and to join crowds that were once limited to men. He has also welcomed foreign cultural and sporting events into the country.

His iron fist has earned him many enemies. Since his father named him crown prince in 2017, MBS has ordered the detention (and public humiliation) of some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the kingdom, some of them princes. In March, he upped the ante by moving against his cousin and former crown prince, Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, and Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz, the king's brother. These latest moves show two things: that the Crown Prince can still take bold action to try to further consolidate his authority over the royal family — and that he still feels he needs to.

Saudi Arabia is not in imminent economic danger, despite the austerity measures. Its wealth funds still hold more than $300 billion, and it can raise tens of billions more by selling shares in state-owned oil company Aramco. The Crown Prince himself still has his supporters, which include those who like his social reforms, especially young people, and those who hope to profit from the economic opportunities they create.

But this is still a crucial moment for the kingdom and its crown prince. The impact of the pandemic and low oil prices raise longer-term questions about the crown prince's grand economic plans and the future of Saudi prosperity. Some of his rivals within the family, especially those who fear that he will transform the kingdom in ways they hate, now face a sobering question:

Are they running out of chances to prevent this impetuous young man from becoming king?

The role of the public library has evolved over time. As we move online at an even faster rate, knowledge, entertainment and opportunities for education and employment are found on the internet. Those living in well-connected, affluent places may have come to take internet access for granted. But there is a digital divide in the U.S. that has left people at a disadvantage – particularly since the arrival of COVID-19.

Finding ways to overcome that divide in a sustainable, community-led way could help bring the benefits of the internet to those who need it most. One solution is to use technologies such as TV white space to facilitate wireless broadband – as Microsoft's Airband Initiative is doing. To read more about Microsoft's work with public libraries, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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Less than a week out from Election Day, 66 million Americans have already cast their ballots, and many of those are people who are voting "early" for the first time because of the pandemic. In fact, the early vote total alone this year is already equal to nearly half of all ballots cast in the 2016 general election, suggesting that 2020 turnout could reach historic levels. Most important, however, is how things are playing out in key battleground states where the outcome of the US election will be determined. In Texas, for instance, a huge surge in early voting by Democrats this year has raised the possibility that a state which has been won by Republican candidates since 1976 could now be up for grabs. Here we take a look at early voting in battleground states in 2020 as compared to 2016.

In a national referendum on Sunday, Chileans overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new constitution. But, why are people in this oasis of political stability and steady economic growth in South America willing to undo the bedrock of the system that has allowed Chile to prosper for so long?

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Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

One week before the US election. What do other world leaders want to happen?

Well, I mean, let's face it. Outside the United States, most of the world's leaders would prefer to see the back of Trump. An America first policy was not exactly made for non-Americans. That was not the intended demographic audience. Trump doesn't really care. In fact, to a degree, it's kind of a selling point that a lot of foreign leaders don't want Trump. It's showing that Trump is strong in negotiations and indeed is doing better for the American people.

That's largely BS, but occasionally it's true. I mean, his willingness to use American power to force the Mexican government to actually tighten up on Mexico's Southern border and stop immigration from coming through. AMLO would have much rather that not have happened, but the fact that it did was an America first policy, that rebounded to the benefits of the United States. And there are other examples of that. But generally speaking, it would be better for the US long-term, and for the world, if we had more harmonious, smoother relations with other countries around the world, certainly pretty much all the Europeans would much rather see Trump lose. The United Kingdom is the significant exception given the nature of Brexit, and the fact that Trump has been in favor of that, like being called Mr. Brexit by five or six Brits or however many did.

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