No MBS-ing

Today, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known to many in the West as “MBS”) visits the White House at the start of a two-and-a-half-week tour of the US. His objectives, as he prepares to take over from his father as king later this year, fall into three main categories — geopolitics, optics, and business.


Geopolitics: US-Saudi relations soured under President Obama, though President Trump has ushered in a period of somewhat warmer relations — and more sword dancing and glowing orbs. But as MBS prepares to take power in what could be a contentious succession, he’ll want to know where Riyadh’s most powerful traditional ally stands — not least on key foreign policy challenges like the Kingdom’s (ruinous) war in Yemen, the blockade of Qatar, and the challenge of Iran’s growing regional influence.

Optics: The 32-year-old crown prince needs to convince American politicians and businesspeople not only that he’s serious about radically transforming and liberalizing Saudi society over the next decade, but that he can do it without upending social and political stability in the world’s largest oil exporter.

Business: Attracting American investment is critical for MBS’s economic reform plans, so after doing the Beltway rounds, the crown prince will hit the road to meet with corporate and investment executives across the US. Among other stops, he’ll see Amazon and Boeing in Seattle, take a swing through Silicon Valley, and meet with film industry executives in Los Angeles.

(Ok, fun time — what’s the best Saudi remake title you can give us? My pal @rajakorman comes out swinging with Fast and Furious 8, featuring all women drivers. You?)

Scientists, engineers and technologists are turning to nature in search of solutions to climate change. Biomimicry is now being applied in the energy sector, medicine, architecture, communications, transport and agriculture in a bid to make human life on this planet more sustainable and limit the impacts of global warming. New inventions have been inspired by humpback whales, kingfishers and mosquitoes.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

The drumbeat for regulating artificial intelligence (AI) is growing louder. Earlier this week, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, became the latest high-profile Silicon Valley figure to call for governments to put guardrails around technologies that use huge amounts of (sometimes personal) data to teach computers how to identify faces, make decisions about mortgage applications, and myriad other tasks that previously relied on human brainpower.

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January 27 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp. But even as some 40 heads of state gathered in Jerusalem this week to commemorate the six million Jews who were killed, a recent Pew survey revealed that many American adults don't know basic facts about the ethnic cleansing of Europe's Jews during the Second World War. Fewer than half of those polled knew how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and close to a third didn't know when it actually happened. Here's a look at some of the numbers.

1: The Greek parliament has elected a woman president for the first time since the country's independence some 200 years ago. A political outsider, Katerina Sakellaropoulou is a high court judge with no known party affiliation. "Our country enters the third decade of the 21st century with more optimism," Greece's prime minister said.

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A quarantine in China– Local authorities have locked down the city of Wuhan, the source of the outbreak of a new and potentially deadly respiratory virus that, as of Thursday morning, had infected more than 540 people in at least six countries. Other nearby cities were also hit by travel restrictions. Rail and air traffic out of Wuhan has been halted. Public transportation is shut, and local officials are urging everyone to stay put unless they have a special need to travel. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people, many of whom were about to travel for the Chinese New Year. We're watching to see whether these extraordinary measures help stem the outbreak, but also to see how the people affected respond to the clampdown.

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