Succession Session

When you rule over more than a billion people, the question of if, when, and how you leave power — or don’t — is naturally a big one, but Xi Jinping isn’t the only leader whose succession plans carry strong intrigue. Here’s what’s on your mind if you’re…


Russian President Putin: the constitution says time’s up when your next term ends in 2024. You could change it, but you’ve always pedantically fixated on the letter of the law (spirit of same, less so…) The last time you ran into term limits you swapped places with a human seat-warmer rather than mess with the constitution. You could designate a successor, but who could you trust to protect your interests without eclipsing your power? In a country where even the speaker of the legislature has said “If there is no Putin, there is no Russia,” this question will hang over every major decision in Russia for the next six years.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman: you’ve groomed your 32-year-old son, Mohamed bin Salman, to succeed you, sidelining older members of the family who thought they were in line for the throne. MBS, as he’s known, has proposed radical social and economic reforms and tenderly jailed much of the elite in a bid to secure loyalty ahead of his coronation. Will the succession open the way to much-needed reforms, or will it provoke destabilizing internal frictions?

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev: you’ve run oil-rich Kazakhstan with a strong hand since even before the Soviet Union collapsed, but you’ll be turning 78 this summer so you’ve got to think about what comes next. You’ve deftly balanced relations with China, Russia, and the United States — will your successor be able to pull off the same trick?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Ok, you aren’t a strongman like the others on this list, but after 13 years dominating German politics, nearly half of your people recently said it’s time to bid you Aufwiedersehen. Luckily, your CDU party overwhelmingly approved your preferred successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, as its new leader just yesterday. But your rare combination of political skill, personal probity, and steely ambition are a tough act to follow. Can “mini-Merkel” fill your shoes, or will your legacy of stability be remembered as a prelude to troubles in Germany?

The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The world's climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions. Ultimately, we must reach "net zero" emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year.

While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That's why last week we announced an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft's carbon footprint. By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. We are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies.

Read more on the Official Microsoft Blog.

A potentially deadly new coronavirus that can be transmitted from one person to another is now spreading across China. Chinese state media say it has infected about 300 people and killed six, but the number of undetected or unreported cases is certain to be much higher. Complicating containment efforts, millions of people are on the move across the country this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family and friends.

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Norway's government breaks up over ISIS returnee – Norway's right-wing Progress Party said it will resign from the country's four-party coalition government over the prime minister's decision to bring home a Norwegian woman affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria. The woman, who left Norway for the conflict zone in 2013, was arrested shortly after arriving in Oslo with her two children, on suspicion of being a member of ISIS. Prior to her return, she had been held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other family members of ISIS fighters. The defection of Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party undercuts Prime Minister Erna Solberg's parliamentary majority, likely making it hard for her to pass laws in parliament. This case reflects an increasingly common problem for European countries: the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has largely collapsed but what should countries do about the return of former fighters and their families to societies that don't want them?

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20,000: Sri Lanka's president has acknowledged for the first time that some 20,000 people who disappeared during the country's brutal civil war are dead, dashing the hopes of families who had held out hope that their relatives were alive and in military custody. The conflict, which ended in 2009, split the country according to ethnicities, killing around 100,000 people, mostly Tamil rebels.

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.