THE NEXT EARTHQUAKE

We opened this week with the landslide win for Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico. Let’s close the week by placing his victory in line with a broader international trend, one highly likely to continue.


In the United States, Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 without ever having run for office. He won in part by promising to upend his party’s traditional view of trade and immigration. He has kept those promises.

In France, Emmanuel Macron was elected president in 2017 without ever having run for office. In that election, the center-right and center-left parties that had dominated French politics since World War II finished in third and fifth place, respectively, in the first round of presidential voting. The political party Macron invented in April 2016, La République en Marche, holds a solid majority in France’s National Assembly.

In Germany, the center-right CDU experienced its poorest performance since 1949 in the 2017 election. Its coalition partner, the center-left SPD, had its worst showing since World War II. The Alternative for Germany, the first far-right party to win seats in the Bundestag since the war, is now the country’s largest opposition party.

In Italy, traditional parties of center-left and center-right combined to win less than one-third of the vote in the March 2018 elections. The current coalition government is led by a party founded in 2009 by a professional comedian (Five Star) and a rebranded separatist party (Lega). Those two (very) different parties have captured Italy’s current political mood.

In Mexico, López Obrador, known as AMLO, will be the first president since 1929 who doesn’t come from one of the country’s main political parties. In fact, AMLO’s Morena Party was created just four years ago.

These political earthquakes don’t represent a clear shift to the right or left. Macron is a centrist. Germany’s AFD is far-right. AMLO is Mexico’s first leftist president since the 1930s. Instead, these election results are obvious, outright rejections of familiar political faces and establishment parties of both the left and right.

Who’s next? Watch Brazil.

The current frontrunner in opinion polls ahead of Brazil’s October presidential election is Jair Bolsonaro (pictured above), a man who has inspired both admiration and revulsion in this polarized country with his open admiration for military rule. (The military ruled in Brazil from 1964-1985.) Bolsonaro joined the party he will lead, the Social Liberal Party (PSL), just six months ago. The PSL currently holds just nine of 513 seats in the lower house of congress and zero of 81 seats in the upper house.

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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