Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Putin’s Secret Weapon  President Trump took a shot at the Federal Reserve chair this week. “I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates,” he told Reuters after arguing that China and Europe are manipulating the values of their currencies. To understand the value of an independent central bank, the president should read this excellent profile of Russian central banker Elvira Nabiullina. She’s the primary reason that crisis-prone Russia has a relatively healthy banking sector, strong reserves, and low inflation. President Putin stays out of Nabiullina’s way—and makes sure others do, as well.


Israa al-Ghomgham  It might be another first for Saudi women. Two months after the Saudi government lifted a decades-old ban on women driving automobiles, Israa al-Ghomgham may become the first Saudi woman put to death for a political crime. Her offense? According to Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, prosecutors have charged her with “participating in protests in the [majority-Shia] Qatif region, incitement to protest, chanting slogans hostile to the regime, attempting to inflame public opinion, filming protests and publishing on social media, and providing moral support to rioters.”

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Complaints about Jakarta's traffic — Are the Indonesian capital’s legendary traffic jams as bad as advertised? Not if you’re a superhero like President Joko Widodo. Maybe you saw James Bond and Queen Elizabeth parachute into London’s Wembley Stadium to open the 2012 Olympics. Now check out Joko’s opening of the Asian Games. (He gets down to business at about the 1:30 mark.)

Illegal aliens — This week, the Miami Herald endorsed Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, who is running for a seat in the US House of Representatives vacated by Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Rodriguez Aguilera said in a 2009 television interview that when she was seven years old, she boarded a spaceship occupied by three tall aliens who spoke to her telepathically. And that’s not weird at all.

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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