WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Germany’s SPD – Following another local election result that underlines fast-falling support for Germany’s lead center-left party, debate has begun again among some SPD leaders about whether to quit the grand coalition government in which they currently support Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU. That move would very likely force Merkel from power and bring early elections. The predicament for the SPD: It’s easier to regain popularity in opposition than as junior member of government, but true revival will depend on making a credible case for policies that will excite voters. Wounded center-left parties across Europe will be interested to see what the SPD can come up with.


South Sudan – On Wednesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir unveiled a deal he says will end a five-year civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. The agreement would allow rebel groups to share power with the government. It remains unclear why Kiir believes this deal will succeed where similar deals in the past have failed.

Iran sanctions – Next Monday, the US will reimpose sanctions on Iran’s oil industry. We’re watching not for Iran’s initial reaction, which will be defiant, but for how Iran continues to build constructive relations with other governments to minimize fallout from US action—and how those governments respond to US threats.

Stray Cats living in Portuguese Washing Machines – Because it’s Friday.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

High-minded Wrestlers – When World Wrestling Entertainment kicks off its “Crown Jewel” event at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh later today, two of the organization’s marquee performers won’t be there. Wrestlers John Cena and Daniel Bryan are reportedly boycotting the event to protest the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Contradictory Polling Clues – A new Harvard University survey suggests Americans aged 18-29 are likely to vote in much higher numbers in next week’s midterm elections than the same age group did in 2010 or 2014. Some 40 percent said they will “definitely vote.” Meanwhile, a new PRRI/The Atlantic survey found “little evidence that younger Americans will turn out at historic rates.” Just 35 percent of Americans aged 18-29, compared to 81 percent of seniors (ages 65+) and 55 percent of all Americans, say they’re certain to vote.

A Spectacularly Dumb Dirty Trick – An amateurish attempt to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller unraveled quickly this week. You can read the details here. The FBI is now investigating.

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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