What We're Watching: Support for Australian PM plunges

Support for Australian PM plunges: Public support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison has plunged to a new low amid widespread dissatisfaction over his government's management of the months-long bushfire disaster. Morrison's approval rating dropped 8 percent in the last month, hovering at 37 percent, according to a Newspoll survey. The poll – taken after the Prime Minister announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund to manage the infernos that have razed more than 27 million acres of land – suggests that, for many Australians, the government's response is "too little too late." "MISSING" posters featuring a Hawaiian-shirt clad Morrison have been plastered around Australia– a reference to his decision to vacation in Hawaii last month as fires ravaged the country. Morrison has also been criticized for refusing to compensate volunteers who bear the brunt of firefighting, though he eventually acquiesced. Australia's next election is still two years away: Will Morrison be able to weather the political storms or will public resentment over his handling of the crisis remain in the public consciousness?


A worrisome outcome for China in Taiwan: Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, won 57 percent of the vote in elections on Saturday, securing a second term in office. It was a stunning victory for the pro-independence politician, who just 12 months ago trailed in the polls – and a stunning rebuke for China's President Xi Jinping. Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party also held on to its majority in Taiwan's legislative assembly, beating back a challenge from the more China-friendly Kuomintang amid record turnout. The landslide victory for Tsai, who ran on a pro-sovereignty platform, is a clear sign of public resistance to Beijing's "one country, two systems" rhetoric after months of crackdowns on anti-government protests in Hong Kong. We're watching to see how Xi responds.

The death of a Sultan: By all accounts, Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, was a man of dignity and moderation. These qualities distinguished him as a determined peacemaker. He supported the 1979 peace deal between Egypt and Israel when no other Arab government would, and he hosted the first secret US-Iran talks in more than three decades. Those talks led to negotiations that ended in the Iran nuclear agreement now in shambles. But that's not why people across the Middle East will remember him. His true legacy is that, during his nearly 50-year rule, he used the country's oil wealth to lift Oman from medieval poverty to the digital age, created a sense of national identity in a place it had never existed, and advanced reforms that empowered Oman's women and girls.

What We're Ignoring

Billionaires bound for the moon: A 44-year-old Japanese internet billionaire who snagged a ticket to the moon on a spaceship built by Tesla founder Elon Musk is looking for that "special someone" to accompany him on the voyage. Yusaku Maezawa last week announced a new reality TV contest to find the perfect person to join him on his private lunar mission. We're ignoring this contest…unless he decides to take Carlos Ghosn, the fugitive French millionaire businessman who recently escaped from Japanese justice. Sadly, Maezawa insists his contest is open only to "single women aged 20 or over," and Ghosn is no one's idea of "arm candy."

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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