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It’s easy to scorn billionaires when they warn about global warming from their world of private jets and luxury yachts.
That’s not deterring some of the most powerful people from focusing on climate change at their annual gathering in the Swiss resort of Davos next week.
There’s always a risk the World Economic Forum’s focus could backfire by strengthening the idea that rising temperatures are something only elites can afford to care about. And despite progress on electric cars and clean energy, the planet is getting hotter.
But, as Peter Coy writes, don’t underestimate the power of talk.
Sipping champagne with their peers in the shadow of melting glaciers may attract public disdain, yet it can galvanize a sense of urgency among the titans of industry, presidents and prime ministers, big-name thinkers and other Davos delegates.
As images of the devastating wildfires in Australia capture the world’s attention, this year may finally see a shift in thinking about climate change among those who have the power to do something about it.
Whatever else, the Davos crowd can bank on a very public climate shaming from one of their number: A certain Greta Thunberg is on this year’s guest list.
Biden in focus | President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will once again put an uncomfortable spotlight on Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. But the proceedings — set to begin in earnest on Tuesday — also offer the former vice president an exceptional opportunity to campaign in a less-crowded field while his biggest rivals are holed up in the Senate chamber.
Click here for more on how the trial will transform the Senate into a hushed courtroom. Read more about Rudy Giuliani’s tangled role representing Trump.
Still at odds | In a letter read out during Wednesday’s trade deal signing at the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping asked Trump to take steps to “enhance mutual trust and cooperation between us.” That won’t be easy: Apart from the trade agreement, Washington and Beijing are butting heads on everything from technology to human rights to territorial disputes.
The Senate approved Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement yesterday, a major political win for the president.
Asymmetric warfare | Iran’s pinpoint attack on American bases in Iraq in retaliation for the Jan. 3 killing of General Qassem Soleimani showed its capabilities and limitations in striking its powerful foe. Marc Champion explains how Tehran must resort to using unconventional weapons, tactics and proxy forces to take on a far greater military might because it can’t afford to provoke a conventional conflict it would lose.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Trump administration officials “clowns” in a sermon today, saying the U.S. and European powers want to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees. He also ordered a probe into the shooting down of a Ukraine International Airlines plane that killed all 176 people on board.
Secret operation | Many of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies knew nothing of his plans to overhaul Russia’s constitution and replace the government, Evgenia Pismennaya, Ilya Arkhipov and Henry Meyer report. The political whirlwind Putin unleashed shows the former KGB spy retains the ability to shock even after 20 years in power. With speculation growing over his plans when his term ends in 2024, one analyst mused, “There could be more surprises.”
Mountain murder | The prime minister of the tiny southern African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane, says he’s planning to resign over a controversy sparked by the murder of his second wife. A key suspect is the woman he married two months after the slaying. The scandal has prompted the opposition and even a faction of the ruling party to call for Thabane to quit. His wife has been on the run since the police issued an arrest warrant last week.
What to Watch
European Union trade commissioner Phil Hogan raised the prospect of a legal challenge to the U.S.-China trade deal for violating WTO rules. In a Bloomberg TV interview later in Washington, he also said next week will be key to resolving transatlantic tensions over a French digital tax that has prompted threats of tariff retaliation from Trump. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy plans to reject the resignation of his prime minister, who offered to step down after he was heard in a leaked recording criticizing the president’s knowledge of the economy. The White House budget office violated federal law when it withheld about $214 million in security aid to Ukraine, an independent congressional watchdog agency has concluded.
Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). Putin shocked the world with his government reshuffle this week, naming Mikhail Mishustin, an obscure technocrat with little political experience, as prime minister. What was Mishustin’s previous job? Send us your answers and tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at email@example.com.
And finally … Greece and Turkey are at loggerheads over maritime boundaries as a result of a controversial deal struck between Ankara and the UN-backed government in Libya. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that Turkey will issue energy exploration licenses for what are contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis shot back that he wouldn’t accept any political solution for Libya that doesn’t annul the maritime deal, complicating this weekend’s Libya peace summit in Berlin.
--With assistance from Anthony Halpin and Karl Maier.
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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at email@example.com, Kathleen Hunter
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