The crown prince has big plans to bring back a level of tolerance to his society... It’s been a long, long time, though, since any Arab leader wore me out with a fire hose of new ideas about transforming his country... It’s “ludicrous,” he said, to suggest that this anticorruption campaign was a power grab. He pointed out that many prominent members of the Ritz crowd had already publicly pledged allegiance to him and his reforms, and that “a majority of the royal family” is already behind him.. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year.. So when his father, who has never been tainted by corruption charges during his nearly five decades as governor of Riyadh, ascended to the throne in 2015 (at a time of falling oil prices), he vowed to put a stop to it all, M.B.S. said:“My father saw that there is no way we can stay in the G-20 and grow with this level of corruption. In early 2015, one of his first orders to his team was to collect all the information about corruption — at the top. This team worked for two years until they collected the most accurate information, and then they came up with about 200 names.”.. each suspected billionaire or prince was arrested and given two choices: “We show them all the files that we have and as soon as they see those about 95 percent agree to a settlement,” which means signing over cash or shares of their business to the Saudi state treasury... “How much money are they recovering?” I asked.
The public prosecutor says it could eventually “be around $100 billion in settlements,” said M.B.S.
.. Saudi business people who paid bribes to get services done by bureaucrats are not being prosecuted, explained M.B.S. “It’s those who shook the money out of the government” — by overcharging and getting kickbacks.
.. Not a single Saudi I spoke to here over three days expressed anything other than effusive support for this anticorruption drive. The Saudi silent majority is clearly fed up with the injustice of so many princes and billionaires ripping off their country.
.. The first is to bring Saudi Islam back to its more open and modern orientation — whence it diverted in 1979. That is, back to what M.B.S. described to a recent global investment conference here as a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.”
.. in 1979, and so much of the region that I have covered since was shaped by the three big events of that year:
- the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Saudi puritanical extremists — who denounced the Saudi ruling family as corrupt, impious sellouts to Western values;
- the Iranian Islamic revolution; and
- the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
.. These three events together freaked out the Saudi ruling family at the time, and prompted it to try to shore up its legitimacy by allowing its Wahhabi clerics to impose a much more austere Islam on the society and by launching a worldwide competition with Iran’s ayatollahs over who could export more fundamentalist Islam.
.. It didn’t help that the U.S. tried to leverage this trend by using Islamist fighters against Russia in Afghanistan. In all, it pushed Islam globally way to the right and helped nurture 9/11.
.. M.B.S. is on a mission to bring Saudi Islam back to the center.
.. He has not only curbed the authority of the once feared Saudi religious police to berate a woman for not covering every inch of her skin, he has also let women drive
.. unlike any Saudi leader before him, he has taken the hard-liners on ideologically
.. “Do not write that we are ‘reinterpreting’ Islam — we are ‘restoring’ Islam to its origins — and our biggest tools are the Prophet’s practices and [daily life in] Saudi Arabia before 1979.”
.. At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, he argued, there were musical theaters, there was mixing between men and women, there was respect for Christians and Jews in Arabia. “The first commercial judge in Medina was a woman!”
.. Then one of his ministers got out his cellphone and shared with me pictures and YouTube videos of Saudi Arabia in the 1950s — women without heads covered, wearing skirts and walking with men in public, as well as concerts and cinemas. It was still a traditional and modest place, but not one where fun had been outlawed, which is what happened after 1979.
.. Toby Keith held a men-only concert here in September, where he even sang with a Saudi, and that Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji will be among the first woman singers to perform a women-only concert
.. M.B.S told me, it was just decided that women will be able to go to stadiums and attend soccer games. The Saudi clerics have completely acquiesced.
.. Iran’s “supreme leader is the new Hitler of the Middle East,” said M.B.S.
If humanity burns through all its fossil fuel reserves, there is the potential to warm the planet by perhaps more than 10 degrees Celsius and raise sea levels by hundreds of feet.
This is a warming spike comparable in magnitude to that so far measured for the End-Permian mass extinction.
.. The last time it was 4 degrees warmer there was no ice at either pole and sea level was hundreds of feet higher than it is today.
.. in the coming centuries it’s not impossible that we might be headed back to the Eocene climate of 50 million years ago, when there were Alaskan palm trees and alligators splashed in the Arctic Circle.
.. “Lizards will be fine, birds will be fine,”
.. Huber says that, mass extinction or not, it’s our tenuous reliance on an aging and inadequate infrastructure—perhaps, most ominously, on power grids—coupled with the limits of human physiology that may well bring down our world.
.. “The problem is that humans can’t even handle a hot week today without the power grid failing on a regular basis,” he said, noting that the aging patchwork power grid in the United States is built with components that are allowed to languish for more than a century before being replaced.
.. By the year 2050, according to a 2014 MIT study, there will also be 5 billion people living in water-stressed areas.
.. “Thirty to fifty years from now, more or less, the water wars are going to start,” Huber said
.. “None of the economists are modeling what happens to a country’s GDP if 10 percent of the population is refugees sitting in refugee camps.
.. If people don’t have economic hope and they’re displaced, they tend to get mad and blow things up. It’s the kind of world in which the major institutions, including nations as a whole, have their existence threatened by mass migration.
.. Huber calculated their temperature thresholds using the so-called wet-bulb temperature, which basically measures how much you can cool off at a given temperature. If humidity is high, for instance, things like sweat and wind are less effective at cooling you down, and the wet-bulb temperature accounts for this.
.. Wet-bulb temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius or higher are lethal to humanity.
.. Above this limit, it is impossible for humans to dissipate the heat they generate indefinitely and they die of overheating in a matter of hours, no matter how hard they try to cool off.
.. 7 degrees Celsius of warming would begin to render large parts of the globe lethally hot to mammals.
.. truly huge swaths of the planet currently inhabited by humans would exceed 35 degrees Celsius wet-bulb temperatures and would have to be abandoned.
.. “In the near term—2050 or 2070—the Midwest United States is going to be one of the hardest hit,” said Huber. “There’s a plume of warm, moist air that heads up through the central interior of the US during just the right season, and man, is it hot and sticky. You just add a couple of degrees and it gets really hot and sticky.
.. the Hajj, which brings 2 million religious pilgrims to Mecca each year, will be a physically impossible religious obligation to fulfill due to the limits of heat stress in the region in just a few decades.
.. “You want to know how societies collapse?” Huber said.
The rationale for these deals is simple — to jump-start the Saudi economy and bring new jobs to the private sector, as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir explained at a press conference on Saturday. “We expect that these investments over the next 10 years or so will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs in both the United States and in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “They will lead to a transfer of technology from the US to Saudi Arabia, enhance our economy and also enhance the American investments in Saudi Arabia, which already are the largest investments of anyone.”.. Its country is both young and incredibly connected — 70% of the population is under 30, and 93% of Saudis use the Internet, far more than in the United States... Until a year ago, compliance with the dictates of Saudi-style Wahhabi Islam were rigorously enforced by members of the feared religious police, known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (the same name that was used by the Taliban’s religious police when the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan)... During the presidential campaign in August, Trump panned Obama’s Cairo speech, castigating Obama for a “misguided” speech that didn’t condemn “the oppression of women and gays in many Muslim nations, and the systematic violations of human rights, or the financing of global terrorism…”.. But even if Trump’s speech does not herald any real changes in US national security policies, the business deals that the Trump administration is helping to broker with the Saudis will help move the Saudi economy away from its total dependence on oil.