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Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Photo: Isaac Brekken via Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

Ernest Moniz, former energy secretary for President Barack Obama, is suspending his involvement advising Saudi Arabia on a proposed city mega-project until more information is made available regarding the disappearance — and possible assassination — of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Why it matters: Moniz’s move shows how geopolitical disputes, and in this case a potentially tragic one, can have spillover effects into wholly unrelated issues like business and energy.

The details: Moniz said he was invited to join an international advisory board for the development of NEOM, whose cost is estimated to be around $500 billion.

  • The project is meant to be a smart city of the future, built from the ground up in Saudi Arabia, Moniz said in a statement.
  • Saudi Arabia, whose state-owned oil company pumps out far more oil than any other company, is seeking to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
  • “In particular, I have been asked to offer guidance on achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions. Success with this vision will have global implications for a low-carbon future,” Moniz said.
  • In awkward timing, the board was announced Tuesday, according to media reports in Saudi Arabia.
“I share the deep concerns of many about the disappearance and possible assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. … The recent trend in many countries of targeting journalists for doing their jobs is a fundamental threat to freedom of the press, human rights and the rule of law.”
— Ernest Moniz, former Energy Secretary

Go Deeper: Khashoggi disappearance could impact Saudi Arabia's business deals

Go deeper

22 mins ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.

Court rejects Trump campaign's appeal in Pennsylvania case

Photo: Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously rejected the Trump campaign's emergency appeal seeking to file a new lawsuit against Pennsylvania's election results, writing in a blistering ruling that the campaign's "claims have no merit."

Why it matters: It's another devastating blow to President Trump's sinking efforts to overturn the results of the election. Pennsylvania, which President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, certified its results last week and is expected to award 20 electoral votes to Biden on Dec. 12.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Belarus dictator Lukashenko says he'll leave post after new constitution

Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty

Longtime Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said he will step down after a new constitution comes into force, according to Belarusian state media.

Why it matters: Lukashenko has faced three months of protests following a rigged election in August. He has promised to reform the constitution to reduce the near-absolute powers of the president, but has insisted that his strong hand is needed to see that process through.