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Trump holds up a chart of military sales to Saudi Arabia during an Oval Office meeting with Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Kevin Dietsch / Pool via Getty Images

As Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues his grand tour of the U.S., The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins delivers a paragraph in "A Saudi Prince’s Quest to Remake the Middle East" that could have a whole book written about it:

"[I]n the months that followed [Trump's May 2017 summit in Riyadh], a series of dramatic events suggested that the attendees had quietly made a number of major decisions. Trump declared that the U.S. would move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to East Jerusalem ... M.B.S. leapfrogged over [his cousin Mohammed] bin Nayef to become crown prince. And the Gulf monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia, entered an open confrontation with Qatar."
  • The crown prince's "purges of rivals, and his creation of what amounted to a cult of personality, appeared ... to leave the country’s institutions enfeebled. ... Still, his supporters in both Washington and Riyadh feel that, whatever his faults, the alternative would be worse."
  • Why it matters: "The appointments of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as national-security adviser presage an even more hawkish era, in which there will be few constraints on M.B.S.’s regional ambitions."
  • Worthy of your time.

P.S. Hollywood gives M.B.S. the royal treatment, per L.A. Times:

  • "The royal heir apparent, who learned English by watching films as a child, is expected to dine at producer Brian Grazer’s Santa Monica home, attend an event at Rupert Murdoch’s Bel-Air estate and meet with show business power players, including talent agency boss Ari Emanuel and Walt Disney Co. chief Bob Iger."

Go deeper

43 mins ago - World

Jimmy Lai among Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders sentenced to prison

Students standing under a banner during a flag raising ceremony on the first annual National Security Education Day in Hong Kong. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A Hong Kong court sentenced a group of the city's most prominent pro-democracy activists to up to 18 months in prison Friday for organizing a massive unauthorized protest in August 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, AP reports.

Why it matters: Critics say the sentences send the message that even peaceful pro-democracy activism will be severely punished. They mark a continuation of Beijing's overhaul of Hong Kong's political structure, designed to crack down opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.

Local news moves to the inbox

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A slew of new companies are launching platforms for local newsletters, a shift that could help finally bring the local news industry into the digital era.

Driving the news: Substack, the email publishing platform for independent journalists, on Thursday announced a new local news platform.

J&J vaccine pause hurts its reputation

Reproduced from Economist/YouGov poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans' confidence in the safety of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine took a big dip this week after the pause in its use, per new YouGov polling, even though the risk of blood clots following the shot is extremely low, if it exists at all.

Why it matters: For the majority of people, particularly high-risk Americans, getting the J&J shot is almost certainly less dangerous than remaining vulnerable to the coronavirus.