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What does the world need from Davos this year? As the World Economic Forum prepares for its annual jamboree in the Swiss Alps this week, our columnists Larry Summers and Rana Foroohar take aim at some of the rhetoric they anticipate from the most high profile attendees.

Prof Summers wonders if Donald Trump will be able to make “a nervous world a bit less nervous,” since to do that he would need to project a US that can be a reliable and predictable partner. (The official theme of the 48th summit is “creating a shared future for the fractured world”). He argues that while we do not know whether the US president will choose to reassure or provoke his audience, we do know that the assembled business and world leaders should be concerned that the current economic and market upswing cannot last, and that a downturn, when it comes, could exacerbate the drift to populist and authoritarian politics.

Among the powerful group of companies that comprise the Fangs — Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google — the challenges posed by Davos are slightly different, as Rana explains. The Big Tech companies know they are under political pressure on many fronts, and may be facing a serious threat of more and harsher regulation. But she argues that the corporations’ attempts to engage on matters of concern are essentially cosmetic, whether on their responsibilities on extremist content, their role in democracy (as a platform for fake news and political advertising and a filter bubble), or their dominance of several sectors. They had better watch out, warns Rana, because the legislators are coming for them, and a PR push won’t be enough.

Iran’s plan for regional security: Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif writes for the FT, extending an invitation from the Islamic Republic to other countries in the region so that they can build on the co-operation that led to the crushing of Isis. He wants to see an end to battles for hegemony and more of a voice for smaller nations in a security network — not utopian but necessary, he argues.

Will it become the best of three? Wolfgang Munchau warns the hardline Remainers, or “Revocateurs” as he calls them, that their enthusiasm for another vote on whether to leave the EU is a mistake. It makes no sense and could backfire.

A Brexit path littered with dangers: George Bridges, a well-regarded minister in David Davis’ department and a Conservative policy-making veteran, intervenes to warn of three traps the UK could fall into, and urges negotiators to make sure “take back control” does not become a lack of control over the nation’s future direction.

Best of the rest

Trump’s Debt to Ron Paul’s Paranoid Style — James Kirchick in the New York Review of Books

What the reaction to Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy reveals about New Zealand — Kieran O'Halloran in The New Statesman on politics and social change

Why Facebook's news feed changes are bad news for democracy — Emily Bell in The Guardian on the company's decision to turn down the volume on controversy

Trump Is a Racist. Period — Charles M. Blow in the New York Times on the current ‘debate’

Hawaii False Alarm Hints at Thin Line Between Mishap and Nuclear War — Max Fisher in the New York Times

What you've been saying

British aim of limited movement would not be met within EEA — letter from Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King’s College London, UK

“Sir, Julian Boswall argues that Britain could become a member of the European Economic Area and use Article 112 of the EEA agreement to limit free movement (Letter, January 18). I doubt this.Article 112 does, it is true, provide for unilateral limitations on free movement, but only if “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectoral or regional nature are arising”. It would not be easy for Britain to argue a case of this sort, which could, presumably, be reviewed by the European Free Trade Association court. The limitations must in any case be “restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation”. The criteria are specific and limited and cannot, in my view, be used to secure exemption from free movement on a permanent basis.”

Trend in BoE forecasts does not support claim of anti-Brexit bias — letter from Professor Costas Milas, University of Liverpool, UK

“Sir, Paul Marshall argues that the Bank of England has an anti-Brexit bias and that “in forecasting terms, the Bank seems to be doubling down on pessimism” (“Anti-Brexit bias at the BoE endangers its credibility”, January 18). These are strong words that should worry us if Mr Marshall is correct. I am examining this in two ways: by looking at the very short-run forecasting record of the BoE (that is, one quarter ahead) as well as its forecasting record over the one-year ahead horizon. By looking at the BoE’s one-quarter-ahead forecast for growth in gross domestic product (the mode, or most likely outcome based on market expectations of interest rates), the Bank has over-predicted actual GDP annual growth by 0.37 per cent on average since 2006.”

Comment from Paul A. Myers on Gillian Tett’s column, Populist swing alarms financial titans

“My simple overarching model of the modern world and the central role the US plays in it is centered on risk reduction. The Roosevelt-Truman administrations created the model based on overall risk reduction. Life for individual Americans was made much better through the reduction of domestic economic risk and life risk (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing programs). Geopolitical risk from the upheaval of war was greatly reduced through alliances, international organizations, and the promotion of trade. The benefits were near universal.”

Today’s opinion

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Oil shock fails to disturb optimistic mood
Rising oil prices have frequently spelt the end of global economic upswings but not this time

Brexit ‘Revocateurs’ are wrong to put faith in another referendum
No question could keep the UK in the EU and Leavers may boycott a second poll

Six ways to find a new career
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The Big Read: China: market bulls beat the short sellers — for now
Big bets on the collapse of the country’s indebted economy have largely failed. Did the hedge funds misread the signs or were they just too early?

FT View

FT View: Mnangagwa’s ‘new’ Zimbabwe merits support
This is the time to re-engage with Zimbabwe, but step by step

FT View: The enduring scandal of England’s Victorian jails
There is a need to build new prisons — and to put fewer people in them

The Big Read

The Big Read: China: market bulls beat the short sellers — for now
Big bets on the collapse of the country’s indebted economy have largely failed. Did the hedge funds misread the signs or were they just too early?

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