KRWG

Jackie Northam

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's state oil company, is often described as the kingdom's crown jewel.

It produces more oil than any other company in the world, supplying the world with a steady supply of crude and providing the kingdom with revenues that make up more than 80 percent of the national budget.

The White Foam Cafe in Riyadh is a cheery little place with wooden tables and chairs, and a good reputation for its fair-trade coffees and vegan desserts. It's also well-known for something else.

"This is one of the really famous dating places here. I dated my fiancé a lot here," says a 29-year-old woman enjoying a French-press coffee.

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On a balmy Thursday evening, dozens of young Saudis stream into the AlComedy Club in the western port city of Jeddah. It's the start of the weekend, and the crowd snacks on popcorn and ice cream before grabbing some of the sagging seats in the theater. Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" blares from speakers hanging above a tiny stage.

Lubna Olayan remembers the date. It was April 15, 1983, when she and her father sat down to dinner in Riyadh. Olayan and her American husband, John Xefos, had just returned to her native Saudi Arabia after nine years in the United States.

"Over dinner he says 'Lubna, what are you going to be doing here?' " Olayan recalls her father saying. Olayan had worked as a J.P. Morgan analyst in New York, and half-heartedly thought she'd see if there was work at a bank in Saudi Arabia. But her father had something in mind.

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The last few months have seen enormous change for women in Saudi Arabia. They'll soon be allowed to drive and are being encouraged to enter the workforce.

An elite group of movie lovers in the Saudi capital Riyadh got a special treat on Wednesday — a screening of the Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther. The invitation-only event marked the lifting of a ban on cinemas that's lasted more than three decades. It also heralds a new era for Saudi filmmakers, who for years have faced harassment from Saudi authorities for pursuing a profession considered haram, or forbidden, in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

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It was well beyond fashionably late to begin. But models finally took to the runway on Thursday in Saudi Arabia's first-ever Arab Fashion Week.

The event is one of the new entertainment opportunities opening up recently in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The fashion show hit significant delays, with logistical problems forcing it to open two weeks later than planned. Designers and models had trouble getting travel visas, and the organizers had to change venues to tents on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

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From the moment Donald Trump was elected president, questions started arising about his ability to separate his private business deals from his official duties. Critics became especially alarmed about his overseas holdings, fearing they could influence his foreign policy decisions.

In the year since taking office, has he found ways to address the ethical questions that could taint his foreign policy credibility?

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On the evening of Saturday, Nov. 4, the authorities in Saudi Arabia began rounding up dozens of businessmen, ministers and princes. It was a striking start to an anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by the young and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

One of the world's most famous — and flashy — billionaires is being detained by the Saudi government in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was swept up in early November, along with more than 200 other Saudi businessmen and princes, in a massive anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Many analysts saw it as a power grab by the young prince.

The mystery over who paid a record-breaking $450 million for Leonardo da Vinci's painting Salvator Mundi at an auction last month appears to have been solved. It turns out it's Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

That's according to U.S. intelligence officials who keep a close eye on the kingdom's young and powerful crown prince, says the Wall Street Journal.

Just as President Trump was heading off to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the Thanksgiving weekend, his company, the Trump Organization, announced it was severing ties with one of its New York properties.

When President Trump announced Monday that the U.S. intends to designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, he said the U.S. will also announce the imposition of additional sanctions on Pyongyang.

The Trump administration is increasingly using economic sanctions to try to influence behavior, but experts warn the strategy doesn't always work — and can backfire.

Trump hotels are meant to exude a sense of luxury in some of the most exciting and exotic cities worldwide. Now the president's organization is due to open a new hotel — this time in the heart of the blues-soaked Mississippi Delta.

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President Trump is going into the heart of Southern blues territory. His organization is trying to create a whole new line of hotels. First one is set to open in a small town in Mississippi. But not everyone welcomes that arrival. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

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Updated 11:06 a.m. ET

When the Fund for American Studies wanted a venue to celebrate its 50th anniversary, it picked President Trump's luxury hotel in Washington, D.C., just blocks from the White House.

"We did not select the hotel because we were trying to send a message of support to President Trump, as some have suggested," says Roger Ream, the president of TFAS. "We just thought it was a new elegant hotel and we'd try it."

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