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Travel Pool Report 23: Global Center Opening
Mike Memoli • Los Angeles Times
May 21, 2017: 09:05 PM


POTUS has just concluded a ceremony inaugurating Saudi Arabia's new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology. It was quite the show. No remarks from POTUS.

Just before 8:30 pm, pool entered a dark circular room -- fairly sterile and mostly gray and white -- that appears to be the hub of the new center.

Along the edges of the room were three main groupings of computer terminals -- each five or six rows deep, with dozens of individual workstations in each row manned by men wearing traditional red checkered ghutra. The far wall of monitors opposite from where pool preset was dark save for a spinning white and gray globe. Another side had a large square panel of monitors displaying nine separate feeds of news networks. Two other screens simply displayed the logo of the new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology.

Two stories up overlooking the floor behind glass walls were additional work areas -- these staffed by women in dark abaya.

The room was lit at this point only by more than three dozen whirling blue spotlights, giving the room the feel of a hybrid "24" CTU operations floor and television game show set.

At both the foot of the red carpet closest to pool, and at the opposite end of the room are approximately three-feet tall pillars topped by a black and white globes.

At 8:45 pm music began playing overhead as a procession of dignitaries arrived, including Jared and Ivanka in a first wave. Pool spotted Kushner and Deputy Crown Prince MbS engaged in a friendly conversation as he pointed out the room's features.

Shortly after, POTUS, King Salman and other leaders arrived together. Quickly, he and the King touched down together on the closest globe, setting off a dramatic flourish to the music and lighting up the room brighter and changing dark screens live with various Chartbeat-style statistical displays and scrolling screens of counter-terrorism digital videos. An unnamed host who presented various features of the room described it as a dashboard of artificial intelligence information tracking online sentiments.

He said the center has 350 technicians in the main room. That includes a media monitoring system that can monitor 100 tv channels in 11 different languages.

The program was started by deputy crown prince two years ago.

After the presentation, POTUS, the king and other leaders gathered for a family photo in front of the main dashboard, which now displayed the center's logo surrounded by 56 national flags.

At 8:55 pm pool began marching back to vans. Motorcade rolling at 9:03 pm.

Stand by for photos.



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