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Non-coronavirus news: Israel, US-Iran skirmishes, and a Sanders surprise?

Non-coronavirus news: Israel, US-Iran skirmishes, and a Sanders surprise?

Gantz tapped to form a government in Israel: Israel's president has tapped the Blue and White party's Benny Gantz to form a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing bloc failed to secure a parliamentary majority. Gantz has 28 days to wrangle the 61 seats needed to form a unity government. One noteworthy change in the status quo: Avigdor Lieberman, the political kingmaker whose support both leaders need to form a coalition, has broken with Netanyahu and tipped the scales in Blue and White's favor. Meanwhile, at the behest of the president, Netanyahu and Gantz met Sunday to discuss the option of forming an "immediate joint government" to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. A state of emergency in the court system has also delayed Netanyahu's long-awaited corruption trial, slated to begin on March 17, until May 24. The ball is now firmly in Gantz's court.


Will coronavirus help Bernie Sanders? To win the Democratic Party's nomination, Bernie Sanders needs something big and completely unexpected to happen. On Tuesday, three delegate-rich states — Arizona, Illinois, and Florida — go to the polls. Under ordinary circumstances, polls show Biden would be the clear favorite to win all three. But coronavirus ensures the turnout will be very low. What if Sanders voters show up, and Biden voters don't? A long shot? Probably. But remember that Biden voters tend to be much older (and apparently more vulnerable to COVID-19) than Sanders voters. An upset by Sanders in most or all these states could upend the delegate race and the entire election.

Iran-US tit-for-tat continues: An Iraqi military base housing US troops was hit by a fresh wave of rockets over the weekend, wounding three Americans and two Iraqis. This comes just a week after three coalition members were killed when their military camp near Baghdad was hit by rocket fire attributed to the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, prompting retaliatory US airstrikes on that group. The Pentagon has increased its military presence in the Middle East over the past year in response to the perceived increased threat posed by Iran. Tehran now seems willing to up the ante. But as it grapples with one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks (it has the third largest death toll behind China and Italy) maybe this isn't the best time to provoke Washington?

UPDATE: the piece has been updated to reflect the postponement of the Ohio primary.

What We're Ignoring

Those who ignore the experts: The warnings from public health officials are stark. To ensure that the global coronavirus pandemic doesn't overwhelm healthcare systems, everyone needs to do their part: Wash your hands. Avoid large gatherings. Work from home if you can. And yet, an Arkansas clergyman quoted in the Washington Post says a colleague recently told him that "half of his church is ready to lick the floor, to prove there's no actual virus." Meanwhile, this weekend nightlife was bumping in big cities like Nashville and New York. France's health ministry is clarifying to the public that snorting cocaine does not, in fact, slow the bug's spread. And here is a group of Thai bat guano collectors continuing to ply their trade despite concerns that coronaviruses may be incubated in bat colonies before making their way to humans. We're not just ignoring these stories; we're washing our hands of them.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

How was it that after decades of infighting, European nations were able to come together so quickly on an economic pandemic relief package? "I'm tempted to say because of COVID-19…because the triggering factor for the crisis was not the banks…not the bad behavior of some policy-makers somewhere in the region. It was actually this teeny tiny little virus..." European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde tells Ian Bremmer how a microscopic virus spurred the greatest show of international unity in years.


Watch the episode: Christine Lagarde, Leading Europe's United Economic Pandemic Response

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

First of all, what is going on in the Caucuses?

Well, it's a war. You'd never know it from following American press, because of course, we're only talking about Trump and the elections. But Armenia and Azerbaijan are actively fighting each other. Over 100 are dead so far, including civilians. There is a lot of fog of war misinformation going on. Reuters piece that seems that there are some mercenaries, including Syrian mercenaries on the ground that were in Azerbaijan that were paid for by Turkey. The Armenians, as of today, are claiming that Turkish fighter jet downed an Armenian war plane. Ankara is saying, no, they didn't. The Iranians are being accused of transferring military equipment to Armenia. The Iranians are saying, no, they didn't.

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