Watching and Ignoring

Since there won’t be a Friday edition this week, Willis has kindly submitted this guide for your attentions over the next seven days…


Watch the G7 summit — We don’t often spend time on these talk-shop, photo-op summits, but this one could be interesting, if only because every single member has a bone to pick with Donald Trump. EU leaders, Canada, and Japan — America’s closest allies-all face US tariffs. Will anyone smile at the group photo?

Watch North Korea — News from inside the DPRK, the world’s most secretive state, hints at possible divisions of opinion over talks with the US. Three senior military officials were removed from their posts this week, according to US officials.

Ignore new calls for Catalan independence — Hoping to profit from political turmoil in Madrid, imprisoned Catalan independence leader Jordi Sànchez called on the Spanish government this week to drop its commitment to “the indisputable unity of the homeland.” Last week, Mariano Rajoy lost power to the Socialist Party’s Pedro Sánchez, who must now lead a minority government. But that doesn’t move us closer to Catalan independence. Only a commitment from Madrid to recognize a Catalan independence referendum can do that. That’s not on the agenda.

Ignore Venezuela’s protester release — Venezuela’s government has released dozens of opposition politicians and activists in recent days. This is not a political breakthrough because there is no common ground between President Nicolas Maduro and those who would force him from power. It’s more likely a bid to ease pressure on the government following a disputed election than a genuine gesture of conciliation or a sign that the regime is buckling under pressure. Those released are not allowed to use social media or travel abroad.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Read More at Microsoft On The Issues.

In recent years, Republicans have come to dominate most of the state legislatures in the US. Ironically, it was during the Obama-era that the GOP made major headway in states that had long been considered safely blue. State legislatures are now redder than they've been in nearly a century, and in most parts of the country, one party holds all the levers of power. For the first time since 1914, there's only one split legislature in the entire country: Minnesota. To be sure, some state races are bucking the trend: Kentucky and Louisiana, both deep-red states, recently elected Democratic governors. Here's a look at how Democratic and Republican control of state legislatures has evolved over the past four decades.

Forty years ago, Islamic extremists angry at the Saudi government's experiments with social liberalization laid siege to the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

The attack came on the heels of the Iranian revolution across the Gulf, putting the House of Saud and its American backers in a precarious spot. Tehran had challenged Saudi Arabia's Islamic legitimacy from without, while jihadists were now doing the same from within. For a few days it seemed as though the world's most important oil producer – and the custodian of Islam's holiest places – might be in danger of collapse.

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Forty years ago today, dozens of bearded gunmen stormed the holiest site in Islam, the Grand Mosque at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

They held the complex for two weeks before a French-trained Saudi force rooted them out, but the fallout from the attack went on to shape the modern Middle East in ways that are still with us today: in the scourge of transnational jihadism and the deepening rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

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