What We’re Watching: Bibi defies legal (and political) gravity

Bibi's bid to stay out of court – Israel's embattled Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu has asked parliament to give him immunity from prosecution in not one, not two, but three criminal corruption cases currently open against him. If approved, he'd be protected for as long as he's a member of parliament. But debate over the request could drag on for months, and as Israel heads for elections in March (the country's third in a year), the move is a big gamble. Netanyahu knows the move is unpopular and carries election risks, but he also doesn't want to have to campaign from a courtroom. We're watching to see what parliament does, and how voters respond.


Millionaires fleeing justice – Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motors who has been out on bail after being arrested in Japan on financial misconduct charges in 2018, staged a dramatic escape from his Tokyo home over the holiday. Rumor has it that the French multi-millionaire – who denies the charges against him – was smuggled out of his apartment in a musician's instrument case by a team of mercenaries before being bundled onto a private jet. He later surfaced in Lebanon, a country that has no extradition treaty with Japan and where he is also a citizen. There are lots of reasons why this story is completely bananas, but for us the sheer brass of an uber-wealthy businessman trying to evade a likely jail term at a time of rising populism and popular outrage over "unaccountable global elites" takes the cake.

John Lewis of Georgia – More than half a century ago, John Lewis suffered many an injury and indignity in defense of civil rights and his country's future. With Martin Luther King Jr, he faced down hatred, threats, guns, clubs, bullwhips, tear gas, spit, and death itself. A native of Alabama, Lewis has served Georgia's 5th district in the US House of Representatives for 32 years. We learned last week that Mr. Lewis has been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. We're watching John Lewis because he's been in tough fights before—and because he is not finished.

What We're Ignoring

People who say the new decade doesn't begin until 2021 A debate is raging in some corners of the internet about whether the year 2020 really marks the start of a new decade. Sticklers argue that since the Roman calendar started counting with Year 1 (rather than Year Zero), the next 10-year cycle doesn't really start until New Year's Day 2021. These folks are absolutely correct…and we're ignoring them anyway. Two reasons. One, we feel we're better off bragging that we're bad at math than in trying to hide it. Two, your Signalistas are a forward-looking/impatient people. We're ready to bury the Tens or the 20-teens or whatever that old decade was called and to look ahead to the Twenties.

As Europe inches past the peak of COVID-19 deaths and the US slowly approaches it, many poorer countries are now staring into an abyss. As bad as the coronavirus crisis is likely to be in the world's wealthiest nations, the public health and economic blow to less affluent ones, often referred to as "developing countries," could be drastically worse. Here's why:

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25: A divorce lawyer in Shanghai told Bloomberg News that his business has surged 25% since the city began easing its lockdown in mid-March, as being cooped up on lockdown evidently exposed irreconcilable differences in people's marriages.

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Japan mulls state of emergency: Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe is poised to declare a "state of emergency" because of the coronavirus pandemic, giving local governments the authority to order people to stay in their homes and shutter businesses and schools. Japan has so far managed the crisis without the kinds of sweeping lockdowns seen elsewhere, but a surge of new cases in recent days – particularly in Tokyo – has put pressure on the government to do more. Japan has one of the world's oldest populations – a third of its people are older than 65, the demographic most vulnerable to COVID-19. The emergency decision comes at a tough time. Japan's economy has been hurting for several months now, as China's massive lockdowns in January and February cratered demand for Japanese exports. In order to deal with the fallout that comes with putting his economy on life-support, PM Abe said the government would push through a $1 trillion stimulus package.

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As reports swirl from sources in the U.S. Intelligence Community that China vastly underreported the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths, China's top diplomat in the U.S., Ambassador Cui Tiankai, joined Ian Bremmer for an exclusive conversation in which he responds to the claim.

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