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.

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, it has a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. Last week, in furtherance of those commitments, Microsoft shared a grooming detection technique, code name "Project Artemis," by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function.

Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for twenty years, but he has a problem: his current presidential term ends in 2024, and the constitution prevents him from running for re-election then.

As a result, the question of what he'll do in 2024 has been on the minds of Russia's oligarchs, spooks, bureaucrats, and a lot of ordinary folks, as well. After all, over the past two decades, Putin has made himself, for better and for worse, the indispensable arbiter, boss, and glue of Russia's sprawling and corrupted system of government. As the current speaker of Russia's legislature once said, "Without Putin, there is no Russia." Not as we currently know it, no.

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It's been nine years since Libya's long-time despot Muammar Qaddafi was killed in a violent uprising, bringing the oil-rich country to the brink of civil war. That conflict entered a new stage last year when violence between warring factions competing for territory intensified around Tripoli, Libya's capital, leading to the displacement of some 300,000 civilians. In recent weeks, fighting has intensified again, and ceasefire talks have failed. Here's a look at who's who and how we got here.

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India's supreme court to weigh in on citizenship law – India's southern state of Kerala filed a lawsuit in India's Supreme Court, claiming that a contentious new citizenship law that's caused nationwide protests is discriminatory and violates India's secular constitution. Kerala is the first state to legally challenge the new law backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party, which opens a path to Indian citizenship for migrants from neighboring countries— provided that they are not Muslims. In addition to the Kerala action, at least some of the 60 petitions filed by individuals and political parties are also likely to be heard by the court next week. Amid a climate of deepening uncertainty for India's 200 million Muslims, we're watching closely to see how the court rules.

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Vladimir Putin has held power for twenty years now, alternating between the prime minister's seat and the presidency twice. He has made himself so indispensable to Russia's political system that even the speaker of the legislature has mused that "without Putin, there is no Russia." The constitution says he can't serve as president again after his current term ends in 2024 – but he'll find a way to keep power somehow. As he starts to lay those plans, here's a look back at his approval rating over the past two decades.