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.

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As the coronavirus pandemic has plunged much of the world economy into turmoil, you've probably heard a lot about what might happen to "supply chains," the vast networks of manufacturing and shipping that help create and deliver all those plastic toys, iPhones, cars, pills, pants, yogurt, and N95 face-masks you've been waiting on.

The future of global supply chains is an especially important question for China, the world's manufacturing powerhouse. Some countries and companies now worry about relying too much on any single supplier for consumer and medical goods, let alone one where the government hid the first evidence of what became a global pandemic and sometimes enforces trade and investment rules in seemingly arbitrary ways. The US-China trade war — and the vulnerabilities it reveals for manufacturers — certainly don't help.

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AMLO and Trump: an unlikely duo – When Mexico's populist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, shakes hands with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday to celebrate the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, it will mark AMLO's first foreign trip since he assumed office nearly two years ago. In the run up to the meeting, both Trump and AMLO have boasted of warm personal ties, but the friendship is… an unlikely one. Recall when AMLO was elected in 2018, most analysts predicted that he would clash with Trump over immigration and trade (AMLO had long advocated for Mexicans' right to work in the United States, while Trump infamously referred to Mexican migrants as "criminals" and vowed to abolish NAFTA, the free trade agreement that was a boon for Mexico's economy.) But in endearing himself to Trump, AMLO may have calculated that, from Mexico's standpoint, a revised trade deal is better than no trade deal at all, and has thus been willing to appease the US president on issues like immigration. (As part of an agreement with the Trump administration, for example, AMLO deployed the National Guard to stop Central Americans trying to reach the US via Mexican territory.) Moreover, in flying to Washington now AMLO might also be keen to distract attention from his own poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen Mexico's death toll surpass 30,000 in recent days, now one of the highest in the world.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Got through the Fourth of July. Pretty rough one for 2020 here in the United States. Still in the thick of it as we see caseload exploding in the United States. But really, the virus is all about developing markets right now. Poor countries around the world very soon, with the exception of the US and the UK, all of the top 10 countries around the world in terms of coronavirus caseload will be poorer countries. Let's keep in mind, these are countries that test a lot less, which means the actual numbers, in the United States the experts are saying probable likelihood of total cases is about 10x what we've actually seen in the US, in emerging markets and most of them, it's more like between 20 and 100. In other words, this is really where the virus now is.

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Many countries around the world — mostly democracies in the Americas, Asia, and Europe — have condemned China's recent move to implement a draconian new security law for Hong Kong that in effect ends the autonomy granted to the territory when it reverted from British control to Chinese rule in 1997. However, last week 52 countries expressed support for China's decision at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Most of these countries either owe China a lot of money or are relatively authoritarian regimes themselves — but not all of them. Here's a look at the China-debt exposure and freedom rankings of the countries that took Beijing's side on the new Hong Kong law.