What We’re Watching: Bibi Gets Another Go at the Ballot Box

Israeli Elections 2.0 — Israelis go to the polls again today for the second time in five months. Back in April, Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu's Likud party (just barely) won the most votes, but failed to form a governing coalition, paving the way for new elections. The big question today is: how many Israelis have actually changed their minds in such a short timeframe? Last time, Likud and the centrist Blue and White coalition each won 35 Knesset seats, and polls show the two parties are still neck and neck, while secular right-winger Avigdor Lieberman — whose dissent in May left Bibi one seat short of a majority — is gaining steam. If this holds, Bibi would not have a majority again, and a complicated rotating premiership, national-unity government, or even a third election, could result. We are watching for results shortly...

Italian Hospitality—As typically follows dramatic breakups, Italy's new government is moving on and wants the world to know it. Over the weekend, Rome permitted an NGO boat carrying migrants (82 to be precise) to dock in an Italian port for the first time this year. This would not have happened under rightwing former interior minister Matteo Salvini, whose hardline approach towards migrants made his Lega party the most popular party in Italy. Salvini lost his spot in the government after a failed bid to trigger new elections last month, but now that he's leading the opposition, we're watching to see whether the new government's more welcoming approach to migrants puts the wind back into Salvini's political sails, and fast.

Mexico's Imaginary New Police Force – In order to tackle Mexico's soaring murder rate and rampant corruption, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador created a new police force, the Guardia Nacional. But less than a year into his presidency, few people are joining the new outfit, due to widespread disillusionment within the existing police ranks, low pay prospects, and the very real danger of getting killed on the job. We're watching this story because it's another reminder how politicians who sweep into office promising big changes – like AMLO did – can struggle to translate their plans into reality.

What We're Ignoring

Russian Priests' Holy Water Air-Drop - Priests in Tver, near Moscow, dropped holy water out of a rickety airplane last week to combat drunkenness unsavory congress in the city. We love the image, but we're ignoring this little pop of propeller-powered pious precipitation, because stricter laws – including a crackdown on illegal moonshine – have already made a significant dent in alcohol-related deaths in one of the world's hardest-drinking countries in recent years.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky sat down yesterday with Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron for a meeting in the Elysée Palace in Paris for peace talks. This was the first-ever meeting between Putin, Russia's dominant political force since 2000, and Zelensky, who was a TV comedian at this time last year.

Fears that Putin would use Zelensky's inexperience to back him into a deal on Russian terms weren't realized, but the relationship between the two has only just begun.

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Macron not backing down over pensions – Despite five days of mass unrest that has paralyzed Paris' public transport system and dented both tourism and Christmas retail, the government will stand firm on a proposal to reform and unify the country's 42 different pension plans. France's pension system, one of the most generous of any major industrialized country, has major budget shortfalls that contribute to the country's ballooning deficit. Last year, Macron abandoned a proposed fuel price hike that ignited the Yellow Vest movement. But overhauling France's "welfare state" was central to his 2017 election platform, and acquiescing to protesters this time around would be political suicide. France's prime minister – tapped to lead the pension reform project – is expected to announce the plan's final details tomorrow. We're watching to see how this might escalate things further.

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4: The World Anti-Doping Agency handed Russia a four-year ban from all major sporting events, precluding its participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, and soccer's 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Russia has three weeks to appeal the ban, which its prime minister says is the result of "chronic anti-Russian hysteria."

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Are we seeing the creation of a parallel universe for US and Chinese tech industries?

I think the answer is yes. In the past, US has dominated the world in technologies from P.C. operating systems, semiconductors, to servers, and even Internet. But ever since the rise of mobile technologies, China has really leveraged the large market with a huge amount of data and now is beginning to innovate and build great mobile apps on which there's a large amount of data being collected.

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