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.

Electricity consumption in our homes contributes 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. What if we could transform this huge contributing factor into a solution? That's what Eni's luminescent solar concentrators can do. These transparent, colored slabs can be inserted into home windows to capture solar energy and generate electricity. By adjusting to the brightness and temperature of your home, they can even save you money on heating and air conditioning costs.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

How did an entire country's media spread false news for a night?

Fascinating case study in France over the weekend. For less than a day, we thought that the most wanted men in the country had been caught in Scotland. Turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The so-called news was actually reported quite carefully at first, on Friday night with careful words. But the language quickly moved from conditional to categorical and therefore, to misinformation through human error. What you have here is the tension between being first and being right, which has always been present in journalism but is more and more as you have these 24 hour news channels, social media, and the incredible economic pressure on news sites that are advertising based and therefore click based.

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Donald Trump announced a fresh "phase 1" trade deal with China last week, part of his ongoing bid to reduce the United States' huge trade deficit with China. The US has been buying more from China than China buys from the US for decades, but since coming into office Trump has made reducing that deficit central to his "America First" agenda. It's not easy to do. Consider that in 2018, after two full years of the Trump administration, the trade deficit with China actually swelled to its highest level since the Clinton years. That's because many perfectly healthy economic factors contribute to a trade deficit: stronger economic growth under Trump has meant more demand for foreign goods, so as long as the economy keeps humming along, it will be hard for Trump to reduce the deficit. Likewise, the strong US dollar makes foreign goods cheaper for US consumers to import, while China's own economic slowdown in 2018 decreased Chinese demand for American goods. For a historical perspective on all of this, here's a look at how the US-China trade balance has developed under each US president going back to 1993.

On Friday, we detailed the main arguments for and against President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from a pocket of northern Syria where their presence had protected Washington's Kurdish allies against an attack from Turkey. We then asked Signal readers to let us know what they thought.

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Dangerous Chaos in Syria – Turkey's military move into northern Syria had two stated goals: to push Kurdish fighters inside Syria further from Turkey's border and to create a "safe zone" inside Syria in which Turkey could place up to two million Syrian refugees currently living in camps inside Turkey. But the Kurds have now allied with Syria's army, which is backed by Russia, and these forces are now moving north into that same territory toward Turkish troops and Arab militias backed by Ankara. Meanwhile, large numbers of ISIS fighters and their families have escaped prisons where Kurds had held them captive. Turkey's President Erdogan vows to press ahead with his operation until "ultimate victory is achieved." Pandora's Box is now wide open.

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