What We're Watching: ​Bibi's COVID scheming, Mexico probes sterilization claims, Cyprus blocks Belarus sanctions

A placard with an image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a demonstration against his alleged corruption and the government's handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Jerusalem September 5, 2020

Bibi's COVID scheming: With coronavirus cases spiking, Israel has imposed a second nationwide lockdown, the first developed country to go back to draconian measures of this kind since the spring. The controversial decision, which came as Israeli Jews prepared to celebrated the Jewish High Holidays, represents a certain failure of Prime Minister Netanyahu's handling of the pandemic, in which Israel emerged as a global case study in how not to reopen after the initial lockdowns. Polls show that two-thirds of the public disapprove of Bibi's handling of the crisis. Many critics suspect the second lockdown — which bans large public gatherings — isn't only about flattening the curve, but also about quelling the anti-Netanyahu protests that have gained steam throughout the country in recent months. This all comes as the Israeli government faces an unprecedented crisis: it has failed to pass a budget in two years and its economy is in free fall, sparking fears of another election by year's end (the fourth in less than two years).


Mexico investigating forced sterilizations claims: The Mexican government says it has opened an investigation into allegations that Latin American women, including several Mexicans, had undergone forced sterilization and other unwanted gynecological procedures while interned at a US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in the US state of Georgia. The allegations stem from a whistleblower complaint released last week by a nurse who works there, which says that hysterectomies (the removal of at least part of the uterus) had been performed on several women at the facility without their consent. The whistleblower also alleges "jarring medical neglect" of detainees and calls out one specific doctor who she labels "the uterus collector" because of his insistence on "taking everybody's stuff out." Meanwhile, Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed disgust at the allegations — which ICE vehemently denies —and said Mexico would not hesitate to take legal action against the US if the allegations are proven true. More than 170 members of the US Congress have also called for an immediate probe.

Why is Cyprus blocking EU action on Belarus? All EU member states but one have reportedly agreed on a package of economic sanctions against officials in Belarus, where dictator Alexander Lukashenko has brutally cracked down on weeks of protests over his rigging of the presidential election last month. Who's the one? The small island nation of Cyprus, which says it won't approve the Belarus measures unless Brussels also imposes sanctions on Turkey over its continued energy drilling in eastern Mediterranean waters that Cyprus' main patron, Greece, claims as its own. Cyprus says it supports sanctions against Belarus in principle, but that the EU has to follow through on its unrelated pledge to pressure Turkey to stop drilling and resume direct dialogue with Athens. Since sanctions like the ones prepared against Belarus require unanimous support from all 27 member states, one veto is enough to sink them. In a sign of growing frustration over the deadlock, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, recently called for an end to that unanimity rule. In the meantime, who will fold first: Cyprus or Brussels? Alexander Lukashenko is watching as keenly as we are.

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every household, changing the way we live our lives. The pandemic continues to reinforce the drive for cooperation between communities, governments and businesses in order to combat the threat.

Microsoft responded to the pandemic in its home state through efforts like donating protective equipment, making boxed lunches for families and using technology to better understand the spread of the virus over the last year. Now, we're sharing six ways Microsoft is pulling together with the community to lend a hand to fellow Washingtonians in 2021 including helping with vaccination efforts. To read more, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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Guilty: Eleven months after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, on a Minneapolis street corner, we finally have a verdict in the murder trial. On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of all three charges: second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The verdict was celebrated by advocates for racial justice and police reform. Last summer, video footage of Floyd suffocating to death as he cried out "I can't breathe" galvanized anti-racism protests across America (some of which turned violent) that went global. We're watching to see if the jury's verdict gives fresh impetus to the nationwide movement for police accountability and broader criminal justice reform, both of which have been met with fierce resistance from law-and-order conservatives and police unions. And we'll also be keeping an eye on the sentence, as Chauvin faces up to 75 years in prison for his crimes.

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120,000: Ukraine warns that Russia will soon have as many as 120,000 troops on its eastern border, a larger presence than when Moscow seized Crimea in 2014. Kyiv wants to join NATO to deter the Russian forces from invading the Donbas region, where about half the population are ethnic Russians.

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During a pandemic, the work of reporters around the world is particularly important to ensure transparency about the scope of outbreaks and the measures that governments are taking to contain them. But in many countries, press freedom has been declining since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Press freedom took a bit hit over the past year, as governments across the world doubled down on censoring media that criticized their handling of the pandemic, and locking up reporters for reporting the facts. Reporters Without Borders today published its annual World Press Freedom Index, which takes a microscope to every country, ranking the ability of its media to report freely and independently. Here's a look at how countries' scores have changed over the past year.

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on World In 60 Seconds (aka Around the World in 180 Seconds) and discusses Xi Jinping's message to the US, Russia's buildup at the Ukraine border, and Cuba's new leader.

What did you make of Xi Jinping's message to the US at China's annual Boao Forum?

Well, he didn't mention the United States directly, but he basically said that we don't accept hegemonic powers, we don't accept people that are setting the rules for other countries. Basically, consistently Xi Jinping saying that the Chinese want to be treated as equals with the United States. They're going to be rule makers for themselves. The Chinese political and economic system, every bit as legitimate as that of the United States. This is going to be a real fight. The American perspective is that the relationship between the two is going to be very competitive, whether it's a happy competition or an unhealthy competition depends on the Chinese. Xi Jinping's perspective is the Americans are not treating the Chinese with due respect. And that's going to play out on security, it's going to play out in climate, on the economy. I mean, you name it.

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One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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The Biden administration's much ballyhooed Earth Day Summit this week promises to be revealing. We're going to learn a little about what additional action a few dozen of the world's largest emitters are willing to take on climate change, and a lot more about which countries are willing to take such action at the behest of the United States.

Call it a situational assessment of the status of American power just shy of Biden's 100th day in office.

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