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.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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It's easy to judge the Pompeiians for building a city on the foothills of a volcano, but are we really any smarter today? If you live along the San Andreas fault in San Francisco or Los Angeles, geologists are pretty confident you're going to experience a magnitude 8 (or larger) earthquake in the next 25 years—that's about the same size as the 1906 San Francisco quake that killed an estimated 3,000 people and destroyed nearly 30,000 buildings. Or if you're one of the 9.6 million residents of Jakarta, Indonesia, you might have noticed that parts of the ground are sinking by as much as ten inches a year, with about 40 percent of the city now below sea level.

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Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader" creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.

It's been over a decade since the 58-year old whom some have dubbed "the Trump before Trump" became prime minister. In that time he has, critics say, hollowed out Hungary's governing institutions and eroded the state's democratic characteristics.

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Why do (most) world leaders drink together? It can get them to agree on stuff they wouldn't while sober. Booze "helps people get cooperation off the ground, especially in situations where cooperation is challenging," says University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland. Alcohol, he explains, allows you to "see commonalities rather than just pursuing your own interest," which may put teetotaler politicians — like Donald Trump — at a disadvantage. Watch his interview on the next episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…

Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!

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