What We’re Watching: Is Bibi Netanyahu Going to Trial or Not?

Netanyahu's hearing problems — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pre-trial hearing on various corruption charges begins tomorrow, giving his lawyers a chance to rebut the state's indictment and determine whether the case is strong enough to go to court. The timing is horrible for Netanyahu who, after a marginal win in last month's do-over parliamentary elections, is trying to cobble together a coalition government while also already preparing for yet another election if he can't. Between electoral challenges and legal troubles, we are watching keenly to see just how many political lives Israel's longest-serving premier has.


The far right's second chance in Austria? Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz's rightwing People's Party won handily in Sunday's snap elections, but he still needs a coalition partner in order to govern. Kurz himself was first elected in 2017 but called the snap election earlier this year after his scandal-ridden coalition partners in the far-right Freedom Party got busted trying to peddle influence to Russia while trashed in Ibiza. The big question now is whether Kurz will risk tying up again with the Freedom Party, whose views are closest to his, or leap across the spectrum to govern with the leftwing Green Party which, as elsewhere in Europe, surged in the polls. Working with the Greens would boost Kurz's support among younger voters, but it would be an awkward political marriage. One thing seems sure: Kurz won't likely work with the center-left Socialist party which got clobbered into its worst electoral result since 1945.

Sandra the orangutan's new life — In 2014, a group of animal rights lawyers in Argentina convinced a court that an orangutan named Sandra should be considered a "nonhuman person." A lawyer at the time hailed the case as a major legal breakthrough – not just for great apes like Sandra, whose confinement in a Buenos Aires zoo amounted to an illegal deprivation of her freedom, but "also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories." After five years of delays and assorted red tape, Sandra is finally on her way to a cushy primate reserve in Florida. We're watching this story because we're happy for Sandra but also because we want to let cows, pigs, horses, and chickens know that they might want to lawyer up these days too.

What We're Ignoring

Mohammed bin Salman's new story — The Saudi crown prince told the US TV news magazine 60 Minutes that he had no knowledge of the plot to kill and dismember Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. But he also said that, "as a leader in Saudi Arabia" he would "take full responsibility" for the heinous crime, which took place a year ago tomorrow. We are ignoring this for three reasons: first, the US intelligence services believe the crown prince ordered the hit; second, the Saudis have changed their story on this murder so many times that we see no reason to believe this one; and third, the word "responsibility" has no recognizable meaning in this context, since there is no power inside or outside of Saudi Arabia that seems willing to hold Prince Mohammed to account.

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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