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.