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

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.

"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.

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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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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Tanzania reverses course on COVID: Just four months ago, the Tanzanian government was completely denying the existence of the pandemic. Then-President John Magufuli insisted Tanzania was COVID-free thanks to peoples' prayers, and refused to try to get vaccines. But Magufuli died suddenly in March — perhaps of COVID. His successor, current President Samia Suluhu, has acknowledged the presence of the virus in Tanzania, and although she was initially lukewarm on mask-wearing and vaccines, Suluhu has recently changed her tune, first joining the global COVAX facility and now getting vaccinated herself to kick off the country's inoculation drive. Well done Tanzania, because if there's one thing we've all learned over the past 18 months, it's that nowhere — not even North Korea, whatever Pyongyang says — is safe from the coronavirus.

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16: A new study tracking Earth's "vital signs" has found that 16 out of 31 indicators of planetary health are getting worse due to climate change. Last year's pandemic-induced shutdown did little to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, stop the oceans from warming, or slow the shrinking of polar ice caps.

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Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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