What We're Watching: Lifting the lid in Ethiopia

Ethiopia's big vote – Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has kept his promise to bring change since arriving in power in April 2018. His push for peace with neighboring Eritrea brought him a Nobel Prize, but his willingness to grant greater autonomy to the country's many ethnic groups has triggered violence, forcing some three million people from their homes during his brief time in office. On Wednesday, members of the Sidama ethnic group, Ethiopia's fifth largest, went to the polls to vote on whether they should have their own regional state within Ethiopia's federal system. That would give them power to make their own policies, spend their own budget on local priorities, and to maintain their own police force. We're watching to see whether the results of the vote will be peacefully accepted—and whether the demands of other groups will cause greater political turmoil in the country.


Israel's uncharted political waters – "Law enforcement isn't optional. It's not a question of politics. It's a duty." So said Israel's Attorney General as he announced Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be indicted on three charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The indictments further complicate Israel's chaotic political landscape and threaten Netanyahu's bid to remain in power. Netanyahu is now likely to ask the Knesset, Israel's parliament, for immunity, which will delay criminal proceedings by several months. But the Knesset is not fully functional; no coalition government has been formed since Israel's September elections, the second in just six months. A third election is now extremely likely. But in the absence of a body authorized to decide on parliamentary immunity, it's unclear how Netanyahu's request might be considered. In a combative address, Netanyahu insisted the charges are politically motivated, and called on Israelis to "investigate the investigators." These are uncharted political waters, and all eyes are on the judiciary.

Donny Ramone – Fellow Signalista Alex Kliment is not like you and me. Where we see a photo of the handwritten notes that President Trump used on Wednesday to push back at charges he demanded the government of Ukraine investigate his political rival Joe Biden in exchange for military aid, Alex sees 1970s New York-style punk rock lyrics. You need to see this. This isn't the only reason we keep him around, but it's a really, really good one.

What We're Ignoring

Candidate Bloomberg – Former New York City Mayor and billionaire businessman Mike Bloomberg has officially filed his paperwork for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. But, his spokesperson said on Thursday, that "does not mean he has made the decision to run." We don't think he has a good chance to win anyway.

Scientists, engineers and technologists are turning to nature in search of solutions to climate change. Biomimicry is now being applied in the energy sector, medicine, architecture, communications, transport and agriculture in a bid to make human life on this planet more sustainable and limit the impacts of global warming. New inventions have been inspired by humpback whales, kingfishers and mosquitoes.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

The Trump administration's Middle East peace plan – three years in the making—is expected to be revealed tomorrow at a joint White House press conference between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Recall that the economic part of the plan, which calls for $50 billion of international investment to boost the Palestinian economy, was released last summer to weak applause, because it didn't include a framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Here are a few things to look for when more details are released tomorrow.

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The 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucuses, a critical early contest on the path to winning the nomination, will take place on Monday, February 3rd. After that, the pace of the primaries picks up fast, with important contests in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Here's the latest polling of the frontrunners in each of those states. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tops polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, but former Vice President Joe Biden is number one in Nevada and has a commanding lead in South Carolina.

John Bolton's book: Details of former US National Security Advisor John Bolton's hotly-anticipated White House memoir, "The Room Where it Happened" have started to leak, including an allegation that President Trump was explicit about holding up security aid unless Ukraine investigated his Democratic rivals. This will intensify pressure on moderate Senate Republicans to join Democrats in calling for Bolton and other direct witnesses to the President's conduct to testify under oath in the impeachment trial. This may also provide an opening for Democrats to lobby Chief Justice John Roberts – who is presiding over the Senate trial – to subpoena Bolton himself. We're watching to see how Republicans in the Senate respond to this new pressure.

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51: Following a recent uptick in Taliban violence, Afghan security forces have struck back, killing at least 51 of the group's fighters in recent days. This comes amid a renewed stalemate in US-Taliban peace talks that recommenced in Doha last week.

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