What We’re Watching: Zuma in court, Ebola in the big city, and Italian neo-nazis

Jacob Zuma on the witness stand — The 77-year-old former president of South Africa will be in court in Durban throughout the week to answer questions from a judge investigating endemic corruption, influence-peddling, and "state capture" by business interests during his tumultuous nine-year tenure. Zuma has denied any wrongdoing and says he's the victim of a "conspiracy." We're watching to see whether the ex-president uses his time on the stand to undermine his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been struggling to unite the ruling African National Congress since guiding the party to an election victory in May.

Ebola in the city — The second-worst outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever has reached a dangerous new milestone: On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of Congo's health ministry confirmed the first case of the disease in Goma, a city of 1 million inhabitants on the border with Rwanda that serves as a hub for people traveling throughout central Africa. While local authorities say the situation is under control, the presence of Ebola in a big city increases the risk that the disease could spread further. Nearly 2,500 people have been infected and more than 1,600 people have died in the current outbreak.

Heavily armed Italian neo-Nazis Italian police who launched a series of raids on a neo-Nazi group in the northern city of Turin on Monday seized a substantial arsenal of illicit weapons, including a French-made air-to-air missile that once belonged to the Qatari military. The raids were tied to a broader investigation into Italians who had fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. We are watching this as a grim illustration of the reach and (fire)power of transnational crime groups and non-state actors of all stripes.

What We're Ignoring

Saudi Arabia's allure for dissidents Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is making a fresh push to convince opponents of the Saudi regime to come home. One exile anonymously quoted by the Financial Times said a go-between had promised "there would be no harm or jail time" if they decided to return to the country and stop criticizing the government's human rights violations and lack of accountability. Nine months after dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered (as part of a plot in which the crown prince was allegedly involved), we doubt many of the young monarch's critics are buying it — and neither are we.

Amid the current need to continually focus on the COVID-19 crisis, it is understandably hard to address other important issues. But, on March 31st, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed landmark facial recognition legislation that the state legislature passed on March 12, less than three weeks, but seemingly an era, ago. Nonetheless, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the importance of this step. This legislation represents a significant breakthrough – the first time a state or nation has passed a new law devoted exclusively to putting guardrails in place for the use of facial recognition technology.

For more on Washington's privacy legislation, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Read our roundup of COVID-19 themes and stories from around the globe.

Europe skirts US sanctions to help Iran: While the US insists on tightening the sanctions noose around COVID-stricken Iran, European countries are now sending medical equipment. To do so, they are using for the first time a system called INSTEX, a back-channel financial mechanism created a year ago that allows Europe to maintain trade ties with Iran despite US sanctions. Recall that in 2018 the US pulled out of the multilateral Iran nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions – the Europeans stayed in the deal and have tried to salvage it. To date, Iran has suffered more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19, one of the highest tolls in the world. Some say that Iran's failure to contain the contagion has been complicated further by US sanctions, which have thwarted the Islamic Republic's ability to fund medical imports. Tehran has urged the US to ease sanctions to no avail, but Ayatollah Khamenei has also, citing some wild conspiracy theories about the coronavirus' origin, refused medical aid from Washington.

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Laid-off hospitality workers tell their stories in their own words.

Ian Bremmer breaks down the massive economic toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on the hospitality and service industries in America and around the globe. In the U.S. alone, millions could face unemployment as businesses struggle to stay afloat.

Over the past decade or so, the European Union has weathered the global financial crisis, a migrant crisis, and the rise of populist nationalism. Sure, it's taken its fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, but the idea of a largely borderless Europe united by common democratic values has survived more or less intact.

Then came the coronavirus. The global pandemic, in which Europe is now one of the two main epicentres, is a still-spiralling nightmare that could make those previous crises look benign by comparison. Here are a few different ways that COVID-19 is severely testing the 27-member bloc:

The economic crisis: Lockdowns intended to stop the virus' spread have brought economic activity to a screeching halt, and national governments are going to need to spend a lot of money to offset the impact. But some EU members can borrow those funds more easily than others. Huge debt loads and deficits in southern European countries like Italy and Spain, which have been hardest hit by the outbreak so far, make it costlier for them to borrow than more fiscally conservative Germany and other northern member states. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, this imbalance nearly led the bloc's common currency, the Euro, to unravel.

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