Need To Know
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is just hours away from addressing the US Congress, and it’s so exciting. It’s like waiting for the finale of Downton Abbey's latest season. Actually, Game of Thrones is probably a more accurate comparison. The anticipation is overwhelming to anyone who has been following the storyline for the last few months and years. The drama is thick. It seems so right that this will play out on television.
The speech is at 10:45 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. For some in the United States, that's a little early to start drinking. For others, alcohol is going to be a necessary sedative. Elsewhere in the world it will be the perfect time. For that group, GlobalPost’s Timothy McGrath has invented an excellent drinking game. There are a number of rules. If Netanyahu emphasizes his “respect” for Obama during the speech, for instance, that’s one drink. Two drinks, in another example, if he uses the phrase "Islamic State of Iran."
The speech — which is taking place under highly politicized circumstances — is the hottest ticket in Washington, DC right now. Tickets are hot and hard to get. This is the Super Bowl for international political speeches and lobbyists are calling in favors all over the place. Get some snacks. This is going to be so bad it’s good. Everyone wants to be there, with the very notable exception of Obama, and the 50-odd Democrats who are boycotting the speech.
Want To Know
He is China’s Larry the Cable Guy, roughly, just a lot wealthier. He is a multimillionaire actor and businessman who capitalized on his rural style. He is a grassroots performer boasting the political Rolodex of a Communist Party insider. He is Zhao Benshan. And his career is done. The past year has not been good to Zhao. Performances were suddenly canceled. His flagship theater was dismantled in the night. Damaging rumors about him have spread.
As is often the case in China, it seems Zhao’s political connections might have been his undoing. Zhao was an associate of the former Liaoning Governor Bo Xilai, whose wife was famously imprisoned for murdering British businessman Neil Haywood in 2011. Bo was later arrested on corruption charges, and rumors soon spread that he had backed a failed coup. Chinese President Xi Jinping has gone after Bo's network, and that includes the massively famous Zhao.
Zhao’s fall from grace comes during a widespread crackdown against corruption that some suspect is a little corrupt itself. It’s a crackdown that would be very welcome if it was more even-handed. But some wonder if Xi’s government is just targeting political enemies, and shoring up its power in the process. Whatever the truth behind the crackdown, there is one thing we know for sure: In China these days, no amount of wealth, power, or popularity can protect you from being caught up in an old-fashioned political purge.
Strange But True
When Netanyahu takes the stage today, a lot of people will be thinking about his speech to the UN General Assembly in 2012. It was then that he held up the picture of a cartoon bomb and announced that Iran was a year away from developing a nuclear weapon. That was more than two years ago if anyone is counting.
He was roundly ridiculed for his prop in 2012, so he may not have anything like that this time around. But he will be talking about the same thing, trying to convince American politicians (and the American public) that Iran’s nuclear program is a serious and imminent threat, and that the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran is counterproductive.
What he probably won’t mention is these two things: that Israel itself has about 80 nuclear warheads, and that the country's own spy agency disagrees with him about the threat from Iran. The eye-opening disparity between the Israeli leader and Mossad officials on Iran was revealed in a classified Mossad report leaked to media last month. It’s strange. But it is true.