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Today we are introducing a new feature we hope will increase your enjoyment of DailyChatter – a daily map to position the country in our lead feature, Need to Know.

NEED TO KNOW

ISRAEL

Judges Versus Voters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, days before Israel’s parliamentary elections on April 9.

In one of the highlights of the Moscow visit, the Daily Beast wrote, Netanyahu ceremonially received a coffin containing the effects of Sgt. First Class Zachary Baumel, a Brooklyn-born Israeli soldier who went missing in action in Lebanon 37 years ago. Baumel’s remains, found with the help of Russian soldiers in Syria, were repatriated to Jerusalem just before the Moscow trip.

The visit was designed to promote Netanyahu’s gravitas as a world leader in the run-up to the vote, wrote Al Jazeera.

It was also designed to help Netanyahu, widely known as Bibi, and his conservative Likud party, overshadow recent trouble at home.

Prosecutors are planning to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases that allege he illegally accepted $264,000 worth of cigars, champagne and other gifts and dispensed favors for positive media coverage, Reuters reported. The prime minister denies any wrongdoing.

Those allegations and other political skeletons are making this election among Bibi’s hardest in his 10 years in office. US President Donald Trump has tried to help but CNN noted that Likud faces a significant challenge from the centrist Blue and White party, whose leader, former General Benny Gantz, has positioned himself as an outsider who will impose discipline on a corrupt political system.

The political left in Israel has largely crumbled, Reuters explained.

A Blue and White television ad described in the Jerusalem Post listed four convicted or suspected corrupt members of Likud, ending with Netanyahu. “Once is an incident and twice is a coincidence, but the third time is already a system,” the ad said. “The time has come for different leadership. On April 9, the corruption will be stopped by electing Blue and White.”

The prime minister is on the ropes, pundits say.

“Why This Is the Most Difficult Election to Predict Since Netanyahu’s First Victory” was the headline of an analysis in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The story noted that pollsters often don’t contact large segments of the electorate, like Arab Israeli citizens, who comprise around 20 percent of the population, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

A Palestinian rapper exhorted Arab Israelis to vote against Likud so that Bibi might someday go to prison for his policies toward the West Bank and Gaza, the New York Times reported.

Still, Likud will likely be able to join with other right-wing parties to form a coalition government, wrote the Egyptian news site Ahram Online.

But if Netanyahu is indicted, then what? So far, it appears as if a court, not voters, may decide whether Bibi leads that next government — or not.

WANT TO KNOW

LIBYA

A New Battle

The battle for Tripoli is heating up in Libya as the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of Khalifa Haftar ignore international appeals for a truce.

Haftar’s army said 19 of its soldiers died in recent days as they advanced on the capital to attempt to unseat the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, fighting in the south of the capital has killed at least 25 people, including fighters and civilians, and wounded 80, according to a spokesman for the Tripoli-based Health Ministry.

Haftar’s forces also bombed the country’s only functioning airport on Monday, though a spokesman for the rebels claimed they had not targeted civilian aircraft.

The surge in fighting comes amid preparations for a United Nations-brokered conference April 14-16 to map out elections and attempt to end the chaos that has plagued Libya since the ouster and killing of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

EUROPEAN UNION

United Against Unity

Euroskeptic parties formed an expanded right-wing alliance Monday in the hope of becoming the strongest faction in the European Parliament – a development that could dramatically change European policies on migration and other hot-button issues.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League, said the alliance’s goal for the European Parliament elections next month is to “win and change Europe,” the Associated Press reported.

The new euroskeptic alliance expands on the four-year-old Europe of Nations and Freedom Group (ENF), adding the far-right Alternative for Germany, the euroskeptic populist party The Finns and the right-wing, populist Danish People’s Party to a bloc that already included France’s far-right National Rally, Austria’s Freedom Party and the Netherland’s Party for Freedom.

To make an impact, the parties have to win seats in the national ballots in their own countries. But analysts say the May 23-26 European Parliament vote could tip Europe further right if traditionally strong centrist parties continue to falter.

AUSTRALIA

‘Un-Australian’

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison blasted vegan protesters as “shameful and un-Australian” following nationwide animal rights protests that resulted in dozens of arrests on Monday.

Activists broke into slaughterhouses and chained themselves to equipment to protest the cruelty of the meat industry and blocked one of Melbourne’s main intersections, the BBC reported.

In more measured tones, Morrison said the protests were “against the national interest,” as Australia’s livestock industry accounts for more than 40 percent of its agricultural output. Considering that Australia consumes more meat per person than any other country but the United States, he probably found more than a few sympathetic ears.

But the rapid increase in meat consumption over the past 50 years has serious environmental implications, apart from concerns about how the animals are treated. Meat production has soared as much as fivefold since 1961, according to Our World in Data, putting pressure on water sources, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to deforestation.

DISCOVERIES

Bedtime Studies

NASA and the European Space Agency want volunteers to help mankind explore the final frontier.

A study funded by the agencies is offering participants $18,500 to lie in bed for 60 days to test the effects of microgravity on the human body, Deutsche Welle reported.

“Crewed spaceflight will continue to be important in the future in order to carry out experiments in microgravity, but we must make it as safe as possible for the astronauts,” said Hansjörg Dittus, a research executive at the German Aerospace Center.

It sounds like a dream job for aspiring astronauts – and “bed potatoes” – but it’s no walk in the park.

For starters, volunteers need to speak German, and will be confined to their beds for all the experiments, meals and other basic needs, like showering and using the toilet. Their beds will be angled slightly downwards to simulate the displacement of bodily fluids that astronauts experience in microgravity.

About two-thirds of the participants will also be subjected daily to a “short-arm human centrifuge” that creates artificial gravity, in order to test the latter’s effects on the human body.

The scientists argue, however, that apart from the money, individuals will enjoy two months of entertainment and gain “a clear idea about the goals (they) want to reach in the future.”

MAP FEATURE

DailyChatter’s mission is to help our subscribers know the world better. We won’t be successful at that if you don’t know exactly where a country is on the global map. Navigating our complex world of more than 200 countries across seven continents is no easy task even for those of us who spend all of our time devoted to world news.

We hope this new mapping feature will increase your global knowledge and stimulate your curiosity to learn even more about the extraordinary diversity of our world. Let us know what you think at [email protected].

Best wishes, Phil Balboni, Co-Executive Editor and CEO