Need To Know

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the United States for what is probably his most fraught visit ever. Anxious diplomats are bending in all sorts of awkward ways to diffuse the tension.

So what’s it all about? Netanyahu will give a speech Tuesday before the US Congress criticizing the Obama administration’s ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. He will be doing this on the invitation of Republicans, who never cleared the visit with the White House. On top of that, Israel is weeks away from an election. So it’s all very politicized, both in the United States and in Israel.

The White House worries that Netanyahu’s visit could complicate or even derail negotiations with Iran to end its alleged military nuclear program. The deadline for the negotiations is the end of March. While Iran’s leaders swear their country's nuclear program is peaceful, the United States doesn’t believe that, and has slapped debilitating economic sanctions on the country as a result. This is a good place to remind everyone that Israel has an estimated 80 nuclear warheads. The United States has more than 7,000.

But the tension is not solely because of the speech. The friction between Netanyahu and Obama has been building ever since they both assumed office in 2009. Relations between the two are so bad they have at times been reduced to name-calling. The “unbreakable bonds” between Israel and the United States have never felt so broken. Here is a solid list of all the reasons the two leaders resent each other.
 

Want To Know

Venezuela is in a bad way, a very bad way. The economy is in just a shocking state. Falling oil prices are hitting the oil-exporting country hard. Rampant corruption and poor governance are playing a big role in fueling street protests.

President Nicolas Maduro, meanwhile, appears more focused on shoring up his tenuous power than anything else. He is now not only locking up opposition leaders, he’s locking up storeowners. And as the protests against injustice grow, so does the injustice. Last week a 14-year-old schoolboy was shot dead, apparently by police.

The bad took a turn for the weird on Saturday when Maduro announced that his government had detained several US citizens on suspicions of espionage. He also said he would order the reduction of US Embassy staff in Caracas and prohibit some US officials from entering the country. The Venezuelan president accused Washington of trying to topple him (which in Latin America is a historically warranted fear). But the US says that Maduro is just trying to distract his citizens from the "real problems," like ballooning inflation.

The present mess is a far cry from the optimism that swept the nation 17 years ago, when Hugo Chavez was first elected. How has it all gone so wrong? Here is an illuminating timeline.

Strange But True

Paris Hilton went to Havana last week. Who is Paris Hilton, you ask? She is an American actress, sort of, and apparently a singer. And she models a lot, almost constantly it seems. She is most often described as a socialite. But really, and most significantly, she is who she is because she is the great granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, the guy who started the Hilton hotel chain.

And when Paris went to Cuba last week she snapped a selfie with the son of Fidel Castro, which is kind of ironic because Castro is the revolutionary that nationalized Conrad Hilton’s Havana hotel soon after it opened. The historical twist aside, Paris Hilton’s trip to Havana was symbolic of something much more significant: the slow but very real opening up of Cuba.