WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Germany’s SPD – Following another local election result that underlines fast-falling support for Germany’s lead center-left party, debate has begun again among some SPD leaders about whether to quit the grand coalition government in which they currently support Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU. That move would very likely force Merkel from power and bring early elections. The predicament for the SPD: It’s easier to regain popularity in opposition than as junior member of government, but true revival will depend on making a credible case for policies that will excite voters. Wounded center-left parties across Europe will be interested to see what the SPD can come up with.


South Sudan – On Wednesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir unveiled a deal he says will end a five-year civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. The agreement would allow rebel groups to share power with the government. It remains unclear why Kiir believes this deal will succeed where similar deals in the past have failed.

Iran sanctions – Next Monday, the US will reimpose sanctions on Iran’s oil industry. We’re watching not for Iran’s initial reaction, which will be defiant, but for how Iran continues to build constructive relations with other governments to minimize fallout from US action—and how those governments respond to US threats.

Stray Cats living in Portuguese Washing Machines – Because it’s Friday.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

High-minded Wrestlers – When World Wrestling Entertainment kicks off its “Crown Jewel” event at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh later today, two of the organization’s marquee performers won’t be there. Wrestlers John Cena and Daniel Bryan are reportedly boycotting the event to protest the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Contradictory Polling Clues – A new Harvard University survey suggests Americans aged 18-29 are likely to vote in much higher numbers in next week’s midterm elections than the same age group did in 2010 or 2014. Some 40 percent said they will “definitely vote.” Meanwhile, a new PRRI/The Atlantic survey found “little evidence that younger Americans will turn out at historic rates.” Just 35 percent of Americans aged 18-29, compared to 81 percent of seniors (ages 65+) and 55 percent of all Americans, say they’re certain to vote.

A Spectacularly Dumb Dirty Trick – An amateurish attempt to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller unraveled quickly this week. You can read the details here. The FBI is now investigating.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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For Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee, protesting at the Games is fine — as long as it doesn't "interfere" with the competition itself or awards ceremonies. The Olympics, in his view, are an oasis of calm in the middle of an increasingly tense world, and "we shouldn't be spoiling that by pointing out the obvious , which is that there are social and political problems." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World on US public television.

India's rape problem: Hundreds of protesters have flocked to the streets of New Delhi for four days straight after a 9-year old girl was raped and murdered in a small village outside the capital while going to fetch water for her family. Some demonstrators burned effigies of India's PM Narendra Modi, saying that the government has not done enough — or anything, really — to address the country's abysmal rape problem: there were more than 32,000 rapes recorded in 2019, certainly a vast undercount given the stigma associated with reporting sexual assaults in India. The scourge of sexual violence against women and girls in India was brought to light in 2012 when a 23-year-old woman was gang raped and murdered while traveling on a bus in the nation's capital, prompting international outrage. Four men have been arrested in connection with this week's attack, though they have not been charged. The city of New Delhi, meanwhile, has ordered an inquiry to probe events surrounding the young girl's death, though Indians who have been sounding the alarm on violence against women for decades aren't expecting much to come of it.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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20,200: As the super contagious delta variant continues to spread, Thailand is now a COVID hotspot, recording more than 20,200 new COVID cases Wednesday, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began. Authorities imposed new restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces as the vaccine rollout remains sluggish; just 5.8 percent of Thailand's 66 million people are fully vaccinated.

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Does alcohol help bring the world together?

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How should athletes protest at the Olympics?

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Does alcohol help or harm society?

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