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What We're Watching: California's governor faces the heat, worrying signs for Argentina's president, a Malaysian deal

The world's fifth largest economy votes: Voters in the US state of California will vote Tuesday on whether to fire the state's Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, and replace him with someone else. Some 46 candidates have put their names on the ballot to take the governor's mansion from Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor who has been broadly criticized for his pandemic policies — in particular his decision to keep many public schools closed last year, as well as dining out at an exclusive restaurant while telling Californians to stay home. But while the recall effort initially had steam, low projected turnout and an uninspiring group of replacement options — including right wing shock-jock Larry Elder and Caitlyn Jenner of Kardashian fame — mean that Newsom will likely survive. The vote has national implications: there is increasing pressure on the state's 88-year old Senator Diane Feinstein to retire before her term is up in 2024, and it would be up to the governor to appoint her replacement. With the Senate currently divided 50-50, a Republican governor could flip control back to the GOP. But that's a long-shot: Republicans only make up 24 percent of the electorate, compared to 35 percent in 2003, the last time the state recalled its Democratic governor. Who took over after that? The Terminator.

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Happy US Independence Day! Now can you sing it?

When the United States celebrates its Independence Day on July 4th, many Americans will be singing the Star-Spangled Banner at sports games, parties, and other patriotic-themed events. To mark the date, we take a look at some fun facts about national anthems around the world.

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What We're Watching: Biden meets Boris, Iranian ships in the Atlantic, Argentinian president's mishap

Biden hangs with Boris: On his first trip to Europe as US president, Joe Biden stopped first in the UK where he met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. While Biden is keen to reaffirm the close bond between the two countries, there are also some thorny issues on the agenda. The US president likely reiterated the importance of London safeguarding the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, and instructed Johnson to refrain from triggering a provision in the EU-UK post-Brexit trade agreement that would reestablish a land border separating Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Indeed, on this issue, Johnson will have to find a middle ground in managing the warming temperature in Northern Ireland, and placating the US president, who he desperately wants to agree to a juicy post-Brexit US-UK trade deal. Also on the agenda: coordination on climate change and ensuring the smooth and safe reopening of US-UK travel after 16 months of chaos.

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What We’re Watching: Copa America venue woes, Denmark-US Euro phone tap, Greenpeace vs big coal in Australia

Who will host the Copa América? Only two weeks before the first match, the Copa América, South America's biannual national football (soccer) tournament, has become — pardon the pun — a political football. The tournament was initially to be held jointly by Argentina and Colombia. Two weeks ago, however, the organizers dropped Colombia as co-host citing security concerns following mass street protests against the government's planned tax reforms. Now, as Argentina enters another national lockdown over rising COVID cases, they have decided to switch the venue to... COVID-ravaged Brazil. Brazil's embattled President Jair Bolsonaro has given the go-ahead, perhaps thinking that hosting the competition will help boost his rapidly declining approval ratings in the football-crazy nation. But the move — which is not yet final — immediately provoked strong criticism from Brazilians who think it will cause the deadly disease to spread even more, and the Supreme Court has agreed to review an urgent motion by the opposition Worker's Party to stop it. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro's supporters are calling out his opponents for rejecting a competition that will flush cash into Brazil's economy.

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What We’re Watching: Morocco-Spain border crisis, Belarus police can target protesters, no beef from Argentina

Morocco punishes Spain with... migrants: Spain has sent in the army to help defend the border in Ceuta, a tiny Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast, after more than 8,000 migrants crossed over in just two days. Spanish border guards say that Morocco facilitated the migrants' departure, most of whom are Moroccan nationals, to punish Madrid for meddling in Morocco's internal affairs over Western Sahara. Last month, Madrid allowed the leader of the pro-independence Polisario Front to seek treatment for COVID in a Spanish hospital, infuriating Rabat, which claims the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara as part of its territory. The Moroccans, for their part, deny involvement in the mass exodus, and on Wednesday closed the border. However, that seems questionable given that Morocco has traditionally overreacted to any hint of Spanish support for Western Saharan independence. But Spain won't want to rock the boat too much because it needs Morocco's help to stop African migrants flooding into Ceuta and Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in Morocco. If the spat is not resolved soon, the European Union may have to step in to mediate because once the migrants are on EU soil, they are free to travel to other EU countries.

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Women’s movements to watch right now

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the czar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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What We're Watching: Argentina's abortion bill, Spain's vaccine registry, Burkina Faso's security push

Argentina's abortion debate: Argentina's Senate is set to vote on a landmark abortion bill that would allow elective abortions up to 14 weeks gestation, a major shift in the predominantly Catholic and socially conservative country. The abortion bill already passed the lower house of Congress (131 to 117 votes) because the center-left party of President Alberto Fernández, who backs the bill, holds a majority coalition. It's now waiting to be voted on in Argentina's upper house in what's expected to be a nail-biter, with several politicians remaining mum about how they intend to vote. Abortion is a flashpoint in Argentina, home to Pope Francis who has repudiated the bill, and if the law were to pass, the country would be one of just few Latin American countries to authorize elective abortions outside of cases of rape or if the mother's life is at risk. If there's a tie in the Senate — which some analysts anticipate — it will be up to Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has flip-flopped on the abortion issue during her long political career, to cast the deciding vote. Abortion rights activists, meanwhile, are fired up, hoping that if the bill passes in Argentina, the cultural effects could reverberate throughout the region.

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What We’re Watching: Nigerians reject police brutality, US arms Taiwan, Argentina COVID protests grow

Nigeria reckons with police brutality: Fed up with a federal police unit accused of warrantless arrests, torture and murder, thousands of Nigerians took to the streets over the weekend to demand the government dissolve the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protests were sparked by a viral video of a man allegedly being beaten to death by SARS agents. Although President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to disband the unit, protesters say that doesn't go far enough and demand sweeping changes to policing in Nigeria as they did over the summer in the aftermath of the George Floyd rallies against police brutality in the US. The protests have spread outside the country and gotten attention from celebrities and influencers on social media, where the hashtag #EndSARS has trended globally for days. We're watching to see if the movement gains enough traction for Buhari to accept an overhaul of the entire police system in Nigeria, where police officers are immensely powerful.

US-China spar over Taiwan: The Trump administration is moving forward on several deals to supply high-tech weapons and military equipment to Taiwan, as the territory — which Beijing claims is part of mainland China — is rapidly becoming a pawn in the US-China rivalry. The Trump administration notified the US Congress that it has approved the sale of sophisticated weapons to Taipei — including drones and long-range missiles — all of which could help Taiwan defend itself from a potential Chinese invasion. Beijing reacted by demanding Washington halt all sales in accordance with the "One China" policy that does not recognize Taiwan's independence. Meanwhile, Washington and Beijing also traded barbs over this week's meeting of the "Quad" group of countries (the US, Japan, Australia, and India), which China views as an American attempt to create a NATO-style military alliance as a bulwark against Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Whatever happens with the Quad in the future, it's clear that Beijing and Washington are unwilling to ease tensions over Taiwan, and the question is not if but rather when China will move to retake its renegade province by force.

Argentinians are furious: As Argentina's COVID-19 caseload surpassed 900,000 this week, thousands of protesters across several cities demonstrated against the government's handling of the pandemic. Protesters say that after months of mismanaged lockdowns, center-left President Alberto Fernández has been unable to contain the virus' spread or implement measures to help boost the country's battered economy (even before the pandemic, Argentina had suffered from years of recession). Critics argue that the real person in charge is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the powerful vice president and former chief executive who has faced a string of corruption and criminal charges in recent years. For the opposition, the Fernández-Kirchner duo has used the COVID crisis to crack down on individual freedoms and to surreptitiously pass unpopular reforms that undermine the independence of the judicial system to protect government allies with pending court cases (including Kirchner herself). This is the fifth spontaneous mass protest to erupt in Argentina in recent months, and as the pandemic only worsens, angry Argentinians likely think they have little to lose.

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