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What We're Watching: Sectarian clashes in Lebanon, Japan gets ready to vote

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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What We’re Watching: Europe's trucker shortage, Mapuche emergency in Chile, Japan’s military plans

Truck driver shortage across Europe: No, the UK is not the only European country with an acute shortage of drivers to move goods around. Indeed, the entire continent is now desperately in need of more truckers, mainly as a result of soaring demand coupled with less people willing to do a job for low pay and poor working conditions. The situation in mainland Europe is not as bad (yet) as in the UK, where Brexit has aggravated the problem: the army has been deployed to refill gas stations amid backed-up ports and empty supermarket shelves because EU drivers now need visas. Still, the shortage is creating a massive headache for European companies already struggling to keep up with so much pent-up demand. What's more, a new EU-wide law will soon require truckers to be paid the minimum wage in each EU member state they transit through. This is all precisely what the IMF has been talking about this week, when it warned that supply chain disruptions are slowing down the global post-pandemic recovery and driving up inflation.

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What We’re Watching: Kim goes hypersonic, confident Europeans, Japan’s new safe hands

Kim Jong Un breaks the sound barrier: North Korea has announced the successful test of a "strategic weapon" that travels five times faster than the speed of sound. The Hwasong-8 missile, which is believed to be nuclear-capable, is a hypersonic weapon which is much harder for missile defense systems to track than conventional ballistic missiles. The US, China, Russia, and India are the only other countries known to be working with this highly sophisticated technology. And although experts aren't quite sure how developed the Hwasong-8 actually is, this is the third missile test that North Korea has conducted in the last month, suggesting that Pyongyang is getting plucky again as nuclear negotiations with the US remain in a deep freeze.

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What We're Watching: France's post-AUKUS win, Haiti's election cancelled, Japan ends COVID emergency

France gets a post-AUKUS win: Greece and France have inked a $5 billion deal for Athens to buy at least four French-made warships. French and American contractors had been in a bidding war since 2019, when Greece announced it was looking to buy half a dozen naval attack vessels. For French President Emmanuel Macron, it was a much-needed win after the recent AUKUS debacle, when the US froze Paris out of a security pact with Australia and the UK, nixing a contract for Australia to buy French submarines. At the signing ceremony in Paris, Macron and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis touted the deal as a move towards European "strategic autonomy" (since coming to power in 2017, Macron has been a strong advocate of Europe pursuing a defense strategy independent from the US). Greece, for its part, has also been looking to boost its own military capabilities amid deteriorating relations with longtime foe Turkey over competing maritime claims in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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US most unequal, least vaccinated in G7

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week, happy to be back in the offices, of course, in New York City. And by the way, and what do I have at my desk here? A fan sent me a Moose the dog cookie, which how does one eat that? You can't eat that because it's Moose, you just keep it! But that's pretty awesome, a Norfolk Terrier in a cookie right there, very talented. Thank you so much.

And let's get started. So what I was thinking about as I saw over this weekend, today. Not only is the United States today the most economically-unequal of the G7 advanced industrial democracies, and the most politically divided, but we're also now in terms of first jabs of the COVID vaccine, we are the least vaccinated of the G7, which is annoying because we were the most vaccinated of the G7 months ago. And of course, all of this speaks to the fact that the United States is enormously wealthy, enormously powerful, there are so many great things about this country, but the politics are deeply, deeply screwed up. And the problems we have are self-inflicted.

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What We’re Watching: Japan's ruling party leadership battle

At least three members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party — which has governed the country almost continuously since 1955 — will face off against embattled Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in a leadership vote scheduled for September 29. Since taking office a year ago after the health-related retirement of his old boss Shinzo Abe, Suga's approval rating has plunged due to his haphazard pandemic response, a series of LDP political scandals, and his unpopular decision to host the Tokyo Olympics amid COVID. Now, the PM will face tough challenges from Fumio Kishida, a party heavyweight who lost the LDP presidency to Suga last year; former LDP policy chief Hakuban Shimomura; and Sanae Takaichi, a hawkish former interior minister who wants to become the first woman PM of Japan, a country that has a dismal record of women's participation in politics. Suga has one thing going for him, though: he reportedly still has the support of Abe, who carries enormous sway within the party.

The US couldn’t have won in Afghanistan - but Biden’s mistakes lost US credibility

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Bradley Bowman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argue that maintaining US military, financial, and political support in Afghanistan could have staved off a Taliban takeover. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to break down why staying in Afghanistan is not a reasonable option.

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Politics, protest & the Olympics: the IOC’s Dick Pound

With COVID rates rising globally, this year's Olympics faced some major hurdles. But the pandemic was only part of the picture. The Tokyo Games played out against a backdrop of mounting global tension surrounding gender equality, racism and human rights, leaving many people to examine the place of politics on the playing field and podium. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer looks at the long history of protest at the Games with Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee and a former Olympic athlete himself. Plus: the US Women's National Soccer Team is the most decorated team in the sport, but are they paid as much as their male counterparts? A look at what equal pay for equal play means.

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