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What We’re Watching: Trudeau hangs on, Mali sanctions lifted, US stimulus uncertainty

Canadian government survives confidence vote: Against the backdrop of intense political discord and an ethics controversy that caused his approval ratings to plummet in recent months, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government will live to see another day after surviving a confidence vote in parliament. Building on a "bold" plan for Canada's post-pandemic revival delivered last month (which many analysts criticized as lacking sufficient detail), Trudeau presented his plan for economic and social recovery — including the creation of 1 million new jobs in the near term — in what's called a parliamentary "Throne Speech." After some political wrangling, his minority Liberal government held on after a 77-152 vote, avoiding a snap election thanks to the support of the left-leaning New Democratic Party. A string of ethics scandals (in which the PM was found to have violated federal conflict of interest rules) has cratered support for Trudeau, a former darling of the center left. We're watching to see whether his ambitious recovery initiative will also steer Trudeau's own political bounce back.

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What We're Watching: Putin eyes Belarus, NZ shooter gets life, Mali coup continues

Will Putin, or won't he? In his first public remarks on the unrest in Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he's ready to send a special police squad into the country to restore order if "extremist elements" cause things to spin "out of control." As protests against Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko's bogus re-election continue, Putin's remarks are the clearest indication yet that the Kremlin is mulling a direct intervention. But are we really headed for a Ukraine 2014 redux? It's complicated. Putin can't stand Lukashenko, and would love to see him gone, but he also wants to prevent the Belarusian opposition from succeeding in a way that might inspire Russians. What's more, intervening directly in Belarus would probably be a harder sell at home than he had to make in 2014: for Russia, Belarus' cultural, economic, and strategic importance all pale next to Ukraine's. But Putin also has a reflexive fear of instability: if the situation deteriorates significantly next door — and his pledge of support could well encourage Lukashenko to push things too far — Putin could roll the dice and send in the troops.

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A dangerous déjà vu in Mali

Malians woke up on Wednesday without a government. Although details are still murky, we do know a group of soldiers detained President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and forced him to step down. The rebel troops have promised a return to democracy — but isn't that what coup masterminds always say right after seizing power?

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Failing the Sahel

A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.

The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

But is Europe helping to make things better?

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What We’re Watching: Mali’s “imam of the people,” Chinese fishermen busted, Bulgarian PM clings to power

We need to do something about... Mali: The leaders of 5 West African countries are in Mali, negotiating a solution to the country's worsening political crisis. It's quite an impressive show of regional mediation force, but will it be enough to force President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to step down? For weeks, thousands of protestors have been saying they are fed up with rampant corruption, election fraud, a military incapable of stopping rising jihadist attacks. The key player in this crisis is Mahmoud Dicko, an immensely popular Muslim cleric who still supports the president — although his followers don't. Dicko says, for now, he would rather Keita stay in power and address the people's grievances. But outside parties like the UN and the powerful Economic Community of West African States are worried that continued unrest in Mali could further destabilize a region where jihadis are gaining a foothold, and they want Dicko to take over and restore stability fast.

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