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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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Understanding Europe’s recent COVID-19 surge: Dr. Ashish Jha

"So this is one where I'll be honest with you, I got it wrong. I really thought that Europeans had learned their lesson from that first wave, and they would never let themselves kind of be subject to another large wave of infections." Public health expert Dr. Ashish Jha tries to put the recent COVID surge across Europe into a global context. Ian asks if the alarming spike proves that the United States has not, in fact, been the outlier of incompetence when it comes to corralling the virus.

Watch the episode: Dr. Ashish Jha on COVID-19 and the dark winter to come

What We’re Watching: US-Russia nuclear talks, Spanish PM faces the music, Thai protests continue

US and Russia buy time to talk arms control: Americans and Russians are close to agreeing on a one-year extension of their last remaining nuclear arms control agreement. For months the two sides have been unable to settle on terms to extend the New START treaty, an agreement limiting long-range nuclear weapons that was hammered out by the Kremlin and the Obama administration back in 2011, and expires next February. One of the main points of contention was the Trump administration's insistence that Russia bring China into any new arms control pact. But Beijing has no interest in capping its nuclear arsenal at levels far lower than what the US and Russia have, while the Kremlin says that if China is part of it, then other Western nuclear powers like the UK and France should join as well. But those disputes will be shelved now, as Moscow and Washington have agreed to freeze their nuclear arsenals for one year and to keep talking about an extension in the meantime. Of course, the Kremlin — which proposed the one-year extension as a stopgap — can't be sure just whom they'll be talking to on the US side after January…

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Spain’s toxic pandemic politics

Last Friday, as millions of Spaniards prepared to travel for a national holiday long weekend, residents of Madrid were told to stay put as the left-wing national government declared a fresh state of emergency to curb rising coronavirus cases... overruling the capital region's conservative leader, who wanted only a partial lockdown to avoid deeper damage to local businesses.

As is the norm in Spanish politics nowadays, each side accused the other of playing politics with a public health crisis that has killed nearly 33,000 Spaniards. It's just the latest example of how increasingly poisonous politics are infecting a country now struggling to contain a second wave of COVID-19 while enduring the deepest economic crisis in nearly a century.

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What We're Watching: UAE-Israel normalization, Lukashenko tightens grip, Philippines to test Putin's vaccine

UAE and Israel strike historic deal: In an historic development, the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to normalize ties. As part of the deal, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to suspend his government's plans to annex swaths of the occupied West Bank in the near term (he made sure to emphasize that the plan was merely on hold, likely a nod to his right-wing base). The peace deal, brokered by the Trump administration, marks the first time that a Gulf Arab state has normalized ties with Israel — though it's widely believed that shared concerns over the threat posed by Iran have led to backchannel cooperation between Israel and the Gulf Arab states. Many analysts, therefore, say that the agreement is largely symbolic, formalizing ties that have existed for years. It's only the third Arab-Israeli peace agreement since Israel's establishment in 1948 (a deal was signed with Egypt in 1978 and with the Kingdom of Jordan in 1994). Two key takeaways: the move gives the Trump administration a big boost before the November 3 elections as he struggles to keep up in the polls. It also reveals that lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue will no longer impede powerful Arab states from establishing formal ties with Israel, long the official position of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

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