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

n the photo taken on December 10, 2020, mobilization of women in front of the Congress where the approval in Deputies of the legalization and decriminalization of abortion in Argentina was voted.

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.


Spain's vaccine refusal database: Spain plans to register all people who turn down the opportunity to get a coronavirus vaccine when it is offered to them. The information won't be publicly disclosed nor shared with employers, but it will be sent to European Union health officials. The announcement came as a surprise for Brussels, which has yet to explain what it'll do with the data given the EU's robust data privacy laws, or whether it's open to a similar EU-wide database. Vaccination is not mandatory but strongly encouraged by authorities in Spain, which this week surpassed 50,000 COVID-19 deaths and has the world's second highest per capita mortality rate. As vaccines have just started being rolled out across the entire EU, we're watching to see whether other member states will set up their own vaccine refusal registries to not only deter skeptics but also provide more accurate information about how many people actually get inoculated.

Burkina Faso's security push: At his inauguration ceremony on Monday, Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore pledged to make security in the West African country a political priority amid ongoing jihadist violence that's caused more than 850,000 people to flee their homes in recent years. Kabore, who will now serve his second term, said he wants to instill "stability and security" to Burkina Faso, where swaths of the country have been taken over by jihadist groups. But it's not just vigilantes and terrorist groups (linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State) that have wreaked havoc on the country of 21 million people in recent years: a New York Times expose published this past summer revealed that trigger-happy soldiers in Burkina Faso's army kill as many civilians as jihadists do (it doesn't help that the government has passed draconian legislation banning journalists from reporting on anything that could "demoralize" the armed forces). Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the Sahel region, has been plagued by political corruption and human rights violations from the top down – and lacks the political and institutional strength to fend off a violent insurgency that spilled over from neighboring Mali in recent years, tormenting the entire Sahel.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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