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What We’re Watching: Armenians & Azeris won't talk, Indian sectarian violence ruling, US-Taiwan infra plan

Armenian military volunteers gather in Yerevan. Reuters

No peace talks over Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia and Azerbaijan are resisting pressure from Russia and the United Nations to stop fighting and talk out their dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. Since major clashes erupted over the weekend, killing scores on both sides, the two countries are inching closer to a wider war that could potentially draw in not only Russia — which is treaty-bound to defend Armenia — but also a newly assertive Turkey, which backs Azerbaijan. Vladimir Putin has offered to mediate, but so far has no takers. Meanwhile, Armenia says Turkey has sent Syrian mercenaries to Nagorno-Karabakh and shot down an Armenian fighter jet. As if that weren't enough, the latest outside player to weigh in on the conflict is France, whose support for Armenia has put Paris at odds with NATO ally Turkey. We are watching to see if more countries — for instance the US — will get involved, and if this resurgent conflict becomes an even uglier proxy war.


India exonerates BJP leaders over sectarian violence: An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted 32 people — including the former deputy prime minister and two leaders of the ruling BJP party — over their alleged role in the 1992 demolition of a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya that sparked a wave of sectarian violence. Seventeen of those exonerated are now dead, among them Atal Behari Vajpayee, the BJP prime minister at the time. The ruling is great news for Hindu nationalist supporters of PM Narendra Modi, who just weeks ago played to his base by setting the first stone of a new Hindu temple that is being built over the razed remains of the mosque. The site has long been disputed by Hindus and Muslims, but a controversial Supreme Court verdict last fall allowed construction of the temple to proceed. On the other hand, the acquittals are seen as a blow to India's 180 million Muslims, many of whom worry that Modi is seeking to replace the country's secular foundations with his more explicitly Hindu vision of Indian identity.

It's infrastructure week with Taiwan! The US and Taiwan have announced that they will team up to develop infrastructure projects across Asia and Latin America. The plan is meant as a direct challenge to China's trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to build new roads, rails, and ports in over 75 countries. For Taiwan in particular, the idea is to decrease its economic dependence on Beijing, which considers the self-governing island to be part of China. Most of the world (including the US) formally agrees with that view, but Washington has long maintained close ties to Taiwan. The Trump administration's recent moves to inch closer to Taipei have raised hackles in Beijing, where Xi Jinping has signaled his intent to eventually re-establish Chinese control over Taiwan. Alas, "infrastructure week" never amounted to much in the US, but with US-China tensions rising, it could get hot fast in East Asia.

A decade ago, Bank of America established the Global Ambassadors Program with Vital Voices, and the results are phenomenal. We've provided 8,000 hours of training and mentoring, engaging 400 women from 85 countries and helping women around the world build their businesses.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, US President George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government surrender Osama bin Laden and end support for al-Qaeda. The Taliban refused.

On October 7, US bombs began falling on Taliban forces. NATO allies quickly pledged support for the US, and US boots hit the ground in Afghanistan two weeks later.

Thus began a war, now the longest in US history, that has killed more than 3,500 coalition soldiers and 110,000 Afghans. It has cost the American taxpayer nearly $3 trillion. US allies have also made human and material sacrifices.

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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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It almost didn't happen — but here we are again. US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden face off tonight in the final presidential debate of the 2020 campaign.

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Three years ago, long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, a different kind of virus spread around the world: a piece of malicious software code launched by a nation state. It paralyzed computer networks in hundreds of countries, disrupted global shipping, forced pharmaceutical factories to shut down, and inflicted an estimated $10 billion of economic damage.

On the physical battlefield, a widely accepted set of rules, backed by international law, governs conduct, with the aim of protecting soldiers and civilians. Establishing common rules or guardrails is much harder in cyberspace, where borders can't be easily defined and the tools and tactics of combat are always changing. But it has never been more urgent.

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