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What We're Watching: Bibi's trouble, Putin's Kyrgyz problem, Bolsonaro "ends" corruption

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu on the ropes: Things have gone from bad to worse in recent days for Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longtime prime minister. Protests — the biggest anti-government mobilization in years — swept the nation after Israel recorded the highest number of new daily COVID cases amid its worst-ever recession. But one thing Netanyahu has always had going for him is the steadfast loyalty of his Likud party… until now. As the Israeli PM's approval rating dipped to 26 percent, several Likud members broke with decades of precedent by speaking out against his poor handling of the country's "second wave." (A whopping 49 percent of Israelis say they've lost faith in the government and want new elections.) Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett, a former protégé of Netanyahu who heads the far-right Yemina party, is surging ahead in the polls. In recent weeks it seemed increasingly likely that Netanyahu would steer the country towards new elections (the fourth in less than two years) in order to bypass a parliamentary stalemate on key issues. But with his upcoming corruption trial and cratering support, it seems like the forever leader's options might be running out…


The Kremlin's Kyrgyz concerns: The prime minister has resigned. Opposition parties are squabbling over who is in control. Mass protests are calling for the ouster of the president. The political crisis in Kyrgyzstan, which began with allegations of fraud in last weekend's parliamentary vote, is deepening by the day, and Russian president Vladimir Putin can't be happy about it. Alongside the recent democratic uprising in Belarus and a spiraling war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, this is the third major new crisis to flare up among former Soviet republics that Russia considers to be within its sphere of influence. On Thursday, the Kremlin weighed in saying Kyrgyzstan is "in chaos" and cited its treaty obligations to stabilize the country. We are watching to see if local forces can settle their differences enough to get to an election re-run, or whether Putin — who just two weeks ago pledged his support to the embattled Kyrgyz President — feels he has to act more decisively before things get worse.

No more corruption in Brazil? Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has decided to end the landmark "Operation Car Wash" corruption investigation because, he says, under his watch, government corruption is no longer a problem. "Operation Car Wash" was a sweeping graft probe that landed hundreds of businesspeople and former President "Lula" da Silva in jail for accepting illegal kickbacks from construction projects — and helped Bolsonaro win Brazil's 2017 presidential election after it exposed rampant corruption linked to the then-ruling Workers' Party. It seems Bolsonaro may have forgotten that Sergio Moro, the federal prosecutor who led that probe before he became Bolsonaro's former justice minister, quit months ago after the president fired the national police chief for looking into the alleged criminal activities of several Bolsonaro allies (including two of Bolsonaro's sons). We're keeping an eye on how the president's latest gambit plays out in next month's municipal elections.

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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