What We're Watching: Kim Jong-un's New Weapon

What We're Watching: Kim Jong-un's New Weapon

North Korea's Dangerous New Weapon – North Korea and the United States have announced that a new round of nuclear talks will begin in coming days. The DPRK marked the occasion on Wednesday by test-firing a new type of ballistic missile, one able to carry a nuclear weapon, from a platform at sea. This was more than just North Korea's 11th weapons test this year alone. This missile can be launched from a submarine, a development that changes the game on calculations of which countries are in range of North Korean missiles. The talks, still expected to take place soon, should be interesting.


Iraq Protests – Baghdad and other major cities are under curfew after days of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. So far, 18 people have been killed, and hundreds injured. Demonstrations are common in Iraq. But these protests, which began over a lack of jobs, are the largest in years and seem uncharacteristically spontaneous. (There's no party boss whipping them up.) After years of war, occupation, and a brutal fight with ISIS, Iraq's economy continues to struggle. The need to balance relations with the US and neighboring Iran doesn't make life easier. Abdul Mahdi's government is barely a year old. As public anger rises, how much longer can he last? And if he falls, who – inside the country or beyond – will be jockeying for power?

Justice Delayed in Kashmir – Since Indian troops moved into Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, and India's government stripped the territory of its partial autonomy, an uneasy calm has taken hold. The internet remains down. Mobile phone connections are still suspended. Many schools and businesses remain closed. The streets are quiet. But frustration is growing for many residents. Thousands of locals have been arrested, but there are reportedly only two judges assigned to manage the petitions filed to advance their cases. It remains unclear whether justice delayed will become justice denied.

What We're Ignoring

Hong Kong Mask Ban – Hong Kong has now seen large—sometimes violent—pro-democracy protests for 16 weeks. In response, the territory's embattled government is reportedly set to announce a ban on wearing masks in public places, an ordinance that hasn't been used in more than half a century. There are four good reasons to ignore the possibility that protesters will voluntarily shed masks. One, many don't believe the local government has any democratic legitimacy. Two, they're not big fans of colonial-era laws. Three, they don't want Chinese officials to identify them. Many of those now wearing the masks are already violating the law as part of their protest.

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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