What We're Watching: Merkel's Putin pipeline dilemma, India-China border clash, Morales setback in Bolivia

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive for a joint news conference in Moscow

Putin, Merkel and a poison pipeline: As the evidence mounts that Russian state actors were behind the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has threatened to punish Vladimir Putin by imposing sanctions on a critical gas pipeline that is meant to link Russia to Germany. Navalny has been receiving treatment in Germany, and so far Moscow has ignored Merkel's demands for a thorough accounting of the attempt on his life, which occurred nearly two weeks ago in a Siberian airport. This has put Merkel in a tough spot: on the one hand, stopping construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline would inflict a huge blow on gas-exporting Russia. But German business groups and international investors in the project are pressuring her to keep politics separate from the nearly-complete project, which is meant to massively increase gas imports for German factories and households.


Shots fired on the India-China border: For the first time in years, Indian and Chinese troops exchanged fire on the contested border known as the Line of Actual Control, with both sides blaming the other for the massive escalation. Beijing says Indian troops fired "warning shots" which it called "a grave military provocation," while New Delhi denied this claim, saying the shots came from Chinese aggressors trying to "intimidate" their troops. The flare-up comes after weeks of rising tensions during which both sides amassed thousands of reinforcement troops as well as advanced weaponry to survey the contested area. Back in June skirmishes between Chinese and Indian forces resulted in dozens of deaths on both sides. Worsening diplomatic relations between the countries' two highly nationalistic leaders — China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi — have recently trickled down to the streets of India, where the public is largely hostile to China and many have advocated boycotting Chinese-made products.

Morales comeback blocked: A Bolivian court has upheld an earlier ruling barring former president Evo Morales from running for a seat in the country's senate. The left-winger Morales, Bolivia's former president (and the country's first indigenous leader), was ousted last year by the military and fled abroad, first to Mexico and then Argentina. In February, a court blocked him from a senate run because he resides outside the country. For his part, Morales says that he is still registered to vote in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, and that he is in exile over fears for his safety back in Bolivia, given that the country's right-wing caretaker government, led by Jeanine Áñez, has threatened to prosecute him for various crimes, including "terrorism and sedition." Meanwhile, a member of Morales' Movement for Socialism (MAS) party is the current frontrunner in the race for president, which will be held on October 18.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Listen: A deep dive down the bottle to examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

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:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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