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What We're Watching: North Korea's massive weapon, a broken truce in Nagorno-Karabakh, UK's COVID fiasco

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he attends a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea

North Korea's massive missile: "We will continue to strengthen the war deterrent," North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said at a military parade Saturday as his armed forces paraded a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the largest-ever rolled out by Pyongyang. Observers were quick to weigh in, saying that though the missile had not been tested yet, it was likely more powerful than the North's previous weapons, and could potentially travel further and inflict more damage. As is always the case with the opaque North Korean regime, it's unclear whether this display — set to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the North's ruling Workers' Party — was a blusterous show of strength by Kim amid failed negotiations with the US and a faltering economy, or whether there's something more sinister at play. Either way, analysts agree, the unveiling of the large weapon is a threat to the US' nuclear deterrence capability.


A tenuous truce in Nagorno-Karabakh: A temporary truce that raised hopes of an end to a weeks-long bloodbath between Armenians and Azeris in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has already been breached, with both sides blaming the other for violating the humanitarian ceasefire. The truce, brokered by Moscow, was supposed to involve the exchange of prisoners with the hope of paving the way for more dialogue. It comes after the recent round of fighting expanded beyond the rugged highland region to civilian enclaves near the border, resulting in scores of civilian deaths on both sides. Meanwhile, around 70,000 people have already been displaced in the latest escalation — the most intense confrontation in the South Caucasus (where Armenia and Azerbaijan are located) since the two sides fought a years-long war in the 1990s that killed 30,000 people. Now, the temperature only seems to be rising despite the nascent truce: Turkey — which backs Azerbaijan — came in hot on Monday, threatening that the Russian-brokered ceasefire was Armenia's "last chance" to withdraw its forces.

UK's COVID mess: As coronavirus cases continue to surge in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson implemented a new tiered system of lockdown measures, which aims to target coronavirus hotspots with stricter rules while avoiding the uniform lockdowns seen over the spring. Britain, which has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates per capita in the world, has thus far implemented a byzantine lockdown system and inconsistent social distancing guidelines that many Britons have been accused of flouting (including government officials). In recent days, people have rallied against the new measures, suggesting that the country is suffering from what some experts have called "pandemic fatigue." Indeed, part of this can be attributed to Britons' lack of trust in the government's ability to manage the crisis: confidence in the government's handling of the pandemic currently stands at 31 percent, down from 72 earlier in the year (that's the lowest approval of any government polled by YouGov.) Additionally, critics also say that there are no adequate measures now in place to protect laid-off workers. As a result, the country's hospitality industry has threatened legal action against the British government over the latest restrictions.

Microsoft has been looking at ways its technology and resources can help address some of the challenges journalism faces, and the company shared some of the initial work. It includes a new community-based pilot program that looks at ways to provide journalists and newsrooms new tools, technology and capacity, and expand reach for local news outlets. It also includes a new pro bono program, also in pilot form, to provide legal support to journalists and smaller newsrooms, and an expansion of AccountGuard to help protect journalists from cyberattacks. The company will build on top of work already under way by Microsoft Research and the Microsoft Defending Democracy team that's designed to tackle issues such as disinformation. To read more about the Journalism Initiative, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

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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