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.

In a year unlike any other, Walmart made meaningful change by placing nature and humanity at the center of our business. We invested in our workforce by hiring more than 500,000 associates, including people displaced by the pandemic. And through education, training and upskilling, we promoted more than 300,000 U.S. associates to jobs with greater responsibility and higher pay. Read more in our 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance report.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here from sunny Nantucket and going to be here for a little bit. Thought we would talk about the latest on COVID. Certainly, we had hoped we'd be talking less about it at this point, at least in terms of the developed world. A combination of the transmissibility of Delta variant and the extraordinary misinformation around vaccines and COVID treatment means that we are not in the position that many certainly had hoped we would be today.

The United States is the biggest problem on this front. We are awash in vaccines. Operation Warp Speed was an enormous success. The best vaccines in the world, the most effective mRNA, the United States doing everything it can to get secure doses for the entire country quick, more quickly than any other major economy in the world, and now we're having a hard time convincing people to take them. The politics around this are nasty and as divided as the country, absolutely not what you want to see in response to a health crisis.

More Show less

If your country had suffered decades of crippling corruption, wouldn't you want to prosecute those responsible? Of course you would. On Sunday, almost 98 percent of Mexicans who voted in a national referendum on this subject said, in so many words: "Yes, please prosecute the last five presidents for corruption!"

The catch is that turnout was a dismal 7 percent, meaning the plebiscite fell way short of the 40 percent turnout threshold required for its result to be binding.

More Show less

The COVID delta variant — which first surfaced in India earlier this year — is spreading rampantly throughout every continent, and is now the most dominant strain globally. But low- and middle-income countries, particularly in regions where vaccines have been scarce, are bearing the brunt of the fallout from the more contagious strain. We take a look at the 10 countries now recording the highest number of daily COVID deaths (per 1 million people), and their corresponding vaccination rates.

China tackles delta: China is the latest country to express serious concern over the highly contagious delta variant, after recording 300 cases in 10 days. Authorities there are trying to trace some 70,000 people who may have attended a theatre in Zhangjiajie, a city in China's Hunan province, which is now thought to have been a delta hotspot. Making matters worse, a busy domestic travel season in China saw millions recently on the move to visit friends and family just as delta infections spiked in more than a dozen provinces. Authorities have enforced new travel restrictions in many places, including in central Hunan province, where more than 1.2 million people have been told to stay in their homes for three days while authorities roll out a mass testing scheme. The outbreak has reached Beijing, too, with authorities limiting entrance to the capital to "essential travelers" only. Indeed, the outbreak has raised fresh concerns about Chinese vaccines' protection against delta, though many experts say they are still at least 55 percent effective in preventing serious illness.

More Show less

It was a weird series of events. Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya took to Instagram to lament that her country's Olympic Committee had registered her for the 4x400 relay event at the eleventh hour (because a fellow participant had failed to pass drug screenings) despite not having trained.

More Show less

100: A scorching heat wave has caused more than 100 wildfires across Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coastline in recent days. Scientists say that dry conditions induced by climate change have helped spread the fires, which have already killed eight people and caused mass evacuations from tourist hotspots.

More Show less

Alcohol. It's a dangerous drug that has ruined countless lives and derailed many a global summit. But it's also humanity's oldest social lubricant, a magical elixir that can fuel diplomatic breakthroughs, well into the wee hours of the night. As Winston Churchill once quipped, "I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." On GZERO World, we take a deep dive down the bottle and 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 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.

Also: since alcohol isn't the only social drug, a look at the state of marijuana legalization across the US and around the world.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal