What We're Watching: Post-election chaos in Belarus, Biden taps Harris, Bolivia's roadblock

What We're Watching: Post-election chaos in Belarus, Biden taps Harris, Bolivia's roadblock

Belarus' post-election fire rages on: At least one person has died and over 2,000 have been arrested in violent protests that erupted in Belarus after strongman President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory with about 80 percent of the vote — results deemed fraudulent by international governments. The opposition claims Sunday's election was rigged — as has regularly been the case in the country since Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator," took over in 1994. Lukashenko, who some young people refer to as "Psycho 3%" for his denial of the coronavirus and low (unofficial) approval ratings, has shut down the internet and is blaming Russian agitators for the protests amid a recent fallout with Vladimir Putin, his long-time ally and fellow strongman. Putin wants to keep Belarus in Russia's sphere of influence and is wary of the country getting closer to his rivals in Brussels. Meanwhile, Svetlana Tikhanouskaya — the political unknown wife of a jailed opposition blogger who has defied Lukashenko's tight grip on power — has fled the country and is now in Lithuania. As the situation remains in flux, it's unclear how stability could return to Belarus anytime soon.


Kamala's the one: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden finally unveiled his choice for VP on Tuesday: California Senator and former California Attorney General Kamala Harris. The daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, Harris is the first Black or Asian-American woman to be on a US presidential ticket. The choice of Harris, who is perceived as a relatively middle of the road Democrat, shows that Biden is banking on winning the White House by attracting moderates and independents rather than playing for the more progressive vote, which may be suspicious of Harris because of her prosecutorial record as San Francisco district attorney. Is Biden right? As the campaigns enter the homestretch we are about to find out.

Bolivia at a standstill: Protesters aligned with Bolivia's former leftist leader Evo Morales, ousted last year by the military, have taken to the streets in recent days calling for an immediate election. Supporters of Morales' Movement for Socialism (MAS) party have set up roadblocks and clashed with authorities because they say the country's right-wing caretaker government, led by Jeanine Áñez, is using the COVID-19 crisis to stall elections scheduled for September 6. Áñez, who has increasingly cracked down on indigenous voters that form the bulk of Morales' base, now says that fresh elections will be held on October 18, but angry demonstrators — many of whom presumably participated in last year's protests after Morales' ouster that gripped the country — show no signs of backing down. Bolivia is already plagued by recession, deep political division, and an under-resourced medical system crippled by a massive COVID caseload. Áñez, meanwhile, says that roadblocks are preventing ambulances from reaching hospitals and that she will use force to crack down on protesters. Critics, on the other hand, say that protesters are in fact clearing the way for ambulances and trucks carrying supplies. We'll be watching this combustible situation in the days ahead.

"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.

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.

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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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.

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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