What We're Watching: Putin's next move, jabs for Palestinians, Wine goes to court in Uganda

VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA - JANUARY 31, 2021: Riot police officers cordon off a street during an unauthorized rally in support of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.

What next for Navalny? Thousands of protesters supporting jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny braved an overwhelming police response on Sunday, turning out in more than 80 cities across the country to demand his release from prison. It was the second protest to occur in the two weeks since Navalny was jailed after his return from Germany, and more than 5,000 people were arrested nationwide. The intensity of the police response shows the Kremlin is taking no chances with the protesters, even though their numbers are still relatively small — nowhere near, say, the hundreds of thousands who poured into the streets of Belarus' capital last fall. And it's hard to imagine Vladimir Putin agreeing to release Navalny under pressure from the streets. In fact, it looks like his kangaroo courts are gearing up to lock up the nettlesome anti-corruption crusader and throw away the key. Europe and the US have threatened action if that happens, but sanctions against Russia have proved ineffective in the past. Lacking a political party in a system that is rigged for the party in power anyway, Navalny only has the streets: can they really shake things up enough from below that power starts to crack at the top?


Israel delivers some COVID vaccines to Palestinians: Israel has agreed to send 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Palestinian front-line workers in the occupied West Bank. After rolling out the world's most successful vaccination drive, having already inoculated more than 57 percent of its entire population, Israel came under fire in recent weeks for failing to include Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank in its ambitious inoculation scheme, though Israeli Arabs and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem were given the jab. Israel, for its part, says that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the de-facto law of the land, the Palestinian Authority (PA) should oversee healthcare for its people. But critics say that the Fourth Geneva Convention states that an occupying power (Israel) has a clear responsibility to assist those living under its occupation (the Palestinians). While Israel's approval of the transfer is a positive development, the PA, which governs the West Bank, is still waiting on millions of doses to vaccinate its 2.5 million people. This deal also doesn't include the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which already has one of the worst healthcare systems in the world. Palestinians (in the West Bank and Gaza) have inked deals for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, the AstraZeneca drug, and are also waiting on batches through the international COVAX system which aren't expected to arrive until March.

Mr Wine goes to court: Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine has called on his country's Supreme Court to nullify the results of last month's election in which president Yoweri Museveni — a former rebel leader in power since the 1980s — was declared the winner. Wine and his supporters allege ballot-stuffing and other fraud, and argue that violence directed at Wine by Museveni's forces during the campaign made it impossible for the election to be free and fair. By taking his arguments to a court packed with Museveni appointees, Wine — a former pop star who is popular with younger, urban Ugandans — runs the risk of having his objections formally stricken down altogether. But he and his supporters are making the gamble that the opportunity to present their arguments is, by itself, worth the effort in order to expose the president.

"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.

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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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