What We’re Watching: Brits arm Saudis, Belgrade riots, Chinese nukes

What We’re Watching: Brits arm Saudis, Belgrade riots, Chinese nukes

UK ends ban on Saudi arms sales: The UK is ready to resume weapons exports to Saudi Arabia after a one-year moratorium. In June 2019, a British court ruled that those sales were unlawful if the arms would later be used against civilians in Yemen, where the Saudi military has been fighting Houthi rebel forces since 2015. The UK government said it is now confident that the Saudis will not use British-made weapons in Yemen in any way that violates international humanitarian law. The decision to end the ban has raised ethical concerns about the UK's involvement in this war, where thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed by Saudi strikes. Prior to the ban, the UK was the second top arms seller to Saudi Arabia after the US. Meanwhile, the war in Yemen — considered the world's worst humanitarian crisis right now — continues this week with a fresh Saudi campaign against the Houthis, following a short-lived ceasefire due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Riots over planned Belgrade lockdown: Dozens of protestors and police were injured in riots outside Serbia's parliament on Wednesday. The previous night, demonstrators had stormed the building to demand the resignation of President Aleksandar Vučić over his intention to reinstate a lockdown of Belgrade to contain rising coronavirus infections. Serbia was one of the first European countries to introduce mobility restrictions in response to the pandemic, but also one of the first to reopen — possibly too soon. Many of the thousands of protestors were not wearing masks and among them was Nada Kostić, a controversial lawmaker known for pushing anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. Less than a month ago, Vučić's party won Serbia's parliamentary election; opposition parties boycotted the vote, and said the result was illegitimate. This crisis will likely prevent Vučić from making rapid progress on his two international priorities: relations with the EU and peace talks with Kosovo.

What We're Ignoring

A laughable request from China: China revealed on Wednesday that it is willing to join nuclear weapons control talks with Russia and the US… as long as the US commits to curbing its own atomic arsenal to match China's current level. "China would be happy to participate the next day," a senior Chinese official said. "But actually, we know that's not going to happen." China has about 320 warheads, while Russia and the US keep at least 5,000 each, so the US would have to get rid of over 93 percent of its nuclear weapons to meet China's terms. Moscow and Washington are currently trying to extend the 2010 New START treaty before it lapses next February, but the Trump administration wants China to be a part of any future deal. Beijing, for its part, refuses to play ball until it is reduces its own atomic gap with the world's top two nuclear powers.

"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.

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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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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