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.

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

In late 2017, Zimbabwe's long-serving strongman Robert Mugabe was deposed by the army after 37 years in power. Amid huge popular celebrations, he handed over the reins to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former spy chief. It was an extraordinary turn of history: Mugabe, one of Africa's last "Big Men" and a hero of the struggle to end white minority rule, went out with barely a whimper, placing Zimbabwe — stricken by economic ruin and international isolation — in the hands of "The Crocodile."

Mugabe has since died, but almost three years after his departure, Zimbabwe's woes continue.

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As the world prepares to mark the 75th anniversary since American forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, global non-proliferation efforts, first codified in Cold War-era treaties, are in jeopardy. While the overall number of nuclear weapons continues to decrease — mainly because the US and Russia have set about dismantling retired weapons — both countries, which account for 90 percent of the world's total nuclear arsenal, continue to modernize their nuclear weapons programs. Meanwhile, the New START treaty, which limits the number of long-range nuclear weapons that each side can deploy to about 1,500 apiece, is at risk of collapsing. Here's a look at which countries have nuclear weapon stockpiles and who's ready to use them.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, we are in August, summer, should be taking it a little easier. Coronavirus not taking the stress levels off but hopefully giving people the excuse, if you're not traveling so much, be close with your families, your loved ones and all that. Look, this is not a philosophical conversation, this is a talk about what's happening in the world, a little Quick Take for you.

First of all, you know, I'm getting a little bit more optimistic about the news in the United States right now. Yes, honestly, I am. In part because the caseload is flattening across the country and it's reducing in some of the core states that have seen the greatest explosion in this continuation of the first wave. Yes, the deaths are going up and they should continue to for a couple of weeks because it is a lagging indicator in the United States. But the fact that deaths are going up does not say anything about what's coming in the next few weeks. That tells you what's happened in the last couple of weeks.

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TikTok, ya don't stop: The wildly popular video app TikTok has been in the crosshairs of American lawmakers for many months now. Why? Because the app is owned by a Chinese company, raising national security concerns that it could funnel personal data on its 100 million American users to the Chinese government. The plot thickened in recent days after President Trump abruptly threatened to ban the app altogether, risking a backlash among its users and imperiling US tech giant Microsoft's efforts to buy the company's operations in the US. Canada, Australia and New Zealand. After a weekend conversation between Microsoft and the White House, the sale negotiations are back on but US lawmakers say any deal must strictly prevent American users' data from winding up in Chinese Communist Party servers. And Trump says that unless a deal is reached by September 15th, he'll go ahead with the ban. The broader fate of TikTok — which has now been banned in India, formerly its largest market, and may be broken up under US pressure — nicely illustrates the new "tech Cold War" that is emerging between China and the United States.

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