What We’re Watching: Truce in Nagorno-Karabakh, Brazil pauses Chinese COVID vaccine trial, Peruvian leader resigns

A serviceman examines a residential area of the city damaged in a rocket attack in Ganja, Azerbaijan on 11 October

Did the Azeris win in Nagorno-Karabakh? After six weeks of intense fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Armenia and Azerbaijan have signed a long-term truce, brokered by Moscow. The deal is broadly seen as a win for the Azeris, who can keep land won during the decades-long conflict, while Armenia has agreed to withdraw from adjacent territory. While in recent weeks both sides said they would not give up until they emerged victorious, Armenia's strategic edge all but disappeared this week, when it lost control of the strategic area of Shusha (which Armenians refer to as Shushi), the enclave's second largest city, as well as a key road used to supply its troops with weapons. What happens now? President Putin said that Russia will send peacekeepers to guard the borders, while Turkey, which backs Azerbaijan, will also take part in the "peacekeeping" mission. After the deal was inked, euphoric Azeris flocked to the streets of Baku to celebrate, while furious Armenians stormed the parliament in Yerevan and raided the office of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, calling him a "traitor." Three previous ceasefires collapsed, but this one appears to set out a more comprehensive map for reconceptualizing the South Caucasus, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are located. Will it hold?


Brazil halts Chinese COVID-19 vaccine trial: Brazilian health authorities hit pause on a Chinese company's COVID-19 vaccine trial after an undisclosed safety "incident" occurred in late October. The drug, which is being produced by Sinovac Biotech, is one of China's most promising vaccine candidates. As part of a Phase III trial, the final stage before a vaccine's approval, Sinovac began vaccinating participants in São Paulo over the summer. The drug company is also conducting advanced trials in Indonesia and Turkey, though neither of those countries have suspended the program at the time of this writing. Sinovac, for its part, said that it is "confident in the safety of the vaccine," a stance echoed by the Chinese government (although the company is privately owned). While it is not uncommon for clinical trials to be suspended when new issues arise, several Chinese vaccines have already been given limited approval by the government even before the safety and efficacy of the drugs have been fully fleshed out, violating a slew of international safety protocols.

Vizcarra out in Perú: Martín Vizcarra agreed to step down as president on Monday after the Peruvian parliament voted to remove him over allegations that he accepted bribes from construction companies when he was a regional governor. This comes just two months after Vizcarra survived another impeachment vote after being accused of trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. These political crises come as Perú is been pummeled by the pandemic, suffering one of the world's highest per capita mortality rates. Since both the presidency and the vice presidency are now vacant (Mercedes Aráoz stepped down as VP in May following a brief stint as interim president), the acting head of state will be Manuel Merino, speaker in Perú's unicameral Congress. Merino will serve as interim president until the next parliamentary election, currently scheduled for April 2021, where the current frontrunner is former football (soccer) player and Lima district mayor George Forsyth. Meanwhile, Merino's caretaker government faces tough challenges ahead in dealing with the pandemic, getting the Peruvian economy back on track after huge losses in the mining sector, and navigating a fragmented political landscape that risks further turmoil as the vote looms.

"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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