Hard Numbers: Biden makes US election history, foreign fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh, Ivorian vote, US drones for Taiwan

Joe Biden during the 2020 US presidential election campaign. Reuters

69.9 million: Joe Biden has now broken a record, having received the most presidential votes in US election history. By midday on Wednesday, Biden had won 69.9 million votes, over 300,000 more than the previous popular vote record set by his former boss, Barack Obama. Biden's tally could still increase further once millions of outstanding votes in California and other states get counted.


94: Alassane Ouattara was reelected president of the Ivory Coast Tuesday with 94 percent of the vote, which was boycotted by most of the opposition after their candidates were disqualified. The Ivorian leader's critics now plan to set up a shadow cabinet to call another election to oust Ouattara, who was controversially allowed to run a third term on a legal technicality despite a constitutional two-term limit.

2,000: Russia's foreign minister says that 2,000 militants from Middle Eastern countries are fighting on behalf of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Moscow, which backs the Armenians, has accused Turkey of sending Syrian fighters to bolster the Azeris, which the Turks have denied.

600 million: The US plans to supply $600 million worth of sophisticated drones to Taiwan amid growing tensions with China, which regards the island as part of its territory. This is the first sale since the Trump administration loosened its policy on exports of such advanced technology, partly in a bid to better protect Taiwan from a possible Chinese invasion.

Iran was involved in two naval incidents in the Gulf of Oman in recent days. The US, UK, and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack that killed two European nationals. Iran has rejected the accusations. Iran is also suspected in the "potential hijack" of a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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We expect the usual suspects — US, China, Russia — to dominate the Olympic medal tally. But how should the performances of large, well-resourced countries really be assessed? Drawing on a model first developed by a team of labor economists, the Financial Times looks at a range of factors — including past medal hauls, population size, and GDP per capita — to determine whether nations have surpassed or failed to meet expectations at the Tokyo Games. We take a look at the biggest under-performers and over-performers per the model, and whether people in these countries really care about the Olympics at all.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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