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Hard Numbers: Iran's death clip, COVID soap operas, Afghan jailbreak, police unions and Democrats

Hard Numbers: Iran's death clip, COVID soap operas, Afghan jailbreak, police unions and Democrats

7: A person dies of COVID-19 every seven minutes in Iran, according to the country's state TV broadcaster. Iran was one of the first countries hit by the pandemic after China, and has so far officially registered more than 300,000 cases and close to 18,000 deaths. A new BBC report says the real death toll may be three times as high as the official numbers.

29: At least 29 people have been killed in a wild gun battle between guards and Islamic State fighters at a prison in Jalalabad, Afghanistan which began when the militants crashed the facility's security perimeter with a car bomb on Sunday. Authorities are now trying to find hundreds of Islamic State and Taliban fighters who have escaped from the facility.

6.6 million: In the second quarter of this year, more than 6.6 million people tuned in to the Mexican TV channel Televisa during its prime time slots for soap operas and melodramas. That's up a whopping 33 percent from the same period last year, and it's thought to be the result of pandemic-related stay-at-home orders. The boost comes just in time for TV soap operas which have been losing love to Netflix and other streaming services for years.

55 million: Since 2012, US police unions — which are generally hostile to police reform — have given at least $55 million to the campaigns of candidates running at all levels of government, the Financial Times has found. Most of the top recipients of police money in Congress are Democrats.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET


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