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Hard Numbers: Nagorno-Karabakh truce, US gun sales, toxic Indian air, Sudan's US payout

Carnations, teddy bears and pictures are laid to the blast site hit by a rocket attack in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan. Reuters

4: Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is suffering its worst violence in decades. It took just four minutes for the Armenians to accuse the Azeris of violating the truce by firing artillery shots and rockets. Azerbaijan, of course, sees things differently.


29 million: Instability and social unrest continue to drive US gun sales. The FBI conducted 29 million background checks for this year's arms sales through September, outpacing the number conducted in all of 2019. Keep in mind that neither gun companies nor the US government provides complete data on gun sales.

14: Of the world's 20 most polluted cities, 14 are in India. As seasonal air pollution worsens, irritating eyes and lungs, that could spell even more respiratory trouble for a country that has already suffered more than 7 million COVID-19 cases.

335 million: US President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he will remove Sudan from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism after Khartoum agreed to pay $335 million in damages to US terror victims. Removal from the list means Sudan will be eligible for much-needed international development assistance funding.

Bank of America's $25 million jobs initiative provides Black and Hispanic-Latino individuals access to skills and training needed for jobs of the future. Learn more about the initiative, which involves partnerships with 21 community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

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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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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60: Africa's top public health official said Wednesday that 60 percent (780,000,000 million people) of the continent's inhabitants need to receive a COVID vaccine in the next 2-3 years in order to achieve herd immunity across Africa's 54 countries, and avoid the disease becoming endemic throughout the region. Despite recent optimism about the efficacy of several COVID vaccines, global health officials are worried that African countries will be at the back of the queue in obtaining doses.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on US politics:

Is Trump out of options now that William Barr said the DOJ found no election interference?

Trump's problem isn't William Barr not finding election interference, it's that he lost the election and he lost it by millions of votes, and he lost it in the most important key states by tens of thousands of votes. Now, this was a very close election. The three closest states, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona, Trump only lost by 44,000 votes so far, and if he'd ended up winning those three, we'd have an Electoral College tie. But the election was not close enough that Trump's strategy of trying to kick this to the courts and then getting it to go all the way to the Congress, with an alternate slate of electors, it just wasn't possible. Had the election been a little closer, he might've had a shot. But as it is, his chances are over. Joe Biden's going to be inaugurated on January 20th.

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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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