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Hard Numbers: Slovak far-right conviction, Japan's to go carbon-neutral, Turkish lira falls, al-Shabaab taxes Somalis

Marian Kotleba, leader of the far-right People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), attends an election campaign rally in Topolcany, Slovakia. Reuters

52: Slovak far-right lawmaker Marian Kotleba has been sentenced to 52 months in jail for handing out checks with Nazi references to mark the founding of Slokavia's client state under the Third Reich. Kotleba belongs to the neo-Nazi People's Party Our Slovakia, which has an openly racist agenda and wants to pull the country out of the EU and NATO.

2050: Japan has pledged to cut greenhouse gases to zero and become carbon-neutral by 2050, a decade before China aims to reach the same goal. The announcement by Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga represents a major shift in climate change policy for the world's fifth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide.

8.15: The Turkish lira has plummeted to a historic low of 8.15 against the US dollar. Turkey's economy is in a deep crisis due to sky-high inflation and the central bank's refusal to raise interest rates, while analysts worry that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’ recent tirade against NATO allies France and the US, and Turkey's involvement in multiple regional conflicts — are deterring investment.

15 million: The al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia currently collects about $15 million in taxes each month, almost as much as the Somali government. Most of the revenue comes from dues on shipping containers and a 2.5 percent zakat religious levy that al-Shabaab enforces in the parts of the country it controls.

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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