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Hard Numbers: UK economic meltdown, Nigerian pirate convictions, pandemic bling, foreign spy bust in Iran

Hard Numbers: UK economic meltdown, Nigerian pirate convictions, pandemic bling, foreign spy bust in Iran

20.4: The UK economy is now officially in a recession for the first time in 11 years, after British economic growth plunged by 20.4 percent quarter-on-quarter from April to June 2020. The quarterly decline — attributed to the economic crisis fueled by the coronavirus pandemic ­— is double that of the US and second only to Spain's in Europe.


3: A Nigerian court issued the country's first-ever piracy convictions to three men who pleaded guilty to hijacking a tanker in waters off Equatorial Guinea last March. Although they got off with just a fine, this is still a major step for Nigeria, where the global shipping industry has been calling for tougher law enforcement action against rising attacks by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.

1.5 million: The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequality in many ways, but none quite like this. An Israeli jeweler is working on what he claims will be the world's most expensive anti-coronavirus face mask — made of gold encrusted with diamonds (and fitted with N99 filters) for a whopping $1.5 million.

5: Iran has arrested 5 government employees for allegedly spying on behalf of Israel, Germany and the UK. This comes as the Islamic Republic has recently sentenced two of its citizens to ten years in prison for similar espionage crimes, and last month executed a defense ministry staffer for (allegedly) spying for the CIA.

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It's been four days since Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, died in a hail of bullets on a highway near Tehran. Iran has plausibly blamed Israel for the killing, but more than that, not much is known credibly or in detail.

This is hardly the first time that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in an operation that has a whiff of Mossad about it. But Fakhrizadeh's prominence — he is widely regarded as the father of the Iranian nuclear program — as well as the timing of the killing, just six weeks from the inauguration of a new American president, make it a particularly big deal. Not least because an operation this sensitive would almost certainly have required a US sign-off.

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Ethiopia on the brink: After ethnic tensions between Ethiopia's federal government and separatist forces in the northern Tigray region erupted into a full-blown armed conflict in recent weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his forces had taken control of Tigray's capital on Saturday and declared victory. But the fugitive Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael quickly called Abiy's bluff, saying the fighting is raging on, and demanded Abiy withdraw his forces. Gebremichael accused Abiy of launching "a genocidal campaign" that has displaced 1 million people, with thousands fleeing to neighboring Sudan, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Tigray, who make up about five percent of Ethiopia's population, are fighting for self-determination, but Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected invitations to discuss the issue, accusing the coalition led by Gebremichael's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of "instigating clashes along ethnic and religious lines." As the two sides dig in their heels, Ethiopia faces the risk of a civil war that could threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa.

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110: At least 110 people were killed in Nigeria's conflict-ridden Borno state on Saturday, when armed men attacked agricultural workers as they tended their fields. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the brutal attack, but analysts say the assault was likely the work of Boko Haram or Islamic State-linked groups that have gained a foothold in the Sahel region in recent years.

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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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