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Hard numbers: Panda diplomacy returns, Biden’s dog’s bites revealed, Global democracy wanes, US cell service flickers out

​Yang Yang, the giant panda that China loaned to Zoo Atlanta, looks on in its enclosure in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Dec. 7, 2023.

Yang Yang, the giant panda that China loaned to Zoo Atlanta, looks on in its enclosure in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Dec. 7, 2023.

REUTERS/Megan Varner
4: The pandas are coming back! The four remaining pandas in the US, currently at the Atlanta Zoo, are set to be joined by others again. Beijing has reportedly reached an agreement with other American zoos to send them pandas, which are native to China. The breakthrough avoids a situation in which the US would be without pandas for the first time since 1972, when detente between Beijing and Washington enabled the fluffy bears to come to the US as part of “panda diplomacy.”

24: In less friendly, fuzzy, and frolicsome animal news, it has been revealed that Joe Biden’s famously foul-tempered dog “Commander” bit US Secret Service agents at least 24 times. The incidents all occurred between October 2022 and July 2023. The German shepherd was removed from the White House last fall.

7.8: How much of the world’s population lives in a “full democracy?” Just 7.8%, according to a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit. Meanwhile, flawed democracies and authoritarian regimes are each home to about 40% of the world’s people. The study finds that overall, the strength of the world’s democratic institutions is at its lowest ebb since the study began in 2006, as a number of partial democracies slide towards authoritarianism.

100,000: More than 100,000 users of major US cell phone service providers were without signal for part of Thursday in a massive outage that has yet to be explained. Subscribers of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Cricket were affected. Was it a malicious attack? Nobody knows yet, but Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio made a point of warning that a “Chinese Cyberattack” would be “100 times worse” than Thursday’s outages.

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