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50 million: More than 50 million urban homes are unoccupied in China. That’s a vacancy rate of 22 percent, the highest for any country in the world. This problem can be attributed in part to state over-spending to create jobs and boost economic activity and in part to wealthy people, barred by the government from moving their money abroad, parking their cash in costly home investments.


258,000: It apparently costs the Russian government $258,000 per year to keep Vladimir Lenin’s corpse on display in the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square. That’s about $707 dollars per day, nearly the same cost as the Singapore Shangri-La Hotel’s Castle suite, a fantasy playroom for kids.

70: Venezuela is rolling out a nationwide electronic ID card with the help of a Chinese telecommunications company, as a part of a broader $70 million effort to bolster national security.  The "carnet de la patria," or "fatherland card," will be tied to the critical government services Venezuelans rely on to make ends meet.

1: Following this week’s resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the exit of his faction from government, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition now holds a majority of one (61 of 120 seats) in Israel’s parliament. Other parties are now threatening to exit. If so, Netanyahu could face elections in coming weeks even as he contends with three separate corruption investigations of his own.

 

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.

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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Iran's nuclear tug-of-war: Hardliners in Iran's parliament passed a bill Tuesday suspending UN inspections of its nuclear sites and giving the go-ahead to massively increase uranium enrichment unless the US lifts its sanctions by February. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani opposes the measure, saying it would be "harmful" to diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with the incoming Biden administration in the US. But Iran's parliament doesn't actually need Rouhani's approval to pass the law, and regardless, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will have the final say on policy – as always! If the law is passed, it will immediately raise the stakes for Biden, who takes office on January 20. Both he and Rouhani say they are keen to resume dialogue in hopes of reviving the nuclear deal, which President Trump walked out of in 2018. But just days after the architect of Iran's nuclear program was assassinated (likely by Israel with the US' blessing) the hurdles to even beginning those talks are rising fast.

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"China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy." This was the message recently conveyed by a Chinese government official on the intensifying row with its Asia-Pacific neighbor, Australia.

China-Australia relations, steadily deteriorating in recent months over a range of political disputes, reached a new low this week when Beijing posted a doctored image on Twitter of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child's throat. Beijing's decision to post the fake image at a hypersensitive time for Australia's military establishment was a deliberate political provocation: beat Canberra while it's down.

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19.4: The Lebanese economy, waylaid by financial and political crises on top of the pandemic, is set to contract by a crippling 19.4 percent this year, according to the World Bank. Next year things hardly get better, with a contraction of 13.2 percent coming in 2021.

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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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