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THREE HITS IN THE KEY OF: NO, NOT THAT STORY

THREE HITS IN THE KEY OF: NO, NOT THAT STORY

Sometimes one big story or narrative in a given part of the world can divert people’s attention from other, similar things that are happening there at the same time. Here’s a quick run through a few stories that aren’t actually the stories you’ve heard most about...


The Latin American refugee crisis that’s not in Venezuela.

The economic catastrophe wrought by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has driven millions from his country, but there is a growing exodus from Nicaragua now too, as thousands flee the political and economic turmoil that began earlier this year amid protests and a brutal crackdown by President Daniel Ortega. Most of those fleeing are headed south into Nicaragua’s prosperous and stable neighbor Costa Rica. (Going north would mean entering Honduras, one of the world’s most violent countries).

In recent years, the so-called “Northern Triangle” Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, have become some of the most violent places on earth, wracked by gang violence, drug trafficking and weak governments. But the deepening crisis in Nicaragua, and growing refugee flows, could begin to test stability there and in Costa Rica as well.

The impending final bloodbath in a Middle East civil war that’s not in Syria.

The fragile fate of Syria’s Idlib province — the last remaining holdout against Bashar Al Assad’s Russian-backed war machine — has gotten much attention in recent weeks. But Yemen’s four-year-old civil war may be headed for a violent final showdown, as well. As a reminder, the war started in 2014 when the Houthis, Shiite rebels with ties to Iran, ousted a Saudi-backed government, prompting intervention by a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States with US help.

The war has already created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, claiming the lives of more than 15,000 civilians, amid human rights violations on all sides. Following the recent collapse of peace talks, the UAE says it will retake the strategic port city of Hodeidah from the Houthis. Even beyond the impact of urban warfare on the city’s 600,000 remaining residents, Hodeidah is the port of entry for 70 percent of the food and medicine that goes to Yemen. With about three-quarters of the population dependent on that foreign aid, a battle for Hodeidah could have catastrophic ripple effects throughout the war-ravaged country.

The persecuted religious minority in China that’s not Xinjiang’s Muslims

China has been in the spotlight recently for its discriminatory and repressive policies towards Muslims, and Tibet sometimes makes the news as well, but there’s another minority of religious believers that struggles to worship freely in the country. China’s 60 million Christians have for decades been forced to choose between state-approved churches and underground places of worship that the state cracks down on – sometimes with bulldozers.

In particular, China’s 10 million Catholics have until now had to navigate a system in which Beijing and the Holy See -- which cut ties in 1951 -- each appoint bishops whom the other refuses to recognize. Over the weekend, the two sides took a big step towards reconciliation with an agreement under which the Vatican will recognize several government-appointed bishops and sideline several of its own appointees. In return, China will give the Pope a say in new appointments.

The agreement sparked criticism—from Catholics who don’t want to give an atheist authoritarian government influence over spiritual matters and from Chinese Communist Party officials who object to ceding any sovereignty over internal religious affairs to the Pope.

I’ll leave you with the question my fellow Signalista Willis posed to me: Is this the Pope bowing to the reality of China’s power, or China bowing to the reality of the Pope’s power?

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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