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US ships during an underway replenishment in the Philippine Sea. January 19, 2023.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Greg Johnson via ABACAPRESS.COM via Reuters Connect

Hard Numbers: US camps in Philippines, Malaysia may nix death penalty, Bulgaria’s close vote, Burkina Faso vs. journalists, hungry as a bear in Japan

4: On Monday, the Philippine government confirmed the location of four new military camps that will indefinitely host rotating US forces, despite China’s opposition. The new encampments, which were announced last February, place US forces closer to Taiwan and key trade routes in the South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with its neighbors.

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Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya speaks at the United Nations Security Council in New York, U.S., September 30, 2022.

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Hard Numbers: Russia to helm Security Council, Sonko seized, Stubborn EU inflation, Australia vs. climate change

30: Russia is set to helm the UN Security Council as of April 1, a transition of power that Ukraine has dubbed "an April Fool's joke." The council's presidency rotates every 30 days. As president, Russia – and Putin, by extension – will have the ability to set the security council’s agenda. While there have been calls to boycott, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to chair the meeting in New York in April.

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A graph comparing Venezuela's GDP per capita with the average price of crude oil.

Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: Economic turmoil in Venezuela

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves but a combination of corruption, mismanagement, and tough US sanctions since the Maduro regime came to power in 2013 has meant that the petrostate has failed to benefit from its vast reserves of liquid gold.

While high oil prices under the Chavez regime in the early 2000s gave a boost to Venezuela’s middle class, US sanctions first imposed in 2006 – and significantly ramped up under the Obama and Trump administrations – have cut Caracas off from US financial systems.

Economic hardship is rife, with a staggering 50% of people living in extreme poverty. Pervasive hopelessness has also led to one of the worst migrant crises in the world.

In a bid to offset a global energy crisis in 2022 as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Biden administration began lifting some sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector. So how are things faring? We look at GDP per capita and corresponding oil prices since 1999.

A protester near the Invalides during a demonstration against the government's pension reform plan in Paris

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

What We’re Watching: An encore for French protesters, Zelensky’s growing wish list, Weah’s reelection bid

Round Two: French pension reform strikes

For the second time in a month, French workers held mass protests on Tuesday against the government’s proposed pension reform, which would raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. Organized by the country’s eight big trade unions, authorities say as many as 1.27 million protesters hit the streets nationwide, bringing Paris to a standstill and closing schools throughout France. (Unions say the number was higher.) Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron is sticking to his guns, saying that incrementally raising the national retirement age by 2030 is crucial to reducing France’s ballooning deficit. (Currently, 14% of France’s public spending goes toward its pension program – the third-highest of any OECD country.) But for Macron, this is about more than just economics; his political legacy is on the line. Indeed, the ideological chameleon came to power in 2017 as a transformer and tried to get these pension reforms done in 2019, though he was ultimately forced to backtrack. But as Eurasia Group Europe expert Mujtaba Rahman points out, protesters’ “momentum is the key” and could determine whether legislators from the center-right back Macron or get swayed by the vibe on the street. This would force him to go at it alone using a constitutional loophole, which never makes for good politics. More demonstrations are planned for Feb.7 and Feb. 11.

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Luisa Vieira

The Graphic Truth: Where corruption is rising, falling

We didn't make much progress on ending global corruption in 2022 — thanks to political instability and armed conflicts, major contributors to graft worldwide. For instance, kleptocrats in Russia have long been cozy with Vladimir Putin and unsurprisingly did nothing to stop him from invading Ukraine. The war also hampered anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine, where President Volodymyr Zelensky recently fired multiple senior officials suspected of pocketing military procurement funds. So, which nations were the most and least corrupt last year? We take a look at Transparency International's ranking of perceived graft.

Ukraine anti-corruption moves won't hurt war effort
Ukraine Corruption Scandals Won't Affect War Efforts | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Ukraine anti-corruption moves won't hurt war effort

Will resignations and a political shake-up in Ukraine negatively affect its war efforts?

No, not at all. This is anti-corruption efforts, getting rid of a bunch of people that are seen as problematic in terms of skimming money within the government. Russia's been more corrupt than Ukraine historically, but actually, it's quite close. There's a lot of work to be done, and as people start thinking about Ukraine attracting major funds from the Europeans, the Americans, others, multilaterals to rebuild the country, they really need to make sure that the money is going where it needs to, and that means running the economy well. So this is the effort that's being tried here, but it doesn't really matter with the war effort at all.

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VP Eva Kaili from Greece at the European Parliament in Brussels.

EP/­Handout via REUTERS

What We're Watching: EU-Qatar bribery probe, US-Africa talk shop

Did Qatar bribe MEPs?

On Sunday, a Belgian judge charged four people with multiple crimes related to suspected bribery at the EU's legislature by a suspected Gulf nation. (It's Qatar, although, of course, the Qataris deny it.) Among the accused is Greek MEP and European Parliament VP Eva Kaili, who's been arrested and kicked out of the center-left parliamentary group as well as her own Pasok party in Greece. In what is being buzzed about as one of the chamber's biggest-ever corruption scandals, prosecutors suspect that the Gulf state tried to influence European Parliament decisions by giving money and gifts to MEPs. The bombshell probe comes just as Qatar is in the global spotlight over the FIFA World Cup, which many suspect the emirate paid bribes to host. Notably, just last month Kaili defended Qatar's human rights record, giving it credit for abolishing the kafala system that treats migrant workers as modern-day slaves. While the investigation is ongoing, the legislature has already suspended an upcoming vote on visa-free travel to the EU by Qatari nationals, and Greece announced Monday that it's freezing Kaili's assets.

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Luisa Vieira

The Graphic Truth: The World Cup of graft

FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, has long been tainted with corruption scandals — and the 2022 edition of its top competition is no exception. The World Cup is being held in Qatar despite the fact that even FIFA itself "admitted" that bribes were exchanged before the tiny emirate with zero soccer tradition got the nod in late 2010. But what about the countries whose national teams qualified for the tournament? We take a look at how the most and least corrupt countries would play against each other as soccer teams on a pitch. Note: if you're missing Saudi Arabia, believe it or not it ranks as less graft-ridden than Croatia.

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