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Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto leads a rally ahead of the midterm elections in Henderson, Nevada.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Dems’ Senate victory, Iran's first protester death sentence, Ethiopia's peace deal

Dems take the Senate

The long wait has ended with Democrats retaining control of the US Senate. The victory was sealed after Catherine Cortez Masto, the Nevada incumbent locked in a tight race against her Donald Trump-backed rival, squeezed through with a narrow win. Meanwhile, a Democrat also won Nevada’s race for secretary of state – another midterm defeat for pro-Trump election deniers. With the Senate now at 50-49 for Dems (who have the advantage of VP Harris’ tie-breaking vote), the White House is now turning its attention to Georgia. A Senate runoff in the Peach State on Dec. 6 could see the Dems clinch 51 seats, giving them majorities in Senate committees and more wiggle room on key bills. Meanwhile, the House remains too close to call, but the GOP is slightly favored to win, needing just 7 seats to reach a majority, compared to the Dems’ 14. Still, many of the 21 House seats that haven’t been called yet are toss-ups, and the Dems have secured victories in unexpected races over the past few days. Buckle up for a nail-biter.

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Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussien and Tigray delegate Getachew Reda pass documents during the signing of the AU-led negotiations to resolve the conflict in northern Ethiopia

Reuters

Just like that: Is Ethiopia’s war over?

For two years, it was one of the world’s most gruesome conflicts. Hundreds of thousands displaced, millions at risk of famine, and a rapidly shifting frontline that drew in neighboring countries and saw allegations of war crimes by both sides.

And then suddenly, last week, Ethiopia’s civil war, which pitted the federal government against fighters from the northern region of Tigray, seemed to end. Both sides agreed to a peace framework at talks in South Africa.

Why? How? And what are the prospects for peace in Africa’s second most populous nation, a country that until recently was one of the world’s fastest growing economies?

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Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussien and Tigray delegate Getachew Reda attend signing of the AU-led negotiations to resolve the conflict in northern Ethiopia.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Ethiopian peace deal, Russia’s grain U-turn, Kim Jong Un’s wrath, China’s production woes

Peace at last in Ethiopia?

The government of Ethiopia and rebels from the Tigray region agreed on Wednesday to “permanently” end their civil war. The conflict, which began in late 2020 as Tigrayan forces sought more autonomy from the central government, spiraled into a brutal war that displaced millions, drew in forces from neighboring Eritrea, brought parts of the country to the brink of famine, and led to possible war crimes on both sides. The precise terms of the peace agreement, reached during African Union-brokered peace talks in South Africa, aren’t yet clear, but former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who oversaw the negotiations, said the sides had pledged to put down their weapons, restore “law and order” and open full access to humanitarian aid. One big wildcard? Eritrea, which was not involved in the talks but has its own security interests and territorial claims along its border with Tigray.

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Supporters gather in front of the house of Argentina's Vice-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner after she was attacked in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

What We’re Watching: Argentine VP assassination attempt, Ethiopian escalation, Zaporizhzhia tour

Argentine VP survives assassination attempt

Argentina's influential VP Cristina Fernández de Kirchner survived an assassination attempt on Thursday night outside her residence in Buenos Aires. A gunman took aim from close range, but his loaded weapon failed to fire. Cops then arrested the man, a Brazilian national with a history of following hate groups on social media. We don’t know the motive and political violence in the country rarely gets bloody, but political tensions have been running very high since last week, when a prosecutor asked for the far-left firebrand VP and former president to be sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption. Still, her trial will be anything but swift, and Cristina — as she’s universally known — is unlikely to go to jail for charges she calls a "witch hunt." President Alberto Fernández (no relation, nor a big fan of the VP) declared a national holiday on Friday, which the conservative opposition decried as a gambit to turn out crowds in favor of Cristina.

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Models of oil barrels and a pump jack are seen in front of EU and Russia flag colors.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

What We’re Watching: Drawdown pledge, Europe veers away from Russia, Ethiopian peace hopes dashed, a Gulf non-starter

Fighting continues despite Russia’s drawdown pledge

The Pentagon said it believes the Kremlin was starting to reposition some of its troops away from Kyiv. But Russia continued to pound the Ukrainian capital with airstrikes and artillery while maintaining its ferocious bombardment of the besieged port city of Mariupol. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that bilateral peace talks were making “substantial progress,” but Ukrainian officials immediately disputed his claim that Kyiv had accepted the loss of Crimea and the Donbas as a “resolved question.” President Zelensky late Wednesday released a new video in which he said "we don't believe in fancy rhetorical constructions, we believe in what happens on the battlefield."

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Residents carry Ukrainian national flag as they gather in the Olympic Stadium to mark the Unity Day.

REUTERS

What We're Watching: US-NATO skepticism, EU rule of law ruling, US truckers' protests, atrocities in Tigray, guac wars

US-NATO skepticism and Ukrainian unity. The US and NATO aren’t yet buying claims by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that some Russian troops have pulled back from the Ukrainian border. “We have good reason to believe the Russians are saying one thing and doing another … in an effort to hide the truth,” said a US State Department spokesman on Wednesday. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg then warned that NATO sees a continued buildup of Russian troops and that the alliance must prepare for a “new normal” in which “Russia is willing to contest some fundamental principles of our security.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, continues to strike a delicate balance. On Wednesday, he tried rallying his war-weary country to celebrate a "Unity Day" with mixed results. He's urging both outsiders and Ukrainians not to exaggerate the threat of a Russian invasion that is stoking fears and hurting Ukraine’s economy. But he’s also moving forward with a bold plan to tackle Russia-friendly “oligarchs” at home. He announced on Monday that he will keep promises to tackle both corruption and Russian influence within Ukraine by stripping some of the country’s richest business owners of some of the wealth that Zelensky says gives them too much influence over the country’s policies and politics.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference following talks with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban in Moscow on February 1, 2022.

Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Much ado about Ukraine, Myanmar anti-junta strike, Horn of Africa drought

Busy day for Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his diplomatic offensive on Tuesday with a press conference alongside Hungary’s Kremlin-friendly Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Putin previously spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian PM Mario Draghi in an ongoing effort to exploit divisions of opinion among European leaders over the future of NATO and Ukraine. Putin wants NATO to roll back from Eastern Europe and to guarantee that Ukraine will never join the alliance. He reiterated that Washington continues to “ignore” Moscow’s concerns about Russia’s national security. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is working on a new “partnership” with the UK and Poland. This appears to be little more than diplomatic window-dressing, since Britain and Poland have already pledged to supply Ukraine with weapons. Zelensky also unveiled a plan to expand Ukraine’s army by 100,000 troops over the next three years. Military action doesn’t appear imminent, but you can count on more posturing.

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What We’re Watching: Biden's omicron woes, a Tigrayan withdrawal, UK's new Brexit chief

What’s Biden omicron plan? The omicron variant has set up shop in the US, and COVID cases nationwide have risen 20 percent in the past two weeks. New York City is a hotspot with more than 20,000 new cases per day. President Biden will address the nation on Tuesday to detail the steps his administration will take to try to curb the spiraling outbreak. It’s already clear that he plans to double down on a messaging strategy centered on vaccines and boosters – having recently released a strongly worded warning that the unvaccinated should prepare for a “winter of severe illness and death.” But will Biden address — and rectify — more immediate challenges like testing capacity, which is buckling under the pressure of a surging caseload? What guidance will he give Americans about holiday travel just four days before Christmas? Biden promised to bring an end to the pandemic and get the US back to normal. With public confidence in his competency at a record low, public perception of his ability to manage this latest outbreak could make or break the Democratic Party’s electoral prospects in 2022 and beyond.

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