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Annie Gugliotta

World leaders: Thanks for nothing!

This Thursday, many of our readers — particularly in the US — will celebrate Thanksgiving.

At worst, it’s a day to argue with your relatives about super-chill topics like climate change, racism, abortion, or cancel culture (here’s a useful guide for that.)

But at best, it’s an opportunity to take a moment, look around, and recognize the things you’re grateful for in this life.

And it’s not just you — our world leaders have much to be thankful for as well. Here, then, is a partial list of global gratitude:

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A man walks past Sinn Fein election posters along the nationalist Falls Road in Belfast.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

What We're Watching: Elections in Northern Ireland, South African president in trouble

Northern Ireland’s choice

On Thursday, voters across the UK head to the polls for local elections, but it’s the contest in Northern Ireland that might make history. Sinn Féin is expected to finish with the most seats in Northern Ireland’s assembly. Its victory would be more symbolic than immediately substantive, since power in the assembly must be shared between the two lead parties, and Sinn Féin has focused its campaign on today’s economic hardship, not on a century of Irish partition. But the symbolism matters. A Sinn Féin win would mark the first time in Northern Ireland’s 101-year history that the UK province is led by a party that supports reunification with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. It would make Sinn Féin the most popular party on both sides of the Irish border. And it would prove deeply embarrassing for UK PM Boris Johnson, who is fighting for his scandal-plagued political life at the moment and considering another battle with the European Union over Northern Ireland’s place in the EU’s single market.

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A supporter of the African National Congress (ANC) looks on ahead of the launch of an election manifesto at the church square in Pretoria, South Africa, September 27, 2021.

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

What We're Watching: South Africa's local elections

ANC feels heat as South Africa votes. South Africans go to the polls on Monday to vote in local elections, which are viewed as the biggest test for the ruling ANC party since the end of apartheid. The ANC, which has won every nationwide election since 1994, could lose control of major cities, including Johannesburg, to the opposition Democratic Alliance and coalitions of small independent parties because many South Africans are fed up with government corruption and dysfunction. Indeed, ongoing power outages are being blamed on a state-owned power utility long suspected of graft, and crumbling infrastructure on years of financial mismanagement by successive ANC-led governments. President Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC stalwart, has admitted (some) party mistakes, and required all ANC candidates to sign a non-enforceable pledge to improve public services. More broadly, it's also the first time the ANC will face voters since the deadly riots that followed former president Jacob Zuma's conviction for contempt of court last July. Zuma is now on parole while he faces trial for corruption, but he remains immensely popular with the ANC's left wing — and a thorn in the side of his successor Ramaphosa.

South Africa: Rule of law or cult of personality?

Imagine for a moment that you have been elected president of a major country because of your promises to root out corruption and kickstart the economy. Now imagine that the moment you arrest the most corrupt person in your country's history, the streets explode in a destructive orgy of riots and looting in response.

This is the situation currently facing South Africa's president, Cyril Ramaphosa. In recent days, he has deployed the army to control the worst upheaval the country has seen in decades. Malls and warehouses have been ransacked and torched. Dozens have been reported killed. Hundreds have been arrested.

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What We're Watching: Bolsonaro criminal probe, Lebanon's "social explosion," Zuma defies court, Putin's definition of champagne

Bolsonaro probe heats up: A smattering of protests broke out in cities across Brazil this weekend after the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for a criminal probe into President Jair Bolsonaro for "dereliction of duty" linked to procurement of COVID vaccines. What's this all about? A recent congressional inquiry into Bolsonaro's broad handling of the COVID crisis revealed that he knew — and failed to report to authorities — a shady deal negotiated by his health ministry to buy jabs from a private Indian pharmaceutical company for more than 10 times the price originally quoted. The allegations have sparked fresh calls to impeach Bolsonaro, but conviction would require support from two-thirds of the lower house of Congress, an unlikely scenario given Bolsonaro's broad web of alliances in parliament. Still, the unfolding political drama is indeed having an impact on the street cred of the populist president, who rose to power on an anti-establishment, anti-corruption platform: Bolsonaro's net approval rating now hovers at -23 percent. Brazilians, who have been pummeled by the COVID crisis, will surely be watching the probe very closely ahead of next year's presidential vote. The timing is not great for Bolsonaro, whose nemesis, leftwing former president Lula, is gaining steam in the polls.

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Gabriella Turrisi

What We’re Watching: Australia cancels China deals, Zuma without lawyers, US to recognize Armenian genocide

Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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Hard Numbers: Zuma's day in court, Burkina Faso’s civilian killings, the soaring cost of water in the US, and Trump's H1B visa hit

16: Former South African President Jacob Zuma appeared in court Tuesday to be tried on 16 corruption charges linked to his decade running the country. Zuma says the charges are part of a political "witch hunt," but his critics say the trial is a rare example of the country's judicial system actually holding people in power to account after years of government corruption.

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