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Georgia Senate candidates: U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R)

Reuters

What We’re Watching: US midterm cliffhanger, Russia’s Kherson retreat, ASEAN summit kickoff

Control of Congress hangs in the balance

“It was a good day for democracy and I think a good day for America,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday night about the midterm election results. The US House and Senate both remain in play after Republicans failed to deliver on their promise of giving Democrats a shellacking. While the GOP is still favored to take control of the lower chamber, incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is likely to preside over a slim and dysfunctional GOP majority – hardly the wave he had anticipated. The GOP is still 11 seats short of clinching a majority in the House, and several competitive districts are still being counted. Control of the Senate, meanwhile, rests on three states – Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia – that remain too close to call. The race in the Peach State between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker will go to a run-off on Dec. 6 after neither reaped 50% of the vote. What’s more, measures to enshrine abortion rights were overwhelmingly backed by voters in states including Michigan, California, and Vermont. Even deep-red Kentucky refused to back an amendment denying the constitutional right to abortion, proving that curtailing abortion access is a losing issue for the GOP.

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Evgeny Prigozhin (L) assists Russian President Vladimir Putin

Reuters

The man with his own army

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group mercenary force and a longtime ally to Vladimir Putin, has become an increasingly prominent figure in the war in Ukraine — and perhaps in Russia’s future. His private army, media platform, and Putin’s deepening dependence on his fighters to bolster Russia’s lousy military performance make him a character worth a close look.

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Little is known about Prigozhin before the nine years he spent in prison as a young adult following his conviction on robbery and fraud charges. After his release in the dying days of the Soviet Union, he set up a highly profitable hot dog stand in St. Petersburg, and from there he built a restaurant business that helped feed Russian soldiers and later catered events for Russia’s richest and most powerful. He also caught the attention of Vladimir Putin.

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Luisa Vieira

Winter is coming

The image of Russian (and Ukrainian) soldiers dug into snow banks to repel invaders has a long history. Napoleon and Hitler learned the hard way that winter provides defenders with a major home-field advantage.

Once again, winter will soon descend on a battlefield. Rain will turn hard earth into mud, slowing military movement. Snow will leave advancing forces with fewer places to hide and no good way to cover their tracks.

Ukrainian fighters know that winter will slow their current momentum, and Russians know it will cripple their ability to push hard in the opposite direction.

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Local residents at a site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile attack in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Allies talk “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine, dark clouds brew over France, Medvedev channels his inner James Bond

Ukraine latest: Is it too soon to talk reconstruction?

With Ukrainian forces continuing to push their counteroffensive, winter coming, and Russian attacks crippling the country’s energy infrastructure, it seems like a dicey time to talk about pumping close to a trillion dollars of reconstruction aid into Ukraine. But it’s never too early to plan/hope, so that’s what’s on the agenda this week at two conferences in Berlin headlined by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They are calling for a 21st-century “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine that could last decades. But who, precisely, is willing to foot the bill for bridges, roads, and power plants that will remain indefinitely in Russian crosshairs is an open question. Meanwhile, in ominous news from Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday wondered aloud whether the fragile UN-backed Ukrainian grain export deal will be renewed next month, citing the Kremlin’s demand for more data on where the grain shipments have actually been going. The grain deal helped to take some of the pressure off record highs in global food prices, which are having a disproportionate impact on the world’s poor.

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GZERO Media

Israel, Iran, and the metastasizing war in Ukraine

Wars tend to spread, infecting parts of the world far from the frontlines and the Ukraine conflict is no exception.

The global economic ripple effects of the war in Ukraine – from the world’s sharpest “hunger pains” since World War II to soaring inflation and energy crises – have been clear for months.

The news that Iran has now become deeply involved in Russia’s war effort, by supplying the Kremlin with “suicide drones” for the bombardment of Ukrainian targets, has ricocheted deep into the Middle East, raising tough questions for one state in particular: Israel.

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Smoke rises after a Russian drones strike on Kyiv, Ukraine.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Drones over Kyiv, GOP’s advantage, Kishida’s church probe

Russia starts droning on

Russia attacked targets across Ukraine on Monday with Iranian-made “suicide drones,” which fly into targets and then explode. At least four people were killed when one of them struck an apartment complex in Kyiv. The building is located across the street from the offices of Ukraine’s national energy company, which may have been the intended target. That’s consistent with Russia’s recent approach of striking critical civilian infrastructure in retaliation for Ukraine’s sabotage of the Kerch Strait bridge earlier this month. Also on Monday, a Russian drone strike crippled a major sunflower oil export terminal in the southern city of Mykolaiv, raising the prospect of a renewed turbulence in prices for cooking oil, a staple in kitchens around the world. Tehran denies supplying the drones, but experts say they are clearly Shahed-136 drones from Iran. Until now, drones have been deployed to the most devastating effect by the Ukrainians, but Russia — suffering military setbacks on the ground and unable to establish aerial dominance — could be seeking a way to strike lots of targets crudely and at a relatively low cost. Although drones are slow-moving and easier to shoot down than jets or missiles, Ukraine is still calling for better air defenses overall. See our recent interview with a Ukrainian drone operator here.

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Gasoline pump out of gas following the strike of the employees of the oil refineries in France.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: French fuel fury, China’s next premier, Putin's offer

France’s striking oil workers

Two weeks into strikes by French oil refinery workers over a pay dispute, the government has ordered some striking employees back to work to get petrol flowing. Workers are demanding wage increases to offset rising inflation, and the strikes have taken more than 60% of the country’s oil capacity offline. While ExxonMobil workers reportedly struck a deal for a 6.5% wage increase plus bonuses, unions representing Total Energies employees are demanding a 10% wage increase. On Wednesday, the unions voted to continue striking, defying the summons. The right to strike is protected in France, but a minimum number of workers needed to maintain a public service can be ordered to return to work … or risk a whopping 10,000 euro fine ($9,700) and time behind bars. Although Macron is keen to avoid further disruptions to the energy sector, he must tread carefully. The price of gas is a sensitive issue in France – fuel costs and economic inequality sparked the Yellow Vest movement that brought the country to a standstill in 2018. The last thing he wants to do is fuel more demonstrations, and there are already protests planned for Sunday in Paris over inflation and proposed pension reforms. Given the global energy crisis, heads of state worldwide will be watching carefully to see how Macron navigates the situation.

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GZERO Media

The Graphic Truth: The strong greenback

Developed and emerging economies alike have seen the value of their currencies plummet in recent months due to the economic reverberations of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Food and fuel shortages have put upward pressure on prices, and inflation has soared to record highs in some places. While inflationary pressures are surely being felt in the US, the greenback has reached a two-decade high compared to other major currencies. This is in part because the US Federal Reserve’s measures to curb inflation have boosted investor confidence. However, a strong US dollar can have painful consequences for other states, particularly import-reliant ones, because most global commodities are priced in US dollars. We take a look at the value of currencies used in the world’s largest economies compared to the US dollar before and after Russia invaded Ukraine.

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