What they’re thankful for

What they’re thankful for

Tomorrow, millions of people will gather around dining tables across the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving – a day traditionally reserved for food, football, and reflecting on life's blessings. There'll be turkey and stuffing. And pie. But also: political conversations with relatives. To get you ready, we've imagined what some of the most important world leaders are thankful for this year:


Donald Trump: Mueller, the Ukraine scandal, impeachment proceedings. It's been a miserable year. Ok? Thankfully the economy is very, very strong – unemployment near 50-year lows, and just look at the stock market. Record highs! Senate Republicans will never vote to impeach me with the economy humming like this. So much to be grateful for, America! All thanks to me. You're welcome! Enjoy!

Vladimir Putin: On New Year's Eve I will mark 20 years in power in Russia. I am thankful to have made Russia great again after the humiliation by the West in the 1990s. I'm grateful for the internet and social media, which help me sow confusion and undermine my rivals; but most of all, this year, for the US withdrawal from Syria, which has confirmed Russia's status as a major power broker in the Middle East.

Xi Jinping: Yes, my economy is slowing. Yes, Hong Kong is a mess. And those leaked files on Uighur detention camps are terrible for China's overseas image. But I'm still the country's most powerful leader since Mao, with an ability to invest and mobilize state resources that few, if any, Western leaders can match. Thank goodness for that.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Gratuitous Turkey reference on Thanksgiving, huh? Ok, I'll play. Like Vlad, I'm grateful that Trump withdrew those troops from Kurdish-controlled northern Syria: without that I'd never have been able to clear the buffer zone I need to resettle millions of Syrian refugees who are causing me political headaches.

Boris Johnson: I couldn't have asked for a weaker opponent in next month's general election than my friend, Jeremy Corbyn. Three years of Brexit omnishambles should have voters lining up to punish my Tory Party when they hit the polls on December 12, but the Labour leader's hard-left policies and fence-sitting on Brexit have given Remain voters a difficult choice. If I can maintain our comfortable lead in the polls, we'll be out of the EU, with a deal, by January. Then the real negotiations over the UK's future relationship with the EU can begin. Thanks, Jeremy!

Theresa May: I'm so thankful I no longer have to deal with this.

Carrie Lam: I'm thankful that once my term is up, or Beijing finally lets me resign, no one can force me to run for Hong Kong chief executive again. Staying in Hong Kong might be tough. Maybe I can apply for one of those new UK skills visas.

Mark Zuckerberg: Sorry, this content is not available to our community right now. This year Priscilla and I have decided we'll only be sharing what we are thankful for with a small group of family and friends in an encrypted WhatsApp chat.

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

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Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

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China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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6,000: Poland has doubled the number of troops guarding its border with Belarus to almost 6,000 because of a surge in migrants trying to cross over (there were 612 attempts on Monday alone). Warsaw accuses Minsk of sending non-EU migrants into Poland as payback for EU sanctions against Belarus.

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Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

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