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What We’re Watching: Guyana’s windfall, freedom in Iran, and Maduro babies

What We’re Watching: Guyana’s windfall, freedom in Iran, and Maduro babies

Guyana rags to riches – If you knew your income would triple over the next four years, what would you do? That's the wonderful (and fascinating) problem facing the small South American nation of Guyana after the recent discovery there of one of the world's biggest offshore oil reserves. The country's 780,000 people are currently awaiting the results of the presidential and legislative elections held earlier this week. The winners of that vote will be responsible for guiding this nation through one of the most dramatic increases in national wealth in recent world history. At the moment, Guyana's GDP per person is less than $5,000. As it goes from being one of the Western hemisphere's poorest countries per capita to one of its wealthiest, will Guyana's people prosper? Or will this country fall prey to ethnic divisions as citizens of African and Indian descent fight for the spoils. Will it suffer what political scientists call "the resource curse" as a tidal wave of new money warps the economy and feeds rampant corruption? Stay tuned.


Free Time in Iran – Are you stuck in an Iranian prison and want to go home? Good news. You're free to go. If you have tested negative for Coronavirus. And you're serving a sentence of less than five years. To this point, Iran is home to the deadliest Coronavirus outbreak outside China. Afraid that overcrowded prisons help Coronavirus spread, Iranian authorities announced this week that 54,000 prisoners will be freed temporarily. We'll be watching to see how they spend their "free time," and how difficult it might prove to return them all to jail in the future.

Maduro babies – "Every woman should have six children for the good of the country." So says Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, president of a country that is home to severe shortages of food and medicine. By having more children, he seems to believe, Venezuela can eventually end its politically driven economic collapse.

What We're Ignoring

A used orb – remember that strange glowing orb that Donald Trump, Saudi King Mohammad Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi all put their hands on during Trump's state visit to the Saudi kingdom in 2017? This video will jog your memory. According to a new book by New York Times reporter Ben Hubbard, that orb is now in US possession. The orb was apparently offered to the US government as a souvenir, one that US officials have no idea what to do with. We're ignoring this story because, though the Signal team is very interested in buying an orb for our office, we don't buy used orbs.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

Today at 12 noon EST, join GZERO Media for a virtual Town Hall, "Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year," presented in partnership with Eurasia Group and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our panel will discuss the road ahead in the global response to the COVID crisis. Will there be more multilateral cooperation on issues like gender equality moving forward from the pandemic?

Watch the event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/townhall

Our moderator, CNBC health care correspondent Bertha Coombs, along with Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, and Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, will speak with distinguished experts on three key issues:

Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project

  • How will COVID vaccines be distributed safely?

Minouche Shafik, Director of London School of Economics & Political Science

  • How has the pandemic disproportionately impacted women?

Madeleine Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management; former US Secretary of State

  • What is the opportunity for global cooperation emerging from this crisis, and what are the greatest political risks?
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How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely available in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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