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What We're Watching: Lingering US presidential race, Ethiopia's ethnic strife,Trump's recount antics

Images of a Trump supporter and child holding a Biden-Harris sign

The lingering US presidential race: As counting continues in several key battleground states, the American people are still none the wiser as to who will be their next president. At the time of this writing, the road to victory — that is, to clearing the 270 electoral votes threshold needed to clinch the presidency — is clearer for Joe Biden, but President Trump could still win a second term. Millions of mail-in-ballots still being counted in several closely-watched states — Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania — will decide the outcome of the election in the next few days. Many analysts say that the bulk of these votes will likely favor Biden because the Democratic Party has encouraged voting early and by mail due to the pandemic, while the Trump campaign promoted in-person voting on Election Day. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has presented a legal strategy to contest the counting of mail-in-ballots — a tactic rejected by many mainstream Republicans. The margin of the race is razor-thin, reinforcing what many observers already knew: the country is bitterly divided.


Civil war in Ethiopia? Ethiopia's military has been deployed to the northern Tigray region after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused the ruling Tigray People's Liberation Front (TFLP) party of trying to provoke a war by attacking an army base there. Abiy's move is widely viewed as payback for the regional government's recent decision to defy Addis Ababa by holding elections in Tigray that were cancelled in the rest of Ethiopia due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the root of the mutual animosity has always been ethnic— and political: Tigrays only account for 5 percent of Ethiopia's population but for decades punched above their weight in domestic politics thanks to their role in ousting former dictator Haile Mengistu, a fellow Tigray. The region's grip on national power ended with the 2018 election of the reformist Ahmed, a member of the Oromo, the country's largest ethnic group but long marginalized by the political establishment in Addis Ababa. Since then, the TLFP and the prime minister have accused each other of stoking ethnic tensions in a deeply fragmented country. Will Ethiopia — which just months ago was on the brink of civil war after the murder of a nationalist Oromo singer — descend into full-blown ethnic conflict?

What We're Ignoring:

Trump's recount antics: After Wisconsin's electoral officials announced on Wednesday that Joe Biden had won a majority of votes in the crucial battleground state, the Trump campaign said it will request an "immediate" recount of the ballots, saying that "Wisconsin has been a razor thin race" that could readily flip in the incumbent's favor. While it's true that the race in the Badger State has been tight, Trump currently trails Biden by some 20,000 votes in Wisconsin, a significant margin that's unlikely to change even if votes are retallied. We're ignoring this because even Republican stalwarts like former governors Chris Christie and Scott Walker acknowledged that the Trump campaign's tactics were unfounded and unlikely to yield the President's desired results. Indeed, recounts only ever reveal discrepancies of a few hundred votes here and there, experts say. We're also ignoring the fact that the Trump administration prematurely claimed victory in Pennsylvania even though over a million votes have not been counted there — as well as his appeal for the courts to block continued counting of ballots in Pennsylvania and Michigan — because, well, … democracy!

Knowing the secrets of the Earth requires a great deal of exploration and intellectual curiosity. Fit for this job is geologist Giuseppe Valenti, Eni's Senior Vice President, whose role is to explore below the Earth's surface and understand the history, movements and age of each single grain of sand. Today, he is able to go underground without leaving the office thanks to new technologies and advanced x-rays that relay real-time data. Though working in the lab is distinctly different from his past adventures traveling the world, Giuseppe is not nostalgic for the past. He says he will always be Indiana Jones in spirit.

Watch the latest Faces of Eni episode to learn more about Giuseppe's inspirational life.

The person a US president taps to assume the coveted role of secretary of state, the nation's top diplomat, says a lot about that president's foreign policy ambitions and global vision.

Indeed, the selection of Henry Kissinger (Nixon and Ford), James Baker (George H.W. Bush), Hillary Clinton (Obama) and Rex Tillerson (Trump) to head the State Department, provided an early window into the foreign policy priorities — or lack thereof — of their respective bosses.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday, Thanksgiving week. Things starting to look increasingly normal in terms of outlook, in terms of having all of these vaccines. I understand that the next few months in the United States are going to be incredibly challenging, but so much easier when you see that there's light at the end of the tunnel and you know where that's coming. Most recently, the AstraZeneca announcement, which for me, in some ways is a bigger deal globally, even than what we've seen from Moderna and Pfizer, because it doesn't require freezing, it's just refrigeration, which means that countries around the world that don't have the infrastructure to deal with this cold chain requirements of these vaccines will be able to use another set of vaccines with different technology. That's not just AstraZeneca, it will be Johnson and Johnson. It's the Russians. It's the Chinese.

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Although the United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, until recently the trajectories of their COVID-19 outbreaks have been vastly different, with the EU seeming to have kept the pandemic mostly in check during the summer months. The US has now surpassed twelve million total infections as most states, particularly in the Midwest, are fighting massive outbreaks. But now Europe is doing even worse: states across the continent are seeing an uptick in average infection and mortality rates that dwarf those of the US, leading several European countries to implement fresh national lockdowns. Here's a look at the seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases, and three-day rolling averages of new deaths and new deaths per capita in the EU vs the US since March.

Guatemala in crisis: In the latest unrest to hit the streets of a Latin American capital, a group of demonstrators — angry about a controversial new budget — set fire to the Guatemalan parliament building over the weekend. The budget, negotiated largely in secret while the country reels from the impact of the pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes, cuts funding for healthcare, education, and human rights organizations while boosting money for infrastructure and — get this — adds more than $50,000 for lawmakers' meal stipends. The mostly peaceful protesters, along with the Catholic Church, are demanding at a minimum that President Alejandro Giammattei veto the budget, but some on the streets are calling for him and his whole government to step down entirely. Vice President Guillermo Castillo has offered to do just that, but only if the president jumps ship with him. Can Giammattei find a solution or is this a rerun of 2015, when mass protests unseated the government of then-President Otto Perez Molina? With its economy battered by the pandemic and natural disasters, Guatemala can ill afford a prolonged crisis.

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The 2020 US Election

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