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What We're Watching: Sudan's Generals and Northern Ireland

Sudan's Continuing Strife – The protesters weren't satisfied when Sudan's military ousted Omar Bashir after 30 years in power. Or when Bashir found himself behind bars. Nor did they return home when the generals promised a "military council" that would forge a path to civilian rule within two years. The protesters want a civilian government led by the political opposition, and they want it right now. The military has been reluctant to clear the streets, but something's got to give. This story is no longer about the fate of Bashir but the (immediate) future of Sudan.

Northern Ireland – When a masked gunman, still at large, shot and killed journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland last week, it was a reminder of how fragile the peace that has prevailed there since the Good Friday agreement 21 years ago really is. It also gives grim weight to one of the most difficult Brexit questions: If a hard border must be restored between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in order to separate the EU from the UK, might we see a return to the violence of decades past? At a time when a new generation too young to remember the Troubles or the peace agreement that ended them is becoming more active in the life of Northern Ireland, the answers to more immediate questions will offer some clues: Will the community help police find the gunman? And how will the public respond when an arrest is made?

What We're Ignoring: Yellow Vests Complaining About Notre Dame and Libertarians in Hot Water

The latest yellow vest protests – A fresh round of gilets jaunes demonstrations in Paris over the weekend featured signs like "Millions for Notre Dame, what about for us, the poor?" and "Everything for Notre Dame, nothing for Les Misérables." Members of the crowd were voicing frustration that fundraising efforts to restore Paris's partially destroyed Notre-Dame cathedral have raised over $1 billion, while their concerns have yet to be fully addressed. We're ignoring these new complaints, because French President Emmanuel Macron has already announced 10 billion euros of budget giveaways to assuage the yellow vests, and because we suspect the broader French public doesn't see support for a cultural treasure and support for the downtrodden as a zero-sum game.

Seasteaders abandoning ship – An American Bitcoin enthusiast and his girlfriend have scarpered from their home on a floating platform off the coast of Thailand after the country accused the pair of violating Thailand's national sovereignty – a crime that can lead to the death penalty. Michigan native Chad Elwartowski and his Thai companion had appeared in a video touting the virtues of "seasteading" – a movement championed by Silicon Valley types who dream of setting up sovereign floating communities where people can live free from government interference. The Thai navy ignored Elwartowski's protests that his home was located in international waters and dismantled the custom-built rig. We are ignoring seasteading, because this story shows how utopian fantasies are no match for an actual navy.

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.

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 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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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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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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