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What We're Watching & Watch We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

A peace deal in the Central African Republic – The government of the Central African Republic yesterday struck a peace deal with 14 different armed groups intended to bring an end to over five years of political, religious and ethnic violence. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 640,000 displaced since the 2013 ouster of the country's Christian president by a coalition of Muslim rebels. While there's no guarantee this latest deal will stick – previous ones failed in 2014, 2015, and 2017 – the progress is encouraging. The peace talks that began on January 24 marked the first time the warring factions in the conflict had all sat down at the negotiating table.

"America First" at the World Bank – The Trump administration is expected to announce today its nomination of David Malpass as the next head of the world's largest development lender. Malpass, who is known for being a harsh critic of multilateral institutions, has in the past called for the World Bank to be downsized and to curb lending to China. The appointment is the latest example of President Trump's commitment to upend institutions he finds ineffectual or simply doesn't like, even if they ultimately serve US foreign policy objectives. The US provided about $3.8 billion to the World Bank last year, or around 13 percent of its total budget, and has substantial say in how it pursues its mandate to alleviate poverty and promote development around the world. We're watching to see how that mandate changes under new leadership.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

The UK's emergency plan to evacuate the queen – British officials in charge of organizing contingency plans for a messy Brexit are dusting off Cold War-era plans to whisk Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family out of London in case of riots. It seems like every new week of the Brexit saga brings some new absurdity, but this is really over the top. This family wasn't even evacuated from London during Germany's mass bombing campaign against the UK during World War II. The queen herself drove an ambulance during the war. A Brexit evacuation? One's mind boggles.

The Chinese Air Force's barely concealed menace – This Lunar New Year "goodwill" video from China's Air Force has it all: sleek bombers, aerial acrobatics, a catchy soundtrack, and the PLA's airborne corps logo superimposed against a backdrop of Taiwan's tourist hot spots. Real subtle, guys. We're ignoring the propaganda and wishing a happy New Year to all of our Signal readers in Taiwan, on the mainland, or wherever you may be. 恭喜发财!

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It's been four days since Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, died in a hail of bullets on a highway near Tehran. Iran has plausibly blamed Israel for the killing, but more than that, not much is known credibly or in detail.

This is hardly the first time that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in an operation that has a whiff of Mossad about it. But Fakhrizadeh's prominence — he is widely regarded as the father of the Iranian nuclear program — as well as the timing of the killing, just six weeks from the inauguration of a new American president, make it a particularly big deal. Not least because an operation this sensitive would almost certainly have required a US sign-off.

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Joe Biden has had one of the longest political careers in American history, but his most important act is yet to come. Can decades of experience in Washington prepare him to lead the most divided America since the end of the Civil War?

Watch the GZERO World episode: What you still may not know about Joe


Ethiopia on the brink: After ethnic tensions between Ethiopia's federal government and separatist forces in the northern Tigray region erupted into a full-blown armed conflict in recent weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his forces had taken control of Tigray's capital on Saturday and declared victory. But the fugitive Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael quickly called Abiy's bluff, saying the fighting is raging on, and demanded Abiy withdraw his forces. Gebremichael accused Abiy of launching "a genocidal campaign" that has displaced 1 million people, with thousands fleeing to neighboring Sudan, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Tigray, who make up about five percent of Ethiopia's population, are fighting for self-determination, but Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected invitations to discuss the issue, accusing the coalition led by Gebremichael's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of "instigating clashes along ethnic and religious lines." As the two sides dig in their heels, Ethiopia faces the risk of a civil war that could threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa.

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110: At least 110 people were killed in Nigeria's conflict-ridden Borno state on Saturday, when armed men attacked agricultural workers as they tended their fields. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the brutal attack, but analysts say the assault was likely the work of Boko Haram or Islamic State-linked groups that have gained a foothold in the Sahel region in recent years.

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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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