For those of you who aren't in the U.S., this week, everyone is taking some well-deserved time off and eating a lot of food for this thing we call Thanksgiving.
Then, to burn off calories, we run to the shops and buy stuff we don't need because it's on sale, and we love consumerism in this part of North America. In the U.S., we call it Black Friday. If you want to know what that is, just watch this anxiety-inducing SNL skit that sums it up pretty well.
Anyway, to maintain time-honored traditions, I'm offering a Black Friday sale for Lazo Letters. Now you can use the offer code news or click on the link below to get 20% off an annual subscription. 👇👇
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I'll be back with more interviews next week. xoxo, Cristina
What I'm writing:
• I wrote about how plans to include two anti-corruption bills in the National Defense Authorization Act - an annual defense policy bill - fell apart last week due to a turf war between the Foreign Relations Committee and Banking Committee over which government body should monitor foreign donations to U.S. universities.
What I'm reading:
• The European Commission wrote a letter to Hungary and Poland about problems with the independence of the judiciary, ineffective prosecution of corruption, and deficiencies in public procurement. The two letters are an informal first step toward triggering a mechanism allowing EU money to be cut because of rule-of-law concerns, Politico Europe reports.
• Human rights activists submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court as they called for an investigation into abuses against migrants in Libya.
• Radio Free Europe has a deep dive into the tragic death that exacerbated vaccine skepticism in Georgia.
• Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was fined €2,420 for giving a television interview from the Moncloa, the prime minister’s official residence, while also campaigning for the 2019 election, Politico Europe reports. In the U.S., you'd call that a Hatch Act violation.
• Everyone should watch this wild BBC interview with Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Journalist Steve Rosenberg did a great job pressing Lukashenko on protests and the election results from last year.
• Belarus’s oldest newspaper, Nasha Niva, was banned after the government accused it of extremism, the Associated Press reports.
• Bulgarian President Rumen Radev won a second term in a runoff vote, Politico Europe reports. Radev was a significant supporter of anti-corruption protests launched last year against former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and his GERB party.
• The U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria expressed “deep concern” over Bulgarian President Rumen Radev’s comments about Crimea belonging to Russia.
• The Biden administration is considering sending military advisers and new equipment, including weapons, to Ukraine as Russia builds up forces near the border, CNN reports. Two refitted former U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats arrived at a Ukrainian port to bolster the country's navy, Reuters reports.
• Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Mark Milley spoke with Russia’s top military officer, Chief of the Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, amid concerns about a buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. Here is a readout of their call.
• Russian prosecutors filed a lawsuit to liquidate the human rights organization Memorial for alleged violations of the country's foreign agents act. Novaya Gazeta has an open letter on the case (in Russian).
• Russia demanded that 13 foreign tech companies –including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok – set up offices in Russia by the end of the year or face potential restrictions and bans, Reuters reports.
• Demetri Sevastopulo (who, I just noticed, somehow snagged the amazing Twitter handle @Dimi) reports in the Financial Times that China’s hypersonic missile test in July “included a technological advance that enabled it to fire a missile as it approached its target traveling at least five times the speed of sound — a capability no country has previously demonstrated."
• Authorities in El Salvador raided the offices of seven social service and advocacy groups in an embezzlement investigation that advocates say is part of a politically motivated crackdown on independent groups, the New York Times reports.
• Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that talks with the opposition would not restart until the U.S. releases the Venezuelan government envoy Alex Saab, who was extradited to the U.S. over money-laundering accusations, Reuters reports.
• The U.S. will remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from a list of foreign terrorist organizations to demonstrate U.S. support for the 2016 peace agreement between the rebels and former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the Wall Street Journal reports.
• India’s anti-terrorism agency arrested Khurram Parvez, a prominent human rights activist in the Indian-administered Kashmir region, the Washington Post reports.
• Kurdish-led forces in charge of prisons in northern Syria that hold around 10,000 men with alleged links to ISIS are releasing prisoners in exchange for money under a “reconciliation” scheme, the Guardian reports.
• Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Twitter that he would lead troops to fight the rebels advancing on the country's capital.
• A deal was brokered in Sudan to reinstate the ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was removed in a military coup last month, the BBC reports. Hamdok appeared on television to sign a new power-sharing agreement with the military coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
• The New York Times reports that protesters in Sudan met the deal with anger, calling it a betrayal.
• Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan held military drills near Kazakhstan’s border with Afghanistan, imitating a response to an incursion, Reuters reports.
• The United Nations is warning that Afghanistan's banking system could collapse within months, Reuters reports.
• The Taliban expanded its shadowy war against the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan, conducting night raids against suspected Islamic State-Khorasan members. Many of the hundreds arrested have disappeared or turned up dead, the Washington Post reports.
• Politico Europe has an interesting report on how Athens became an unexpected hub for 700 of Afghanistan’s female judges, lawmakers, journalists, and lawyers fleeing the Taliban.
What the State Department says:
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