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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat on March 8. Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Ethiopia visiting the headquarters of the African Union Thursday, the first stop on his five-country tour of the continent. Per the NY Times, Tillerson's trip thus far, much like his recent visit to Latin America, has been marked by tense exchanges and calls to answer for the "shithole countries" remark Trump reportedly made in January.

Why it matters: Trump's unpredictability and inflammatory comments (including about Tillerson) haven't made representing the U.S. abroad any easier, particularly with global approval of U.S. leadership plummeting under his administration.

Awkward moments, per the NYTimes:

  • Wearing his signature "tight smile," Tillerson responded to a reporters' question about Trump's "shithole" remarks as best he could: “The United States' commitment to Africa is quite clear in terms of the importance we place on the relationship.”
  • Tillerson also railed against China, despite the fact that Chinese investments in Ethiopia total about $3.5 billion more than the U.S. in recent years. Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, responded, "I think Africans are mature enough to engage in partnerships of their own volition."
  • Tillerson is also staying at the same hotel as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, but the pair reportedly have no plans to meet. Trolling Tillerson on Facebook, the Russian Embassy in Washington wrote, "This would be a great opportunity to discuss a range of accumulated issues on regional and global agenda not through the press, but directly.”

Go deeper on Ethiopia: The world's fastest growing economy, in one of its poorest nations

Go deeper

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
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  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

2 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.