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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

Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) forced Senate clerks to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, which took nearly 11 hours and lasted until 2:05 a.m. Friday. The Senate then adjourned and is expected to reconvene at 9 a.m. to debate the bill before considering amendments.

1 hour ago - Health

Cuomo advisers reportedly altered July COVID-19 nursing homes report

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Seth Wenig/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's advisers successfully pushed state health officials to exclude certain data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths from a July report, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Why it matters: The changes resulted in a "significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population," the WSJ wrote.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.