Thursday's world stories

Nov 26, 2020 - Health

Berlin to open six mass COVID vaccination centers

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at German federal parliament in Berlin on Nov. 26. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Berlin aims to open six centers with the capacity to vaccinate up to 4,000 people per day with an approved COVID-19 vaccine by mid-December, project coordinator Albrecht Broemme told Reuters on Thursday.

Why it matters: If successful, Germany could be a model for the U.S. and other wealthy countries to handle the logistical challenges of administering a vaccine that requires strict temperature control and storage.

Nov 26, 2020 - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Nov 26, 2020 - Health

Africa CDC: Vaccines likely won't be available until Q2 of 2021

Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong. Photo: Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.

Nov 26, 2020 - World

Ethiopia PM: "Final phase" of offensive in Tigray region to start

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a 2019 press conference in the country's capital, Addis Ababa. Photo: Michael Tewelde/AFP via Getty Images

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted Thursday that the country's military will begin the "final phase" of an offensive in the northern Tigray region after his 72-hour ultimatum for local leaders to surrender expired.

Why it matters: The government of Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, has said it will show "no mercy" if civilians don't "move away from the Tigray leaders in time" as weaponry including tanks near the regional capital, Mekelle, per AP.

Go deeper: Ethiopia clashes raise risk of civil war

Nov 26, 2020 - World

Death toll from New Zealand's White Island eruption rises to 22

Steam rises from the Whakaari/White Island volcano on Dec. 11, two days after the volcanic eruption, off the coast from Whakatāne, on New Zealand's North Island. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption has risen to 22, almost one year on from the tragedy, police announced in a statement Thursday.

The big picture: 47 people were on NZ's only active marine volcano when it erupted Dec. 9, 2019, including New Zealanders and tourists from the U.S., Australia, the U.K., China and Germany. Police identified the latest victim as Horst Westenfelder, 64. The German man died in a hospital overseas "due to medical complications while receiving treatment for injuries" he sustained on the island, per the statement.

Nov 25, 2020 - World

Past friction between Biden and Erdoğan foreshadows future tensions

Biden and Erdoğan in 2016. Photo: Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Ankara — The incoming Biden administration's foreign policy priorities and worldview will collide with those of the Turkish government on several issues.

Why it matters: The U.S. needs its NATO ally Turkey for its efforts to contain Russia, counter Iran and deal with other crises in the Middle East. But relations between Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are expected to be strained.

Nov 25, 2020 - World

Palestinians prepare charm offensive for Biden

Abbas and Biden in Ramallah in 2010. Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Palestinian leaders are considering several initiatives that they hope will encourage strong relations with the incoming administration and make it easier for Biden to roll back Trump's policies.

Why it matters: After four years of deep crisis in U.S.-Palestinian relations, President Mahmoud Abbas desperately needs to rebuild his standing in Washington.

Nov 25, 2020 - World

Bibi Barometer: Gantz's "submarine affair" probe signals end of pact

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Pool, Gali Tibbon/Getty Images

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz may have put the last nail in the coffin of Israel's power-sharing government when he formed an inquiry panel to probe the "submarine affair," a scandal that has ensnared some of Netanyahu's close advisers and confidants.

Why it matters: For Netanyahu, this is a declaration of war by his coalition partner. The inquiry could lead to the conclusion that Netanyahu mishandled sensitive national security matters and cause him major political damage.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 25, 2020 - World

China's Xi Jinping congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to President-elect Biden on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election victory, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

Why it matters: China's foreign ministry offered Biden a belated, and tentative, congratulations on Nov. 13, but Xi had not personally acknowledged Biden's win. The leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the very few leaders still declining to congratulate Biden.

Nov 25, 2020 - World

Scoop: Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

Nov 25, 2020 - World

Soldier faces spying charges in first case of its kind in New Zealand

Photo: New Zealand Defense Force

A soldier based in New Zealand has been charged with spying, the NZ Defense Force confirmed in a statement Wednesday.

Why it matters: The soldier allegedly has ties to far-right extremist groups, per multiple local media reports. They're the first person to face espionage charges in New Zealand.