Friday's world stories

Nov 27, 2020 - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Nov 27, 2020 - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 27, 2020 - World

Belarus dictator Lukashenko says he'll leave post after new constitution

Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty

Longtime Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said he will step down after a new constitution comes into force, according to Belarusian state media.

Why it matters: Lukashenko has faced three months of protests following a rigged election in August. He has promised to reform the constitution to reduce the near-absolute powers of the president, but has insisted that his strong hand is needed to see that process through.

Nov 27, 2020 - World

Olympics plan spring test

IOC President Thomas Bach speaks Nov. 17 at Tokyo's New National Stadium, the main Olympics venue. Photo: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It seems hard to believe that 238 days from now — on July 23 — the Summer Olympics will open in Tokyo. But that's still the plan, after the games were postponed a year because of the pandemic.

Driving the news: The Tokyo organizing committee on Friday announced a series of 18 test events (some for operations), to begin in March and run into May, AP reports.

Nov 27, 2020 - World

Iran confirms assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadhe

The Iranian ministry of defense issued a statement on Friday confirming the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadhe, an Iranian scientist and the architect behind the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Fakhrizadhe was the head of the Amad project in the Iranian ministry of defense, which focused on developing a nuclear bomb until 2003.

Nov 27, 2020 - World

Thailand, Philippines sign deals with AstraZeneca for COVID-19 vaccine

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha (C) and James Teague (2nd R), president of AstraZeneca in Thailand. Photo: Chalinee Thirasupa/AFP via Getty Images

Thailand and the Philippines announced separately on Friday that they secured deals with AstraZeneca to receive supplies of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

The state of play: These announcements come a day after AstraZeneca said the company will likely conduct a new global trial to measure the vaccine's efficacy.

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.