Thursday's world stories

Ivana Saric
Jan 13, 2022 - Health

Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols

Teachers denounce the absence of protective materials in schools on Jan. 13 in Paris. Photo: Vincent Koebel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Teachers across France staged a mass walkout Thursday to protest ever-changing COVID-19 rules in the education sector, which they say fail to protect teachers and students.

Why it matters: Protests took place in towns across the country, forcing schools to close, though officials did not specify how many schools had to close Thursday. Some 58% of teachers in Paris participated, leading to nearly 200 school closures, the mayor's office said.

Jan 13, 2022 - Health

The cost of testing

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Note: Prices vary within countries. France and Malaysia prices reflect legal price caps. Data: Axios research; Chart: Axios Visuals

The average cost of a single at-home rapid COVID test is about $12 in the U.S., more than twice the cost of a test in France and more than three times as much as in India.

The big picture: Places like Canada and the U.K. make tests available for free.

Jan 13, 2022 - World

UN agency official warns Afghanistan is facing "tsunami of hunger"

People at a vegetable market in Kabul, Afghanistan, in January. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

Afghanistan faces a "tsunami of hunger," Mary-Ellen McGroarty, a senior official at the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), warned Thursday in an interview with AP.

Driving the news: More than 22 million people in Afghanistan face food shortages and more than 8 million people in Afghanistan are close to starvation, per AP.

Jan 13, 2022 - World

Russian officials to brief Putin on "very disappointing" security talks

Putin with Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu. Photo: Russian Defence Ministry\TASS via Getty Images

Russian diplomats panned this week's security talks with the U.S., NATO and other European countries after the final set of negotiations on Thursday, telling reporters that Vladimir Putin will be briefed on the "really disappointing" state of affairs before deciding "next steps."

Why it matters: The diplomats wouldn't say what Russia would do if NATO declined to provide legal guarantees that it will not expand east or admit Ukraine as a member. But officials have warned all week that Russia will not hesitate to "eliminate unacceptable threats to our national security" if diplomacy fails.

Jan 13, 2022 - World

Assad regime officer sentenced to life in prison for Syria war crimes

Yasmen Almashan, a Syrian human rights campaigner, holds a photo of victims of the Assad regime outside a German courthouse. Photo: Bernd Lauter/AFP via Getty Images

A German court has sentenced a former Syrian intelligence officer to life in prison for crimes against humanity, making him the first person criminally convicted over the Assad regime's torture program.

Why it matters: Anwar Raslan, who fled Syria in 2012, was accused of overseeing a detention center that tortured over 4,000 people during the first year of Syrian unrest that eventually devolved into a devastating, decade-long civil war.

Updated Jan 13, 2022 - World

U.S. presses UN to hit North Korea with more sanctions over missile tests

A broadcast reports on North Korea's Kim Jong-un at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea. Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on North Korean and Russian individuals and entities for supporting North Korea's ballistic missile program.

Driving the news: The announcement follows North Korea's two missile tests in the past week and leader Kim Jong-un's threat to bolster the country's nuclear weapons program.

Report: Pegasus spyware used to target El Salvador journalists

An NSO group building in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Pegasus software accessed the phones of at least 35 journalists and other citizens in El Salvador in a hack attack on news outlet El Faro and other targets in the country, per a new report.

Why it matters: Wednesday's report by cybersecurity watchdogs Citizen Lab and Access Now comes some two months after the U.S. government added NSO Group, the Israeli firm that produces Pegasus, to its black list of companies engaging in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.

Jan 13, 2022 - World

Biden administration criticizes China's move to cancel more flights

United Airlines flights are among the latests to be suspended. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House criticized China's decision to cancel more flights from the U.S. on Wednesday, saying it was "inconsistent with its obligations under the U.S.-China Air Transport Agreement."

Driving the news: China announced it suspended six flights over the course of the next week due to passengers testing positive for COVID-19, per Reuters.

Jan 13, 2022 - Health

Quebec tax on unvaccinated Canadians drives surge in vaccine appointments

Quebec Premier François Legault. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Quebec health officials said Wednesday bookings for COVID-19 vaccine first-dose appointments have jumped — with some 7,000 residents signing up after they announced plans to tax people who are unvaccinated for non-medical reasons.

The big picture: Quebec Premier François Legault said the Canadian province would impose a health tax on residents who refuse to get their first dose in the coming weeks that would be more than $100, per CBC News.

Jan 12, 2022 - Health

WHO chief: “We must not allow this virus a free ride"

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries against becoming complacent in the fight against COVID-19 at a press briefing Wednesday, as cases soar worldwide.

Why it matters: As many countries are beginning to emphasize learning to live with the virus, Tedros cautioned the dangers of this approach given how much of the world remains unvaccinated.

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Violent arrest in West Bank triggers attack on PA headquarters in Jenin

Zakaria Zubeidi (right) attends a virtual court hearing. His son was one of the teens arrested. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty

The violent arrest of three Palestinian teenagers by Palestinian police in the city of Jenin in the West Bank led to an unprecedented attack by a local militia against the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the city.

Why it matters: The incident was another signal of the PA's deteriorating control in the occupied West Bank.

Jan 12, 2022 - World

China hosts string of Gulf officials in sign of growing influence

Wang Yi (right) greets Faisal bin Farhan on Jan. 10. Photo: Ji Chunpeng/Xinhua via Getty

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain and the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council are all visiting China this week for talks on boosting trade and security cooperation.

Why it matters: The flurry of visits by Gulf officials is part of China’s push for deeper involvement in the Middle East. For Beijing, the Gulf in particular is key to its energy supply and increasingly to its geopolitical influence.

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Lawmakers ask IOC to prove Chinese companies making uniforms are not using forced labor

The stage for awarding ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Photo: Han Haidan/China News Service via Getty Images

A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter Wednesday to International Olympic Committee president President Thomas Bach asking him to justify the IOC's ties with two Chinese companies that use cotton produced in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: The letter from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) notes that "there is a worrisome possibility that IOC personnel or others attending the 2022 Olympic Games will be wearing clothing contaminated by forced labor.”

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Israel PM gambles on no lockdown strategy as cases climb

Naftali Bennett. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is facing growing criticism as Israel continues to set new records for daily COVID cases, but he's decided to try to ride out the fifth wave without new lockdowns.

Why it matters: Bennett has taken a big bet that the Israeli health system will be able to withstand the Omicron wave.

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Jordan seeks big aid package from Biden

Ayman Safadi. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty

AMMAN, Jordan — With a big aid package granted by the Trump administration about to expire, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has traveled to Washington seeking a new and improved deal.

Why it matters: Jordan is struggling with an economic crisis and is dependent on U.S. financial assistance, which totaled $1.65 billion in 2021. A five-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) that guarantees at least $1.25 billion in annual U.S. aid expires in September.

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Ahead of Iran deal decision, White House to "focus the fire on Trump"

Jen Psaki briefs the press as Jake Sullivan looks on. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

With the Iran nuclear talks reaching a critical moment, the White House plans to focus much of its public messaging in the coming weeks on attacking former President Donald Trump for leaving the 2015 deal, two sources briefed on the White House plans told me.

Why it matters: The Biden administration thinks it's now just a matter of weeks before the critical decision point: Either a deal will be reached and the U.S. will return to the nuclear deal or talks will break down and the administration will move to put more pressure on Iran, the sources said.

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Prince Andrew loses bid to dismiss sexual abuse lawsuit

Prince Andrew. Photo: Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images

A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that Virginia Giuffre's lawsuit alleging disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein arranged for Prince Andrew to sexually abuse and rape her when she was 17 years old can continue.

Why it matters: Andrew, who has denied the allegation and has said he did not participate in the sexual exploitation of minors or witness such behavior, will now face a civil trial in the U.S.

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Russia talks may have bought time on Ukraine invasion

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrive at the NATO-Russia Council. Photo: Olivier Hoslet/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday that both sides agreed to "explore a schedule for future meetings," suggesting this week's talks may have bought time to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine.

The latest: Alexander Grushko, a Russian deputy foreign minister, confirmed during his own press conference that "of course" his side is ready to continue talks. "But it should be meaningful discussions," he stressed. "It should not be repetition of so-called slogans of principles."

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Boris Johnson apologizes for lockdown-breaking party amid calls to resign

Photo: House of Commons/PA via AP

In a revelation that threatens his hold on office, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of lying about his attendance at a boozy Downing Street garden party in May 2020 — at the height of Britain's strict COVID lockdown.

The latest: Johnson delivered a statement on Wednesday confirming for the first time that he attended a lockdown-breaking party, telling Parliament: "I want to apologize. I know millions of people have made extraordinary sacrifices. I know the anguish they have been through. I know the rage they feel."

Updated Jan 12, 2022 - Sports

Djokovic admits travel papers "mistake" as Australia visa decision looms

Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open at the Melbourne Park tennis centre in Melbourne on Jan. 12. Photo: William West/AFP via Getty Images

Novak Djokovic apologized Wednesday for not isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 and blamed his agent for an "administrative mistake" when making an incorrect declaration in his Australian travel document.

Why it matters: Australia's immigration minister is still considering whether to revoke the men's tennis world No. 1's visa and deport him, despite Djokovic winning his legal case to stay in the country and defend his Australian Open title at the tournament, which begins Monday.

Updated Jan 12, 2022 - World

North Korea claims second successful hypersonic missile test in a week

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears in a broadcast at a railway station in Seoul. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watched the successful launch of the country's second hypersonic missile test in less than a week after, as he vowed to bolster the country's nuclear weapons program, state media reported.

Why it matters: South Korea's military, which detected the suspected ballistic missile into the eastern sea, said Tuesday's launch was assessed to be "more advanced" than the Jan. 5 one, per Reuters.

Anti-corruption alliance targets "uniting force of dictators"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. and European lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for the inaugural meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance against Kleptocracy, whose objective is to harmonize the Western world's approach to countering corruption.

Why it matters: Members of the cross-border, cross-party coalition view corruption as "the uniting force of dictators" — a systemic threat undermining trust in democracy, and siphoning trillions of dollars in stolen funds from the global financial system.