This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last two weeks (December 1 to 15, 2020).
The United Kingdom (UK) was the first Western nation to authorise a COVID-19 vaccine and to begin a vaccine drive. Pfizer’s vaccine – arriving less than a year after the pandemic struck the world – was subsequently approved by Bahrain and Canada, and the United States (US). As the death toll in the US crossed 300,000 and as healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities received vaccinations, many Americans remain concerned about and sceptical of vaccine safety.
Economically, two groups of big oil producers agreed to increase their daily output, a sign that they think the worst of the pandemic is over. However, politically, prime minister of Eswatini Ambrose Dlamini became the first head of state to die of coronavirus. He was 52.
Political and legal developments in the US: The Electoral College affirmed president-elect Joe Biden as president. This followed a long-shot lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general, a Republican, which was rejected by the Supreme Court. It effectively ended most of President Donald Trump’s legal efforts to reverse the president-elect’s electoral victory.
The Federal Trade Commission and nearly every state filed antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, which is accused of using its market power to buy up its rivals and reduce competition. The lawsuits focused on Facebook’s acquisitions of photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp.
Hackers broke into networks of federal agencies, including the Commerce and Treasury departments.
Geopolitical news from Europe, Armenia, and Morocco: Europe is preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit, though ongoing negotiations sought to prevent chaos on January 1, 2021. However, both the European Union and the UK agreed to extend trade talks beyond a self-imposed deadline after they failed to reach a compromise. In Armenia, tens of thousands demonstrators rallied, calling for the resignation of the prime minister for his handling of the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and ceasefire. And in Morocco, the country normalised relations with Israel, the fourth Arab-majority country to do so this year.
Protests in Belarus and India: In Belarus, thousands of protestors called for the resignation of the president. And in India, tens of thousands of protestors descended upon New Delhi, demonstrating against recent agricultural policies perceived to end a decades-old system which had guaranteed minimum prices for certain crops.
Political tensions and violence in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Venezuela:
- Afghanistan: In three incidents, a car bomb attack left at least 40 Afghan soldiers dead, rocket attacks in Kabul left one dead, and government security forces killed at least 51 Taliban fighters.
- Ethiopia: The prime minister claimed victory in the country’s northern Tigray region, after the deaths of hundreds and the displacement of tens of thousands. The rebel forces insist that the war is not over.
- Lebanon: Charges of negligence were filed against the prime minister and three former ministers over the Beirut explosion in August.
- Nigeria: Gunmen raided a secondary school, leaving hundreds of students feared missing.
- Venezuela: In congressional elections boycotted by the opposition, members of the president’s party claimed victory in the National Assembly, the last branch of government not under the president’s control.
Cultured meat in Singapore: A Californian food company won approval from the government to sell cultured meat grown from poultry cells. Animal cells are first obtained from a biopsy or a cell bank, before being cultured in a lab and fed a plant-based diet. Singapore is the first country in the world to approve such a move.