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Hard Numbers: EU approves Pfizer vaccine, Al Jazeera journalist hack, Turkey targets critics, Boko Haram attack foiled

COVID-19 vaccines

3,000: After the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for use across the 27-member bloc on Monday, EU member states are waiting for the first batch of vaccines to arrive so they can begin inoculating their populations. Amid a surging second wave of infection across the continent — more than 3,000 people are dying in Europe from the disease everyday — EU representatives say they hope to begin rolling out the drug next week.

36: A cybersecurity watchdog says that the UAE and Saudi governments are likely behind the hacking of phones belonging to 36 Al Jazeera journalists earlier this year. One journalist said he became aware of irregularities after contacting an Emirati official for a story: "They threatened to make me the new Jamal Khashoggi," he said.

22: A Turkish court has sentenced a former pro-Kurdish lawmaker to 22 years in jail after ruling that she is a member of a terrorist organization. Leyla Guven of the Peoples' Democratic Party was stripped of her parliamentary status earlier this year. Western governments, meanwhile, have condemned President Tayyip Erdogan for quashing all dissent by strong-arming the judiciary.

84: Just weeks after Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a horrific attack on a high school in Katsina state in northern Nigeria, prompting authorities to rescue 344 abducted students, Nigerian officials say they recently foiled another attempt by the militant group to kidnap 84 students. Because of porous state borders within sub-Saharan Africa, insurgent violence in Nigeria has spilled over into neighboring countries, including Chad, Cameroon, and Niger.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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Now that Joe Biden is officially US president, leaders from around the world would like a word with him — but where will he make his first international trip?

After a tumultuous four years, many countries are now clamoring for a face-to-face with President Biden. That includes allies who felt abandoned by Trump's "America First" presidency, as well as adversaries with thorny issues on the agenda. We check in on who's pitching him hardest on a near-term state visit.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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