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Who's Joe Biden going to visit first?

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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What We're Watching: Britain's new COVID strain, US Congress reaches stimulus deal, Nepal's political chaos

Britain's new COVID strain: Just as the Brexit transition comes to an end and the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union on January 1, Britons now face a new form of isolation. Countries in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia and elsewhere have banned travelers from the UK in response to reports that a variant of the novel coronavirus is raging out of control in that country. The (relative) good news is that, though this COVID-19 variant appears more infectious than the strain it has replaced, there is no evidence to date that it's more deadly or more resistant to the vaccines now in use in the UK. The bad news is that there will be more people flooding into British hospitals, and the virus variant is another factor undermining economic and financial confidence in the UK at a time when its leap into the Brexit unknown already threatens market turmoil.

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What We're Watching: EU braces for no-deal Brexit, Trump's U-turn on Western Sahara, Lebanese PM charged over Beirut blast

Is the EU playing it safe or prolonging the agony? With Brexit talks still deadlocked in the 11th hour (and in the 11th month, at that) the European Union is taking no chances. Brussels on Thursday unveiled an emergency plan that aims to keep UK-EU trade and travel moving even in the event of the dreaded "no deal" scenario in which there's no agreement at all governing nearly $1 trillion in cross-Channel annual trade. The EU's contingency plan would require UK consent, and cover travel by air and road, shipping, and fishing for six months. Talks between London and Brussels are still stuck on a few key points — including regulatory rules and fishing rights — and technically the two sides need to reach a deal in the next few days or the clock runs out. But does the EU's plan, which would provide cover into early next year, now undercut the urgency of reaching a deal? Having a safety net is obviously a smart idea, but listen, Boris and Ursula, we can't take any more of this. We really, really can't.

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Boris Johnson, Miles Davis, and Brexit

"Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing." The words of jazz genius Miles Davis are surely resonating with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who flew to Brussels on Wednesday to iron out a post-Brexit trade agreement before the UK formally leaves the European Union — with or without a deal — on January 1.

While it was the first face-to-face meeting between Johnson and European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, since January, it's been four years since UK citizens voted in a referendum to leave the EU. Why has this been so hard to pull off?

As we enter the Brexit homestretch, here's a look at some key sticking points.

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What We’re Watching: UK vaccine rollout, Eritrea in Tigray, football diplomacy

UK rolls out COVID vaccine: The United Kingdom on Tuesday kicked off the first COVID-19 vaccination campaign in a Western country amid global hopes of seeing a light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. "Go for it," said the first patient to be inoculated, a woman who turns 91 next week. Great Britain is pioneering a vaccine jointly developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech which has proven to be 95 percent effective against COVID-19 infections. Meanwhile, Russia "launched" its own national vaccination campaign just ahead of the UK despite the fact that its miracle drug, Sputnik V, is still in the midst of clinical trials to test its safety and efficacy. With the US thought to be next in line to start vaccinating large swaths of residents, the success of these national vaccine rollouts — which will likely take way longer to carry out in developing nations — will be crucial towards global efforts to end the pandemic as soon as possible.

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