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

Margaret Keenan, 90, is the first patient in Britain to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at University Hospital, administered by nurse May Parsons, at the start of the largest ever immunization program in British history, in Coventry.

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.


Is Eritrea aiding Ethiopia in Tigray? US government officials say they have plausible evidence that Eritrean soldiers have entered the volatile Tigray region, a hotbed of violence between the Ethiopian government and Tigray rebel groups, in order to help bolster Addis Ababa's military effort there. Eritrean troops are believed to have entered Tigray in mid-November and are lending weight to Ethiopia's crackdown on the radical Tigray People's Liberation Front, a clash that's led to thousands of deaths in mere weeks. Indeed, this development presents a major predicament for Washington and other Western governments who have long criticized Eritrea's government for its anti-democratic politics, but rely heavily on a security alliance with Ethiopia to maintain a foothold in the turbulent Horn of Africa. It's an interesting turn of events considering that Ethiopia and Eritrea were longtime foes until a peace accord was signed in 2018. We're watching to see how Washington and Brussels respond to this diplomatic quagmire in the days ahead.

World Cup draw gets political: The qualifiers draw for the 2022 men's football World Cup in Qatar will see Kosovo face three countries that don't recognize it as an independent state: Georgia, Greece, and Spain. In fact, Kosovo was first picked to play in another group against its bitter enemy Serbia — which Kosovo used to be a part of, and fought a bloody war with in the late 1990s before declaring its independence in 2008. However, the rules of UEFA, European football's governing body, prohibit matches between countries in "conflict," such as Armenia vs Azerbaijan or Russia vs Ukraine. Of its three rivals to win a place in Qatar, Spain has traditionally had the strongest position against Kosovo's independence because it worries that recognition would set a bad precedent for Catalonia, the Spanish region that tried (and failed) to break away from the rest of the country in October 2017. UEFA must now come up with a solution that all parties can live with, which will likely entail playing some games in neutral countries or without displaying national flags.

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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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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