Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
Jan 18, 2022
An Oxfam report showed that the world’s 10 richest men doubled their income during the COVID-19 pandemic while 99% of the world’s population got poorer. Scientists in Israel throw uncertainty on whether a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine actually helps combat omicron. South America’s healthcare system is being stretched to its limit as omicron rips through the population. And North Korea has launched its fourth missile test so far this month. All this and more in today’s Presidential Daily Brief.
1 - A Tale of Two Realities
The rich grew astronomically richer and the poor, well … guess what?
The advocacy group Oxfam released a report yesterday that put our current predicament in stark terms: the world’s 10 richest men doubled their wealth during the COVID-19 pandemic while 99% of the world’s incomes fell. Put in starker terms, the 10 billionaires grew their fortunes from a cumulative $700 billion to $1.5 trillion while 160 million more people were pushed into poverty. Oxfam hopes to highlight this shocking disparity to underscore the need for drastic policy interventions to restore some balance. Oxfam advocates taxing the superrich, especially in the U.S., where the ultrawealthy have exploited tax loopholes for years. (Source: ABCNews)
Israeli scientists’ data suggests a fourth dose cannot stop omicron
Preliminary results are in: Scientists in Israel studying the efficacy of a fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccines say that while an extra dose does increase antibodies, it does little to prevent the new omicron variant from taking hold. The study, which included 154 healthcare workers, 120 of whom were given the extra dose, saw only a marginal decrease in infections in the trial group compared with the control group. Enough that the scientists would offer a fourth dose to vulnerable populations, but would not guarantee its general effectiveness in today’s pandemic. (Source: CNN)
3 - Crisis Down South
Omicron pushes South America’s healthcare systems to the brink
Despite having the highest vaccine uptake of any global region — with two-thirds of its roughly 435 million citizens vaccinated — South American hospitals are reeling from omicron, as healthcare workers take sick leave in droves across the continent. With beaches packed from Argentina to Brazil, and little regard for omicron's mighty contagiousness, the virus is proving impossible to control. And few even see what’s happening in hospitals. At one hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s most populous city, 40% of the staff is out sick. Some hospitals have had to cancel scheduled surgeries, while others have stopped taking new patients altogether. (Source: AP)
4 - Trigger Happy
North Korea launches its fourth missile test since Jan. 5
South Korean and Japanese officials reported that North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles from Pyongyang on Monday, after launching two previous projectiles last Friday. The tests came just days after Pyongyang promised to take “stronger” action if the U.S. imposed more sanctions on the country. The U.S. has proposed to the United Nations that further sanctions be implemented on North Korea, as the country's frequent missile tests violate UN Security Council resolutions. The new sanctions would supplement the Biden administration’s sanctions imposed earlier this month against North Korean and Russian individuals and companies. (Sources: Axios, Politico)
5 - Briefly
Here are some things you should know about today:
Rabbi Cytron-Walker described his escape from hostage-taker Malik Akram. After hours of incremental maneuvers, the Rabbi threw a chair to divert Akram while he and the other hostages ran to safety. (Source: BBC) Drone strike in Abu Dhabi kills three. Yemen’s Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attack on a key oil facility. (Source: NPR) American red shift. A new Gallup survey found 46% of Americans identify with the GOP and 44% with the Democratic Party. (Source: TheHill)
Watch Jody Watley
"My Storytelling Helped Me Heal"
1 - Cold-Case Culprit
A research team has identified the man who may have betrayed Anne Frank
For five years, filmmaker Thijs Bayens and his cold-case team sifted the evidence for clues as to who divulged the Frank family’s secret hiding place, famously chronicled by 15-year-old diarist Anne Frank. The team now makes a strong case for “the most likely scenario” of who may have revealed their whereabouts to Nazi authorities. Headed by retired FBI agent Vincent Pankoke, the team discovered an anonymous typed note sent to Frank’s father — the family’s sole survivor — naming Arnold van den Bergh, a Jewish notary, who may have betrayed the Franks to save his own family from deportation and death. (Source: AP)
2 - No-Child Policy Left Behind
China’s birth rate shrank again last year, sparking fears for the future
New data released yesterday from China’s National Bureau of Statistics tallied up 10.6 million babies born in 2021, a 12% decrease from 2020’s 12 million. That’s a big jump but no shocker, as China’s birth rate has been in freefall for decades. The ruling Communist Party enforced a one-child policy starting in 1980 but reversed their stance in 2015 after the working-age population began to shrink sooner than expected. Experts warn of a “demographic time bomb” if the trend continues, with too few workers to support the country’s growing number of elderly people. (Source: NBCNews)
3 - ‘Tú Perteneces Aquí’
First-ever majority-Latino city council takes the lead in small Iowa town
West Liberty, Iowa, population 4,000, reflects a growing number of rural American towns in that the majority of its residents are Hispanic. West Liberty became the first mostly Latino town in the state 10 years ago and now that change is also reflected in its leadership, with four of its five city council seats held by Latino residents. While many still view “rural” America as synonymous with “white” America, small towns across America are quickly diversifying. “The diversity of people in rural places is part of its vibrancy and its potential,” said Matt Dunne of the Center for Rural Innovation. (Source: NPR)
4 - TERF Wars
No charges for trans activists who leaked J.K. Rowling’s address online
The author of the Harry Potter series has been pinpointed as a reluctant icon for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERF). While Rowling disputes the label, some of her comments have been called transphobic by activists for stoking fears of trans women. Last year, a trio of trans activists posted a photo of the writer’s home with the address visible, perceived by Rowling as an act of intimidation or “doxxing,” the practice of maliciously releasing someone’s personal information online. Scottish Police announced yesterday that after multiple inquiries no criminality was established and no action will be taken against the trio. (Source: TheHill)
5 - Rams Smash Cardinals
Rams’ Matthew Stafford turns the game around, kindles big hopes
After six initial passes and six completions within the game's first quarter, Matthew Stafford helped lead the Los Angeles Rams to a decisive 34-11 victory against the Arizona Cardinals in Monday night’s NFC West wild-card playoff game. The defeat marked Stafford’s first playoff win in his 12-season NFL career and capped 323 career touchdown passes, the most of any player without a playoff victory, according to ESPN. All eyes will be on the quarterback as the Rams meet Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday to seek a repeat of their week-three win. (Sources: LATimes, ESPN)
See the results from January 12th’s poll on whether the filibuster should be abolished or not. It was close, but a majority stated no, even while others wrote about the importance of passing the voting rights measures.
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