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 26, 2022
As tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine, the U.S. has a plan to get European leaders to rally behind sanctions against Moscow. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in for a rough time as the hotly anticipated “partygate” report may be released today. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching waters off Florida for 39 suspected victims of human trafficking whose boat capsized between Bimini and Miami. And the CDC released some reassuring data about the severity of omicron — and some not-so-reassuring data about overall numbers. All this and more in today’s PDB.
1 - What a Gas
As Russia-Ukraine Situation Hots Up, US Plans to Supply Europe With Fuel
In an attempt to convince European leaders to support stricter sanctions on Moscow, President Joe Biden’s administration announced it’s working with gas and crude oil suppliers from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia to augment supplies to Europe in coming weeks. Despite widespread opposition to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, European leaders have been reluctant to impose harsh sanctions, fearing President Vladimir Putin could cut off fuel sales to Europe. Biden hopes that painting Putin into a financial corner will prevent what he says would be the “largest invasion since World War II.” (Sources: NYT, The Guardian)
2 - BoJo Loses His Mojo
UK Prime Minister Under Pressure as Report on Lockdown Parties Looms
Sue Gray’s highly anticipated report into a series of alleged lockdown breaches at 10 Downing Street in 2020 could be released as soon as today. Yesterday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick announced a criminal investigation into the parties. Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized for attending a “bring your own booze” shindig on May 20, 2020, explaining that he thought it was a “work event.” He’s also claimed that a celebration on his birthday, which involved cake and singing, was not a party. While some of his own MPs have already demanded his resignation, many are waiting to read Gray’s report. (Source:BBC)
3 - Lost at Sea
39 Missing After Boat Capsizes Near Florida
The U.S. Coast Guard has launched a search mission after a good Samaritan found a man clinging to the hull of a capsized boat in deep water off Florida Tuesday. The survivor told authorities he left the island of Bimini in the Bahamas Saturday night, along with 39 other people — none of whom were wearing life jackets. Bimini, which is only 80 miles from Miami, is often used as a stepping stone for Cuban and Haitian refugees trying to make it to the United States. The Coast Guard is treating the incident as a case of suspected human smuggling. (Source: Al Jazeera)
4 - Good News and Bad
Omicron Less Likely to Lead to Hospitalization, but Cases Still Sky-High
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the variant has resulted in a lower percentage of hospitalizations, peaking at 27 cases per 1,000 in January — compared with 78 admissions per 1,000 last fall. The percentage of patients admitted to ICU also dropped. Scientists attribute this to higher levels of immunity (via exposure and/or vaccination) and to omicron producing milder symptoms. But this good news is tempered by the fact that omicron is extremely contagious. More Americans were hospitalized with COVID earlier this month than at any other point in the pandemic — and deaths are yet to peak. (Source: NYT)
5 - Briefly
Here are some things you should know about today:
Homeward bound? The U.S. State Department is considering allowing American diplomats based in China to leave the country due to Beijing’s intrusive pandemic control measures. (Source:Reuters) Malawi’s president dissolves Cabinet. President Lazarus Chakwera fired his entire Cabinet after three ministers were accused of corruption. Chakwera, who was elected on an anti-corruption platform in 2020, vowed to form a new Cabinet within days. (Source:DW) New York’s mask mandate is back — for now. An appeals judge said the state’s mandate would remain in place while Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration appeals a Monday ruling that found it unlawful. (Source:AP)
Watch Matthew McConaughey
As He Reflects on Political Future and Writing ‘Greenlights’
1 - Freeing the Flag
Australian Government Buys Copyright to Aboriginal Flag
Canberra has reached a $20 million deal to acquire the copyright of the Aboriginal flag, so anyone who wishes to fly it can now do so without landing in legal hot water. The announcement came on the eve of today’s Australia Day, a national holiday that celebrates what many see as the British invasion of Australia in 1788. The black, yellow and red flag, which was designed by Indigenous artist Harold Thomas for a protest in 1971, has been recognized as an official flag of Australia since 1995. But in recent years, Thomas has demanded payment for its use. (Source:Reuters)
2 - These Nets Are Lit
Can Green Lights Save Sharks and Turtles From Fishing Nets?
This is no fish tale. A study in Mexico has found that attaching green LEDs to fishing nets greatly reduces bycatch without impacting profits. Current gill nets are extremely effective at catching anything that swims, with fishers simply throwing unwanted species back into the ocean to die. The study, which deployed 28 pairs of nets — one with lights and one without — found the LED nets caught 51% fewer turtles, 81% fewer squid and 95% fewer sharks. Catches of target species were unaffected. Now to find a cost effective way to achieve the same results: Adding lights costs $140 per net. (Source: Science)
3 - Money Vs Medicine
Study Shows Most Medical Researchers Don’t Disclose Industry Payments
Analysis of 31 clinical trial reports published in the Journal of American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine found that 81% of authors did not disclose payments from drug and device makers when they were compensated for food, travel, speaking and consulting. While the author who received $6.36 was probably able to maintain subjectivity, the same cannot necessarily be said of the author who walked away with $1.49 million. “I’m not surprised, but really, I’m saddened and disappointed,” said study author Brian Piper, a neuroscientist and medical ethicist at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. (Source: The Scientist)
4 - Sandcastles or Snowmen?
Snow Wreaks Havoc Across Mediterranean, Imperils Syrian Refugees
For the second winter running, Greece, Turkey and Syria have been hit by severe and (almost) unprecedented snowstorms. Snowstorm Elpida (“hope” in Greek) dumped 3.1 inches on Athens, causing widespread disruption across the capital and resulting in authorities declaring Tuesday a public holiday. In Turkey, the storm forced the closure of Istanbul Airport, Europe’s busiest, and saw private cars banned from the streets. As Elpida swept east, attention turned to its impact on refugee camps in Syria. On Monday two children under 5 were killed and their mother seriously injured when a heater set their tent on fire. (Sources:DW,Reuters)
5 - Winter NO-lympics?
Global Warming Puts Future of Winter Olympics in Doubt
It might be snowing on Mykonos, but a study has found that climate change will make it increasingly tricky for the Winter Olympics to find host cities with sufficient snow and ice in the future. Of all 21 previous host cities, only Albertville, France, would reliably be able to host the games in 2050 if current climate trends continue. While artificial snow is an option — next week’s Beijing Games will rely almost entirely on fake powder — producing the stuff has a large environmental impact. If the snow goes, however, not being able to ski will be the least of our worries. (Source:The Guardian)
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