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Weekly News Digest for January 22, 2021

Compiled by Kelly Dobso, Trinity Gates, Stephanie Cannon, and Michael Banks

Breaking News

Biden Sworn into Office & Enacts Executive Orders

On January 20th, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn into office. Joe Biden is the oldest president during their time in office. Kamala Harris, the child of immigrants from Jamaican and India, became the first woman and person of color to be vice president.

Within his first hours of office, Biden enacted several executive orders and directives. He rescinded the Muslim ban, rejoined the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, fortified DACA, and revoked the approval of the Keystone pipeline. He has also promised to develop a plan for adequate vaccine distribution, a policy that the Trump administration left no plan for.

Fire Occurs at World’s Largest Producer of Vaccines

On January 21, a fire erupted at the Serum Institute of India (SII), the largest producer of vaccines in the world, killing at least five people. The head of the company announced that although the fire did damage the building, vaccine production would not be affected. The exact cause of the fire remains unknown. However, reports that the building was under construction have led preliminary investigations to suggest that the cause of the fire may have been from welding work.

Europe Struggles to Handle the Pandemic in 2021 Amid New COVID-19 Strain

COVID-19 infections and death rates still remain exceedingly high across Europe, disheartening public officials and health care workers. The heightened daily death tolls and the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, has caused the governments of Germany and the U.K. to strengthen lockdown measures to better grasp the healthcare crisis.

Vaccine rollout has been slower than predicted with the delaying of many deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine. The European Commission has announced plans to vaccinate 70 percent of European residents by the summer, sticking to the original timeline. However, Hungary was the first country in the EU to approve the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, in response to delays in vaccine orders.

North America

Violent Attack on US Capitol

On January 6, the day of counting electoral votes, an organized protest turned violent as Trump supporters and members of far-right groups stormed the United States Capitol, bypassing and pushing through half a dozen of barricades. Insurrectionists posted videos and pictures on sites such as Parler and Facebook of thousands flowing through the Capitol with the goal to stop the certification of Trump’s defeat. Videos depict the mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence” while looking for the entrance to Congress.

The rioters, dressed in MAGA hats and some in bulletproof vests, eventually made their way onto the Congress floor shortly after elected officials were in secure areas. A woman stole Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop and members of the military and law enforcement were identified in the mob. Dozens of people were arrested in the days following the attack and five people were killed, including a police officer who was beaten to death at the steps of the Capitol.

Vaccine Distribution Begins

In December, the FDA authorized the use of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for the United States. Healthcare workers began receiving the vaccine in mid to late December, and the government recently authorized citizens over the age of 65 to be eligible for the vaccine as well. On January 21, a day after the inauguration, President Joe Biden announced his plan to deliver 100 million vaccines in the next 100 days. His policy would expand vaccinations to include essential workers such as teachers and grocery store workers.

Trump Impeached, Twice

On January 13, Trump became the only president to be impeached twice. Lawmakers in the House voted 232 to 197 to impeach Trump on a single article for “inciting violence against the government of the United States”. The Senate will undergo a trial to decide whether or not to convict Trump, a move that would strip him of the ability to run for office again.

Democrats Take Control of Senate

The Democrats took control of the Senate after Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won the Georgia runoff elections, unseating Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Ossoff is the first Jewish senator from Georgia, and Warnock is the first black senator and the 11th in United States history. Alex Padilla was appointed to assume Vice President Kamala Harris’s Senate seat. Padilla was the secretary of state of California and is now the first Latino Senator from California. They were sworn into office on Inauguration Day, giving Democrats the majority in the Senate.

Asia and the Pacific

Japan Denies Reports Olympics Will Be Cancelled

Following the publication of a report from The Times that reported Japan’s government is planning to cancel the Tokyo Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan and the IOC released a statement denying the newspaper’s claims on January 22. A government spokesman said there is “no truth” to the report, and Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, claims there has been no talk of delaying or canceling the Olympic games.

The games were initially planned to be hosted in the summer months of 2020. However, the high rates of COVID-19 around the world led event organizers to delay the games for one year. Even with the release of several vaccines, many Tokyo citizens remain apprehensive about the games. They fear the possible spread of the virus as people from around the world gather in their city.

Earthquakes Hit Indonesia

On January 15, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, killing at least 42 people and damaging much of the buildings in Mamuju and Majene. Less than a week later, a 7-magnitude earthquake hit Kepulauan Talaud in Indonesia on January 21. A tsunami is not expected to occur as a result of this earthquake.

Survivors of Mine Collapse Will Remain Trapped for Two Weeks

Following the January 10 explosion that closed the entrance tunnel to the Hushan gold mine in China’s Shandong province, eleven miners were trapped. Although rescue teams have been able to drill small holes to send in food and medicine to the men, the rescue teams have yet to find a way to widen a narrow shaft to allow the miners out. Since rescue operations began, one miner has died, and team leaders say it may be another two weeks before they will be able to reach the remaining ten miners.


Alleged Ugandan Election Fraud and Military House Arrest for Opponent

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term, defeating opponent Bobi Wine. However, Wine is arguing that there was election fraud since Museveni’s government shut down social media outlets before the election and sent military officers into the streets. Since the election, Wine has remained under military house arrest where he is not allowed to have visitors, including the US ambassador. Under Ugandan law, the losing presidential candidate has 10 days to argue against the results in court, therefore making the deadline January 25. Museveni has faced calls to release Wine from house arrest by the US diplomat, European Union, and Amnesty International.

Sudan to Normalize Ties with Israel

On January 6, officials of Sudan signed an agreement with the United States to normalize ties with Israel. As part of the deal, Sudan agreed to pay $335 million to the families of US victims of terrorist attacks and President Trump said he would remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan will become the third Arab nation to normalize ties with Israel.


Italian Government Faces a Vote of Confidence

Earlier this week, former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his party’s support for the government and forced the current prime minister Conte into a vote of confidence in order to maintain a stable government. Renzi moved to remove his party’s support because of a disagreement of how the current government was handling the pandemic. He also noted that under Conte’s leadership, the prime minister’s strategy to rebuild the economy was insufficient.

Conte did survive the vote of confidence in the Senate but fell short of a majority, therefore weakening his government. If Conte did not secure a vote of confidence, it would have paved the way for right-wing parties to gain a stronger foothold in the government.

Switzerland Asks Voters to Reject Burqa Ban in March Referendum

A Swiss referendum is scheduled on March 7 with a proposed ban on full facial coverings like burqas and niqabs worn by many Muslim women. The “Egerkinger Komitee” pushed this proposal with many members also part of the right-wing Swiss People Party. However, the government urged voters to oppose the proposal. Neighboring states like France and Denmark have previously banned facial covering in efforts to uphold secular values and decrease discrimination against women.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Brazil Vaccine Rollout Amid Oxygen Crisis

Brazil began rolling out doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca and Chinese Sinovac’s in all 27 states. Brazil has the second-highest death toll from COVID-19 in the world and continues to rise across the country. The rollout, which includes six million doses of the Sinovac-vaccine produced locally in Brazil, comes in the wake of a looming medical crisis putting the Bolsonaro administration under scrutiny.

Oxygen shortages in the city of Manaus have created a medical emergency amid rising COVID-19 infection rates. Reports show that officials from the Brazillian Health Ministry were made aware of the shortage almost a week before the situation became critical. Efforts to alleviate the situation include foreign aid and donations of oxygen tanks from one of Bolsanaro’s political adversaries, Nicolás Maduro.

Migration Towards Mexico-United States Border Comes to a Halt

A Honduran caravan traveling northward towards the U.S.-Mexico Border was met with force by Guatemalan security forces. This recent influx of migrants towards the border follows newly inaugurated President Joe Biden’s promises to end the strict immigration policies of a border wall and restricting asylum that were set by the Trump administration. About 7,000 migrants in total are fleeing persecution, violence, and poverty that was brought about by two hurricanes that decimated the region last November.

Middle East

Baghdad Suicide Attack

A twin suicide bombing in Iraq’s capital left 32 dead and 110 wounded. The attack occurred at a local market at Tayaran Square, where the first suicide bomber drew a crowd by pretending to be sick. ISIS has taken responsibility for the attack. It is the deadliest twin suicide bombing in three years.

Israeli Government Collapses

Israel will conduct its fourth election in the past two years after the coalition between Gantz and Netanyahu failed in late December. The Knesset collapsed after the failure to pass Israel’s 2020 state budget. The election is scheduled for March 23.



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