Welcome to Thursday, where chaos rocks Washington, South Africa worries about a new COVID strain, and a Nicaragua zoo celebrates the birth of an exceptionally rare animal. Meanwhile, as many vaccination rollouts are delayed, we look at what's slowing down the jabs around the world.
SPOTLIGHT: AMERICAN DEMOCRACY UNDER ASSAULT, THE WORLD WATCHES
The raid of Congress by a crowd of Donald Trump supporters is the culmination of a tumultuous presidency that has deeply fractured the American political system, says Le Monde in its front-page editorial Thursday.
Elected four years ago with the promise to "Make America Great Again," U.S. President Donald Trump is ending his term of office in shame. History will remember the date of January 6 when America's democracy was threatened — and momentarily suspended — by a mob of extremist supporters whom the president had personally encouraged to march on Capitol Hill to prevent President-elect Joe Biden from being declared the winner of the 2020 election.
In this world of denial, it matters not that some 60 court decisions, including those at the level of the Supreme Court, have rejected appeals for annulment of the election. It matters not that the president himself called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2 and demanded to change the election result, claiming that he could not have been defeated by 11,779 votes, as the records show, because he knows that he won "probably by half a million votes."
The U.S. has reaped what its populist, demagogic and narcissistic president has sown for the last four years, aided and sometimes even encouraged by the Republican Party. The leaders who, at the beginning of his term, had supported him in the White House, the famous "adults in the room" whom we counted on to assuage him, have either thrown in the towel or have been dismissed, one after the other. Trump made no secret of his seditious intentions: He had consistently refused, even before the election took place, to commit to respecting the outcome of the vote if it was not in his favor. He had also voiced support for the extreme right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys, to whom he had asked to "stand back and stand by" during the first presidential debate in September 2020.
These were the partisan groups that stormed Capitol Hill and invaded the Congressional building on Wednesday, effortlessly overtaking an surprisingly light police presence, just as members of Congress started to vote on the certification of the presidential election. The elected officials were promptly evacuated, and only able to resume following several hours of unprecedented chaos, after Trump finally encouraged his supporters to go home.
It will be up to President-elect Joe Biden to rebuild the deeply shaken democracy. He now has the means to do so, thanks to the crucial Senate victory for the two Georgia Democrats on Wednesday and the Congressional confirmation of the presidency. Democrats now hold the Senate, the White House, and the House of Representatives, and Biden has exemplified firm and lucid leadership amid the Trumpist attempt at insurrection.
Still, after Wednesday's trauma, many unknowns remain. What will become of the insurgency's leader, Donald Trump, who still has two more weeks in the White House and has been abandoned by even his own vice president? Must he be removed, even though he has finally agreed to make the transition? What will happen to the 121 Republican Congress members who, on Thursday morning, continued to reject the election result on the pretext of fraud? How will the 74 million people who voted for Trump react? Will the departing Republican majority learn its lessons from this disaster? The entire world waits for answers.
— Le Monde
THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Capitol riots: What's being called the worst assault on the seat of Congress since the War of 1812, the toll is four deaths, dozens of arrests and ransacked property. Still, Congress resumed session to formally confirm Joe Biden's victory in the early hours of Thursday.
• Trump Tech Ban: For the first time, Donald Trump's Twitter and Facebook have been temporarily banned for inciting violence. Today the president issued a statement finally agreeing to a peaceful transition although still disputing the election results.
• COVID-19 latest: New South African mutation sounds alarm as the country reports its deadliest day from COVID-19. Meanwhile Japan has announced a state of emergency for the city of Tokyo following a spike in cases, and Lebanon goes into lockdown for the third time.
• Ghana unrest: Armed police and military storm Ghana's parliament during an unruly inauguration processes for the country's new parliament.
• Arctic's frozen revenues: In a big win for nature preservation, the Trump administration's controversial sale of drilling leases in Arctic Wildlife Refuge has had few takers and only generated a tiny fraction of the revenue it was projected to raise as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
• Air Amazon: Amazon has bought its first fleet of planes to expand its growing air freight network and develop its own logistics network to rival the likes of FedEx and UPS.
• Rare white tiger born: The Nicaragua zoo said Nieve ("Snow" in Spanish) was the first-ever white tiger born in the country, with none known to exist in the wild.
SIX FACTORS SLOWING DOWN COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT
It was the Christmas miracle the world was waiting for: Multiple vaccines for a pandemic that had plagued countries across the globe for the better part of 2020. However, the reality of implementing an unprecedented global vaccination campaign has fallen far short of miraculous in many countries.
Inoculating billions of people was always going to present almost insurmountable challenges, particularly so with a vaccine that must be kept at extremely low temperatures and requires a second booster shot within weeks. While many countries simply don't have enough doses on hand, others are facing healthcare staffing shortages; a lack of infrastructure, especially in rural and underserved areas; and growing anti-vaccination movements. Here are some of the biggest hurdles:
Nobody in charge: Sweden was another country without a clearly defined national vaccination strategy. In an opinion article published in Swedish daily Aftonbladet, opposition party Kristdemokraterna lashed out against Sweden's ruling center-left coalition for failing to act preemptively. Kristdemokraterna warned that Sweden might end up last in line for a vaccine.
At the heart of this problem is the fact that Sweden appointed a national vaccine coordinator who doesn't have a mandate to negotiate with medical companies. As Sweden lacks the domestic production capacity to meet the national demand for a vaccine, the country is dependent on international manufacturers.
Rural delivery delays: The world's second largest country in terms of landmass, Canada faces unique logistical hurdles in delivering its vaccine. More than 420,000 doses have been delivered to the provinces, but only around 28 percent have been administered.
"It's an utter failure when you have three-fourths of our vaccines still sitting inside of freezers," biostatistician Ryan Imgrund, who works with Ottawa Public Health, told Global News.
In Ontario, Canada's largest province, only around 5,000 people a day are being vaccinated, meaning it would take eight years to immunize the entire province. Ontario previously had the goal of vaccinating 8.5 million people by June, more than half of its 14.57 million population.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com here.
In 2020, Brazil's federal police authorized an estimated 168,000 people to acquire and own a firearm. That is twice as many as in 2019, and three times more than in 2018 — the year before Jair Bolsonaro came to power.
"Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance, I am in favor of pardoning him."
— Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador indicates that he would welcome Julian Assange in his country. The WikiLeaks founder received two major UK court decisions this week: first extradition to the U.S. was denied on Monday, but the same London judge refused yesterday to free him on bail.
See more from World Affairs here