Key Storylines

  • AFRICA: The 344 schoolboys kidnapped last week by apparent Boko Haram militants in Nigeria’s Katsina state have been released from captivity.
  • AMERICAS: Canadian Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Ottawa wants closer environmental ties with the US, including a potential North American ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks.
  • ASIA: Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said his country’s military will develop new “stand-off” anti-ship missiles with a wider target range near disputed islands in the East China Sea that China also claims.
  • EUROPE: The European Union and China are reportedly close to finalizing the EU-China investment agreement that will make it easier for European companies to operate in China and Chinese companies to operate in Europe.
  • MIDDLE EAST: Iran rejected International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi’s suggestion that reviving the 2015 nuclear deal would require striking a new agreement.
  • TECH & COMMUNICATIONS: Chinese tech company Alibaba is trying to distance itself from a facial recognition software feature crafted by the company’s cloud computing unit that could help users to identify members of the China’s Muslim Uighur minority.

Top Story

  • United States: More cyberattacks found as officials warn of ‘grave risk’ to government.
    • The Department of Energy is the latest agency to confirm its networks were breached in the recent cyberattack on the US government.
    • The Department of Energy joins the Pentagon, Treasury, and Commerce Department on the list of government departments targeted by the cyberattack.
    • The extensive hack was not limited to government agencies either, as Microsoft confirmed finding malicious software in its systems related to the hack.
    • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also issued a warning over the cyberattack, saying the hack compromised federal agencies and “critical infrastructure”, as federal officials warned the attack posed “a grave risk to the federal government.”
    • The FBI and other agencies investigating the hack are set to brief Congress about the intrusion, which officials suspect was carried out by Russian hackers.
    • Reporting: BBC, NYT, Reuters, AP, WSJ, RFE-RL

Africa

  • Burundi: Former President Pierre Buyoya has died of the new coronavirus at the age of 71, just weeks after his resignation as the African Union’s special envoy to Mali and the Sahel. (AFP)
  • Egypt: Two roadside bombs killed three members of the country’s security forces and wounded ten others in the country’s restive northern Sinai Peninsula. (AP)
  • Ethiopia: The government is offering a reward for information that could help in locating the leaders of the Tigray region’s ruling party. (AFP)
  • Nigeria: The 344 schoolboys kidnapped last week by apparent Boko Haram militants in Katsina state have been released from captivity. (BBC)

Americas

  • Region: Trinidad & Tobago vowed to impose stiffer penalties on groups trafficking migrants from neighboring Venezuela. (Reuters)
  • Region: Canadian Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Ottawa wants closer environmental ties with the US, including a potential North American ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks. (Reuters)
  • Colombia: The government warned the public against large holiday gatherings as the country’s daily confirmed coronavirus cases reached their highest level since mid-August. (Reuters)
  • Cuba: President Miguel Diaz-Canel said he was ready to hold discussions on any topic with the incoming Joe Biden administration in the US but vowed to protect his country’s sovereignty and socialist ideals. (AFP)
  • United States: FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the FDA will “rapidly” work towards granting emergency approval to Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine. (Reuters)

Asia  

  • Region: South Korea and Indonesia signed an economic partnership agreement aimed at boosting bilateral investment and trade between the two countries, including in the automobiles and apparel sectors. (Reuters)
  • China: Health authorities said the government plans to open its COVID-19 vaccination drive to members of the public in southwestern Sichuan province early next year, even though the vaccines are yet to receive official approval. (AFP)
  • Fiji: Super cyclone Yasa has killed at least two people as it tears through the island nation, flattening entire villages in the process. (AFP)
  • Indonesia: Supporters of the detained firebrand Islamic cleric Rizieq Shihab have marched to capital city Jakarta and demanded his release from detention. (AP)
  • Japan: Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said his country’s military will develop new “stand-off” anti-ship missiles with a wider target range near disputed islands in the East China Sea that China also claims. (Reuters)

Europe

  • Region: The European Union and China are reportedly close to finalizing the EU-China investment agreement that will make it easier for European companies to operate in China and Chinese companies to operate in Europe. (DPA)
  • Region: Both the European Union and the United Kingdom expressed pessimism over the likelihood of avoiding a no-deal Brexit. (Reuters)
  • Germany: The number of daily new coronavirus cases in the country has exceeded 30,000 for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic first started. (DPA)
  • Spain: The lower house of Parliament voted in favor of a euthanasia bill that will allow people to lawfully end their lives if they suffer from serious or incurable diseases. (VOA)

Middle East

  • Iran: Tehran rejected International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi’s suggestion that reviving the 2015 nuclear deal would require striking a new agreement. (Reuters)
  • Iraq: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey has agreed to continue cooperating with Baghdad in the fight against extremist organizations, including the Islamic State group and Kurdish rebels. (AP)
  • Syria: Turkey has reportedly withdrawn its troops from seven military observation posts in the country’s northwest and which are located in territory controlled by the government. (Reuters)

Tech & Communications

  • Cybersecurity: Chinese tech company Alibaba is trying to distance itself from a facial recognition software feature crafted by the company’s cloud computing unit that could help users to identify members of the China’s Muslim Uighur minority. (AFP)

World

  • Cyclones:
    • Cyclone Yasa
      • Location: 197 nautical miles E-SE of Suva, Fiji
      • Wind: 85 mph
      • Movement: SE at 10 mph
      • Map
  • Hurricanes: Nothing to report.
  • Earthquakes: Nothing to report.
  • Volcanoes: Nothing to report.
  • Global Disease Outbreaks:
  • COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease: Global
    • Confirmed Cases as of 18DEC20: 75,075,064
    • Total Recovered Cases as of 18DEC20: 42,451,755
    • Deaths as of 18DEC20: 1,664,765
    • Countries with Confirmed Cases: 191
    • Sourcing: John Hopkins University

Tomorrow’s Outlook (19DEC20)

  • Armenia: The opposition is expected to stage anti-government marches and rallies.
  • Republic of the Congo: President Denis Sassou Nguesso is expected to announce the date for the country’s next presidential election.
  • France: Mass coronavirus testing will be held in the city of Le Havre.
  • Hungary: Prime Minister Viktor Orban is expected to announce new economic measures to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the first of the country’s citizens to be vaccinated against the new coronavirus with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
  • Latvia: New coronavirus measures and restrictions will take effect.
  • Russia: Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan will visit.
  • Slovakia: New coronavirus measures and restrictions will take effect.

END