Posted by BW Actual on Nov 23rd 2020


Middle East

  • There are vague reports that Israeli PM Netanyahu flew by private jet to Neom, Saudi Arabia for a secret meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) yesterday. It would’ve been the first-ever encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials (SecState Pompeo and Mossad head Yossi Cohen were reportedly there too).
  • The Saudi Foreign Minister says MBS was just meeting with Pompeo and insists the Israelis weren’t part of the discussion, but FlightRadar shows that a Gulfstream IV private jet left Tel Aviv for Neom, spent two hours there at the same time the meeting took place, and then returned to Tel Aviv just after midnight.
  • Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were reportedly not informed before the meeting, and Netanyahu’s social media advisor tweeted a gibe at Gantz that would seem to validate the meeting rumor: “Gantz is playing politics while the prime minister is making peace.”
  • Separately, the U.S. Justice Department announced that former Navy intel analyst and convicted spy Jonathan Pollard has completed his parole. His attorney says he plans to move to Israel, where he’s viewed as a hero.


  • Save the Children released a new report finding that at least 26,000 Afghan children were killed or maimed from 2005 to 2019—or an average of five per day. And that excludes many more children who suffered during the war because of poverty and disease.


  • Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed a cruise missile attack on a Saudi oil facility in Jeddah today—just after the Saudi-hosted G20 virtual summit closed. Saudi hasn’t mentioned the incident, except to say there was a small fire at an oil facility.


  • German forces stopped and boarded a Turkish freighter, the Rosalina-A, suspected of carrying weapons to Libya, but Turkey protested to the EU’s Operation Irini and the search was stopped.
  • Turkish officials say the Rosalina-A was just carrying materials like food and paint, and accused the German team of violating international law by not waiting for Turkish permission to search the ship. After the incident, the Rosalina-A continued towards Libya, where it’ll presumably deliver its food for nice communal east-west Thanksgiving dinners and its paint for friendship murals…right??


  • Pres. Conde banned mass rallies of the sort the opposition is organizing for Wednesday against his contentious third term, citing COVID concerns. Of course, Conde wasn’t as worried about the same virus when he was campaigning, or as Guineans lined up to vote.


  • Gunmen attacked a mosque in Zamfara, northwestern Nigeria, during Friday prayers and killed five. They also abducted at least 18 people, including the imam leading prayers.
  • Police reports are calling the culprits “bandits,” which in Nigeria usually means adversaries in inter-ethnic violence—rather than ideology-driven jihadists (although Amnesty International warned earlier this year that such “bandits” may be developing links with terrorist groups).


  • Trafigura, a commodities trading giant, agreed to a cobalt offtake deal with DRC’s Entreprise Générale du Cobalt (EGC). As part of the deal, Trafigura will finance the creation of artisanal mining zones; it also pledged to institute tracing programs to ensure its artisanal cobalt isn’t mined by children (though in practice such programs are often deeply flawed).


  • Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong pleaded guilty to two charges relating to a protest outside police headquarters in the territory last year. He was promptly remanded in custody, and faces up to three years in prison.


  • Chinese Pres. Xi called for a “global mechanism” using QR codes to facilitate the reopening of international travel by logging travelers’ health status “based on nucleic acid test results.” China has used a similar program domestically since February: users are assigned colored codes that indicate whether they’re free to travel freely (green) or need to quarantine (orange or red). However, critics worry the scheme could be abused for political means.
  • The head of Operation Warp Speed, the U.S.’s coronavirus vaccine program, says vaccinations could start on Dec. 12, two days after expected FDA approval. Health workers would be the first inoculated.
  • AstraZeneca and Oxford announced that the coronavirus vaccine they’ve been developing was 70% effective in clinical trials, making it the third vaccine with reasonably high efficacy—though less than Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines (although one of the dosing regimens AstraZeneca used reached the same ~90% effectiveness level as Moderna and Pfizer’s shots).


  • Pres.-elect Biden reportedly plans to appoint former Deputy SecState and Deputy NSA Antony Blinken as his SecState. Blinken is a centrist who’s been close to Biden for decades: one of the old video clips making the internet rounds since Blinken’s nomination was mentioned shows Blinken discussing refugee issues with Grover of Sesame Street. It’s cute.