Biden's grand game, Brazil's Petrobras, vaccine passports, vegetarian school meals


Joe Biden's first phone call to Riyadh went not to MBS but to his dad, the ailing King Salman. This came ahead of the declassification of intelligence that links the crown prince to the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Overnight, we witnessed the first use of US military force on Joe Biden's watch: an air strike targeting facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Syria, just over the border with Iraqi Kurdistan. Some 17 people were killed, according to local sources.


It follows several missile attacks inside Iraq in the past weeks, including the one that killed a Filipino contractor inside the US base at Erbil International Airport, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Earlier this week, UN nuclear inspectors agreed to an end to surprise inspections of Iran nuclear sites. They expressed alarm at Tehran's drifting away from the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, although a return to talks is possible. But who blinks first?

Donald Trump may be gone, but one of his biggest admirers is still in charge in Brazil. And while Trump was known for firing underlings over Twitter, Jair Bolsonaro took to Facebook to announce he was replacing the boss of state oil company Petrobras with a 71-year-old reserve army general whose current job is running a hydroelectric dam at the Paraguayan border. Roberto Castello Branco was fired and fuel subsidies reimposed at the behest of the truckers' union. Free market reforms are fine and dandy but not when there is a pandemic and you are running for re-election in 20 months' time.

After Ghana on Wednesday, Ivory Coast is now the second developing nation to receive shipment of its first vaccine doses under the UN's COVAX inoculation scheme. While West Africa gets its first vaccines, while the United States marks its 50 millionth inoculation, these good news stories irk many Europeans, what with the rollout painfully slow in places like France where we've just crossed the 4 percent vaccinated threshold. Bash Boris Johnson all you want, but the UK has now vaccinated more people than the European Union. Meanwhile, British PM Boris Johnson has changed his mind and now favours green passports so that citizens can at least book summer holidays.

Imagine you're the new Green mayor of Lyon, the traditional capital of French cuisine. It's the middle of a pandemic and you can no longer offer a choice of main course for school lunches. Do you serve a meat dish... or a non-meat dish? The decision of Grégory Doucet to choose the latter has triggered a rift within the government itself. The Environment Minister Barbara Pompili, who tweeted her praise for a vegetarian school lunch while on a visit to Brittany, called the controversy "prehistoric". But it is really about meat or about identity politics?

Produced by Freddie Gower, Juliette Laurain and Laura Burloux.

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