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German doctors say tests suggest Putin critic Navalny was poisoned

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was probably poisoned but is not currently in danger of dying, according to doctors at the Berlin hospital where he remains in an induced coma, per the AP.

Why it matters: Navalny is the best-known critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and several other prominent government critics have been poisoned in recent years.


  • The Berlin hospital said only that doctors found "cholinesterase inhibitors" in his system — a wide categorization that could encompass substances ranging from household insecticides to VX nerve gas.

The backdrop: Navalny became seriously ill shortly after boarding a flight last Thursday to Moscow from Siberia, where he met with opposition politicians.

  • An aide traveling with him alleged that poison was added to tea he ordered at the airport. The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, Siberia.
  • Police quickly assembled at the hospital — though authorities said they were not investigating a possible crime — and doctors said they found no signs of poison in his system.
  • After authorities initially refused to allow him to travel abroad for treatment, Navalny was flown to Germany.

AstraZeneca CEO: "We need to do an additional study" on COVID vaccine

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the company is likely to start a new global trial to measure how effective its coronavirus vaccine is, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.

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National standardized tests delayed until 2022 because of COVID-19

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

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"Relaxing too fast": Europeans extend COVID lockdowns to reduce risk of Christmas third wave

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

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Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.

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The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season

The pandemic has upended Thanksgiving and the shopping season that the holiday kicks off, creating a new crop of economic winners and losers.

The big picture: Just as it has exacerbated inequality in every other facet of American life, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening inequities in the business world, with the biggest and most powerful companies rapidly outpacing the smaller players.

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Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.

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Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds one of the first significant actions by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Trump agency head who often skips mask tests positive for coronavirus

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of top administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

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