tv BBC World News America PBS December 17, 2021 2:30pm-3:01pm PST
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viewers like you. thank you. announcer: and now, "bbc world news". >> i'm jane o'n washington, and this is "bbc world news america." omicron causes a global surge of covid infections as governments braced for the worst. our correspondence around the world tell us how their country is corresponding. voters in hong kong go to the polls this weekend, but a new controversial law alws a pro-china panel to vet the candidates. the united nations warns that all sites and if the o.p.s. -- all sides in ethiopia's civil war are committing problems. north korea marks 10 years since kim jong-un became supreme
leader. we look at the impact of his time in office. ♪ jane: welcome to "world news america" on pbs and around the globe. we begin tonight with more evidence that the omicron strain of coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the globe. the worst figures are coming from europe, in particular the u.k. in the last one he for hours, the number of infections in britain has reached a new high for a third consecutive day. even in places where omicron hasn't yet taken hold, governments are worried. many of them are scrambling to ramp up their vaccination campaigns before a new wave of cases. bbc's correspondents from around the world report now on how the rise of the omicronariant is affecting people in their countries. we start in france.
>> the figures in france are not good. we are heading towards a new spike. 60,000 to 65,000 cases of covid every day, which we have not seen for a long time. most are not omicron. the vast majority are delta variant. but it is widely believed the number of omicron are being underreported. of course, yesterday, we had these amounts and france is to introduce much stricter rules on travel from the u.k., where boris johnson is talking of a tidal wave of omicron. these are rules we have not seen throughout covid or certainly ar are certainly more stringent and are showing that the french take the threat of omicron moving across the channel and into france and mainland europe. >> we know thiis a variant
they have been tracking in south africa the last few weeks from when we had the first confirmation in late november. what the officials have said is they are starting to see a decrease in the province which has been the epicenter of the virus. they believe this means the virus in the specific province has reached its peak, but they are seeing a rise in figures in other parts of the country. christmas holiday is traditionally in south africa at a time of high spending, high travel, and gatherings. for the most part, south africans have been told to find a way to do that responsibly, buthe president is trying to keep the economy open and the country open while encouraging people to get vaccinated. >> of course, the czech republic is one of the countries wit some of the worst covid figures in europe, if not the world. the death toll from this pandemic has just exceeded 35,000 in fact. while the numbers are beginning to fall, the czech republic does
not do the same intensive kind and amount of synchronizing pcr tests. we don't know how far omicron has spent so far in this couny. the experts say it is presumably far greater then a few dozen official cases that have been recorded. without that detailed picture, they are quite worried about what omicron could mean as it goes into christmas and the new year. >> hospitals are saying intensive care units are starting to reach capacity in badly hit parts of the country. actually, some clinics are transferring patients to other hospitals in other parts of germany. so the warnings about another wave of omicron variant is of real concern. these are interesting times because germany has a new chancellor and a new government. the chancellor couple weeks ago
promised to deliver or have administered by the end of the year 30 million doses of vaccine , which are first, second, and booster jabs. the government strategy for tackling the variant is exactly that, booster jabs. a good slide into the new year. many few we could stumble into a tough 2022. jane: reporting from germany, ending the round up of how countries are cong. here in the united states, president biden's top pandemic advisors held a briefing today warning americans of the dangers that omicron will pose in the weeks ahead. new cases in the u.s. rose by 8% in the last week alone with many of those infections among people who were unvaccinated. here is the head of president
biden's response team. >> for the unvaccinated, you are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for your selves, your families, and the hospitals. >> although delta continues to circulate widely in the united states, omicron is rising rapidly and we expect it to become the dominant strain in the united states as it has in other countries in the coming weeks. jane: joining me now is the bbc's anthony. we know omicron is coming. france's prime minister said it will be as big as a desk as quick as a lightning strike -- as quick as a lightning strike. what is the challenge for the biden administration? >> i think the biggest challenge for the biden administration is figuring out what they have left in their toolbox to address this. vaccine mandates have been tied up in courts.
the mandate on employers for vaccinations or testing, on healthier, which the biden administration is asking the supreme court to reinstate. they asked that yesterday. and masking mandates. all of these different techniques and tactics they have, there is does not seem to be a whole lot of stomach for that. the biden administration's to encourage people to get vaccinated but realizing force will not be a possibility. jane: i don't all of this is interrelated -- i know all of this is interrelated but do you get a feeling voters are more read about the economy, the rising cost of fuel, energy costs, and the economy in geral? is that a distraction for the biden administration, particularly as they get ready for the midterms? >> i think coming into this year, the biden administration realized they had to tackle covid first and if they did not take care of covid, nothing else would matter. covid has been having an effect on the economy as well and it cascades when after the other,
so the idea is if they can solve covid, the economic concerns will come around also. if you look around at public opinion polls, the public is very concerned about the economy right now because that is affecting a lot of people across the country. covid is only beginning to start getting to the public conscious recently. omicron is starting to resonate with people as they see friends get sick as they read more and more news reports, as they see national football league games get postponed because of this, schools starting to close again. finally now the american public is starting to realize this is a very important concern as well besides the economy. jane: you mentioned the lack of tools available in the toolbox. do you get a sense the biden policy attacking covid has shifted a bit? is there a sense of resignation that this is it, they have done as much as they can? >> a sense of resignation,
frustration. i think you are seeing that in the biden administration. i think you are seeing that among governors as well who are looking at a looming health care crisis in their states as hospital beds fill up with unvaccinated covid patients. i think there is a sense of foreboding looking at what is happening in europe, knowing it as a matter of time before we see similar spikes here in the united states. i think with directly, you are hearing it from jen psaki today in the press conference saying that people should get vaccinated. we know it works. we know two jabs at a booster will protect you from hospitalizations. but the idea that they cannot impose vaccine mandates, that it can be some sort of a nationwide mast mandate, all of that stuff has gone out the window because the resistance is too strong. jane: thank you very much. i think you are offer the holidays now, aren't you? >> i think it is. i will enjoy a couple weeks of rest and maybe not the kind of travel i had been hoping but it
will be good to spend time with family. jane: so say all of us. thank you very much indeed for joining me. now, voters in hong kong will head to the polls this weekend for the city's first legislative council election since the passing of a controversial national law that allows a pro-china panel to vet the candidate. the bbc's danny vincent has more from hong kong. >> jason is in full campaign mode, one of the few candidates running in the election that considers himself a non-establishment. last year, the authorities postponed the action due to the pandemic. since then, the political landscape of the city has changed. >> if i can enter into the legislature, at least i can ask for a political change, political improvement. if we just ignore it, what is a result?
the result is until the end of the days, we do not have improvement on our democracy. >> hong kong is preparing for its first legislative council election since the introduction of a wide-ranging national security law. this year, only three of the 153 candidates running consider themselves pro-democratic. posters are predicting a 30 year low voter turnout. beijing has imposed a sweeping reform of hong kong's voting system. it means only the candidates that are patriotic can be eligible to stand. it has led many people to question if this election is simply a show. last year, the entire pro-democracy cap resigned -- camp resigned in mass. it was later followed by the arrest of 47 pro-democracy candidates who stood in an unofficial primary election. a year on, they remain in
custody under the suspicion of violating the controversial national security law. critics say hong kong's political freedoms have been dismantled. pro establishment candidates say the changes in hong kong have helped restore stability. >> look at the past. in the past, we could not do anything. we had filibustering and people asking questions and doubting the government and doubting the central government. it is the whole purpose. this is what they want to show to the world. >> it was once a democratic party lawmaker. this year, the largest party is not putting forward any candidates to run. he is now independent and says he wants to be elected in order to bring about change to the system. >> we did not get real democracy in the past. and also, maybe the next 10 years. but we hope for universal
suffrage. we hopeor a real democracy in hong kong. but if we don't do anything, we can get nothing. >> hong kong was promised a high level autonomy and political freedom 50 years after it was returned to china from the u.k. 2022 marks just when he five years since the handover -- 25 years since the handover. danny vincent, bbc news, hong kong. jane: the united states has renewed its call for a cease-fire in ethiopia after the united nations human rights council ordered an independent investigation into violations by all sides of the conflict. state department spokesman ned price said he was gravely concerned by reports detailing domestic tensions and killings of ethnic people. there is a large and vocal
ex-pat community in the united states and they are divided on the same ethnic lines that fueled conflict, as barbara has been finding out. >> ethiopia's civil war is 7000 miles away. and it is right here in this kitchen, on this canvas. gabrielle's family is from the northern region of the epicenter of the conflict. a theme that consumes her art. >> it is like opening up a channel in this passageway taking us back there. but what better way to create beauty with your pain? there are so many other things i can do. >> for more than a year, the ethiopian army has been battling rebels and their allies. thousands are dead. human rights abuses committed on both sides. parts of the country pushed into famine. in the u.s., they are desperate. the ethiopian government has
blocked most aid and communicions to the north. many have lost contact with their relatives. >> i cannot sleep at night because i am thinking about all of them. who is starting? which one is starving? >> what you think the united states is doing? >> they have not stepped in. the international community has not stepped . have allowed us to suffer and suffer. what is it we are supposed to do? what other options do we have other than to fight back? >> outside the state department, a chance to personally plead their case. >> they are thinking of ways to be supportive of both sides of the community. >> what you see here in washington is a refection of what is happening in ethiopia. the fighting there is taking place between ethnic groups. the demonstrations here also showcase those ethnic decisions. they insist that west has got it wrong. americans are coming for a cease-fire and negotiations with
the rebels while advancing on the capital. >> you cannot negotiate with terrorists. would you negotiate with isis? no. you wouldn't. so it is not -- we cannot. they are not equal partners. they kill and rape -- >> they kill and rape. the people died. my family is there. i don't know if they died or are still alive. >> the rebel leaders once governed the country with a heavy hand and are deeply resented by many ethiopians. the u.s. is treading a fine line. >> it is not the engagement the ethiopian people want. >> what do they want? >> ethiopian people what engagement from the west that supports the government's cause. they don't want engagement that is demonizing the government and supporting the cause. >> ethiopians in america wear their national identities with passion, but they have different views of what ethiopia is. and that is deepening.
barbara, bbc news, washington. jane:ou are watching "bbc world news america." still to come on tonight's program, counting the cost of lastear's wildfires in south america. as many as 17 million animals may have been killed. ♪ jane: talks between the u.k. and e.u. about the northern ireland border after brexit have paused for the year. our europe correspondent jessica parker explains why the role of the european court of justice has proved so contentious. >> the u.k. over the course of the last year started to express some serious discontent about the european court of justice's oversight role of the treaty of the northern ireland protocol. with the british are now saying is they are still not wanting
the european court of justice to be the ultimate arbiter of any disputes between the e.u. and u.k. around the northern ireland protocol, but they are willing for the court to have a role in interpreting e.u. law. that is not something they really went around saying publicly before. so it has been seen as a significant softening. whether it will get these talks motoring along anymore, i think that is much less clear. ♪ jane: scientists in brazil have released new estimates showing that last year's wildfires may have been more devastating than previously known. the blazes were mainly centered in the wetlands and researchers now say that as many as 17 million animals were likely killed in the fires. victoria gill has this report. a morning, you may find some of the images upsetting.
>> almost 40,000 square kilometers of tropical wetland ravaged by fire. now, a wildlife body count has provided the first estimate of the number of reptiles, mammals, and birds that were killed in wildfires that burned throughout 2020. the researchers worked in an area just 48 hours after fire had swept through. they walked more than 100 kilometers across mapped sections of the wetland, counting and examining every dead animal they found. they used the grim tally to estimate the total number that were lost. how difficult is it for scientists to get a grasp on what the damage was? >> it was really difficult for many reasons. fire was still happening in many regions. and roads where -- there was a lot of smoke. it was hard to reach some regions and do the work. >> it is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet.
the vast majority of what the researchers found were small reptiles that are hugely abundant here, but the wildfires also killed mammals, birds, and reptiles threatened with extension. >> if we see a higher frequency of this level of fire is happening in the next years, we will for sure have more impact to the vegetation and also to the species. >> the researchers saytheir scientific snapshot -- researchers say their scientific snapshot could help management protect. as the climate warms, more must be done to avoid wildfires that the natural world might struggle to recover from. jane: it has been 10 years since kim jong-un took power in north korea. at the time, he was just what he seven years old. while mr. kim has just attended a memorial in pyongyang marking the interest we of his father's death, but in the years since
kim jong-un came to power, north korea has slipped into crisis. sanctions and strict border closures are crippling the country's economy. the bbc has this report. >> he was too young, too inexperienced. they predicted his downfall. but kim jong-un has defied the odds and survived as leader of north korea. when he took over from his father 10 years ago, there were doubts among some of the elite. >> who in the world would like a hereditary succession? what would a 27-year-old know? it makes no sense for him to run the country. >> but as people were forced to revere him -- but his people were forced to revere him. >> every morning, all of these songs praising kim jong-un on a loudspeaker broadcast from trucks woke people up.
♪ >> bigger, bolder, state propaganda built an image of a brighter, more modern north korea. but hopes the country would open were short-lived. all foreign influences from music to drama have been banned. often, the penalty is death. >> to even control the melody and singing style just sws they are not confident in their own regime. >> when it came to foreign policy, he has played a poor hand well. his pursuit of nuclear weapons but his tiny impoverished country at the center of the world stage. >> we were ordered to make the world immune to the nuclear program. the international committee continues to hear and discuss north korea having weapons. they will think, well, north
korea has nuclear weapons, it is not that big of a deal. >> north korea has been hit by crippling sanctions to curb its weapons program but it has made little difference. >> the north can never give up its nuclear weapons. it considers it to be vital to the survival of the regime. >> the country is now in crisis. the border has been sealed shut to prevent the spread of covid-19. vital supplies have not been able to get through for nearly two years. >> in the end, if there are no's -- is no section relief, it is trouble and kim jong-un knows this well so i am sure he will come to talks. >> this key anniversary has kim jong-un at a crossroads. what he does next will decide his future and that of his people. bbc news, seoul.
jane: yes. what will kim jong-un do next? constant question for successive administrations in washington. before we go tonight come over the course of this pandemic, many of the world's health officials have tried to stay calm when speaking to the public. one official in australia really rose to the occasion at a covid briefing today even when she was told a spider was crawling up her arm. let's take a listen. >> there is a spider. >> can someone please get that spider off? this shows how controlled i can be. i do not like them but i will keep going and pretend i do not have a huntsman on me right now and let someone else manage this. but if he gets anywhere near me, let me know. jane: i don't know about that. fun fact about the huntsman spiders, they have a like span of up to four inches. but they are usually fairly reluctant to bite apparently and
are not considered to be dangerous. would not like to take a chance on that. i am jane o'brien. thank you very much indeed for watching "bbc world news a narrator: funding for this presentation of this program is provided by... narrator: financial services firm, raymond james. narrator: fundg was also provided by, the freeman foundation. by judy and peter blum kovler foundation; pursuing solutions for america's neglected needs. and by contributions to this pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ ♪ narrator: you're watching pbs. ♪ da-da-da-duh-da-da-da♪ ♪ da-da-da-da-da-da ♪♪
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: on trial. former minneapolis police officer kim potter takes the stand in her own defense in the trial over the killing of daunte wright. then, high stakes. the biden agenda faces an uncertain future as his pocy priorities suffer major setbacks in the senate. plus, the pandemic in africa. the omicron and delta variants of covid-19 plague the continent amid vaccine hesitancy and resistance to safety protocols. >> reporter: in cities across africa, business seems to go on as usual in the way it did before the pandemic. people have given up on masks,