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World prepares for Biden, braces for Iran fallout: Weekend Reads

Balance of Power

As U.S. President-elect Joe Biden gets on with the transition, signaling a tilt toward action on climate change and multilateralism with the appointments he's announced so far, the country is bracing for new highs in coronavirus infections and deaths.

Bloomberg has crunched the numbers to determine which nations have handled the pandemic most effectively, challenging preconceptions about the best place to be during the worst public health crisis in a generation.

And with little more than a month before the U.K. leaves the European Union, officials from both sides will resume face-to-face trade talks this weekend, with significant disagreements still to be resolved.

Dig into these and other topics with the latest edition of Weekend Reads. — Ruth Pollard

Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP

Iran accused Israel and the U.S. of being behind the assassination of one of its top nuclear scientists yesterday and vowed revenge, sharply escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf in the final weeks of Donald Trump's presidency.

Click here for more of this week's most compelling political images, and tell us how we're doing or what we're missing at

Biden May Have 16 Days to Stave Off a Nuclear Arms Race
The New START Treaty is the last bilateral nuclear arms control accord between the U.S. and Russia. It's scheduled to expire on Feb. 5. Assuming the Trump administration doesn't agree with Russia on an extension — it hasn't in nearly four years — Biden will have just 16 days from Inauguration Day to rescue the pact, Peter Coy writes.

Erdogan Gets Ready for a Rocky Four Years With Biden in Office
As the world positions for Biden's move into the White House, few leaders are moving as quickly as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with the next four years looking set to be more difficult to navigate than the last. Turkey's president knows the former U.S. vice president well, Marc Champion and Nick Wadhams explain, but that isn't necessarily a plus.

Thomas-Greenfield, now one of America's most experienced diplomats, is Biden's pick for United Nations ambassador. Her appointment is a clear signal of a return to traditional diplomacy and to cooperation over confrontation at the UN.

Boris Johnson's Conservatives Are Burning Bridges With China
The U.K.'s relations with China are souring, Alberto Nardelli, Kitty Donaldson and Peter Martin report. And falling out with Beijing is a risky path for the U.K. as it exits the EU, leaving it more exposed to retaliatory action by the world's No. 2 economy, as Australia is witnessing. 

A New Spain Is Emerging That Drives Conservative Opponents Crazy
Pedro Sanchez's budget deal will shore up the foundations of his minority government and offer some political stability in Spain after five years of division and gridlock. The prospect has left Sanchez's right-wing opponents furious, Rodrigo Orihuela and Laura Millan Lombrana report.

Europe Sends Biden a Reminder of Why Transatlantic Ties Matter
The EU's deadpan trade chief, Valdis Dombrovskis, looks set to take the drama out of talks with the U.S. Viktoria Dendrinou explains that he's now at the sharp end of efforts to rebuild the alliance that won the Cold War, dominated the world and was tipped into crisis by Trump's presidency.

It Will Take More Than Biden to Fix Trump's Damage to Iran
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says it'll be "very easy" for Biden to repair relations between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. "The knotty problem can be untied with will and one decision," he said. But, as Golnar Motevalli writes, a look at Iran's economy suggests much of the wreckage left by Trump will last.

Graffiti on the walls of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 9.

Photographer: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Secret Origins of China's 40-Year Plan to End Carbon Emissions
The biggest emitter of planet-warming pollution managed to take almost the whole world by surprise. In a September speech to the United Nations, Chinese President Xi Jinping put a 2060 end-date on his country's contribution to global warming, after a veteran Communist Party bureaucrat quietly changed climate history.

Hong Kong Campus Rocked by Protest Now a 'Prison' a Year Later
One year ago, Hong Kong Polytechnic University was in flames, Shawna Kwan and Felix Tam write. Today, what had once been a bustling, freely accessible campus is locked down and its protest movement extinguished in a series of aggressive moves to stifle dissent in the Asian financial hub.

Lockdowns in South Africa Freed Township Entrepreneurs to Thrive
Seven months of lockdown regulations have slammed South Africa's economy and prolonged a recession the government was struggling to reverse before the pandemic hit. Yet business owners in the densely populated townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg have found opportunities amid the devastation, Pauline Bax explains.

Covid Vaccine Rush in China Raises Fears of Booming Black Market
As vaccines near the finish line, nations are preparing for the challenge of rolling them out, with supply shortages fueling concerns about the emergence of illegal markets. One place where vaccine delivery is already being road-tested is China, and already people are using their connections to jump the queue.

And finally ... As Covid-19 has spread around the world, it has challenged preconceptions about which places would best tackle the worst public health crisis in decades. Bloomberg crunched the numbers to determine where the virus has been handled most effectively with the least amount of disruption to business and society. Rachel Chang, Jinshan Hong and Kevin Varley take a deep dive into the data.



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