‘Secret US military unit killed civilians in Syria’ – NYT
The New York Times reports a secret cell of the US special forces, during the fight against Isis in Syria, launched tens of thousands of bombs and missiles between 2014 and 2019, illegally evading standard procedures and also killing civilians. Quoting military and intelligence sources the paper says the cell, called Talon Anvil, was made up of no more than 20 elements and took orders not from the Pentagon but from lower-profile figures within the Delta Force.
US tornado death toll may ‘be far fewer’
A ray of hope has emerged from the aftermath of a barrage of tornadoes that obliterated a Kentucky town and killed people in five states. Late on Sunday, representatives of a candle factory flattened in the disaster said far fewer people might have died than previously feared. Officials had said the death toll could soar past 100 from twisters that tore through at least six states in the US Midwest and South, while seeing little chance of finding survivors in the rubble two days later. Up to 70 people at the factory had been feared dead. But that number could be revised down to 16 or fewer, a company spokesman said, raising the possibility the governor’s death toll estimate could come down significantly. Among the 110 people who were at the factory, eight have been confirmed dead and eight others remained missing. While Kentucky was hardest hit, six workers were killed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois after the plant buckled under the force of the tornado. A nursing home was struck in Arkansas, causing one of that state’s two deaths. Four were reported dead in Tennessee and two in Missouri.
Putin rues Soviet collapse
President Vladimir Putin has lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago as the demise of what he called “historical Russia”. In comments aired on Sunday as part of a documentary film called “Russia. New History”, he said the economic crisis that followed was so bad he was forced to moonlight as a taxi driver. Reuters says Putin’s comments, released by state TV on Sunday, are likely to further fuel speculation about his foreign policy intentions.
Pope calls for ‘serious international dialogue’
Pope Francis, in his first comments on the tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, called for serious international dialogue to resolve tensions and urged both sides to avoid an armed conflict. “Weapons are not the path to take. May this Christmas bring peace to Ukraine,” he told thousands of people in St Peter’s Square for his noon Sunday blessing and address.
Boris: “Omicron is an emergency, take the third dose”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson puts the turbo and aims for an unprecedented acceleration of the campaign for the ‘booster’ to cope with the Omicron emergency. In a speech to the nation after the COVID alert level in the UK was increased from 3 to 4 due to the emergence and progressive spread of the variant, Johnson announced the United Kingdom would offer all those over 18 the possibility of receiving a booster dose of the vaccine before the end of the year. The goal is to vaccinate 18 million people, a million a day.
US records 800,000 deaths from COVID
The United States has reached the sad milestone of 800,000 deaths caused by COVID-19. In 2021, more than 450,000 people died, 57% of all deaths from COVID since the start of the pandemic. Reuters said the US marks the worst performance among the G7 member countries in terms of per capita deaths; and also one of the worst performers among rich countries that have vaccines. The US should soon exceed 50 million cases.
German Chancellor meets Polish PM
Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has met in Warsaw with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for talks about the Belarus migrant crisis, Russia’s troop buildup near its border with Ukraine, and Poland’s opposition to the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. They also discussed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will carry Russian natural gas directly to Germany, which Poland opposes, saying the project will make Europe dependent on Russian gas deliveries, and exposes the European Union to pressure from Moscow.
India’s Harnaaz Sandhu is Miss Universe 2021
India’s Harnaaz Sandhu is the winner of the 70th Miss Universe title. In the early hours of Monday morning, the 21-year-old beat 79 other contestants, including runner-up Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira and second runner-up Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane. The contest was held in Eilat, Israel.
F1: Mercedes intend to appeal after protests rejected
Formula 1 officials rejected two protests by Mercedes against the result of the controversial title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with the team set to appeal against one of those decisions. Max Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes for the victory that won him the title after a late safety car. Mercedes argued race director Michael Masi did not apply the rules correctly. The team has lodged an intention to appeal against the decision relating to restarting the race for the final lap.