Global Review – 16th December

Armed militias surround Tripoli government building

Armed militias have surrounded the government building in Tripoli and the office of the prime minister, Abdelhamid Dbeibah. Sky News Arabia reports the armed militia known as the “Al-Samoud Brigade”, and active in Tripoli, declared that “there will be no presidential elections in Libya and that all state institutions will be closed” in the capital. Several areas of the capital were without electricity.

Omicron injects urgency into EU summit

The lightning spread of Omicron in Europe and elsewhere has added a sense of urgency to today’s EU summit, with leaders struggling to present a united, bloc-wide approach. Projections that the mutated and highly infectious COVID-19 strain could be dominant in the EU as early as next month have pushed the issue to the top of the agenda and ignited fears of a health crisis. The summit will also tackle other big topics pressing hard on EU capitals, in particular the Russian military build-up that could presage an invasion of Ukraine.

‘Europe bracing for an Omicron winter’

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, she had been told that by mid-January, “we should expect Omicron to be the new dominant variant in Europe”. Although many EU countries are in the global vanguard in terms of vaccination rates, nine EU countries have vaccination rates below 60%. But the EU health agency has warned jabs alone now would not be enough, given that Omicron infections double around every two days.

UK: all-time record of 78,610 new cases

An absolute record of new COVID cases has been registered in the UK: 78,610 infections recorded in the last 24 hours. The previous record was set on January 8 with 68,053 positives in one day. There were 165 deaths yesterday. Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, urged people to take precautions, get tested before seeing family, to meet outdoors where possible especially during the Christmas season, and to prioritise social interactions that really matter to them. Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Greece have all tightened entry restrictions for EU arrivals by requiring PCR tests even of vaccinated travellers. And Europe’s top clubs are threatening not to release players for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon over fears surrounding its COVID-19 health protocol.

Putin-Xi Agreement on Beijing 2022, major issues

President Xi Jinping of China and Russian President Vladimir Putin have strengthened an agreement between the two sides in view of the Beijing 2022 Olympics and on major issues of international politics, including the expansion of NATO to the east and the new US-led alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. In the third video meeting since the beginning of the year, the Kremlin leader confirmed his presence at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, affected by the diplomatic boycott of the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada, in protest for Beijing’s violations of human rights. The agreement between Russia and China also involves economic and financial relations, including the issue of digital currencies, and COVID-19.

Scholz to the Bundestag: “EU success is priority”

New German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has told parliament he sees the “success of the EU” as the top priority of a Germany that intends to “build bridges in Europe”, at the same time keeping its guard high in the confrontation with Russia and China. He also promised a hard line against those who oppose vaccination and anti-COVID rules and an open struggle against right-wing extremism, which he described as “the greatest threat” in the country. He affirmed that Germany was a “nation of immigration”, in which foreigners must have the opportunity to “participate fully” in the life of the country.

JFK daughter is US envoy to Australia

US President Joe Biden has appointed Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving daughter of John F. Kennedy, ambassador to Australia. The 64-year-old, whose nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate, was, between 2013 and 2017, the US ambassador to Japan during the Barack Obama administration. Meanwhile, the Biden administration yesterday published about 1,500 pages of previously secret documents on the Kennedy assassination in 1963. The remaining documents will bepublished in December next year.

Bird songs top Australian music chart

An album made up entirely of the tweets and squawks of endangered Australian birds has debuted in the top five of the country’s Aria music charts. “Songs of Disappearance” is surpassing the likes of Abba and The Weeknd – not to mention Christmas favourites Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey. Created by BirdLife Australia, the album features the birdsongs of 53 of Australia’s most threatened species. David Stewart, a wildlife sound recordist, has spent more than 30 years collecting often rarely heard sounds of Australia’s wildlife.

Football: The “Finalissima” is born!

London, the city that last July saw Roberto Mancini’s national team celebrate its second Europeantitle, will host the Italy-Argentina ‘Final’ on Wednesday June 1. Uefa and Conmebol announced the venue and date of the unprecedented challenge between the reigning European Champions and the winners of the last America’s Cup, simultaneously confirming the birth of the ‘finalissima’ and the organisation of a series of football events in the English capital.

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