Global Review – 17th December

European Council fails to agree on energy prices

The European Council has ended without an agreement on energy, in the year of record gas and electricity prices that are bringing families and businesses to their knees. President Charles Michel declared that on the subject of how to combat these increases, there were too many differences on too many fronts and it was impossible for the leaders of twenty-seven to reach a compromise. After several hours of heated debate that lasted from 10pm to midnight, the heads of state and government were unable to do anything other than remove the entire paragraph on energy from the conclusions of the summit and put the subject on the agenda of their next meeting

EU calls for COVID fight coordination

European leaders have asked that the national restrictive measures against COVID be “coordinated”. At the end of their summit in Brussels, European leaders stressed restrictions “should not damage the internal market and the freedom of movement of citizens between states”. To avoid that “each State gives its own interpretation, also leading to confusion among European citizens”, the European Council has given the Commission a mandate to present, in the next few days, a delegated act defining an expiry date for the green pass valid for all. However, the vaccine remains the priority weapon to defeat the pandemic, even against Omicron, the number of cases of which has reached 2,600 in the EU alone. In their conclusions, the “dissemination of vaccines to all and the distribution of booster doses” are considered “crucial and urgent”. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has lamented that 40 countries have not vaccinated even 10% of their population.

Coronavirus cases in UK hit new record

Britain has once again registered a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. At 88,376, this is the worst figure since the pandemic began for the second day in a row. Meanwhile, the Queen has cancelled her traditional pre-Christmas lunch as a precautionary measure amid the surge of the Omicron variant. As of Saturday, France will ban non-essential travel to and from the UK. Russia has reported 28,486 new cases and 1,133 deaths in 24 hours while Denmark’s new cases increased by a record 130% in three weeks.

Biden warning over Omicron

As the percentage of people who tested positive in New York in the last three days doubled, President Biden has warned that the Omicron variant is going to spread more rapidly in the United States. He said unvaccinated Americans face a winter of severe illness and death and urged cirizens to get their vaccines or boosters as quickly as possible.

Tories lose seat they held for 200 years

The Conservatives have lost the historically-safe North Shropshire seat held by them for nearly 200 years to the Liberal Democrats. The by-election followed the resignation of former MP Owen Paterson who was found to have breached parliamentary rules on lobbying, and had held a majority of nearly 23,000. New MP Helen Morgan secured 17,957 votes with a turnout of 46.3%. Following the result, Morgan, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in the 2019 general election, said it meant the “party was over” for Boris Johnson.

Crowds celebrate death of Pinochet’s widow

The death has been annouced of Lucía Hiriart, the widow of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet. She was 99. As reports of her death spread, drivers honked their horns in celebration and people gathered in downtown Santiago to cheer the moment and celebrate what they see as “the death of a dynasty”. Her death came just before Sunday’s presidential elections.

27 feared dead in Osaka building fire

At least 27 people are feared dead and one person injured when a fire broke out on Friday in a commercial building in a shopping district in the Japanese city of Osaka. Police were investigating suspected arson. Video on public broadcaster NHK showed smoke pouring out of the building’s fourth floor windows, where a psychiatry clinic is located, and at the roof of the building. The fire was mostly extinguished within 30 minutes.

Italy chosen as “country of the year”

Italy is The Economist’s country of the year 2021. The magazine recalls that “due to the weakness of its rulers, Italians in 2019 were poorer than in 2000. But this year Italy has changed… thanks to Mario Draghi”. With the former head of the ECB, Italy “has a competent and internationally-respected Prime Minister. The Economist says that if Draghi is appointed president, he could be replaced by a less competent prime minister.

Sex And The City actor accused of sexual assault

Two women have accused Sex And The City actor Chris Noth of sexually assaulting them in 2004 and 2015. The women gave detailed accounts of the alleged assaults to The Hollywood Reporter, using pseudonyms of Zoe and Lily. The magazine says the women do not know each other. In a statement, Noth, 67, said “the encounters were consensual” and that the accusations of assault are “categorically false”.

Brazilian politicians settle dispute in the ring

Two Brazilian politicians have decided to resolve a dispute over a water park project in the ring. After months of accusations and insults, Simão Peixoto, 39-year-old mayor, and 45-year-old former councilor Erineu Alves Da Silva took part in a mixed martial arts match, kicking punches. The mayor won on points and the two contenders, exhausted, finally embraced and shook hands. However, the fate of the water park – the real object of the challenge – is not yet certain, as it is still awaiting a final decision.

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