Socialists favourites as Portugal campaign kicks off
The official two-week campaign for Portugal’s 30 January elections kicked off Sunday, with Socialist incumbent Antonio Costa favourite to win, albeit facing a struggle to obtain a working majority. The vote comes two years ahead of schedule after parliament in November rejected the minority Socialist government’s 2022 state budget. The state budget is particularly important now because it sets out how billions of euros in EU aid to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic would be spent. The ballot will elect 230 lawmakers, who will then vote on who forms a government. All recent opinion polls indicate the Socialists will take around 38% of the vote. Costa’s main rival is 64-year-old economist Rui Rio, former mayor of Porto.
New Zealand sends flight to assess Tonga damage
New Zealand has sent a plane to Tonga to assess the damage after the huge volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami on Saturday. The eruption has covered the Pacific islands in ash, cut power and severed communications. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has told the BBC up to 80,000 people there could be affected. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the tsunami had wreaked “significant damage” but no deaths have been reported so far.
Teens held in UK as Briton named as hostage-taker
Two teenagers have been arrested in England as part of the investigation into a hostage-taking incident at a synagogue in Texas on Saturday. British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, 44, from Blackburn, was shot dead after a standoff with police in Colleyville. Greater Manchester Police said it was continuing to assist in the US inquiry. Akram arrived in the country via New York’s JFK International Airport two weeks ago. His brother Gulbar has apologised to the victims and said his brother had been suffering from mental health issues. US President Joe Biden called the incident “an act of terror” and told reporters that the suspect was able to buy weapons on the street.
US registers 17 mass shootings so far in 2022
According to the independent organization ‘The Gun Violence Archive’, the United States has reported 17 mass shootings so far this year. Last year, 691 mass shootings were recorded and 20,658 people lost their lives in the US in incidents involving firearms. Other counts revealed that deaths with those devices rose more than 24% in 2021 compared to 2019. The United States holds the world record of the highest gun possession per capita within its geographic boundaries.
French lawmakers ban unvaccinated from public venues
The French National Assembly has approved the vaccination certificate, the so-called “green pass”, after 36 hours of debate, in the absence of Health Minister Olivier Véran who in recent days tested positive for COVID. The vote was 215 in favour, 58 against and 7 abstentions. Now the government wants the “pass” to be operational as soon as possible, but the Socialists have asked the opinion of the Constitutional Council, to guarantee respect for fundamental rights. The certificate proving the vaccination will be mandatory for all over 16 year-olds to access recreational activities, bars and restaurants, fairs and inter-regional public transport.
EU airlines seek landing slots relief to avoid ‘ghost flights’
Airlines in Europe are calling for relaxed rules on take-off and landing slots as carriers struggle to fill up plane seats. The EU’s slot regulation, known as “the use-it-or-lose-it rule”, states that airlines must use their take-off and landing rights in order to keep them. For the winter period, the European Commission said 50% of flights must be flown for each individual flight number each day of the week in order to retain the slot. The pressure to maintain their slots has made it difficult for airlines to cancel flights if they are not filled.
Tony Blair defends knighthood
Former British prime minister Tony Blair has said his leadership should be remembered for more than the Iraq war as he rejected fierce criticism over his receipt of a knighthood. The Labour Party’s most successful leader, who won three successive general elections, was named ‘Sir’ in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. The announcement was defended by the Conservative government, but several online petitions want it rescinded. Blair said he had accepted the honour not just for himself but for the “dedicated, committed people” who had worked with him in government and “provided a lot of change to the country”.
North Korea launches two more missiles
North Korea has launched two suspected short-range ballistic missiles eastward from Pyongyang’s Sunan airport, in what is the fourth show of force since the beginning of the year, with the first two claimed to have been carried out with newly-developed hypersonic missiles. The latest launch came three days after the North launched two suspected short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, explaining that it wanted to test “guided missiles that departed from a train” in a train regiment exercise. Today’s move, say observers, aims to underline Pyongyang’s reliable and evolving capabilities to launch missiles from various platforms, including trains, sea and land structures.
Djokovic lands in Dubai after being expelled from Australia
Novak Djokovic has landed in Dubai, after being expelled from Australia due to the coronavirus vaccination rules. The number 1 in the tennis world left the plane with two bags and a mask, after landing at the Emirate international airport at 5:32 local time (2:32 in Malta). Djokovic was supposed to be the star of the opening match of the Australian Open this morning, but the unvaccinated Serb will not defend his title after the Australian Federal Court rejected his appeal against the cancellation of his visa, leading to his expulsion – the epilogue of an 11-day soap opera that mixed politics, diplomacy and sports against the backdrop of opposition to anti-COVID vaccination.