Global Review – 22nd December

Libyan militias mobilise amid tensions over election

Armed groups deployed in the suburbs of Libya’s capital on Tuesday, sparking security fears ahead of an expected delay of presidential elections, as three key candidates met in the country’s east. Images posted online on Tuesday showed a tank and pickup trucks mounted with machine guns in Fornaj district, where some roads were blocked by armed men. Schools and the University of Tripoli closed as a precaution but there were no fire-fights, residents told AFP. The vote was meant to cap a UN-led peace process after a ceasefire between eastern and western camps last year, but with no final candidate list published just two days ahead of polling, few believe they will go ahead.

COVID-19: ‘Significant surge’ in Europe expected – WHO

The World Health Organisation says Europe is experiencing a much larger COVID-19 surge than it did at the same time last year. WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge is urging European countries to prepare for a major holiday surge of COVID-19, especially as the Omicron variant continues to spread. Since the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first detected in November, at least 38 of the 53 countries that make up WHO Europe have said that it was now their dominant strain. These countries include the United Kingdom and Denmark. Around 2.6 million cases were reported across the region last week, with 27,000 people dying from the virus. Dr Kluge noted that these infection and mortality rates are 40% higher than they were in December last year.

Biden urges Americans to get vaccinated

US President Joe Biden has warned millions of unvaccinated Americans they were putting themselves and loved ones at risk amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant sweeping the nation. “If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned,” Biden said in a White House speech on Tuesday during which he unveiled new plans to buy 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans in January. Ten thousand new vaccination sites are to be opened. The fast-spreading Omicron variant is now the main coronavirus strain in the United States, accounting for 73.2% of new cases over the past week.

Israel to give fourth jab to over-60s

Israelis over the age of 60 and health workers will be eligible for a fourth COVID vaccination to protect against the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on those who meet the criteria to “go and get vaccinated”. Bennett’s remarks came after the first known death in Israel of a patient with the Omicron variant.

Germany announces further curbs

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said new restrictions would be put into place in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Such restrictions include limiting private gatherings to only 10 people, as well as closing clubs and other nightlife activities. Sporting events will also be held in empty stadia until further notice. In the meantime, Scholz is urging German citizens to get vaccinated: “If you are unvaccinated, get the jab. If you have had COVID-19 in the past, get the jab. If you are due a booster, get the jab,” he stressed.

UK: another 90k COVID infections

Total infections from COVID in the United Kingdom remain stable at 90,629 in the last 24 hours – a thousand less than Monday. Deaths registered were again on the rise to 172. Meanwhile, the British government is allocating a budget of one billion pounds sterling in support of sectors hit by the pandemic. The funds would be destined in particular to those sectors most threatened by the first restrictions imposed – hotels, restaurants, travel and tourism.

Sultan of Dubai ordered to pay €645 million to ex-wife

The British High Court court has ordered the ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 72, to pay his former wife, Princess Haya, sister of the King of Jordan, a record divorce settlement of €645 million. The spouse had fled with the children from the United Arab Emirates to London in 2019 (where she has since lived in an armoured luxury residence), saying she was “terrified” of her husband. The previous record divorce settlememnt sanctioned by a British court involved a Russian oligarch, forced to pay his ex-wife Tatiana Akhmedova some £450 million in 2016.

70 to 100 missing in Myanmar landslide

Between 70 and a hundred people are missing after a landslide that occurred overnight in a jade mine in northern Myanmar. One has been confirmed dead and 25 other wounded in the landslide that occurred at the Hpakant site in Kachin state. Some 200 rescuers are participating in the searches, some on board boats to try to recover bodies from a lake.

First SMS sells for $107,000

The first text message in history – consisting of two words “Merry Christmas” – has been sold for €107,000 at an auction in France. The message was sent at 6.09pm on December 3, 1992 from a computer on the phone of Richard Jarvis, a Vodafone employee at the time, as an experiment.

Japanese McDonald’s chips are down

Supply problems in Canada, caused by COVID-19 and large-scale flooding near the Port of Vancouver, have lead to a potato shortage across the Pacific in Japan forcing McDonald’s to ration their fries. They will only sell small-sized French fries for a week from Friday to avoid shortages asthe procurement was proving difficult.

F1, Schumi jr will be Ferrari reserve driver next season

German Mick Schumacher, son of Michael, will be one of Ferrari’s reserve drivers in the 2022 Formula 1 season. Mattia Binotto, principal of the Maranello team, told an online news conference Shumi was “already a Ferrari driver: he is part of our Driver Academy which exists to identify future Ferrari drivers. If you are part of it and you are successful, you will surely have opportunities”.

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