COVID: EU fragmentation ‘increases uncertainty’
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides has warned that fragmentation and discrepant messages between EU member states increase uncertainty, weaken confidence in vaccination and reduce the sense of acceptance of public health measures and recommendations made to citizens. She was speaking at the extraordinary meeting of EU health ministers convened by the French presidency to take stock of coordination between EU countries in anti-COVID measures. She said the EU’s constant coordination over the past two years had been “one of the foundations of the success of our response to the pandemic”. She stressed that it was important for discussions between EU health ministers for a common response to COVID.
UN condemns Saudi-led air strike on Yemen prison
The UN has condemned a Friday airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition on a Yemen detention centre that has killed more than 70 inmates. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the “escalation needs to stop” and called for an investigation into strikes in the country. Saudi-led coalition forces have been fighting Houthi rebels since 2015. Tens of thousands of civilians, including more than 10,000 children, have been killed or wounded as a direct result of the fighting. Millions have been displaced and much of the population stands on the brink of famine.
‘Stop Yemen escalation’ – Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for a halt to the escalation of the conflict in Yemen after the latest attacks by the Saudi-led coalition that have caused “more than 100 victims in recent days”. He said in a statement, “The United States calls on all parties to the conflict to reduce the escalation, to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and to participate fully in an inclusive, UN-led peace process.”
US, Russia in ‘frank’ talks over Ukraine
Russia’s foreign minister and his US counterpart held what they called “frank” talks to try to reduce the chance of a wider conflict in Ukraine. Sergei Lavrov repeated denials that a huge Russian force assembled near Ukraine’s borders would be used to invade Ukraine. Antony Blinken said America would respond severely to any invasion. Washington is expected to put its position in writing next week, and then further discussions will be held.
360 million Christians suffering persecution
According to data released by the Italian associaton ‘Porte Aperte’, more than 360 million Christians, or one in seven, are suffering persecution throughout the world. Christians killed for faith-related reasons grew by over 23% to 5,898 (over 1,000 more than the previous year), with Nigeria, as always, the epicentre of massacres (4,650). The 10 countries where persecution against Christians is the worst are Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, India.
Suu Kyi party deputy sentenced to death
A deputy from the dissolved party of Aung San Suu Kyi has ben sentenced to death by the military junta in Myanmar on charges of “terrorism”. The junta named the man as Phyo Zeyar Thaw, a member of the National League for Democracy. He was arrested last November.
Stars pay tribute to Meat Loaf
Stars including Cher, Brian May and Bonnie Tyler have paid tribute to rock singer Meat Loaf, who has died aged 74. His death was announced on his official Facebook page on Friday afternoon, with a post saying he died with his wife Deborah Gillespie by his side. The post did not disclose his cause of death, but he had numerous health scares over the years. Meat Loaf’s best-known album, the bombastic ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, remains one of the best-selling releases of all time. The star sold 100 million albums worldwide in total and also appeared in movies like ‘Fight Club’, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and ‘Wayne’s World’. He was also known for hits like ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ and ‘Dead Ringer For Love’.
Hugh Hefner was a ‘vampire’
Founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine, Hugh Hefner, was a “vampire”, masquerading as a champion of sexual freedom but who “manipulated and drugged women by forcing them to participate in degrading orgies and thinking they were his property”. These are just some of the shocking revelations of a 10-part docuseries, to premiere in the US on January 24, which reveals the dark behind-the-scenes drugs, sexual abuse and bestiality, of the Playbloy Mansion, the villa of the owner of the well-known magazine, who died in 2017 at the age of 91. Hefner was only 27 when he launched the first edition of Playboy magazine in 1953 with Marilyn Monroe on the cover – an issue that sold more than 50,000 copies, spawning an empire that spanned decades.