Baldwin tragedy: poor security on set lead to workers’ protests
Standard safety protocols, including gun checks, were not fully respected on the set of ‘Rust’ and in the days leading up to the accident in which Halyna Hutchins lost her life, at least one operator had complained to a production manager about gun safety on set. American media quoted sources, according to which last Saturday the stunt double of Alec Baldwin had accidentally fired two shots after being told that the gun had no ammunition, not even blanks. There were real bullets in the gun that killed Hutchins. The prop weapon had been given to Baldwin by an assistant, who had told him it was safe to use. None of them knew there was real ammunition in the gun. A few hours before the tragic accident, a dozen operators and technicians had left the set of ‘Rust’ to protest against the working conditions. The Los Angeles Times reports operators were frustrated by long hours of work, excessive travel times and lack of payments. Meanwhile, Baldwin has said he was in shock over his accidental fatal shooting of Hutchins and was “fully cooperating” with authorities to determine how the incident occurred”. Baldwin, 63, said there were “no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna – a wife, a mother and a deeply admired colleague of ours”. Production on the movie has been temporarily shut down. The investigation remains open.
No breakthrough by EU leaders on energy, Polish row
After a two-day summit in Brussels, EU leaders have opted for moderation to tackle two of the bloc’s most pressing crises: the ongoing energy crunch and the Polish challenge to EU law primacy.Euronews reports that on the energy crunch, which has sent electricity bills soaring in recent weeks, EU leaders endorsed the middle-ground approach unveiled last week by the European Commission, which includes measures such as direct income support for vulnerable households, state aid for struggling companies and reductions in taxes and special levies. The issue will be further discussed during an extraordinary meeting of energy ministers next week and will be revisited by EU leaders in the next summit, scheduled for mid-December. The Commission has also spoken out against EU border walls, despite calls by some EU leaders to enforce migration controls amid a surge of migrants and refugees trying to cross the Belarusian border into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Merkel, Lofven given EU leaders’ standing ovation
Meanwhile, Angela Merkel and the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven were given a standing ovation from EU leaders at the end of a brief informal ceremony. President of the European Council Charles Michel compared Chancellor Merkel to a “monument” which had three characteristics: “scientific, intellectual curiosity and simplicity”.
Campaigners stage climate protests across continents
Environmental campaigners staged protests on several continents Friday to press their demands for more government action to curb global warming ahead of the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow. Protesters rallied in Uganda, Bangladesh, India and Germany to call for measures that prevent dangerous levels of warming and take account of the plight of the world’s poorest, who are particularly hard-hit by climate change.
US Supreme Court to review Texas abortion law
The US Supreme Court will allow Texas to maintain a near-total ban on abortions, but will take up the case next month in a rare sped-up process. The Court said it would focus on how the law, which gives any person the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past six-weeks, was drafted and whether it could be legally challenged. It is considered extraordinarily rare for the top US court to expedite cases.
Luxembourg legalises growing of cannabis in EU first
Luxembourg will be the first in the European Union to legalise growing cannabis. Under a new law, residents aged 18 and over will be allowed to grow up to four plants for personal use and carry three grams on their person in public. Luxembourg joins Canada, Uruguay, and 11 of the 50 US states in legalising the cultivation and distribution of cannabis. Malta is in the throes of following suit with a Bill under which cannabis users would be able to grow plants at home or buy the substance from specially-set up associations, but smoking a joint in public will remain illegal.
Church loses followers in Europe, gains in Africa, the Americas
The Catholic Church continues to lose followers in Europe, but numbers are booming in Africa and the Americas. According to figures released by the Vatican’s Fides agency, at the end of 2019, there were 1.34 billion Catholics worldwide, representing 17.74% of the global population. This is an increase of 15.4 million on the previous year and an increase from 1.18 billion a decade before. The number of followers in Europe fell by 292,000 over the course of 2019, to 285.6 million. Fides recorded another 8.3 million Catholics in Africa to a total of 251.6 million. Another 5.4 million were recorded in the Americas with a total of 647.2 million and 149 million in Asia and 10.9 million in Oceania. There were 414,336 Catholic priests in 2019 – up 271 from the previous year – but numbers in Europe fell by 2,608 to 168,328 and by 690 to 121,693 in the Americas. They rose by 1,649 to 49,461 in Africa and by 1,989 to 70,254 in Asia. The number of seminarians fell by 1,822 between 2018 and 2019, to 114,058. Only Africa recorded an increase, of 509 over the year.