Ukraine: US, Russia agree to talk
The BBC quotes US officials saying talks could take place next month on Russia’s troop build-up near Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin announced he was hopeful of a meeting in Geneva. The Russian leader has demanded immediate guarantees on the future of NATO to defuse the crisis. “The ball is in their court, they have to give us some response,” Mr Putin said at his annual Moscow newsconference. He has threatened military measures but denies planning to invade Ukraine, whosesecurity officials say more than 100,000 Russian troops have been sent close to their borders. The US has threatened Putin with sanctions “like none he’s ever seen” if Ukraine comes under attack.
Omicron: USA risk 140 million new COVID cases
The United States could record 140 million new cases of COVID between January and March due to Omicron, with a peak of 2.8 million daily infections at the end of January. A study by the University of Washington predicts about three billion new cases in the world in the next two months, with a peak in mid-January of 35 million cases a day.
Trump defends anti-COVID vaccines
Former US president Donald Trump has defended the anti-COVID vaccines saying they work and that “those who get seriously ill and end up in hospital are the unvaccinated”. In an interview with conservative journalist Candance Owens, who tried to belittle the effectiveness of vaccines, Trump said that “people don’t die when they get vaccinated” against COVID-19. Trump – booed in recent days for saying he had the third dose – then takes credit for the speed with which the vaccines were created: “Three in less than nine months, when it would have taken 12 years.”
Vaccines obligatory in Ecuador
Ecuador became the first country to make coronavirus vaccines obligatory for children as young as five, following the arrival of the Omicron variant in the South American country. Vaccination is mandatory for adults in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Micronesia and New Caledonia.
55 positives on Florida cruise ship
Fifty-five COVID-positive people have been registerd on board a Royal Carribean cruise ship thatdeparted Saturday from Florida. The infected on the ‘Odyssey of the Seas’ are among the passengers and crew, even if 95% of those on board are fully vaccinated. The Caribbean islands of Curaçao and Aruba in the Netherlands Antilles have banned docking. The ship will remain at sea until its return to Florida on Sunday.
Italy to enforce masks as Omicron rages
Italy has re-introduced mandatory masks with a higher grade version required for cinemas, theatres or on public transport in an effort to combat coronavirus infections fired globally by the Omicron variant.To the north, France and the United Kingdom on Thursday announced all-time records of COVID-19 daily infections – 90,000 and 119,000 respectively. British experts said the risk of hospitalisation was as much as 70% lower among people infected with Omicron compared to the previously dominant Delta strain. German national carrier Lufthansa said Omicron forced it to axe 33,000 flights following a drop in bookings.
Italian families face €426 energy bill increase
Higher household energy bills in 2022 would mean an increased annual cost of €426 for every Italian family, an analysis by Confcommercio shows. Families will spend an average of €1,950 or 4% more than this year, as increases in electricity and gas bills soar by some 40%. The Italian confederation called on the government to take measures against expensive energy costs.
Coldplay to stop producing new music
Chris Martin, singer and frontman of the British band ‘Coldplay’ has told BBC Radio that his group intends to stop producing new music after the latest album scheduled for 2025. From then on they would focus mostly on tours. The band was formed in London in 1997 and has sold tens of millions of records all over the world and received some of the most important awards in the music field.
Beijing 2022: Japan joins the diplomatic boycott
Japan will not send ministerial officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, joining the US, the UK, Australia and Canada to denounce human rights abuses in China. Beijing has warned the four Western countries that they would pay “the price” for their decision. The International Olympic Committee has meanwhile invoked its “neutrality” on the issue, refusing to comment on “purely political decisions” and above all hailing the absence of a sports boycott. According to human rights organisations, at least one million Uighurs and other Turkish-speaking minorities, mostly Muslims, are detained in Xinjiang camps. China is accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour – accusations the Chinese deny.
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