‘Flu season could be severe for elderly’
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said early indicators in Europe suggest the upcoming flu season could be a severe one for the elderly. The main reported type of flu virus circulating is one that disproportionately affects vulnerable people and the agency warned vaccines are often less effective against it. Many European governments are beginning vaccine campaigns to encourage vulnerable people to receive the flu jab.
EU countries dismiss calls for intervention in energy crisis
Faced with an energy crisis that is sending bills soaring and fuelling social discontent, EU countries have once again taken a precautionary approach to respect the current market rules and avoid any long-term damage, dealing a heavy blow to far-reaching reforms. Gathering in Luxembourg for an extraordinary meeting, transport and energy ministers from the 27 member states sidelined reforming calls from southern EU countries and instead opted for temporary and targeted measures to help vulnerable households and struggling companies make it through the crisis, expected to last until April. This approach, based on remedies like direct income support, state aid and tax reductions, builds upon a toolbox released two weeks ago by the European Commission. Over 20 member states have already announced their intention to introduce some or all of these measures.
Climate: ‘We are on track for catastrophe’ warns Guterres
Less than a week away from COP26 in Glasgow, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that “we are still on track for climate catastrophe”. Presenting the 2021 UN Enviroment Programme report on emissions, he said that even with current nationally-determined contributions and other commitments from countries around the world, “we are effectively on track for a catastrophic global temperature rise of around 2.7 degrees Celsius”. Observers described the report as a “thundering wake-up call” from the UN which has reported that the world is squandering the opportunity to “build back better” from the COVID pandemic and faces “disastrous temperature rises” if countries fail to strengthen their climate pledges. Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace announced 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth will not attend the conference in Glasgow, after “advice to rest”. The Palace said she would deliver a recorded message to delegates. And Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Valdimir Putin will remotely connect to the G20 in Rome.
Pentagon alarm, possible Isis-K attacks in six months
ISIS-K in Afghanistan may be able to attack international targets, even against America, within six months. This is the alarm raised by US Deputy Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl, who told a hearing before the Senate Armed Forces Commission how at the moment it was difficult to determine to what extent the Taliban were capable of fighting the jihadists of the Islamic State. “The intelligence community considers that both Isis-K and al Qaeda have the intention of conducting external operations, including against the United States, but does not currently have the capacity. But Isis-K could reach that capacity anytime in six to 12 months, while al Qaeda in one to two years.”
UK’s ‘new age’ budget
Most of the front pages of London’s national Press make mention of the Budget. The Times reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to use up to £30 billion from the proceeds of economic growth to invest in services and reduce borrowing when he unveils his Budget later today. It says that the “sharp rebound” from last winter’s COVID lockdown has led to the economy growing at a faster than expected rate, giving the chancellor between £20bn and £30bn to spend. The Metro describes it as “Rishi’s new age budget”. It adds that while Sunak is attempting to portray a bright outlook, there are fears the UK faces “a gloomy winter of shortages, soaring energy bills, price rises and growing inflation”.
Brazil senators back criminal charges against Bolsonaro
A Brazilian Senate committee has voted to recommend that President Jair Bolsonaro face charges over his handling of the COVID pandemic. Seven of the panel’s 11 members backed a report calling for nine charges to be filed against Bolsonaro, including crimes against humanity. The committee chair, Senator Omar Aziz, will today send the findings to Brazil’s prosecutor-general. Bolsonaro has maintained he is “guilty of absolutely nothing”. More than 600,000 people in Brazil are confirmed to have died from COVID. The report accuses the president of misusing public funds and peddling fake news.