Oil prices near seven-year high
Al Jazeera reports oil is headed for a sixth straight weekly gain, with prices trading near a seven-year high as crude makes a roaring start to 2022 as robust demand tightened global markets. As supply remains constrained, a chorus of Wall Street banks and oil executives are forecasting a return to $100 oil. Attention will shift next week to OPEC and its allies as they meet Wednesday to assess the market and decide on supplies for March. There’s concern OPEC members have been unable to deliver the promised volumes in full.
US troops in Eastern Europe ‘shortly’
The United States will send troops to Eastern Europe in NATO countries in the short term, US President Joe Biden told reporters in answer to a question about Ukraine. Biden’s comments came hours after the top US military general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, warned a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “horrific” for the country and would result in “significant” casualties as he urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to choose a diplomatic path instead. The top leaders at the Pentagon said Friday that they do not believe Putin has made a decision to attack Ukraine but has amassed the capabilities to give him plenty of options. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said US troops “are on high alert, ready to reassure our NATO allies and support NATO itself or both”.
Ukraine: Zelensky urges the West not to panic
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the West not to unleash “panic” in the crisis with Russia. Zelensky’s speech comes after the phone call with US President Joe Biden, with the latter mentioning “the concrete possibility that the Russians will invade Ukraine in February”. In a conference with foreign media, Zelensky said “the greatest risk for Ukraine is internal destabilisation” rather than the threat of a Russian invasion. The priority, he stressed, is “to stabilise our economy”. He rebuked international media and “even respected heads of state”, who give the impression “that there is already a war” throughout the country, “that there are troops advancing in the streets. But this is not the case.”
Quirinale, Centrists and Forza Italia back Casini
Following a 90-minute meeting which ended around 2 am this morning, the centre-right and Forza Italia have agreed to support Pier Ferdinando Casini in the seventh ballot today for the election of the new Italian president. Observers said the meeting, after disagreement between Forza Italia and the rest of the centre-right, sanctions the creation of a new group of voters. Yesterday’s first ballot ended with the centre-right candidate, Senate President Elisabetta Casellati, garnering 382 votes, 71 votes less than the 453 needed to be elected. In the sixth ballot, the centre-right abstained with incumbent Sergio Mattarella getting 336 votes. Pier Ferdinando Casini, who was President of the Chamber of Deputies from 2001 to 2006, is currently Honorary President of the Centrist Democrat International and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Vatican reports €33.4m deficit
The Holy See has recorded a deficit of €33.4 million in 2021, a significant drop from the forecast €42 million last year. Presenting the 2022 Budget, the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, noted that they had revenues of €769.6 million and an expenditure of €803 million. He said the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic still weigh on the items in the Budget.
Six months’ jail for groping stewardess
A Florida court has jailed a man for six months for groping a flight attendant last August. Enio Socorro Zayas was travelling on an American Airlines flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Miami. The stewardess, thinking he was asleep, approached to leave him a snack. When she turned she felt “his hand grabbing her thigh and moving from bottom to top”. A passenger confirmed the harassment story, and Zayas pleaded guilty last October. Last year was the worst for harrassment behaviour, with some 6,000 cases reported.
Tennis: Nadal to face Medvedev in Melbourne final
Rafael Nadal moved one win away from a record 21st Grand Slam men’s title after a dominant start enabled him to beat Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open semi-finals. Seventh seed Berrettini eventually turned the match into a contest, but Nadal completed a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win. The 35-year-old Spaniard is level on 20 major titles with long-time rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Nadal plays Daniil Medvedev, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, in Sunday’s final.
Home favourite Ashleigh Barty faces Danielle Collins in final
Meanwhile, in the women’s singles to be played today, Ashleigh Barty will bid to become the first home Australian Open singles champion for 44 years when she takes on American Danielle Collins in Saturday’s final. World number one Barty has been in ominous form, having not dropped a set on her way to the final. Collins is competing in her first Grand Slam final less than a year after having surgery for endometriosis.