UK confirms planned National Insurance hike
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have doubled down on a controversial planned tax hike to boost health funding, after it was reported that Johnson was “wobbling” on the policy. The PM is under pressure from some Conservative MPs to scrap, or at least delay, the national insurance increase to win back support as he awaits the findings of Whitehall and police inquiries into claims of lockdown-busting parties held in Downing Street. But both have now made a firm commitment to go ahead with the 1.25% point increase, designed to tackle the COVID-induced NHS backlog and reform social care. Writing in The Sunday Times, the pair insisted they are both “tax-cutting Conservatives”, but there is “no magic money tree”.
Mattarella re-elected president with 759 votes
Italian President Sergio Mattarella was re-elected to office on the eighth ballot with 759 votes out of a total of 983 present and voting. He has agreed to serve a second term after coalition parties failed to agree on a compromise candidate for the office. The 80-year-old emerged as the most popular choice after six days of often tense voting in Rome, despite having expressed a desire to leave office. Local media reports Prime Minister Mario Draghi had convinced him to stay for the “stability” of Italy. At the end of the meeting with the Presidents of the Senate and of the Chamber, who oficially communicated the outcome of the conclusive vote, President Mattarella declared, “The sense of responsibility requires me not to shirk and prevails over my ideas and also over my private life.”
UK offers NATO a huge deployment of troops in Europe’
The UK is ready to offer NATO a “huge” deployment of troops, weapons, warships and jets in Europe. The Ukraine crisis leads the front page of the Sunday Express, which reports Boris Johnson has ordered a “major military build-up” in eastern Europe to send a “clear message” to Vladimir Putin that the UK and its allies will not tolerate Russian threats. Ahead of a meeting with the Russian president this week, Johnson confirmed a “significant deployment” of troops, gunships, missile systems and vessels would be sent to Estonia and Poland, the paper claims.
Trump: “With Biden there is a risk of a third world war”
Former US President Donald Trump has said President Biden’s “incompetence” was “making us risk a third world war”. Speaking in Conroe, Texas, Trump said the US was “angry” and wants to be respected again. “What Putin and Russia are doing with Ukraine would never have happened with me as president. Under my gaze America was respected, perhaps more respected than ever,” Trump told jubilant fans. And re recommended, “instead of sending troops” to Europe for Ukraine, Biden should send them to the Mexican border and stop immigration, where last year alone, five million people crossed the border “illegally”.
Russia sees 100,000 COVID-19 cases in a day
Russia reported more than 100,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time on Saturday as the country weathers a surge of infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. A government portal registered 113,122 new cases over 24 hours, nearly double the number of daily infections just a week ago. According to the Rosstat statistical agency, in 2021 more than 660,000 Russians have died from the coronavirus.
Portugal grapples with in-person voting for people with COVID-19
Portuguese election organisers are taking extra safety precautions after the government decided to allow voters infected with the coronavirus to leave isolation and cast ballots in person along with everyone else. With around a tenth of Portugal’s 10 million-strong population now thought to be isolating due to COVID-19, the government decided last week to lift restrictions for today’s vote. The electoral commission said “all conditions have been met for the vote to take place in absolute safety”.
51 death sentences for UN experts’ murder in DR Congo
A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo handed down death sentences Saturday to 51 militia members for their roles in the 2017 murders of two UN experts in the restive central region. American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean Zaida Catalan disappeared while investigating violence in the Kasai region after they were hired by the UN. The defendants were charged with multiple counts including terrorism, murder, participation in an insurrectional movement and the act of a war crime through mutilation.
Tennis: Ashleigh Barty wins first Melbourne title
Ashleigh Barty beat Danielle Collins to win the Australian Open title, ending the home nation’s 44-year wait for a Grand Slam women’s singles champion. The 25-year-old Queenslander has won the title without dropping a set in Melbourne this fortnight. Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis clinched a maiden Grand Slam title as they beat fellow Australians Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell in the men’s doubles final. It was the first all-Australian men’s doubles final in Melbourne since 1980. The men’s final will be played today when Rafael Nadal faces Daniil Medvedev. The 35-year-old Spaniard is level on 20 major titles with long-time rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.