Curtain up on Beijing 2022 this afternoon
After a troubled and controversial build-up, the 2022 Winter Olympics are about to get under way in Beijing this afternoon. Almost 3,000 athletes from 91 nations will compete to get their hands on one of 109 gold medals on offer across seven sports. Although live sport started on Wednesday with mixed doubles curling, the opening ceremony takes place this afternoon (12.55 pm Malta time, live on Rai2), marking the official start of the 24th Winter Games. Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised, “China is ready. We will do our best to deliver to the world a streamlined, safe and splendid Games.”
Malta to compete in snowboarding
Maltese Jenise Spiteri will be competing in snowboarding, in the half pipe category. She is accompanied by her coach, Brett Easier, and the ‘Chief De Mission’ and the Director of Sport of the Maltese Olympic Committee, Charlene Attard. Spiteri will compete for Malta in the qualifying round, on Wednesday February 9 and, if she qualifies, will compete the next day in the final.
Increased energy bills’ sting for UK families
A new energy price cap coming into effect in April will see British customers paying almost £700 more per year to light and heat their homes. Energy regulator Ofgem has confirmed the price cap will rise by 54% from April 1, affecting around 22 million people. Anyone paying default tariffs by direct debit will see an increase of £693 from £1,277 to £1,971 per year, while prepayment customers will see an increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017. Following the announcement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government will “step in” to help households directly manage the “incredibly tough” energy costs. Charity Age UK said the chancellor’s package “does not go far enough” and that older people on low and modest incomes will be “badly shaken” by the increase.
Oil price back to 2014 levels
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil has exceeded $90 dollars a barrel for the first time since 2014, with an increase of 2.2% to 90.2 dollars. The prices of Brent, the North Sea oil, also increased, rising by 1.49% to 90.97 dollars a barrel. The increases are the result of the harsh winter conditions in the US and the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and Europe.
‘Russian plot to fake invasion pretext’ – USA
The United States have made public details of what it says is “a Russiann plan to fabricate a pretext to invade Ukraine. The alleged plot involves a fake video showing an attack by the ukrainian military either on Russian terriroty or against Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has denied the allegation.
Head of ISIS in Syria ‘blows himself up’ during US blitz
The head of Isis in Syria, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi Al Qurayshi, died during a US military operation in northern Syria. The news was given by President Biden, explaining that Al Qurayshi blew himself up with a bomb, which also killed his wife and two children. Speaking to the nation from the White House, Biden described Al Qurayshi’s action as a “desperate act of cowardice”. The US president, who together with Vice President Kamala Harris and collaborators of the national security team watched the attack live from the White House, said the raid was a strong message to terrorists around the world: “We will chase and find you and we will pick you up anywhere.”
COVID: is the end in sight?
The situation of COVID in Europe is in a sort of “truce” which could lead to the end of the pandemic. WHO Europe says “Europe could soon enter a long period of tranquility thanks to high vaccination rates, the milder Omicron variant and the end of winter”. The WHO hypothesis is also supported by “the fact that intensive care has not increased significantly and the number of deaths has stabilised”. However, WHO warned, “Not to say that it is all over now!”
More than 500K COVID deaths in India
The threshold of 500,000 dead, caused by the coronavirus, has been exceeded in India, making it the third nation in the world to cross this threshold. Only the United States and Brazil, reports the Times of India, record a higher number of deaths – almost 900,000 and just over 630,000 rerspectively – while Russia follows in fourth place with almost 330,000.
Four senior Johnson aides resign
Four senior aides to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have resigned within hours of each other ammassing growing pressure on the prime minister. Director of communications Jack Doyle confirmed his exit shortly after the departure of policy head Munira Mirza. They were followed by the chief of staff Dan Rosenfield and senior civil servant Martin Reynolds. Johnson is facing questions over his leadership from within his party and calls for his resignation.
Mattarella takes oath of office
Sergio Mattarella has taken the oath of office to serve a second seven-year term as President of Italy. In a speech in the Italian Parliament, Mattarella said one of his goals is to re-enforce Italy’s role within the European Union. He said the fight against COVID-19 was not yet over and noted many families and businesses were in trouble due to rising energy prices. He praised front-liners who worked hard in the pandemic, as well as Pope Francis, who, he said had great respect for him and the communities of foreigners living in Italy. He said dignity demands that the country eradicates violence against women and also the mafia that described them as a plague. His speech drew 55 applause breaks and a final standing ovation lasting over five minutes.
Egypt qualify for Africa Cup final
Eygpt has qualified for the final of football’s Africa Cup of Nations, beating tournament hosts, Cameroon, on penalties after their semi-final ended goaless. Egypt will now face Senegal in Sunday’s final while Cameroon take on Burkina Faso tomorrow in the third/fourth-place play-off.