Support for Ukraine in US-European summit
US President Joe Biden and the heads of government of Germany, France, Italy and the UK haveexpressed their “determination” to ensure that the sovereignty of Ukraine “is respected”, in light of the “tensions between Russia and Ukraine”. A news release by the French presidency says that during the virtual summit, the heads of government also assured “their commitment to act to maintain peace and security in Europe”. The summit consultation between the US and the Europeans took place on the eve of a video-conference summit scheduled later today between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden to warn Putin against invading Ukraine
A senior US official says President Biden will warn the Russian leader of “severe economic consequences” if he decides to invade Ukraine. The official said Biden would stress that such action would result in “genuine, meaningful and enduring costs”. Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine amid fears of an invasion early next year.
China decries US Olympic boycott
China has reacted angrily to the US government’s diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics, as more countries said they would consider joining the protest over Beijing’s human rights record. New Zealand announced it would not send representatives to the Games and the UK, Canada, and Australia have said they were considering their positions. Former Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said the Olympics were “not a stage for political posturing and manipulation” adding “It is a grave travesty of the spirit of the Olympic Charter, a blatant political provocation and a serious affront to the 1.4 billion Chinese people.” The multi-sport event is scheduled from February 4 to 20.
New York’s workers must all take the jab
All New Yorkers will need to be vaccinated if they want to go to work, the city’s mayor Bill de Blasio told MSNBC. Public sector employees already have to be inoculated, but the mandate will now be extended to all private sector employees, affecting around 184,000 businesses.
France closes night clubs
Night clubs in France will be ordered to close for four weeks starting this weekend to counter surging COVID-19 cases that have seen hospital beds fill up. Prime Minister Jean Castex, who himself just emerged from quarantine after contracting the virus, said stricter social distancing and extended use of face masks would also be required in schools as France faces a fifth wave of virus cases.
US diplomat appointed as UN’s Libya advisor
American diplomat Stephanie Williams was appointed as the UN Secretary-General’s special advisor on Libya, after the sudden resignation of the current envoy Jan Kubis – a month ahead of a critical presidential election. An Arabic-speaker, Williams served in 2020 as acting director of the UN’s Geneva-based Libya mission, after serving as deputy director from 2018-2020. In her new role, she will reside in Tripoli.
Scholz presents SPD Cabinet with women in key posts
Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has presented the Social Democratic ministers of the future government of the “traffic light coalition” in Berlin with two women occupying key posts: Minister of Defence will be Christine Lambrecht, former Minister of Justice and later of the Family, while Minister of the Interior will be Nancy Faeser. Now that the three parties have approved the coalition agreement, the political grouping will be sworn in tomorrow and the era of Angela Merkel will officially give way to a new age under Scholz. The “traffic light coalition” is named after the colours of the parties involved: the Social Democrats (red) who champion fair society, the Free Democrats (yellow) who champion business and industry, and the Greens.
US boss fires 900 employees over Zoom
The boss of a US firm has been criticised after he fired around 900 of his staff on a single Zoom call. “If you’re on this call you’re part of the unlucky group being laid off,” said Vishal Garg, chief executive of mortgage firm Better.com. Comments on social media said it was “cold”, “harsh” and “a horrible move”, especially in the run up to Christmas. Mr Garg said staff performance and productivity, and market changes lay behind the mass-firing of what he said was 15% of Better.com’s workforce.
Brazil football club gives fans free tattoos
Fresh off winning the Brazilian league title for the first time in 50 years, Brazilian football club Atletico Mineiro gave its fans free tattoos to celebrate. Hundreds of fans lined up in the rain in the club’s hometown, the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte, to get one of four designs immortalised on the body part of their choice. Organisers brought in some 30 tattoo artists to put ink to skin at the MRV Arena, the champions’ under-construction new home, offering a select menu of options: a picture of the trophy; a rooster, the club’s mascot; the words “The Rooster Won”; or a drawing of the arena. Organisers asked fans to donate a kilogram of food to charity in exchange for the tattoos.
Tennis: Djokovic in Serbia team for the Australian ATP
The world number one in tennis Novak Djokovic has been called to join the Serbian team at the ATP Cup in Sydney in January, despite doubts raised in recent weeks that the player did not ever want to disclose his vaccination status. The 20-time Grand Slam champion had questioned his trip to defend the Australian Open title in January. However, he is on the list of five players drawn in Sydney for an event leading up to the opening of the Grand Slam.