Tight Restrictions Across Italy for New Year’s Celebrations

Muted New Year’s Eve celebrations were expected in Italy, where tight restrictions are in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. The government has deployed thousands of police officers to ensure that rules are adhered to and that Italians do not hold large gatherings to celebrate the start of 2021. Adding to an abnormal end to the year is the Vatican’s announcement that Pope Francis will not preside over New Year’s Eve and Day services due to a painful back condition.Italians have grown used to the tight restrictions that come into place when the country is categorized a red zone. A person sits next to the Barcaccia fountain with Spanish steps in the background, as Italy goes back to lockdown as part of efforts put in place to curb the spread …

British PM Johnson’s Father Applying for French Citizenship  

The father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday he was in the process of applying for a French passport to maintain his ties with the European Union after Brexit.    Stanley Johnson, a former member of the European Parliament who voted Remain in Britain’s 2016 referendum, told RTL radio he wanted to become a French citizen because of strong family links to France.    “If I understand it correctly, I am French. My mother was born in France, her mother was totally French as was her grandfather. So for me it is about reclaiming what I already have. And that makes me very happy,” said the 80-year-old Johnson, who was speaking in French.    “I will always be a European, that’s for sure. One cannot tell the British …

Pope Will Not Lead New Year Services Because of Flare Up of Leg Pain

Pope Francis will not lead New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day services because of a flare up of his sciatica condition, which produces pain in his right leg, the Vatican said Thursday.  It was the first time in years that Francis, who turned 84 this month, has had to skip a papal event for health reasons. A year-end vespers service the pope was to lead Thursday afternoon will be led by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and the Friday Mass will be said by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.     The Vatican said the pope would lead his noon prayer Friday as scheduled.     The pope suffers from sciatica, a condition that causes pain that radiates from the lower back along the sciatic nerve to the …

US Accuses Ukrainians of Using Misappropriated Funds for Ohio Real Estate

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday accused Ukrainian tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky and another Ukrainian businessman of using misappropriated funds to buy real estate in Ohio, following earlier similar U.S. allegations involving property in Kentucky and Texas.Kolomoisky, one of the most prominent tycoons in Ukraine and regarded as a key political backer of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, had denied the previous allegations. Bruce Marks, a U.S. lawyer who represents Kolomoisky, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest complaint.Representatives for the other businessman, Gennadiy Boholiubov, could not be immediately reached for comment. He has not previously commented on the matter.In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged the two men had used misappropriated funds from Ukraine-based PrivatBank to buy commercial real estate in Ohio and that the U.S. …

Vladimir Putin: President for Life?

For Russians, the past year saw a national vote to approve changes to their constitution … including an amendment granting longtime leader Vladimir Putin the right to remain president through the year 2036. And as Charles Maynes reports from Moscow, the question now is … will he?Camera: Ricardo Marquina Montanana   Producer: Henry Hernandez     …

British Lawmakers Approve Trade Deal with EU

Britain’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a trade deal with the European Union, the last major step in London’s yearslong split from the continent’s 27-member governing body. With a day to spare, lawmakers voted 521-73 in favor of the Brexit deal that Britain reached with the EU last week. It will become British law after passing through the unelected House of Lords and gets a formal royal assent from Queen Elizabeth. Britain left the EU almost a year ago, but its economic split will be finalized Thursday at midnight in Brussels. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and European Council President Charles Michel show signed EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreements at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 30, 2020.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European …

Putin Signs Amendments to ‘Foreign Agents’ Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law legislation that human rights watchdogs and opposition politicians have said will undermine democratic processes.The legislation, which came into force on December 30, included a series of amendments to the controversial law on “foreign agents” to allow individuals and public entities to be recognized as “foreign agents” if they are considered to be engaged in political activities “in the interests of a foreign state.”Entities that have received the label will be required to report their activities and face financial audits.Putin Signs Amendments Allowing Large Fines for ‘Foreign Agents’ Law ViolationsCritics say law is used to muzzle dissent, discourage the free exchange of ideas and a free pressPutin signed a separate bill imposing penalties of up to five years in prison to those identified …

Britain Drug Regulatory Agency Approves Second COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use

The year 2020 is ending with good news about two more potential vaccines that could slowly bring an end to the global COVID-19 pandemic that has killed nearly 1.8 million people out of a total of nearly 82 million infections.   Britain’s medical regulatory agency announced Wednesday that it has granted emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine developed jointly by British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Late-stage clinical trials of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine revealed it to be 70% effective against COVID-19. The vaccine had a 62% efficacy rate for participants given a full two doses, but tests of a smaller sub-group revealed it to be 90% effective when given a half-dose followed by a full dose weeks later.   The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is the second to be approved by Britain for its …

Earthquake in Croatia Kills 5

Five people, including a 12-year-old girl, died after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake swept through central Croatia Tuesday, destroying several buildings, injuring at least 20 people and causing tremors in neighboring countries, according to officials.   The epicenter of the quake, Petrinja, a town of about 25,000 people, sustained the worst damage. On Monday it was hit by a 5.2 quake. Tuesday’s quake saw people run out onto rubble-covered streets for safety.   “The biggest part of central Petrinja is in a red zone, which means that most of the buildings are not usable,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said when he and other government ministers arrived in Petrinja after the earthquake.   State television reports four people were killed In Glina. The prime minister confirmed the fifth casualty was a young …

Vietnam, Britain Sign Free Trade Deal, to Take Effect Dec. 31

Britain and Vietnam signed a free trade agreement on Tuesday, Vietnam’s trade ministry said, days before Britain completes its transition out of the European Union.The deal, which will for Britain replace the existing EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), will take effect on Dec. 31, the ministry said in a statement.Trade between Vietnam and Britain has risen by an average of 12% a year over the past decade to reach $6.6 billion last year, and the deal will help boost Vietnam’s exports of garments, footwear products, rice, seafood and wooden furniture, it said.Since leaving the EU in January, Britain has been striking out alone and negotiating new trade deals with countries to replace those the bloc had negotiated.Tuesday’s deal will ensure Britain does not lose access to preferential tariffs in one …

‘Many Injured’ as Strong Earthquake Strikes Croatia

An earthquake of magnitude 6.4 struck a town in Croatia on Tuesday, with the emergency services saying many people had been injured and video footage showing people being rescued from rubble near the epicenter.The GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences said the quake hit at a depth of 10 km (6 miles).The N1 news channel reported that the epicenter was in the town of Petrinja, 50 km from Croatia’s capital Zagreb.N1 quoted a Petrinja town official as saying that a 12-year old child in Petrinja had been killed, but gave no details.It showed footage of rescuers there pulling out a man and a child from the debris. Both were alive.Other footage showed a house with a roof caved in. The reporter said she did not know if anyone was inside.Tomislav …

French Fashion Designer Pierre Cardin Dies at 98 

French couturier Pierre Cardin, who made his name by selling designer clothes to the masses, and his fortune by being the first to exploit that name as a brand for selling everything from cars to perfume, died on Tuesday aged 98. In a career spanning more than 60 years, Cardin drew scorn and admiration from fellow fashion designers for his brash business sense, and influenced catwalks with his space-age, futuristic bubble dresses and geometrical cuts and patterns. Cardin, who was a mentor to designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, was active in fashion circles until the last, still taking young designers under his wing, attending parties and events and regularly visiting his Paris office by Jaguar. FILE – French fashion designer Pierre Cardin poses in front of his 1954-1956-1957 fashion creations in his …

Study: Britain Must Vaccinate 2 Million a Week to Prevent Third COVID-19 Wave

Britain must vaccinate 2 million people a week to avoid a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak, a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has concluded. Britain has had more than 71,000 deaths from the coronavirus and has recorded more than 2.3 million cases of COVID-19 infections as of late Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data. “The most stringent intervention scenario, with tier 4 [restrictions] England-wide and schools closed during January and 2 million individuals vaccinated per week, is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU burden below the levels seen during the first wave,” the study said. “In the absence of substantial vaccine roll-out, cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths in 2021 may exceed those in 2020,” it said. FILE – Staff members deliver injections …

Three French Soldiers Killed in Mali

A roadside bomb killed three French soldiers Monday, according to the French government, which said their armored vehicle struck the explosive device in the Hombori region of Mali. The soldiers were part of France’s Operation Barkhane mission, which is fighting an Islamist extremist insurgency in Africa’s Sahel region. They were working as part of a 5,000-troop mission “in an area where terrorist groups are attacking civilians and threatening the regional stability,” according to Florence Parly, France’s defense minister. The French Defense Ministry has identified the soldiers as Brig. Chief Tanerii Mauri, 28, Fighters 1st Class Dorian Issakhanian, 23, and Quentin Pauchet, 21. French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated in a press statement “France’s determination to continue the fight against terrorism” and praised the efforts of the soldiers in restoring peace and stability in the troubled region. Forty-four …

EU Unanimously Endorses Post-Brexit Trade Deal

The European Union has endorsed the post-Brexit trade deal with Britain set to go into effect on January 1.“Green light. EU ambassadors have unanimously approved the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” said spokesman Sebastian Fischer of Germany, which currently holds the EU presidency.The deal, announced last Thursday, still must be retrospectively ratified by the European Parliament, which is expected in late February.The approval provisionally allows tariff-free trade with Britain to continue after the country officially leaves the EU single market on New Year’s Day.Ambassadors from the 27 EU member states met in Brussels on Monday to approve the accord.Britain’s parliament is expected to approve it on Wednesday. …

17 Feared Dead in Russian Boat’s Sinking 

Seventeen people are missing and presumed dead after a Russian fishing boat sank in the northern Barents Sea Monday morning, authorities said in a statement carried by local media. “The crew consisted of 19 people. Two people were rescued,” the Russian Emergency Ministry said. Officials believe that ice accumulation on the trawler caused the accident. The privately owned ship Onega, based in Murmansk, capsized and sank near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Barents Sea. Four vessels have been deployed for a search and rescue operation in the area and a criminal investigation is already underway.    The Russian-flagged fishing boat had been in operation since 1979.    …

Switzerland: British Quarantined in Ski Resort Flee

About 200 British holidaymakers forced to respect a 10-day quarantine in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier fled secretly in the night, the municipality said Sunday.About 200 out of an estimated 420 British holidaymakers stricken in Verbier by the quarantine measures imposed by the Swiss government on travelers coming from Britain since December 14, left right away, reported the newspaper SonntagsZeitung.The upscale resort of Verbier, very popular with British customers, hoped to welcome thousands of skiers from Great Britain, but the discovery of the new British variant of the novel coronavirus has shattered those hopes.Some British tourists staying in Verbier left immediately, but others decided to stay a little longer, the communications officer for the municipality of Bagnes, Jean-Marc Sandoz, said.Many remained in quarantine for a day before slipping away, …

Turkey says Will Retaliate Against Any Attack by East Libya Strongman

Turkey’s defense minister said that any attack by eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar on its personnel in the North African country would be met with force.”A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces” by his troops, Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli late on Saturday and made available to media on Sunday.His comments come days after Haftar said his forces would “prepare to drive out the occupier by faith, will and weapons,” referring to Turkish troops operating in support of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).”If they take such a step, they will be unable to find any place to flee to,” Akar said, referring to …