Welcome to Tuesday, where NATO and U.S. troops are on alert amid Ukraine tensions, there’s a new Boris Johnson party scandal and Beatles memorabilia will be sold as NFTs. Worldcrunch’s teleworking Carl-Johan Karlsson also takes a tour of countries mulling a bonafide legal right to work from home.
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• U.S. puts 8,500 troops on alert amid Ukraine crisis: The U.S. Department of Defense said some 8,500 American troops have been put on “heightened alert,” awaiting orders to deploy to Eastern Europe should Russia invade Ukraine. NATO also announced it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing the area with more ships and fighter jets. In a bid to defuse tensions, Russian and Ukraine officials are set to meet Wednesday in Paris for talks with German and French counterparts.
• Birthday celebration for Boris Johnson sparks new row: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under renewed pressure to resign following revelations of a surprise birthday party organized for him in June 2020 in Downing Street, when social gatherings indoors were banned. The Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into the several “potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations” at No. 10 over the past two years.
• COVID update: South Korea’s daily count of new infections topped 8,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, as the Omicron variant spreads. Meanwhile, at least 23 new COVID-19 cases have been detected on an Australian naval vessel en route to coronavirus-free Tonga to deliver humanitarian aid following the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami.
• At least 8 killed in stampede at Africa Cup of Nations: At least eight people were killed and 50 injured in a stampede outside an Africa Cup of Nations soccer game in Cameroon, as thousands of fans were trying to access the Paul Biya stadium in the capital Yaounde.
• Australian Open reverses Peng Shuai t-shirt ban: Organizers of the Australian Open have reversed a ban on “Where is Peng Shuai” t-shirts in support of the Chinese tennis player who had accused a senior Beijing official of sexual assault.
• Heaviest snowfall in decades paralyzes Turkey: Istanbul is facing its worst snowfall in years, paralyzing traffic and forcing Europe’s busiest airport to shut down after the roof on one of the cargo terminals collapsed under the snow.
• NFTicket To Ride: Items including John Lennon’s black cape in the film Help! and handwritten notes for the Beatles’ song Hey Jude will be sold as NFTs on Feb. 7 by Lennon’s oldest son Julian, who will keep the physical objects from his personal collection. Part of the proceeds from the sale will go to Julian Lennon’s White Feather Foundation.
Russian daily Kommersant devotes its front page to what it calls a “pre-war” situation looming between Ukraine and Russia as both the U.S. and NATO allies put troops on standby in case the crisis deteriorates further. The Kremlin pointed to the new deployments as evidence of NATO aggressive posturing and blamed the organization for the rise in tensions.
There is no room for any positive opportunity for Lebanon in light of Iranian influence, international disarray, national division, sectarianism, and the collapse of the state.
— Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri announced in an emotional televised address his decision to “suspend any role in power, politics and parliament” and that he would not run in the upcoming parliamentary election. The announcement is shaking Lebanon’s political landscape, as the country faces a deep financial crisis. The son of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005, Saad al-Hariri served himself as prime minister from 2009 to 2011 and 2016 to 2020.
Will there be a legal right to telework?
Silicon Valley firms are leading the way in corporate policy, while European countries like Germany are beginning to draw up laws to create a bonafide legal right to work from home.
⚖️ Two years into the pandemic, working from home appears bound to be a feature of our current existence that will be with us once COVID-19 is gone. But even as companies experiment with different policies, others are pushing to see it translated into law — in other words, to make working from home a right. The leading edge of the debate is undoubtedly in Europe, with a handful of countries considering changes to, or even already having altered, their labor laws in the wake of the first pandemic lockdowns.
💻 In Luxembourg, after a petition to recognize the right to telework was introduced in April 2020, the chamber of deputies published a new petition last month to make two days of remote work a week mandatory; In Poland, where eight in 10 employees indicate hybrid work as their ideal choice, a new bill regarding remote work was introduced last May; while in Spain, a new law was passed in September 2020 to regulate home working. But no country has yet gone as far as Germany, where Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil recently announced plans to make the home office a legally protected part of German work culture.
❓ Of course, the always-connected internet reality also raises questions about the rights of workers in their off-hours, with Portugal passing a law last year that made it a crime to disturb employees when they’re not on the clock. Still, on both fronts, the most crucial question might be whether countries can manage to regulate digital working rights without an overly bureaucratic postiche and runaway corporate costs.
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Australia's government has acquired copyright of the Aboriginal flag in a deal worth around 20 million Australian dollars ($14 million) so it can be freely used, ending a longstanding commercial dispute over the design. The red, black and yellow flag was created by Indigenous artist Harold Thomas in 1971, and has been recognized as an official flag of the country since 1995.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger
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