Welcome to Tuesday, where disgraced crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried is arrested in the Bahamas, the EU parliament faces its worst corruption scandal in decades, and U.S. scientists are expected to announce a nuclear fusion breakthrough with huge clean energy implications. Meanwhile, Warsaw-based daily Gazeta Wyborcza unpacks the new law that sees Poland try to slap blasphemers with jail time.
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• Hungary lifts veto on EU aid to Ukraine: Hungary has agreed to lift its veto on €18 billion of European aid to Ukraine, in exchange for Brussels unfreezing some of the country’s EU funds and approving a post-COVID recovery package. Last month, Brussels recommended blocking €7.5 billion in funds to Hungary over rule of law concerns.
• FTX founder arrested in Bahamas: Federal authorities arrested disgraced crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried in the Bahamas after criminal charges were filed against him. Last month, the dramatic collapse of his FTX exchange platform sent shockwaves through the crypto world.
• Peru protests escalate: Anti-government demonstrations have intensified across Peru, with protesters setting up blockades and storming Arequipa’s international airport, despite newly-appointed President Dina Boluarte’s pledge to hold early elections in 2024. Violent clashes, sparked by the removal of President Pedro Castillo from office, have already killed seven.
• Australia shooting kills six: Six people, including two police officers, were killed in a shooting at a remote property in Australia's northeastern state of Queensland. Police had been dispatched to the home to investigate a missing person when two individuals opened fire; a siege and a gunfight ensued, during which the two officers were killed, together with a 46-year-old man, a 47-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman.
• First clashes in a year at India-China mountain border: The Indian army is reporting clashes with Chinese soldiers in a disputed area between the two countries, in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Only minor injuries have been reported so far, in the first such flare-up of tensions in the region since 24 troops were killed in a clash back in 2020.
• Nuclear fusion breakthrough: U.S. scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced “a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain”, according to the Financial Times. The U.S. Department of Energy is expected to officially announce the breakthrough today, which could be a milestone in producing clean energy.
• BTS’s Jin reporting for duty: Jin, the oldest member of K-pop supergroup BTS, has started his 18-month of mandatory military service at a South Korean boot camp. The 30-year-old singer flaunted his new buzz cut on social media, with the caption: “Cuter than expected.”
"Democracy, yes. Terrorism, no." Brazilian daily Correio Braziliense dedicates its front page to the violence that followed the certification ceremony during which Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva was confirmed as winner of the presidential election by the federal electoral court in Brasilia. Supporters of his rival, far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro, attempted to invade the federal police headquarters in the capital. Buses and cars were set on fire and the police had to shoot stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Others blocked highways and gathered outside the presidential residence, calling for military intervention to stop Lula being sworn in.
China announced its decision to retire its country-wide COVID-19 tracking app (通信行程卡, pronounced Tōngxìn xíngchéng kǎ, meaning Communication Itinerary Card), a major step in Beijing’s recent U-turn on its strict zero-COVID policy.
Poland’s ruling party seeks tough new blasphemy law, jail for mocking church
Poland’s legislature is in the process of passing new “blasphemy” restrictions that would impose jail sentences for denigrating the Catholic Church, Warsaw-based daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported Monday.
🇵🇱 Parliament’s lower house has approved an amendment that — if passed into law — would impose “a fine, a penalty of restriction of liberty, or imprisonment up to two years,” on anyone who “publicly lies or makes fun of the Church or other religious association with official legal standing, or dogmas or rites.” According to Gazeta Wyborcza, the move to impose such blasphemy restrictions began in October when Marcin Warchoł, the former Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Justice, began collecting the signatures required to introduce new legislation.
🧑⚖️ Stricter penalties for anti-religious activities or statements follow in line with promises made by Polish President Andrzej Duda of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) to reinforce traditionalist religious practices in public life, and simultaneously restrict the freedoms of LGBTQ+ people.
Poland’s parliament has recently passed various legislation restricting the right to abortion, instituting mandatory religious curriculum in schools, and banning LGBTQ+ “propaganda.”
🌈 In addition to the direct restrictions on and penalties for blasphemy, the proposed law — an amendment to a rarely used section of the criminal code dating back to 1932 — would prevent critics of LGBTQ+ issues from being sued for libel or slander. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2019, 79 countries had laws or policies banning blasphemy. These laws are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where the majority of the population is Muslim. Poland, where 87% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, is an exception on the list.
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European democracy is under attack.
— At the opening of the European Parliament’s December's plenary session, the body’s President Roberta Metsola, warned Monday that “European democracy is under attack” and that there would be "no impunity" for those involved in the worst bribery scandal in memory to hit the EU’s institutions. Belgian investigators conducted fresh searches of European Parliament offices in Brussels in an effort to find evidence of bribes from Qatar. One of the accused members of parliament, Greece’s Eva Kaili, was stripped of her position as vice president and remanded in custody after the probe led to the discovery of "bags of cash" in her home.
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