Welcome to Tuesday, where the UK's isolation deepens, Rio's mayor gets arrested and a baby elephant gets CPR. And if you're late on your Christmas shopping, Die Welt tells you not to worry: kids have too many toys anyway.
SPOTLIGHT: BORIS JOHNSON AND THE COLLAPSE OF CHAOS-AS-LEADERSHIP
As the sudden arrival of harsh new lockdown restrictions and the closing of borders in European countries coincides with down-to-the-wire Brexit talks, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing an all-time low in public confidence, argues Daniel Fortin in French daily Les Echos.
For nearly a year now, we have been cautious — even indulgent — when it comes to criticizing the way political leaders are handling this exceptional pandemic with the malicious whims that come with a novel virus. But whether we like it or not, the scale of this crisis also serves as an incomparable tool for measuring the leadership skills of any given head of state or government.
Most observers now agree that Donald Trump's casual handling of the pandemic probably cost him his reelection. And now, another prominent leader is coming under fire for adding chaos upon the chaos. We will remember for a long time the pictures of British or foreign travelers rushing this weekend to the stations to try to escape London where a new lockdown was introduced without warning on Saturday night. Only a few, including in his own party, still defend Prime Minister Boris Johnson who seems once again to be indecisive and inconsistent.
If it turns out that his country's health services have been truly aware of the new strain of the virus for a week, then it will be very difficult for Johnson to justify the measures to loosen restrictions that he initially wanted to authorize for the Christmas holidays.
The accusations mounting against the prime minister, including within his Conservative party, include the worst charges that can be brought against a politician: nonchalance. We saw evidence of it when he advised British citizens last March to "sing Happy Birthday twice while washing your hands' to protect from the virus before deciding, belatedly, to implement a lockdown like virtually every other Western country.
We saw the same kind of nonchalance last Wednesday when he told Parliament that it would be "inhuman" to cancel Christmas, even though he had no alternative solution. Finally, Johnson's casual leadership style is on display just as he is called on to lead his country out of the Europe Union at the very moment when — like those same European neighbors — a health crisis is deepening yet again.
The short-circuiting between two major events, Brexit and the pandemic, is probably what will come with the steepest political price. Driven by opportunism rather than conviction ever since he was put in charge of the country, Johnson has benefited from a good dose of indulgence from the general public that had perhaps fallen under the spell of his eccentric leadership style.
But times are changing. Today, amateurism and a blatant inability to face the job of making unpopular decisions are all that is left.
— Daniel Fortin / Les Echos
THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• COVID-19 latest: More than 40 countries have banned arrivals from the UK because of new, reportedly highly contagious strain of the coronavirus spreading in the country. The British government warns of a devastating effect on food supply chains of the bans. Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, whose distribution could begin in some EU states as early as Sunday.
• Convicted for migrant truck deaths: Two men have been found guilty of manslaughter as part of a larger human trafficking investigation after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in Oct. 2019 in a sealed truck truck in Essex, UK, en route from Belgium.
• Kurdish politician gets 22 years: Turkey has sentenced Kurdish opposition politician Leyla Güven to 22 years in prison for her membership in a "terror group" and disseminating "terror propaganda" for outlawed Kurdish armed groups.
• Rio mayor arrested: Rio's pastor-turned-mayor Marcelo Crivella has been arrested for alleged involvement in a bribing and corruption scheme
• Navalny's trick call: Bellingcat has published a recording of a call between Putin critic Alexei Navalny and a Kremlin agent he reportedly tricked into confessing to poisoning him in August by way of Navalny's underwear.
• Vatican vaccine approval: The Vatican says that it is "morally acceptable" to get the COVID-19 vaccine, even if its research or production involves using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.
• Thai man saves elephant with CPR: Off-duty rescue worker Mana Srivate managed to save a baby elephant by using CPR following a road collision.