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Regional News • Americas • United States
New monolith sighted on top of mountain in California, San Luis Obispo County
New  monolith sighted on top of mountain in California,  San Luis Obispo County
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

After a monolith structure had been spotted in Utah and subsequently been removed by an unknown party, another mysterious metal monolith has appeared in the US. Local media has reported that the monolith stands atop a mountain in California and that unlike its Utah sibling, the monolith in California wasn't strongly attached to the ground and looked like it could be easily knocked over.

Regional News • Europe
Italy bans internal travel over Christmas; keeps ski resorts closed until 7 January
Italy bans internal travel over Christmas; keeps ski resorts closed until 7 January
Credit: unsplash/Gabriella Clare Marino

On Thursday night, Prime MinisterGiuseppe Conte signed a new decree banning travel between regions in Italy from December 20 to January 6 and travel between municipalities between December 25 and December 26 to discourage large private gatherings. The government also resisted pressure from leaders of Alpine regions and will keep ski resorts closed until 7 January.

Regional News • Asia
Hong Kong democracy movement media entrepreneur Lai detained until trial

Shortly after the verdict against Joshua Wong and two of his comrades-in-arms the media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai, another prominent supporter of the Hong Kong democracy movement has been sent to prison. He is accused of fraud and is now expected to remain in detention pending a planned court hearing in April.

Regional News • Americas • United States
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board alleges that Google illegally spied on workers before firing them
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board alleges that Google illegally spied on workers before firing them
Credit: Mitchell Luo

According to a complaint to be filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Tuesday, Google violated US labor laws by spying on workers who were organizing employee protests, then firing two of them.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Mike Pompeo is hosting a 900-person indoor Christmas party at the State Department amid Covid-19 surge
Mike Pompeo is hosting a 900-person indoor Christmas party at the State Department amid Covid-19 surge
Credit: U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invited over 900 people to his "Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays" event at the State Department's Benjamin Franklin Room, the Washington Post reports. The event is set to take place on December 15 and has come under scrutiny by various health officials.

Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, said he was "flabbergasted" and warns that this event could repeat "what we saw in the White House Rose Garden following the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett."

Regional News • Americas • United States
Amazon reportedly has Pinkerton agents surveilling workers who try to unionize
Amazon fulfilment centre in Fife, Scotland
Amazon fulfilment centre in Fife, Scotland Credit: Scottish Government (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Dozens of leaked documents from Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center reveal the company’s reliance on Pinkerton operatives to spy on warehouse workers and the extensive monitoring of labour unions, environmental activists, and other social movements.

"The documents say Pinkerton operatives were inserted into an Amazon warehouse in Wroclaw, Poland, to investigate an allegation that warehouse workers were circumventing sort of the application process for applying to warehouse jobs, so I would say that it goes directly against what Amazon is saying. They indeed, at least in this one instance we know, if these documents are correct, that Amazon has used Pinkertons explicitly to spy on warehouse workers.", said Lauren Gurley of Motherboard magazine.

Regional News • Americas • United States
US reports 100,000 Covid-19 hospitalisations and over 200,000 new cases
US reports 100,000 Covid-19 hospitalisations and over 200,000 new cases
Credit: The National GuardStaff Sgt. Caleb Vance/West Virginia National Guard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The United States reported over 200,000 new Covid-19 cases nationwide on Wednesday and logged its highest daily death count with 3,157 fatalities. The number of people admitted to the hospital has surpassed 100,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Regional News • Europe • France
Ex-president Giscard d'Estaing dies at 94 of Coronavirus complications
European Council in Maastricht, Giscard d'Estaing at Beek airport
European Council in Maastricht, Giscard d'Estaing at Beek airport Credit: Rob Croes / Anefo, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons CC0 Waiver)

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, president of France from 1974 to 1981, has died at the age of 94 of Coronavirus complications. He died surrounded by his family in his home in central France. Giscard d'Estaing was pro-Europe and liberalised laws on divorce, abortion and contraception during his tenure.

President Emmanuel Macron praised Giscard d'Estaing for transforming France and its direction: "A servant of the state, a politician of progress and freedom, his death has plunged the French nation into mourning."

Regional News • Americas • United States
Bush, Clinton, Obama volunteer to get Covid-19 vaccine on camera to prove it's safe
Bush, Clinton, Obama volunteer to get Covid-19 vaccine on camera to prove it's safe
Credit: Obama: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza; Bush: White house photo by Eric Draper; Bob McNeely, The White House[1] – Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Former U.S. presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have stated they plan to get the Covid-19 vaccine on camera to prove its safety.

"A few weeks ago President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated," so Freddy Ford, Bush's chief of staff.

Clinton's press secretary said Wednesday that "President Clinton will definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials" and that he would do it "in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same."

On Thursday, Obama told SiriusXM host Joe Madison during an interview that he trusted Anthony Faucy "completely". "I promise you that when it's been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it," so Obama, adding that he "may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don't trust is getting Covid."

Regional News • Americas • United States
U.S. states are investigating Facebook Inc for possible antitrust violations and plan to sue it next week
U.S. states are investigating Facebook Inc for possible antitrust violations and plan to sue it next week
Credit: unsplash.com / Greg Bulla

A group of U.S. states led by New York is investigating Facebook Inc for possible antitrust violations and plans to file a lawsuit against the social media giant next week, four sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazil: Another Ministry of Health leak exposes personal data of over 200 million people
Brazil: Another Ministry of Health leak exposes personal data of over 200 million people
Credit: Christiaan Colen (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

A new security breach in the Ministry of Health's covid-19 notification system left personal data of over 200 million Brazilians exposed on the internet for at least six months. It was not only patients diagnosed with Covid-19 who had their privacy violated, as occurred in another exposure case reported last week. This time, the personal information of any Brazilian registered with SUS or beneficiary of a health plan was open for consultation.

"Each time you stop and go through the Ministry of Health's information security and data management policy, you find a more serious vulnerability. At the time of our complaint, we asked for an audit and received no response. Clearly, they have not taken and are not yet taking the treatment of data from millions of Brazilians seriously," says Fernanda Campagnucci, executive director of the NGO Open Knowledge Brasil (OKBR).

Regional News • Asia
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong sentenced to prison
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong sentenced to prison
Credit: Honcques Laus / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons CC0 Waiver)

Joshua Wong has been sentenced to thirteen and a half months in prison, and the co-defendants Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam have been sentenced to ten and seven months in prison, respectively. This was decided by a court in Hong Kong's Kowloon district. The prosecution had accused the three of having participated in an unauthorized demonstration last year against the growing influence of the Chinese leadership in Hong Kong.

Regional News • Oceania
One new COVID-19 case in Sydney after state 26 days virus-free
One new COVID-19 case in Sydney after state 26 days virus-free
Credit: unsplash.com / Road Trip with Raj

A hotel worker in Sydney has tested positive for coronavirus. She was employed by two hotels in Darling Harbour, one of which is a quarantine hotel for returned international travellers.

It is the first case of COVID-19 in the state for 26 days.

New South Wales Health is asking anyone who worked at the hotels on these dates to get tested and self-isolate.

It is unclear how other states will respond to the announcement, with New South Wales open to all states besides Western Australia, which was due to ease restrictions on the 8th of December.

Regional News • Americas • United States
DOJ investigates potential White House "bribery-for-pardon" scheme
President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr
President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr Credit: The United States Department of Justice, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Justice Department is investigating an alleged "bribery-for-pardon" scheme at the White House, according to heavily redacted documents made public by the DC District Court on Tuesday afternoon.

The documents do not name the individuals involved, but allege that an individual offered "a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of the sentence."

Prosecutors are further investigating a "secret lobbying scheme" in which two unidentified people acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials "without complying with the registration requirement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act".

Regional News • Americas • United States
Georgia election official Sterling (R) asks Trump to "stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence"
Georgia election official Sterling (R) asks Trump to "stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence"
Credit: @GabrielSterling, Courtesy of Twitter

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager and a Republican, has asked President Donald Trump to tone down his rhetoric disputing the election results to "stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence."

"Mr President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility, I get it. You have the rights to go to the courts. What you don’t have the ability to do – and you need to step up and say this – is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed, and it’s not right. It’s not right," so Sterling at a press conference on Tuesday.

Sterling had received threats after election results were announced and had police protection around his home last week.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Arizona, Wisconsin certified Biden's victories on Monday
Arizona, Wisconsin certified Biden's victories on Monday
Credit: The White House, and United States Senate, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Arizona and Wisconsin certified President-elect Joe Biden's narrow victory on Monday. The two states are the latest to reject President Donald Trump's bid to stop states certifying their results, alleging widespread voter fraud without evidence.

"There’s no basis at all for any assertion that there was widespread fraud that would have affected the results," so Josh Kaul, Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general.

Regional News • Europe • United Kingdom
The UK approves the Covid-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use next week
The UK approves the Covid-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use next week
Credit: unsplash.com / Daniel Schludi

The UK will be the first country in the West to offer a Covid-19 vaccine to the public after the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the vaccine in record time. The vaccine is expected to be rolled out from next week.

"The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the Independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use," the government said.

The UK has already ordered 40m doses - enough to vaccinate 20m people, and 10m doses should be available soon, with the first 800,000 arriving in the UK in the coming days.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany bans neo-nazi organization "Sturmbrigade 44"
Germany bans neo-nazi organization "Sturmbrigade 44"
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

German Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) banned the neo-Nazi association "Sturmbrigade 44", which also calls itself "Wolfsbrigade 44", on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, the police searched objects of 13 club members in Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and North Rhine-Westphalia. According to Herbert Reul (CDU), Minister of the Interior of North Rhine-Westphalia, the police seized cell phones and drugs, among other things, during the searches.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
German Bundestag has spent €1,4 million to secure private homes of MPs
Bundestag
Bundestag Credit: Herman (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

After an increase of 15% in attacks on politicians compared to 2019, around 100 members of the Bundestag have resorted to the offer of the Federal Criminal Police Office to secure private apartments or houses.

In the current legislative period, the Bundestag has spent around 1.4 million euros on security technology, each member has a budget of 19,000 euros.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany: New mayor decided by lot after both candidates get exact same number of votes
Germany: New mayor decided by lot after both candidates get exact same number of votes
Credit: Courtesy of Facebook / Stephan Hänes

In the municipality of Ahnatal in Hesse, the mayoral election has been decided by chance. The candidates from the social democratic party SPD and Christian democratic union CDU had received the exact same number of votes. In this case, Hesse's municipal regulations provide for a decision by lot.

The candidate of the SPD, Stephan Hänes, has subsequently been drawn and won.

Regional News • Asia
Cannabis removed from Thailand's narcotics list
Cannabis removed from Thailand's narcotics list
Credit: unsplash.com / Next Green Wave

In order to allow wider use of marijuana for medical purposes, Thailand's Narcotics Control Board has voted to remove cannabis plants from the list of Category 5 narcotics.

However, growing marijuana is only allowed if a permit is granted by the FDA to ensure alignment with government agencies.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Arizona certifies Biden US election victory
Arizona certifies Biden US election victory
Credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Arizona has certified the results of the US elections after Arizona's Secretary of State Katie Hobbs announced that Biden was ahead of Trump by about 10,500 votes after the recount. Governor Doug Ducey has signed the documents.

Regional News • Oceania
Qantas lays off 2,000 more employees
Qantas lays off 2,000 more employees
Credit: Adam Moreira (AEMoreira042281) / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

All of Qantas' ground handling staff will be outsourced, laying off 2,000 employees to save the company more than $100 million a year.

Around 8,500 positions have been ditched by Qantas since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

The Transport Workers' Union criticized the move by Qantas, despite a bid by the 2,000 workers to keep their jobs.

“This is a dark day as Qantas management rejects a thorough and competitive bid by its highly skilled and dedicated workers to keep their own jobs,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Biden names all-female senior press team
Kate Bedingfield and Jen Psaki
Kate Bedingfield and Jen Psaki Credit: Biden-Harris Transition

President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday tapped Jen Psaki, a former White House communications director in the Obama administration, to be the new White House Press Secretary. In addition, deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield will serve as communications director as the head of an all-female communications team when Biden takes office on Jan. 20, 2021

"I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women," Mr Biden said in a statement. "These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better."

Regional News • Americas • United States
AOC raises $200k for charity during Among Us stream
AOC raises $200k for charity during Among Us stream
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / AOC

The US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has hosted a Twitch live stream of the game Among Us to raise awareness and money for charitable causes such as food pantries and eviction defense.

On her fundraising page she wrote that "This week, as some families celebrate Thanksgiving, others face food & housing insecurity at levels not seen since the Great Depression," and managed to raise over $200,000. In total, over 104,000 people watched the stream concurrently and she had been joined by multiple other popular streamers such as HasanAbi, Disguised Toast, Myth, Jacksepticeye, xQc and others.

Regional News • Europe • France
Police violence in Paris: a photographer beaten up during the "March of Liberties"

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Paris and other French cities to protest against the "Global Security" law.

Syrian photographer Ameer al-Halbi, a war correspondent known for his coverage of the fall of Aleppo and winner of a World Press Photo award in 2017, was wounded during a police charge while covering the march on Saturday afternoon, AFP reported.

The "Global Security" law would punish punishes the so-called "malicious" dissemination of the image of police officers, particularly during demonstrations.

Controversy over the law was heightened by the heavy-handed evacuation of a migrant camp in Paris on Monday and the revelation on Thursday of the beating of music producer Michel Zecler by four police officers.

Regional News • Oceania
Records broken as heatwave sweeps Australia
Records broken as heatwave sweeps Australia
Credit: unsplash.com / April Pethybridge

Sydneysiders sweated through the past 24 hours - including last night, as the record was broken for hottest November night since 1967, staying above 25.4°C (77.2°F) all evening.

Temperatures yesterday reached 47.2°C (117°F) in Marree, South Australia. Every state across the country besides Tasmania passed 40°C (104°F).

Today, temperatures are forecast to reach up to 42°C (107.6°F) in parts of Sydney.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Metal monolith in Utah desert was removed on Friday evening “by an unknown party”, Officials Say
Metal monolith in Utah desert was removed on Friday evening “by an unknown party”, Officials Say
Credit: Courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol

The bureau said it had not removed the monolith, which it considers “private property.”

The Utah Department of Public Safety said on Monday that it had found the object while surveying for bighorn sheep.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Admissions stop at several Berlin hospitals
Berlin-Borsigwalde Am Nordgraben Humboldt-Klinikum
Berlin-Borsigwalde Am Nordgraben Humboldt-Klinikum Credit: Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

The intensive care units of the Emil-von-Behring-Klinikum in Zehlendorf, the Humboldt-Klinikum (Borsigwalde) and the Auguste-Viktoria-Klinikum (Schöneberg) are working to capacity according to a register of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine. Corona sufferers in the capital city are no longer admitted there.

Besides, the "Berliner Morgenpost" reports that the St. Marien hospital in Lankwitz may be started again by rescue services and ambulances only at the beginning of the coming week. Also, the Vivantes hospital in Neukölln is considering a stop of admissions.

The hospitals in Berlin are the first hospitals in Germany to be overloaded and close their emergency rooms.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Los Angeles issues stay-at-home order, bans all gatherings
Los Angeles issues stay-at-home order, bans all gatherings
Credit: unsplash/Joel Muniz

Los Angeles County has issued a new stay-at-home order as Covid-19 infections surge, reporting 4,544 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Friday. Starting Monday, the county prohibits all private and public gatherings with people outside a household for three weeks.

Indoor retail businesses are allowed to remain open at 20% of capacity, and exceptions are made for churches protests as they "are constitutionally protected rights".