A leftist millennial wins election as Chile's next president
SANTIAGO, Chile — A leftist millennial who rose to prominence during anti-government protests was elected Chile's next president Sunday after a bruising campaign against a free-market firebrand likened to Donald Trump.
With more than 90% of polling stations reporting, Gabriel Boric had 56% of the votes, compared to 44% for his opponent, lawmaker José Antonio Kast.
Kast tweeted a photo of himself on the phone with his opponent congratulating him on his "grand triumph" as supporters of Boric gathered in downtown Santiago to celebrate. Outgoing President Sebastian Pinera held a video conference call with Boric to congratulate him.
"I am going to be the president of all Chileans," Boric said in the brief televised appearance with Pinera.
Boric, 35, will become Chile's youngest modern president when he takes office in March.
Pakistan is trying to rally Muslim countries to help Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is rallying Muslim countries to help Afghanistan stave off an economic and humanitarian disaster while also cajoling the neighboring country's new Taliban rulers to soften their image abroad.
Several foreign ministers from the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation are meeting in Islamabad on Sunday to explore ways to aid Afghanistan while navigating the difficult political realities of its Taliban-run government, Pakistan's top diplomat said Friday.
The new Taliban administration in Kabul has been sanctioned by the international community, reeling from the collapse of the Afghan military and the Western-backed government in the face of the insurgents' takeover in mid-August.
He said the message to the gathering on Sunday is: "Please do not abandon Afghanistan. Please engage. We are speaking for the people of Afghanistan. We're not speaking of a particular group. We are talking about the people of Afghanistan."
Qureshi said major powers — including the United States, Russia, China and the European Union — will send their special representatives on Afghanistan to the one-day summit. Afghanistan's Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
Afghan currency slides and prices surge as already battered economy worsens
HERAT, Afghanistan (AP) — The value of Afghanistan's currency is tumbling, exacerbating an already severe economic crisis and deepening poverty in a country where more than half the population already doesn't have enough to eat.
The afghani lost more than 11% of its value against the U.S. dollar in the space of a day earlier this week, before recouping somewhat. But the market remains volatile, and the devaluation is already impacting Afghans.
Afghanistan's economy was already troubled when the international community froze billions of dollars' worth of Afghanistan's assets abroad and stopped all international funding to the country after the Taliban assumed power in mid-August amid a chaotic U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal. The consequences have been dire for a country heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Afghanistan was also slated to access about $450 million on Aug. 23 from the International Monetary Fund, but the IMF blocked the release because of a "lack of clarity" about the country's new rulers. Since then, international envoys have warned of a looming economic meltdown and humanitarian catastrophe.
UK Brexit minister David Frost resigns in blow to PM Johnson
British Brexit Minister David Frost has resigned over disillusionment with the direction of Boris Johnson’s government, dealing a severe blow to the embattled prime minister as the Omicron variant sweeps the country.
The resignation of Frost, a core architect of Johnson’s tumultuous Brexit strategy, raised questions about the future tone of the European Union divorce and the immediate course of talks on Northern Ireland. It also added to a sense of turmoil in Johnson’s Conservative government.
“You know my concerns about the current direction of travel,” Frost told Johnson in a letter released by Downing Street on Saturday.
“I hope we will move as fast as possible to where we need to get to: a lightly regulated, low tax, entrepreneurial economy, at the cutting edge of modern science and economic change.”
His resignation was first reported by The Mail on Sunday, which said it was triggered by Johnson’s tougher COVID-19 restrictions but also by a broader discontent with tax rises and the cost of environmental policies.
Typhoon Rai: dozens more deaths confirmed as relief efforts ramp up in Philippines
At least 208 people have been killed in the devastation caused by Typhoon Rai, the most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines this year.
More than 300,000 people were forced to flee their homes by the storm, which barrelled into the country on Thursday with wind speeds of 195km/h (120mph). The typhoon smashed through the southern and central regions of the Philippines, destroying homes and infrastructure and causing flooding that has affected millions.
The death toll surged on Monday to 208, the national police said, making Rai one of the deadliest storms to hit the country in recent years. At least 239 people were injured and 52 missing.
Arthur Yap, the governor of Bohol, an island province in the central Visayas region, on Sunday confirmed at least 74 fatalities. Communication cuts had prevented officials from sharing information. The government said about 780,000 people were affected, including more than 300,000 residents who had to evacuate their homes.
S&P dumps Chinese property giant Evergrande into default
LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The poster child of China's property crisis China Evergrande Group (3333.HK) was officially declared in default by credit rating agency S&P Global on Friday after the sprawling firm missed a bond payment earlier this month.
"We assess that China Evergrande Group and its offshore financing arm Tianji Holding Ltd. have failed to make coupon payments for their outstanding U.S.-dollar senior notes," S&P said in a statement.
S&P added that Evergrande had asked for the ratings to be withdrawn following the downgrades to 'selective default' a term ratings firms use to describe a missed payment on a bond, but not necessarily all its bonds.
"Evergrande, Tianji, or the trustee have made no announcement or any confirmation with us on the status of the coupon payments," S&P said.
Parthenon Marbles: A 200-year-old restitution dispute
In mid-November, Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, in London.
At the top of his agenda was a Greek demand that's been made for centuries. He asked that the so-called Parthenon Marbles — a series of sculptures that were once part of the Parthenon — be taken from the British Museum, where they are currently displayed, and returned to Greece once and for all.
The 2,500-year-old sculptures, which depict scenes from Greek mythology, are sometimes referred to as the Elgin Marbles, after Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople. His staff began removing them from the Acropolis in 1801 and sold them to the British government, along with hundreds of other antique items taken from Athens.
The marble sculptures consist of parts of a frieze, metopes and figures. They represent roughly half of the surviving sculptural decorations of the Parthenon — many of their counterparts are in Athens' Acropolis Museum.
Their sale to the British Museum just barely passed via an Act of Parliament in 1816 and was already vehemently opposed by some, including poet and author Lord Byron, who called it a "robbery."
Greece has long maintained the items were stolen, while the British Museum claims they were acquired legally and should remain in the UK.
A lengthy statement on the British Museum's website on behalf of museum trustees points out that the sculptures were transported by Lord Elgin who "acted with the full knowledge and permission of legal authorities of the day in both Athens and London."
L A Times
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker test positive for COVIDBOSTON —
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey say they have tested positive for COVID-19, as the country deals with another surge in cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant.
In separate statements Sunday, the Democrats said they had been fully vaccinated with two doses and a booster and their symptoms were mild. They also encouraged others to get the trio of shots if eligible.
Warren tweeted: “Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms & am grateful for the protection provided against serious illness that comes from being vaccinated & boosted.” She also used the occasion to urge anyone not vaccinated to do so.
Warren didn’t elaborate on where she might have contracted the virus, but she said she’s regularly tested and turned up negative for COVID-19 last week. Spokespersons for her office didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Sunday.
New York Times
Chinese Tennis Player Denies Sexual Abuse Claim, Raising More Questions
Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis star whose account of sexual coercion by a former Communist Party leader ignited weeks of tensions and galvanized calls for boycotts of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, has reversed her assertion that she had been sexually assaulted by the official.
Ms. Peng made the comments in an interview that was published on Sunday by a Singaporean newspaper. But the retraction appeared unlikely to extinguish concerns about her well-being and suspicions that she had been the target of well-honed pressure techniques and a propaganda campaign by Chinese officials.
The controversy erupted last month when Ms. Peng wrote in a post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, that she had maintained a yearslong, on-and-off relationship with Zhang Gaoli, now 75, a retired Chinese vice premier. She said that in an encounter with him about three years ago, she had “never consented” and that she was “crying all the time.”
Traditional Christmas cake: Dresden's Stollen
The tradition of the Christmas cake called the Stollen is centuries old. Demand for one of Dresden's most popular culinary trademarks booms during the winter, especially around the holiday season.
I included this story because as a tradition our friend in So. California sends us two Stollens every year and we just got them yesterday. Merry Christmas.