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‘The Noose Is Tightening’: US Bans Russian Energy Imports and UK Will Stop Using Russian Oil This Year

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US President Joe Biden has banned Russian oil and gas imports, calling it a “powerful blow” to “Putin’s war” – and the UK has said it will stop importing Russian oil by the end of this year.

Mr Biden vowed “to keep pressure mounting” on Vladimir Putin and his “war machine” as the invasion of Ukraine continues.

The US president warned Americans that “defending freedom is going to cost”.

The moves follow pleas by Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy to stop the sales – which have so far been allowed to continue channelling money to Moscow even as other restrictions increase.

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Oil prices, already at multi-year highs, climbed back above $132 a barrel as details of the latest sanctions emerged.

Crude and refined products from Russia accounted for about 8% of US liquid fuel imports last year, according to the Energy Information Administration, and a ban is likely to push up petrol pump prices, adding to America’s cost of living crisis – with inflation currently running at a four-decade high.

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Britain’s plan will give it nine months to adjust to buy stocks from the US and Middle East, described by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as “more than enough time” for businesses and supply chains to adjust.

He said imports from Russia currently make up 8% of UK demand and urged businesses to “use this year to ensure a smooth transition so that consumers will not be affected”.

Mr Kwarteng noted that the market had already begun to “ostracise” Russian oil – even without sanctions – with nearly 70% of supplies unable to find a buyer.

He also said he was “exploring options” to end Britain’s use of natural gas from Russia, currently accounting for 4% of supply.

America, which had previously floated the idea of an oil ban over the weekend, is expected to act more swiftly than its allies – with European nations more dependent than the US on Russian energy supplies.

The Kremlin has warned of “catastrophic” consequences for consumers if the US and its allies ban Russian oil, with deputy prime minister Alexander Novak saying oil prices could hit $300 a barrel.

Mr Novak also said it could stop the flow of gas through pipelines from Russia to Germany in response to Berlin’s decision last month to halt the opening of the controversial new Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

European countries have said they plan to reduce their reliance on energy from Russia but this will take some time.

Natural gas from Russia accounts for one-third of Europe’s consumption of the fuel. The US does not import Russian natural gas.

On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said that “you can’t simply close down the use of oil and gas overnight even from Russia”.

Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz said an exemption for energy deliveries from sanctions was of “essential significance” for Europe’s day-to-day heating, transport, power supply and industry needs.

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Original Post: news.sky.com

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.

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There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Original Source: news.sky.com

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons

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The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.

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Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed

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A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.

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All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

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An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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Source: news.sky.com

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