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To start off, we're looking into:
The controversial legacy of former Pope Benedict XVI
The backstory: Former Pope Benedict XVI left behind a unique and complex legacy. During his almost eight-year leadership, he ran into crisis after crisis, most notably widespread sexual abuse allegations against priests and accusations of coverups and inaction by bishops and church authorities. Later, he became the first pope in 600 years to resign voluntarily. In general, though, he was known for his philosophical writings on the life of Jesus Christ and his efforts to maintain traditional Catholic values on issues like homosexuality, marriage for priests and the role of women in the church.
More recently: In 2013, when Benedict said he was resigning because of his declining health, he was succeeded by Pope Francis.
The development: Pope Benedict XVI, who served as pope from 2005 to 2013, passed away on Saturday at the age of 95. The public will have the opportunity to pay their respects to him from January 2, with his funeral service held on January 5, led by Pope Francis.
Ronaldo’s new deal with Saudi Arabia’s AI Nassr
The backstory: Since Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United last month, the world has been curious to see where the Portuguese football superstar will go next. The 37-year-old footballer became a free agent when he left, and he's considered one of the best players in the world.
Most recently: Even though Portugal lost in the quarterfinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and rumors continued to circulate over concerns about the footballer's future, he still managed to make history as the first male player to score in five different World Cups.
The development: There's now a new highest-paid football player in town. Ronaldo has signed a contract with Saudi Arabian team Al Nassr until mid-2025, and the deal is making headlines as the biggest football salary in history. Ronaldo will reportedly be earning a whopping US$200 million a year, which is a huge pay bump from the US$31 million he was making at Manchester United.
New Year’s celebrations are back
The backstory: Since the pandemic began in 2020, New Year's celebrations worldwide have been dampened by COVID. Lockdowns and restrictions have prevented people from gathering and celebrating many events.
More recently: COVID continues to wreak havoc all over, especially in China at the moment. But, this past year, many countries in the Asia-Pacific that still had strict COVID rules have been winding those down, including China's recent pivot away from its zero-COVID stance. This means party time, and people can get together to celebrate again.
The development: Ringing in 2023, the entire world saw major celebrations like they haven't since 2019. In China, celebrations were held at the Great Wall in Beijing, and Shanghai authorities stopped traffic near the Bund so people could get together outside. Other countries joined in, with Australia seeing 7,000 fireworks launched from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and another 2,000 from the Sydney Opera House. In Ukraine, many people returned to Kyiv for quiet celebrations with family and friends, and St Nicholas even greeted children in a crowded metro station in Kharkiv.
To end, we'll look into:
Greta Thunberg: 1, Andrew Tate: 0
How did we get to the point where former pro kickboxer and reality TV personality Andrew Tate got arrested on charges of human sex trafficking and rape?
Most people don't know Tate as a kickboxer but as a "men's rights influencer." His online accounts had millions of followers, most notably on TikTok. Tate's videos consisted of him saying things like, "I'm not a rapist, but I like the idea of just being able to do what I want," and that women are men's property and should stay at home. In August, Tate was banned from Facebook, YouTube and TikTok for policy violations.
He was also banned from Twitter in 2017 after tweeting that sexual assault victims should "bare some responsibility." But, when Elon Musk took over, Tate was allowed back. Tweeting would end up being a bad move on his part because it might've led to his arrest.
Last Tuesday, Tate tweeted:
And climate activist Thunberg responded by tweeting: "yes, please do enlighten me. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org". This is now one of the most-liked tweets on the platform of all time.
Hours later, Tate tweeted a video response to Thunberg. In it, Tate criticized her by saying she's trying to "convince you to beg your government to tax you into poverty to stop the sun from being hot."
In the video, someone brings Tate a couple of pizza boxes, clearly from a pizza chain local to Romania. When Tate was arrested on Thursday, some journalists said that because of the boxes in the video, Romanian authorities were able to confirm that Tate was in the country. But Romanian authorities just announced that the pizza boxes didn't lead to his arrest, but it was instead because of a thorough months-long investigation.
Tate is now in jail on suspicion of human trafficking, rape and forming an organized crime group along with three other people. Prosecutors said: "The four suspects ... appear to have created an organized crime group with the purpose of recruiting, housing and exploiting women by forcing them to create pornographic content meant to be seen on specialized websites for a cost."
In other news ...
💪Zelenskiy pledges 2023 victory: Early on New Year's morning, Russia continued launching Iranian-made drones, mostly at Kyiv, including one inscribed with "Happy New Year" and a drawing of a gift. Forty-five of them were shot down by Ukraine. In his New Year's address, Zelenskiy said that 2023 would see the return of Ukrainians displaced by the war.
💼More Chinese travel curbs: Countries worldwide are concerned that when China lifts travel restrictions next week, there will be an international spread of COVID. The places now placing curbs on Chinese arrivals include the US, the UK, France, Australia, India, Canada, Japan, Italy, Spain, Taiwan, South Korea, Morocco and Malaysia. The Philippines is currently monitoring the situation.
📄Israelis not occupiers, says Netanyahu: Israel’s presence in the West Bank has been a heavily debated and controversial topic for many years. On Friday, the UN voted in favor of an international court investigating the “occupation” of Israeli forces in Palestinian lands. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu called the resolution “dispicable” on Saturday, saying that the Jewish people cannot be occupiers of their own land.
✈North Korea bulks up: There's been growing tension between North and South Korea recently. Last week, North Korean drones intruded on South Korea's airspace, and NK has been firing off a series of missile launches, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). On Sunday, state media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for new ICBMs and a larger nuclear arsenal to counter US-led threats.
💣Kabul airport blast: On Sunday, an explosion went off outside a military airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. No one has claimed responsibility for it. There have been several casualties, and many are also wounded.
😷China's new COVID response phase: China recently pivoted away from its zero-COVID stance pretty suddenly. Now, President Xi has come forward and announced that China will be entering a new phase of COVID prevention and control, acknowledging that there are still struggles ahead, but the approach will be science-based and targeted.
⚡Philippines power outage: On New Year's Day, a power outage in Manila caused a breakdown of the central air traffic control system, also affecting other airports in the country. In total, 282 flights were delayed, canceled or diverted to other regional airports. And the airspace was also shut down, meaning no one could fly over the country for hours.
🐤Twitter sued: Twitter has been having some internal operating issues after Elon Musk took over, with him firing a ton of staff and losing many advertisers on the platform. Now, California Property Trust, the owner of the building that houses Twitter headquarters, is suing Twitter for failing to pay US$136,250 in rent, as reported by Bloomberg.
🗺Croatia joins Schengen and the euro: Earlier this month, the EU accepted Croatia into the free-travel Schengen region and approved the country adopting the euro as currency. When the new year hit, these new policies officially went into effect in Croatia.
🛸UFO scare in South Korea: Last Friday, South Korea's military test-fired a solid-fueled rocket but didn't announce the test to the public. So, many South Koreans believed they were seeing a UFO in the night sky.