Biden braces for an invasion, Poles protest against their abortion laws, and a vaccine milestone highlights a sobering disparity.
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SANCTIONS IN THE PIPELINE...
Or should we say pipeline in the sanctions?
Western allies are now said to be threatening to stop the opening of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine.
Okay, why does that matter? The pipeline would deliver Russian gas to Western Europe. It has been a heavily criticised project. As BBC News pointed out, it cost $11 billion to build, has taken five years, and is not yet even open. The aim is that it will ultimately double German gas imports from Russia.
One of its most vocal critics was President Trump, who repeatedly said during his time in office that it made Germany too reliant on Russia. The Nord Stream 2 project is being run by a former German chancellor.
Meanwhile, CNN leads with a report this morning about a call between President Biden and Ukraine's President Zelensky that reportedly "did not go well".
According to multiple reports, Biden warned Zelensky an invasion in February was a "distinct possibility", and is being widely expected once the ground has frozen enough for Russian tanks to cross the border.
ON TODAY'S AGENDA...
A Metropolitan police officer is due in court today as he faces charges relating to 29 alleged offences, including 13 counts of rape.
PC David Carrick has already entered a not guilty plea, and the trial is provisionally set for April. The charges relate to eight women, with the offences allegedly occurring between 2009 and 2020.
A couple are expected to be sentenced today following "the most despicable abuse" of their child.
According to Sky News, their eight-week-old baby died with "more than 60 broken bones in her body". Police initially saw no visible signs of injury, but x-rays identified the broken bones.
PIN DROP - WHAT'S GOING ON IN POLAND?
There have been mass protests in the country following the death of a woman who died after being denied an abortion.
What happened? A 37-year-old woman called 'Agnieszka T' was pregnant with twins, but one of the foetus' heartbeat stopped on December 21. Doctors refused to remove the foetus, allegedly citing the country's strict abortion laws. According to multiple reports, days later the second foetus also died. In the days after, the woman's health rapidly deteriorated, and her family believe she may have died from sepsis.
In a Facebook statement, Agnieszka's family said the government "has blood on their hands".
Remember: Poland last year introduced "one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe". You can now only receive an abortion if you are the victim of rape or incest, or if the life or health of the mother is at risk. Abortions in cases of severe foetal abnormalities were no longer permitted.
Bigger picture: For context, as BBC News pointed out last year, back in 2019 98% of the abortions carried out in Poland were on the grounds of severe or irreversible foetal abnormalities.
A record number of rapes and sexual offences were recorded in England and Wales in the year up to September.
According to The Guardian, more than 63,000 rapes were recorded - a 13% increase on statistics from the year before. The number of sexual offences also saw a 12% increase on the year before.
More than 10 billion vaccine shots have now been administered around the world. As Bloomberg pointed out - that's 127 shots for every 100 people worldwide.
However, those figures also highlight a sharp divide. The wealthiest countries are getting vaccinated "more than ten times faster" than the poorest countries.
"Globally, the latest vaccination rate is 30,997,719 doses per day, which includes 8,730,299 people people getting their first shot. At this pace, it will take another 4 months until 75% of the [world's] population has received at least one dose." - Bloomberg analysis
- BBC News: Doubts over timing of Djokovic Covid test
- The Guardian: McDonald's new 'menu hack' includes a 'Land, Air & Sea burger'
- The Financial Times: A remote village, a world-changing invention and the epic legal fight that followed
- Al Jazeera: Biden warns of possible Russian invasion of Ukraine in February
- The Irish Times: Single mother claims she was refused entry to Dunnes Stores during lockdown
WATCHING OUT FOR...
Less than six months ago, Kabul fell to the Taliban and the US led a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Sky News will tonight air a piece all about it, featuring two of their most experienced correspondents - Alex Crawford and Stuart Ramsay.
HATS OFF TO...
Jessica Oliver and Charley Harris, who this week broke the world record for being the fastest women's pair to row across the Atlantic. The pair - jointly representing Ireland and the UK - made the crossing in 45 days.
They are raising money for two charities Shelter and Women's Aid, and are nearly half way to their target. Bravo!
ON A LIGHTER NOTE...
Just pure strength.