The world leaders also announced new efforts to crack down on the evasion of existing sanctions.
New Economic Initiatives & Aid
The United States, the Group of Seven nations, and the European Union announced more sanctions targeting over 400 Russian individuals and entities during a summit Thursday.
The new restrictions will be imposed on all 328 members of Russia’s parliament and multiple defense companies. The allies also announced that they would launch new efforts to crack down on sanction evasions, driven in part by worries that Russia has been finding ways to stabilize the ruble and build its currency reserves back up.
Recently, the Russian Central Bank has moved to use gold to prop up the ruble, and Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin demanded that “unfriendly countries” like the U.S., the U.K., and E.U. members pay for Russian natural gas in rubles.
As part of their new initiative, the allies moved to limit Russia’s ability to activate national reserves, including gold.
U.S. officials also said that more actions can be expected Friday when President Joe Biden meets with the European Commission President. Biden is set to announce a major new plan to send shipments of liquefied natural gas to Europe in order to reduce Russian energy dependence.
Speaking during a press conference at NATO headquarters Thursday, Biden expressed support for removing Russia from the assembly of the world’s largest economies known as the Group of 20. He added that if the G20 members did not agree to the withdrawal, then Ukraine should be given the ability to participate in the group’s meetings.
In addition to the initiatives to undermine the Russian economy, Biden announced that the U.S. will be doing more to assist Ukraine, including by taking in 100,000 refugees. Sources also told reporters the administration will donate $1 billion to aid European nations helping to shelter those fleeing Russia.
The U.N. now says that 3.6 million refugees have left Ukraine, and more than half of all children in the country — around 4.3 million of the estimated 7.5 million — have been displaced. On Thursday, the agency stated that the conflict has created one of the largest displacements of children since World War II.
Fighting Continues As Russian Invasion Stalls
Thursday marked one month of the war in Ukraine. While Russia has devastated much of the country, taking some territory and many lives, it has failed to take over any major cities.
U.S. military officials have told reporters that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has gained some successes and forces have pushed back Russian soldiers outside the capital Kyiv. A defense official also said that the Ukrainians appear to be “digging in” and establishing “defensive positions.”
On Thursday, the Ukrainian Navy claimed that it had destroyed a Russian landing ship that was docked in the Russian-occupied southern port city of Berdyansk. Officials released photos and videos that appeared to show a large ship at the port on fire, secondary explosions, and massive plumes of smoke.
The ship’s reported destruction is significant because the port Berdyansk has been key for Russian officials to provide supplies to their troops. It also comes as Russia is are already grappling with logistical and resupply issues and western assessments show the country’s invasion is stalling.
A senior NATO military official told The Washington Post Wednesday that the alliance believes 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in the first month of the war. NATO also estimated that all in all, 30,000 to 40,000 Russian troops have been killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”