1.Tragic earthquake in Syria and Turkey
In the early hours of Monday morning, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria, followed by a 7.5 earthquake in central Turkey. The consequences of these earthquakes have been of tremendous severity, and it is even expected that in the coming days the figures will get even worse. Although the Turkish authorities currently put the number of victims at 3419 and the Syrian authorities at 1602, which would leave a total of 5021 victims, the WHO estimates that these figures could multiply to as many as 20,000.
In addition to the cost in human lives, the destruction of buildings and the desolate landscape has taken its toll in the provinces of the two countries. Murat Kurum, Minister of Environment and Urban Planning in Turkey pointed out as 13.5 million people have been directly affected by the earthquake in Turkey and hundreds of thousands have been forced to spend the night outside their homes.
The first 48-72 hours after the earthquake are key to finding survivors in the rubble, and during this time we have seen humanitarian aid and emergency and rescue teams being sent from some countries to try to save as many lives as possible.
Even so, several affected localities have reported not having received aid, such as the province of Hatay in Turkey, near the Syrian border. Finally, it is worth remembering that the Syrian territory affected by the earthquake is in the hands of rebel insurgency groups, who have asked the central government not to hinder the humanitarian corridors or the aid and shipments that may arrive from abroad.
2.Tension rises in the government due to the reform of the "yes is yes" law.
After the controversial implementation of the "yes is yes law" a few months ago, which resulted in the reduction of more than 400 judicial sentences on sexual aggression, and which earned the Ministry of Equality and the government a great deal of criticism from the opposition, it seems that the PSOE has reversed its position and intends to reform the law, with the aim of ensuring that these penal reductions do not continue.
This fact has provoked another schism, the umpteenth already, between the government partners, PODEMOS and PSOE. The reform negotiations between the Ministry of Justice (led by the socialist Pilar Llop) and the Ministry of Equality (led by Irene Montero) to reach a consensus on a new law with more legal basis, seem to have exploded in the air, due to the "very entrenched positions" of the purple parties, according to socialist sources.
To such an extent that the talks seem to have run aground, that yesterday Patxi López opened the door to negotiating the reform of the law with other formations, although he ruled out the right-wing forces of the PP and VOX. For her part, Angela Pam, from the Ministry of Equality, pointed out the Ministry's disappointment with the socialist initiative, and that the positive reception of the PP and VOX to it demonstrates its reactionary character.
Thus, it seems that in the coming weeks the government will look for new partners, among which the PNV and ERC, who have already been criticising the "deficient application" of the law for weeks, are at an advantage. It remains to be seen whether this move will lead to increased tensions, already frayed between the two governing parties.
3. A further step exemplifying the end of the pandemic
After two and a half years with masks (33 months, to be precise) it seems that the constant use of these masks is going to disappear. Yesterday, Tuesday 7 February, the government issued a royal decree revoking the obligation to wear masks on public transport, reserving the use of masks to health and social care facilities, mainly pharmacies and hospitals.
The improved epidemiological situation, coupled with the fact that the emergence of new viruses and flus has not had harmful repercussions and has been easily combated, has led to this decision. The analysis has also been accompanied by several medical reports, which show that COVID no longer has the capacity to collapse the Spanish health system.
Even so, the virus has not completely disappeared. In the last week, 76 people have died in Spain as a result of the virus, alarming figures, but far from the thousands of daily deaths caused at the peak of the pandemic.
4.Economy: Rent prices continue to rise above living standards
Over the last few years, rental prices have risen by 20% in the main cities on the Mediterranean coast, while Spanish rents have increased on average by 9.1%.
These increases are due, in part, to the rise of the so-called "digital nomads", workers from Northern Europe with more purchasing power, who due to the pandemic and the increase in teleworking, opted to settle in cities such as Barcelona or Valencia while maintaining their jobs (and salaries) in their country of origin.
Another factor is due to the change that is taking place, especially among the younger generations, where renting is prioritised over buying flats (a fact that was already established in many European countries, but which was not recurrent in Spain).
Among the coastal cities, Barcelona leads the way with an increase of 25.3% in price, closely followed by Alicante (23%) and Gerona (22%), where the rise seems to have been least noticeable is in Mallorca (15.1%), although even there, the difference with the rise in rent is around 6 points. According to data from the idealista portal, we are, once again, at historic highs, as far as average rental income is concerned.
5.Cold weather returns to Ukraine, conflict flares up again
Over the past few weeks, we have seen Western powers argue over the appropriate weaponry to send to Ukraine, as well as the technical and economic support that should be given to the country. In the end, and despite German reluctance, the most interventionist line seems to have been reinforced; the sending of new armaments, including new tanks, is the most important. leopardThe new economic aid and the new sanctions and restrictions on Russian oil bear witness to this.
On the other hand, it seems that Russia is beginning to move pieces on the chessboard, to the point that several Western intelligence services have indicated that Russia is planning a large-scale offensive for the end of February, mobilising more than half a million troops. The aim would be to take over the entire Donbas.
In view of these reports, and recalling that 24 February will mark a year since the beginning of the conflict, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has pointed out that "they will try something around 24 February". This tendency to accumulate forces in the Donbas is not new: since a month ago Russia has been accumulating troops in this area, and little by little it seems that it is beginning to gain ground, first capturing the important enclave of Soledar, and in recent days encircling the strategic Bakhmut.
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