While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, May 5

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate regarding economic sanctions against Russia, on May 4, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

EU plans total embargo on Russian oil imports

The European Union has unveiled plans for a total embargo on imports of Russian oil by the end of this year in response to Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

Announcing a “complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined”, Dr Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, the EU’s executive, warned the European Parliament on Wednesday that the measure “will not be easy” for either national economies or individual consumers, who may face higher energy prices.

But since Europe wants Ukraine to “win this war”, the anticipated costs would “simply” have to be accepted, she argued, to loud and almost unanimous applause from European MPs.

The move, likely to be augmented with separate restrictions on purchases of Russian natural gas, amounts to the most severe economic decoupling between Russia and Europe since World War II.

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Two Omicron sub-variants drive Covid spike in S. Africa

Two new Omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in reported Covid-19 cases in South Africa, the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday, stressing the importance of testing to monitor virus mutations and spread.

The heavily mutated and highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in southern Africa in November last year and rapidly spread globally, is now the dominant variant, accounting for almost all new cases.

Omicron has long been known to have several sub-variants, with BA.2 by far the most dominant.

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Half percentage point rate hike by Fed, biggest jump in 22 years

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The Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced its biggest rate hike since 2000, with a half percentage point increase as it works to crush soaring US inflation.

With inflation at the highest rate in four decades, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell sent a message directly to the American people, expressing concern for the pain caused by rising prices, and pledging to use all available tools to bring them down.

But he told reporters he remains confident the economy is strong enough to withstand rate increases without tipping into a recession.

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Real stun City in extra time to reach Champions League final

Karim Benzema scored an extra-time penalty as Real Madrid pulled off another astonishing comeback in the Champions League to stun Manchester City 3-1 on Wednesday and book a showdown with Liverpool in the final.

City looked certain to go through when Riyad Mahrez put them 1-0 up and 5-3 ahead on aggregate but Rodrygo, on as a substitute, scored an incredible late double, his goals in the 90th and 91st minutes sending the tie to extra time.

With City still reeling, Real Madrid landed the knock-out blow as Benzema earned and then converted a spot-kick to snatch a 6-5 win on aggregate, with another remarkable fightback at the Santiago Bernabeu added to the club’s long list of magical European nights.

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Tearful Amber Heard testifies Johnny Depp turned violent

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Aquaman actress Amber Heard choked back tears on Wednesday as she testified that ex-husband Johnny Depp physically abused her, starting with slaps after she laughed at one of his tattoos and escalating to a “cavity search” of her body for cocaine.

Heard took the witness stand for the first time in a widely followed US defamation case brought by Depp, saying the actors had a “magical” relationship until it turned violent.

Depp’s first physical outburst, Heard said, came after she asked what was written on one of his faded tattoos. She said he replied “Wino”, and she laughed, thinking it was a joke. “He slapped me across the face,” Heard said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I just stared at him.”

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