Six months of talks in Northern Ireland, chaired by Dr Richard Haass, a retired American diplomat, ended without resolving the contentious issues of flag-flying, sectarian parades or a policy on trying crimes committed during the troubles. Bus loads of Romanians and Bulgarians set off for London as restrictions on their right to work in Britain were lifted. Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, called for refugees from the conflict in Syria to be given asylum in Britain; Lord Howe, the health minister, said that some should be accommodated in the European Union. Tories were said to have persuaded Boris Johnson to undertake ‘short bursts’ of campaigning before the election. The Duke of Cambridge is to spend ten weeks studying agriculture at Cambridge University.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, on visiting Yalding, Kent, heard from Erica Olivares that she and many like her had been ‘abandoned’ during the floods in Kent and Surrey that left thousands without electricity over Christmas. The river Mole had proved particularly troublesome. Basil Scarsella, the chief executive of UK Power Networks, the regional electricity distributor, said that too many of its staff had been away at the time. The FTSE ended the year 14 per cent up. The price of rail fares rose by an average of 2.8 per cent, with the cost of an annual season ticket from Basingstoke to London rising from £3,952 to £4,076. Chelsea football club lost £49.4 million for the year up to 30 June 2013. Mr Cameron was said to have banned mention of any sites for new garden cities. Peter Geach, the philosopher, died, aged 97.
Among the New Year’s honours, three appointments were made to the Order of Merit: Simon Rattle, the conductor; Sir Magdi Yacoub, the surgeon; and Martin West, the classicist, who in 2001 was Lord Mallard in the once-a-century ceremony at All Souls College. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the composer, was made a Companion of Honour, as was Onora, Lady O’Neill. Knighthoods went to Antony Gormley, the sculptor, and Dr Noel Malcolm, a former political correspondent of The Spectator. Marcus Setchell, gynaecologist to the royal household, was made a KCVO, and Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, a Knight of the Bath. Penelope Keith was one of 16 new Dame Commanders of the British Empire. In all, 611 women were honoured and 584 men.
A suicide bomber killed 17 people died in an attack at the central railway station in Volgograd. The next day another suicide bombing killed 14 on a trolleybus in the city. It was assumed in Russia that the attacks were planned by Islamist-inspired insurgents based in the Caucasus republics of Chechnya or Dagestan, and that they were intended to cast fear over the winter Olympics in Sochi, on the Black Sea. Earlier Switzerland had granted a three-month visa to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oil tycoon freed after ten years in a Russian jail. Russia also freed Greenpeace protesters and the imprisoned members of the band Pussy Riot. Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 rifle, died, aged 94. Latvia joined the eurozone.
In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood, which formed the government overturned by a coup last July, was declared a terrorist group. Bombs in Baghdad over Christmas killed 35 Christians and brought the number of civilians killed in 2013 to more than 7,157. Jamal al-Jamal, the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic, died in an explosion when he opened the safe in his residence in Prague. Michael Schumacher, the German racing-car driver, suffered serious brain damage in a skiing accident in the French Alps when he hit his head on a rock. A 50ft floating inflatable duck burst in the port of Keelung, Taiwan; eagles were blamed.
In South Sudan, fighting between supporters of President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his Nuer ex-deputy, Riek Machar, killed more than 1,000 in a fortnight and perhaps 100,000 fled the violence. In Istanbul, riot police countered protesters calling for the resignation of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, whose party has been implicated in a corruption scandal. Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, spoke in his New Year message of the ‘elimination of factionalist filth’, a reference to his uncle, Chang Song-thaek, executed last month. In the United States, a district judge with federal jurisdiction ruled that the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programme, collecting data on millions of internet and telephone records, was legal. Cannabis went on sale in Colorado. – CSH
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