In the early hours of New Year’s Day US Senators agreed a temporary package of tax increases to avert the so called Fiscal Cliff, an automatic raft of spending cuts and tax rises that many feared would tip the US economy back into recession. The law still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives however, and this is by no means certain. Senators are elected every six years and have a very broad constituency. This forces them to be more moderate and more inclined to long term policy making. Representatives are elected every two years and from much smaller districts. Typically a Representative can be elected by appealing to their base alone, meaning they tend to be more partisan and less open to compromise.
US lawmakers have also passed the pithily named Countering Iran In The Western Hemisphere Act which will “address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the region”. The Act calls for the Department of Homeland Security to bolster border surveillance and increase coordination with the State Department and intelligence agencies.
Hugo Chavez is reported to be conscious after undergoing surgery in Havana, Cuba. The authoritarian leader of Venezuela has been treated in Cuba for cancer for several month. Rumours that the Japanese embassy in Cuba had reported his death later turned out to be fabricated.
Ireland starts her six month presidency of the EU, taking over from Cyprus. Prime Minister Kenny and Cabinet Ministers were present at the ceremony in Dublin. Ireland accepted a 67 billion Euro bailout following the financial crash.
Rebels and government forces in Syria clashed over Taftanza airport in the country’s North West. The fierce fighting comes days after the main airport in Aleppo, the Syria’s commercial hub, was briefly closed due to nearby fighting. Russia has dispatched more warships to the Eastern Mediterranean in readiness for the evacuation of its citizens.
Iran carried out a series of war games in the Straits of Hormuz. Two new missiles were tested; the short range coast based Qadar missile, and the longer range surface to surface Nour missile system.
Ugandan authorities have dropped charges against a British theatre director accused of staging a play about homosexuality without authorisation. He faced up to two years in prison. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, but a bill currently running before parliament would change the maximum penalty to execution.