HAPPY NEW YEAR! Every morning, TheJournal.ie brings you the nine things you need to know as you kick off your day – especially if it’s the first morning of 2013…
1. #FISCAL CLIFF: The White House and Republican members of the Senate have struck a deal to avoid a major series of tax increases and spending cuts – but it’s come too late to avoid having the United States fall off the ‘fiscal cliff’. The Senate voted 89-8 to approve the deal, but the House of Representatives wasn’t around to vote on it before midnight. It will vote on the new funding package later today.
2. #EU2013: Ireland has now formally taken up its position as the President of the Council of the European Union. The six-month presidency will see Irish ministers chairing meetings of their European counterparts, with some meetings to be held in Dublin. The presidency hopes to focus on youth unemployment, but will also be dominated by talks on a new seven-year budget for the EU.
3. #ROADS: 2012 was the safest year on record on Ireland’s roads. 161 people were recorded as having died on the roads – down from 184 in 2011. The number of fatalities is down by almost two-thirds compared to its peak around the turn of the century.
4. #MEDICAL CARDS: Thousands of medical card holders may lose their entitlement to the cards this year as a result of revisions to the income level thresholds. The Irish Independent says the proposals are being looked at in order to cut medical card spending by €20 million.
5. #BUDGET 2013: Many of the measures proposed in Budget 2013 take legal effect today. Chief among them are changes to social welfare rates, the abolition of a lower Universal Social Charge rate for high-earning older citizens, and PRSI increases for almost all workers.
6. #NATIONAL ANTHEM: Amhrán na bhFiann officially becomes public property today. The State’s copyright on the national anthem lapsed at midnight – meaning it can now no longer control the places in which the anthem can actually be performed. The change will have little effect, however, as the anthem was bought by the State itself in order to ensure there were no restrictions for its public use.
7. #NORTH KOREA: Kim Jong-Un has made a rare appearance on North Korean state television. His New Year’s message – the first broadcast by a leader since 1994 – saw the 30-year-old Supreme Leader call for a “radical turnabout” to turn the country into an economic giant, and underlined his country’s desire for an eventual reunification with South Korea.
8. #SHARK WARNING: It’s not been the greatest of starts to 2013 in Sydney. The famous Bondi Beach underwent a mandatory evacuation after a shark warning this morning. People hoping to enjoy the first waves of 2013 were evacuated from the beach when a patrol boat reported sight of a large shark, but a helicopter search found no sign of the fish and the beach was reopened after 25 minutes.
9. #RECLASSIFIED: Some folks in Russia might be waking up with slightly sorer heads than most this morning, as they tried to enjoy their last day with beer classified as a ‘food’. New laws kicking in today, hoping to curb the country’s alcohol problems, mean beer is subject to higher taxes and controls on its sale – ending an ages-old system where any drink with less than 10 per cent alcohol was considered a ‘food’ and was subject to unrestricted sale.