King’s Cross railway station was out of operation, stranding thousands, and Paddington saw badly delayed services after Network Rail engineering works overran beyond Christmas and Boxing Day. Connection with the internet for Xbox and PlayStation games consoles was disabled on Christmas Day and a group of hackers called Lizard Squad said it had interfered. Before the end of 2014, Mandy Rice-Davies, who had come to public attention during the Profumo scandal of 1963, died, aged 70; John Freeman, the journalist and interviewer on the BBC television programme, Face to Face, died, aged 99; and Jane Bown, the outstanding black-and-white photograph portraitist, died, aged 89. Sales of sherry rose 15 per cent in 2014, Marks & Spencer reported.
The 2,760 staff of City Link, the parcel delivery company, wondered what would become of them after its owners, Better Capital, an investment company, called in administrators on Christmas Day. ‘I don’t think we’re yet at the point where we can be confident that the banking system would be entirely safe,’ if there was another financial crisis, Lord King of Lothbury, the former Governor of the Bank of England, said. Sir James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner man, was said to have the largest landed estate in England, at 25,000 acres, outdoing the Queen and the Duke of Bedford.
A woman healthcare worker retuned from Sierra Leone with Ebola and was transferred to a London hospital from Glasgow. Glasgow mourned the six people killed when a dustcart careered out of control and crashed in George Square. A Virgin Atlantic aeroplane bound for Las Vegas landed safely at Gatwick Airport after turning back because of a problem with its landing gear. The Royal Mint struck 50,000 £100 coins each containing two ounces of silver and bearing an image of the Elizabeth Tower at the Palace of Westminster, which houses Big Ben.
An AirAsia aeroplane carrying 162 people from Java, bound for Singapore, disappeared, and wreckage was found in the sea. At least 11 people died when an Italian ferry from Patras in Greece bound for Ancona with 478 people on board caught fire in high seas and strong winds north-west of Corfu. The Libyan government launched air strikes on Misrata in response to an Islamist attack on the country’s largest oil terminal at Sidra. Cameroon launched air strikes against the Islamist group Boko Haram after it captured the Achigachia military base. Liberia opened a new national cemetery for the burial of victims of the Ebola outbreak that had killed 7,800 in West Africa during 2014. The taxi booking company Uber apologised for quadrupling fares in Sydney during the café siege that left three people dead. Egypt banned the Hollywood film Exodus: Gods and Kings because of its ‘historical inaccuracies’.
Russia provided 99 billion roubles (equal at the time to $1.9 billion) to bail out the Trust bank. Another 320 billion roubles were set aside to support two other banks. The Russian economy had been hit by a halving of the price of oil since last June, which sent the rouble falling 40 per cent against the dollar over the year. President Vladimir Putin of Russia ordered the price of vodka to be capped (even though it had been blamed for the death of 25 per cent of Russian men before the age of 55) and signed a new military policy promoting conventional, non-nuclear forces. Markets shied in alarm after Greek MPs rejected a presidential candidate, ensuring a snap election this month.
The state National Defence Commission of North Korea issued a considered statement: ‘Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest.’ This followed the screening by several hundred independent cinemas in the United States of the film The Interview, a comedy that deals with a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator. After Sony had earlier withdrawn the film, in response to internet threats, President Obama had said the company had made a mistake because ‘We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here.’ North Korea then suffered two periods of disruption in its internet system. Some Malaysians expressed anger at their Prime Minister, Najib Razak, playing golf with Mr Obama during storms that flooded thousands of houses. Easy access to Google’s email service Gmail was found to be blocked in China. Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, laid flowers on his tomb in the Vatican. CSH
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