David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that he wanted to change the law so that there would be no ‘means of communication’ which ‘we cannot read’, in order to thwart terrorists. Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said this meant ‘scooping up vast amounts of information on millions of people — children, grandparents and elderly people who do nothing more offensive than visiting gardening centre websites’. Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5, said that 20 terrorist plots against the West had links to Syria in the past 14 months. Steven Emerson, an American commentator, apologised for saying on Fox News that in Britain ‘there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in’. High winds caused the grounded 51,000-ton car-transporter Hoegh Osaka to drag its anchors and move 100 yards down the Solent.
The annual rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, fell to 0.5 from 1 per cent a month before, and, as measured by the Retail Prices Index, to 1.6 from 2 per cent. Matthew Hancock, the energy minister, wrote to the six biggest energy companies asking them to cut charges because wholesale gas prices had fallen by 30 per cent in a year. E.On said it would cut gas prices by 3.5 per cent. The chief executive of the supermarket Morrisons left after sales fell. Tesco was to close 43 unprofitable stores. Sainsbury’s said it would cut 500 jobs. Thousands of people were stranded at Kings Cross station after Christmas because a shortage of goods-train drivers contributed to the over-running of engineering works, according to a report by Network Rail. In 2014, Network Rail said, the 7.29 a.m. Brighton to London Victoria never arrived on time. Traffic in London speeded up during a strike by bus drivers.
The Labour, Lib Dem and Ukip leaders urged Mr Cameron to take part in televised debates before the election. Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, was criticised for saying during an off-air briefing to the BBC that he would ‘weaponise the NHS’. The healthcare company Circle said that it would stop running Hinchingbrooke hospital, Huntingdonshire. Outside London, houses in Conservative constituencies were found to have risen in price by 16 per cent since 2010, but in Labour constituencies by only 2 per cent. Carlsberg said it would reduce the amount of alcohol in cans of Special Brew from 4.5 to four units.
Some 1.6 million people gathered in Paris to express unity against the murder of 17 people, 11 of them people associated with Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine that had published cartoons of Mohammed. Leaders from 40 countries, including Mr Cameron and the American ambassador, linked arms for the cameras. Among those murdered by the brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi had been a Muslim policeman, Ahmed Merabet. The day after, while the brothers were holding hostages at a print-works north of Paris, an associate, Amedy Coulibaly, who had shot dead a police officer by way of rehearsal, killed four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris and held others hostage. When police stormed both buildings, the assumed killers were shot dead. Hundreds of soldiers were deployed to guard Jewish schools. After the shooting, Twitter popularised the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’. The next edition of Charlie Hebdo showed a cartoon of Mohammed holding a ‘Je suis Charlie’ placard and saying: ‘Tout est pardonné.’
In Nigeria hundreds were killed when the Islamist forces of Boko Haram attacked the town of Baga in Borno state. At least 19 people were killed in nearby Maiduguri by a suicide bomb carried by a girl said to be ten years old. Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos said that the world should show more determination to halt Boko Haram. The Twitter and YouTube accounts of the US military command were hacked by a group calling itself CyberCaliphate. This occurred after a speech by President Barack Obama urging Congress to pass a law requiring companies to inform customers if their data had been hacked. A woman died and dozens were taken to hospital when a tunnel in Washington’s metro filled with smoke.
A court in Egypt overturned the conviction for embezzlement of the country’s former president Hosni Mubarak, aged 86, and ordered a retrial. Pope Francis flew to Sri Lanka, where he canonised Joseph Vaz, and the Philippines. China said that fewer than a million eligible couples had applied to have a second child. A Korean restaurant in Zhengzhou, China, offered free meals to good-looking diners. CSH
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