New Year, New Laws: The World just Woke up to Raft of changes in 2014
Countries around the world are ringing in the new year with a host of new regulations, appointments and legislation, Here's some of the most important and most intriguing
If it feels like you're waking up to a slightly different world on Wednesday, then it's because you will be. 1 January is habitually a watershed for new rules, appointments and bylaws; 2014 is no exception.
So what is changing? Well, if you are driving in Oregon with children in your car, do not light up. It'll be illegal. And if you're driving in Switzerland, turn your headlights on. Even if it's the middle of the day.
While we're on the subject of lighting, if you live in Canada please remove those last incandescent lightbulbs – they won't be allowed any more.
On the other hand, there are moments of great liberalisation to salute. Colorado on Wednesday will become the first state in the US to allow thesale of marijuana for recreational purposes. Also in America, for the first time it will be OK to be a gay Boy Scout, while for their British counterparts, it's OK to be an atheist. For Germans, liberalisation comes in more subtle ways, such as the new dispensation for universities and libraries, which will henceforth be allowed to upload "orphaned" works of art on to the internet without permission.
If you're Bulgarian or Romanian, welcome. Work restrictions across the EU for citizens of two of the poorest EU countries are lifted. But despite the dire warnings from the right (er, people who are supposed to believe in free markets no less) the indications are that there will be no sudden influx of Balkan builders.
In a less-observed border relaxation, it will become much easier for Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan as the Chinese authorities make a concerted effort to improve cross-strait ties.
Indeed, institutional changes are a 1 January perennial. Russia will run the G8 for a year while Greece gets its turn to lead the EU. Democrat Bill de Blasio takes over as New York mayor. And Barack Obama's system of healthcare coverage, known as Obamacare, is formally launched with hundreds of thousands of newly insured Americans presenting a formidable test to a system that has endured a difficult birth.
Bill de Blasio will become New York mayor from 1 January. Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP
Then there are more obscure new laws that take some explaining. If you live in France, you can demand your home be checked for electromagnetic waves. If you are arrested, make sure the police address you as "vous" and not "tu", as they are required to do from 1 January.
If you die in Hungary, fear not: from Wednesday the state will reportedly provide a free grave, coffin or urn – and even a free shovel for gravedigging – to poorer sections of society.
The other thing that 1 January signifies is the start of a year dedicated to an issue or theme. So prepare yourself, and make any necessary adjustments to your schedule, to accommodate the International Year of Family Farming, the International Year of Crystallography and the International Year of Small Island Developing States.
• The points system for driving licences will be simplified. Minor offences are punished with fewer points, but Germans will only need eight instead of 18 points to lose their driving licence.
• The tax for bars of silver will jump from roughly €1 to €2 an ounce.
• From 1 January Germans will make less money from subletting their flats. Previously, citizens were able to offset the average local rent for a 60 sq metre flat against tax, in the future they will be able to claim back no more than €1,000 a month.
• Universities and libraries will be allowed to upload "orphaned" works of art – artworks, photographs or books whose creator can no longer be identified – on to the internet without getting permission.Previously, they were only able to do so with the explicit permission of a copyright holder.
• Competition for a new national anthem starts.
• Using car headlights in daylight hours becomes mandatory.
• Colorado becomes the first state in the US to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.
• Affordable Care Act – individual mandate takes effect, requiring most Americans to buy health insurance.
• Guns that are considered assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines that have not been registered with Connecticut authorities will be considered illegal contraband.
• Photographers who harass celebrities and their children face tougher penalties under a law in California backed by actors Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner.
• Bill de Blasio becomes New York mayor.
• Texas requires all architects to be fingerprinted.
• The Boy Scouts of America lifts a ban on openly gay members after the organisation's national council voted against the rule in late May.
The Boy Scouts of America has lifted a ban on openly gay members. Photograph: Mychele Daniau/AFP/Getty Images
• The visa process for mainland Chinese visitors to Taiwan will be streamlined in an effort to bolster cross-strait ties
• Botswana, home to a third of the global elephant population, bans commercial hunting amid growing concerns about the decline in wildlife species.
African elephants drinking along a riverbank at dusk in Botswana. Photograph: Frans Lanting/ Frans Lanting/Corbis
• Deadline for the controversial "indigenisation" of businesses in Zimbabwe. The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act obliges foreign-owned companies operating in the country to cede at least a 51% controlling stake to black Zimbabweans. Those who refuse face possible arrest.