Lord Smith, head of the Environment Agency, says he will not resign despite facing anger from residents of flood-hit Somerset when he visited the county today. One Tory MP described him as a "coward" and a "little git", as anger over the agency's response increased. Royal Marines were called to help residents in one village after flood defences were overwhelmed.
SOCHI GAMES OPENS WITH CEREMONY
Dmitry Kozak, the Russian PM, has said Sochi is no more dangerous than London or New York as the Winter Olympics begin. The opening ceremony for the most expensive Games ever staged got underway soon after 4pm today. The event has cost £30bn, more than the combined spending on every other games so far.
CAMERON TO SCOTS: WE WANT YOU TO STAY
David Cameron will tell Scottish voters today: “We want you to stay.” Speaking in London, the PM will invoke the spirit of support for Team GB at the 2012 Olympics, as he urges the Scots to stay in the Union, warning the UK would be “deeply diminished” if Scotland decided to leave in favour of independence.
SOCHI: GAY LAWS PROTEST FROM GOOGLE
Search giant Google has used its ‘doodle’ artwork to make a protest against anti-gay laws in Russia, earning praise from human rights groups. The tech firm uses the official artwork of the games, in which each sport is a different colour, but pointedly reproduces only the sports whose colours form the rainbow flag.
TRAFALGAR SQUARE STATUES UNVEILED
Two new statues for the fourth plinth in London's Trafalger Square have been unveiled. The first, to go on display next year, is a horse's skeleton designed by German artist Hans Haacke. It will display share prices on an electronic ribbon tied to its leg. The second is a ten-metre high bronze 'thumbs up' by Briton David Shrigley, it goes on show in 2016.
SYRIA: EVACUATION OF HOMS BEGINS
Aid agencies and the UN have begun to evacuate civilians from the Syrian town of Homs after both sides in the conflict agreed to a pause in fighting. Parts of Homs Old City have been under siege since June 2012 with up to 3,000 people said to be trapped there by the country’s vicious civil war. Food is running out.
TALIBAN CAPTURED SAS DOG IN AFGHANISTAN
A military dog captured in Afghanistan by the Taliban is British, according to Sky News. Initial reports had suggested the animal was American. His name is Colonel and he was lost during an operation east of Kabul on 23 December in which a UK soldier, 29-year-old Captain Richard Holloway, was killed.
SIXTY TREATED FOR DRUG EFFECTS AT RAVE
Sixty young people received medical attention at a gig by Dutch DJ Hardwell in Belfast last night, with fifteen taken to two of the city’s hospitals. No-one has been seriously injured. The NI ambulance service declared it a “major incident”. It said many of the people treated arrived at the event already intoxicated.
EARLY HUMAN FOOTPRINTS IN NORFOLK
The oldest human footprints ever found outside Africa have been unearthed in an estuary at Happisburgh, Norfolk. Scientists believe the 800,000 year-old prints – which date back to a time when Britain was still connected to continental Europe – were left by a small group of adults and children.
HOT TICKET: DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Oscar-nominated docudrama about the early days of the Aids epidemic, Dallas Buyers Club, opens in UK cinemas today. Matthew McConaughey stars as a Texan homophobe diagnosed with Aids who becomes an unlikely saviour by distributing blackmarket medicine to patients. "Irresistible," says The Scotsman.