Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 May 2022

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

1.7bn affected by price hikes

Western officials have accused Vladimir Putin of “weaponising” global food supplies by stealing grain and destroying agricultural equipment during the war in Ukraine. The officials fear Moscow has embarked on a “deliberate policy” of disrupting food supplies, causing a global crisis and putting people in developing countries in danger of starvation, The Telegraph reported. The UN estimates that 1.7 billion people in more than 100 countries are being affected by the surge in food, energy and commodity prices.

2

‘Use discretion’ for food theft

Police officers should use their “discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute people who steal in order to eat, the new chief inspector of constabulary has said. In an interview with The Guardian, Andy Cooke said “the impact of poverty, and the impact of lack of opportunity for people, does lead to an increase in crime”. He added that he “fully” supports “police officers using their discretion – and they need to use discretion more often”. But Cook insisted he was not “giving a carte blanche for people to go out shoplifting”.

3

Male politician made rape claim

The recent allegation of rape by a Conservative MP was made by a male politician who was a teenager when they first met, reported The Telegraph. Labour leader Keir Starmer has become the latest prominent figure to call for the backbencher to be publicly identified, while the names of suspected perpetrators have been widely circulating on social media. MPs have been warned by the Commons Speaker against using parliamentary privilege to name the individual, who was released on police bail yesterday.

4

No. 10 ‘blocking windfall tax’

Plans for a windfall tax on energy companies are being blocked by No. 10, said The Times. Although treasury officials believe that the levy is “politically unavoidable”, the PM’s advisers feel introducing such a tax would be “ideologically unconservative”. Rishi Sunak has left the door open for imposing a one-off tax on energy suppliers, while Treasury officials believe the move would send a powerful message to the public that the government is “on their side”. A recent poll found that the levy would be “wildly popular” among Brits.

5

Eating disorders on the rise

The number of people admitted to hospital with eating disorders in England has surged by 84% in the last five years, according to an analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. There were 24,268 admissions for illnesses such as bulimia and anorexia in 2020/21, up from 13,219 in 2015/16. Tom Quinn, from the eating disorder charity Beat, said he was “very concerned” about the rise, which has been seen across all age groups. Experts say the Covid pandemic has made an already growing problem even worse.

6

Russian pleads guilty to war crime

A 21-year-old Russian soldier has pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian. In the first war crimes trial in Ukraine since the war started, Vadim Shishimarin admitted to shooting a 62-year-old man a few days after the invasion began. When asked in court whether he was guilty of the allegations, which included war crimes and premeditated murder, Shishimarin responded “yes”. The BBC said he “looked nervous, and kept his head bowed” as he sat just a couple of metres away from the widow of the man he killed. He now faces life in jail.

7

Taliban criticises ‘naughty women’

A senior Taliban official has suggested that “naughty women” who have protested against the Afghanistan regime’s record on women’s rights should stay at home. Speaking to CNN, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghanistan’s acting interior minister and the Taliban’s co-deputy leader since 2016, said that “by saying naughty women, it was a joke referring to those naughty women who are controlled by some other sides to bring the current government into question”.

8

Probe into social media role in shooting

New York state’s top prosecutor is investigating the role that social media companies played in the mass shooting in Buffalo, reported the BBC. The attorney general’s office said the inquiry will look at the extent that social platforms were “used to stream, promote, or plan the event”. The state’s governor has already argued that tech firms share some blame for the attack. 

9

M&S warns Sunak against online tax

Marks & Spencer has warned Rishi Sunak that an online sales tax would damage the high street. The Treasury argues that the proceeds of such a levy would go towards funding a reduction in business rates for shops, but M&S believes it would instead “punish” the retailers it plans to support and leave them with less money to invest in high street stores. A three-month government consultation on the question closes this Friday. Last year, Tesco called for a 1% sales tax to be levied on online competitors, including Amazon.

10

Musk: Democrats are ‘party of hate’

Elon Musk has described the Democrats as “the party of division and hate” and complained that “phoney social justice warriors” ejected Tesla from an ethical investing index, said The Telegraph. The billionaire said he had previously voted for the Democrats and regarded them as “the kindness party”, but added that he “can no longer support them and will vote Republican” in the future. The credit agency S&P had delisted Tesla from its environmental, social and governance 500 index, citing issues including racial discrimination claims.

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