Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 26 Feb 2021

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

1

Biden launches Syria strike

The US military has bombed a site in eastern Syria in response to rocket attacks on American forces in the region in the past two weeks. A US official told CNN that “a handful” of militants were killed in the strikes, which were authorised by Joe Biden. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the bombing raid killed at least 17 pro-Iranian fighters.

2

Sunak may tax pensions

Rishi Sunak is planning a new “stealth tax” on high earners in next week’s Budget, The Times reports. It is rumoured that the chancellor will freeze the lifetime allowance, the amount people can add to their pension pot while benefiting from lucrative tax incentives, at just over £1m. Analysts say the measure could be worth £250m a year to the Treasury.

3

Rail services to be cut

Fewer trains will run after the pandemic but they are more likely to arrive on time, the chairman of Network Rail has signalled. Sir Peter Hendry told the National Rail Recovery Conference that although commuter traffic will come back, it will be “permanently lower” than before the Covid-19 crisis. He said a reduction of up to 40% in commuter rail travel was possible, reducing bottlenecks and congestion.

4

Queen tells UK to get jabbed

The Queen has said that having a Covid vaccine “didn't hurt at all” and told those who are hesitant about getting a jab to “think about other people rather than themselves”. The UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said figures suggested 11-15% of people were “vaccine-hesitant”, Sky News reports, with reluctance “skewed toward some black and ethnic minority communities”.

5

MSPs to quiz Salmond

Alex Salmond will be questioned by MSPs over his claims of a “malicious and concerted” conspiracy against him. The former first minister is to appear today at Holyrood as part of an inquiry into the government’s mishandling of sexual harassment complaints about him. He has accused the first minister of misleading parliament over what she knew - and when - about the harassment complaints.

6

Report slams stop and search

A report from the police watchdog says stop and search rarely works as a tactic to combat drug-dealing, and the damage it causes to community relations may outweigh the benefits. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said forces could not provide clear links between the use of search powers and serious crime prevention, and they were unable to explain why powers were used disproportionately based on ethnicity.

7

Begum will learn her fate

Shamima Begum will find out today whether she will be allowed to return to the UK to fight a decision to strip her of British citizenship. She was 15 when she fled to Syria to live under Islamic State rule. Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

8

Gender rebrand for top toy

The toy known as Mr Potato Head will be renamed as simply Potato Head as part of a gender-neutral makeover. The classic toy’s branding is being “reimagined for the modern consumer”, its US maker Hasbro has announced. Toy companies have been changing classic brands to reflect public calls “respecting and endorsing diversity in US culture,” says Reuters.

9

Landmark gay ruling in Malaysia

A Malaysian man has won a court challenge against an Islamic ban on sex “against the order of nature”. Malaysia’s top court ruled that the Islamic provision used against the man was unconstitutional. He had been arrested in in 2018 for attempting gay sex. “This is monumental for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia,” said Numan Afifi, the founder of the Pelangi campaign group.

10

Britney’s dad bites back

Critics of Britney Spears’ father “have it so wrong”, his lawyer has told US television. The pop star’s finances and personal affairs have been governed since 2008 by a legal agreement that gives her father, Jamie Spears, control over her estate, career and other aspects of her life. Despite growing criticism after a recent TV documentary, Spears’ lawyer has described him as a “fiercely loving, dedicated and loyal father”.

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