Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 24 March 2021

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

1

Biden shrugs off Pyongyang launch

Joe Biden has said he does not regard North Korea’s decision to test-fire short-range missiles as a provocation, in a break from his predecessor. The US president said defence officials referred to the launches - the first since he took office - as “business as usual”. Pyongyang reportedly fired non-ballistic cruise missiles, which do not flout UN Security Council resolutions, over the weekend. “One expert suggested it was a relatively mild move as Pyongyang lobbies for a relaxation of sanctions,” The Guardian reports.

2

Arrests at new Bristol protest

Fourteen people have been arrested at a second night of protests against the government’s new policing and crime bill in Bristol. Around 130 people gathered at College Green, 48 hours after another demonstration turned violent and several officers from Avon and Somerset Police were injured. There were no reports of violence at last night’s event, which was later dispersed by police, some on horseback and others with dogs.

3

Netanyahu ‘short of majority’

Exit polls from Israel’s fourth election within two years suggest that Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party is ahead but still short of a clear parliamentary majority. Unofficial data showed Likud with around 31-33 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, ahead of the opposition leader Yair Lapid, who is predicted to take about 16-18 seats. “It is clear that a clear majority of Israeli citizens are right wing,” said Netanyahu on Twitter.

4

Facebook ‘allows death threats’

Facebook policy explicitly allows for “public figures” to be targeted in ways otherwise banned on the site, including “calls for [their] death”, according to leaked internal moderator guidelines. The social network defines public figures as those whose claim to fame may be simply a large social media following or occasional coverage in local newspapers. The Center for Countering Digital Hate described the revelations as “flabbergasting”.

5

Vaccine for children ‘from August’

The Covid vaccine will be offered to children in the UK as early as August under provisional government plans, according to The Daily Telegraph. Safety data on the critical child vaccine study being run by Oxford University is expected within months. “Supporters of the plan see the mass vaccination of children as a way to minimise the spread of infection,” the paper reports, ”but critics note the relatively low risk Covid poses to youngsters and the still-emerging safety data.”

6

PM hails vaccine ‘greed’

Boris Johnson has told a private meeting of Conservative MPs that the UK’s vaccine rollout started so quickly thanks to “capitalism” and “greed”. Speaking during the Zoom call, the prime minister said: “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.” Sources said the prime minister had “very insistently” withdrawn his comments straight after making them during the meeting with backbenchers.

7

Banks keep oil giants afloat

The world’s leading 60 banks have provided $3.8 trillion (£2.8 trillion) of financing for fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2015, according to a coalition of climate campaigners. Overall funding remains on an upward trend and the cash provided in 2020 was higher than in 2016 or 2017, which the report’s authors described as “shocking”. They said financing for exploiting new reserves is the “exact opposite” of what is required to tackle the climate crisis.

8

Taxman closes holiday loophole

Tens of thousands of second-home owners who misleadingly register their properties as holiday lets in order to claim tax breaks face closer scrutiny from HMRC. In England, second home owners can pay business rates, rather than council tax, on their properties if they declare they intend to make their property available to let for 140 days in the coming year.

9

Ship blocks Suez Canal

Tug boats have come to the aid of a container ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal and prevented other vessels from navigating one of the world’s most important shipping routes. The 200,000-tonne vessel, which was en route from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, ran aground after it suffered a power blackout, according to port agents. Around 12% of the world’s trade passes through the man-made waterway.

10

‘Peak meat’ within four years

The soaring success of plant-based alternatives to animal products could mean Europe and North America will reach “peak meat” by 2025, at which point consumption will start to fall. A study by Boston Consulting Group has predicted that plant-based meats will match regular meat on price by 2023. “The global consequences of the shift to alternative proteins are significant,” said a spokesman.

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