Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 15 December 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
PM ‘stunned’ by Tory rebellion
Boris Johnson has suffered a “humiliating rebellion” against measures to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, said The Guardian, after 99 Conservative MPs rejected plans for vaccine certificates. Almost half of the party’s backbenchers voted against new curbs, leaving the prime minister “stunned”, said The Times. The Telegraph described the rebellion as “hammer blow” for Johnson. The vaccine certificates measure nevertheless passed comfortably, by 369 votes to 126, thanks to Labour backing.
1m could be isolating at Christmas
More than a million people are likely to be isolating with Covid on Christmas Day, according to projections based on current growth rates. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, warned that Omicron was spreading “unbelievably fast”. Yesterday 59,610 cases were confirmed, but health chiefs believe that the true number of infections caused by the variant is far higher than those recorded. The World Health Organization said the new coronavirus variant is spreading across the globe at an unprecedented rate.
‘Doomsday glacier’ close to collapse
Scientists say a critical ice shelf in Antarctica could break apart within the next three to five years, leading to large sea-level rises. Satellite images presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union suggest the ice keeping together the Thwaites glacier in western Antarctica could soon shatter. The glacier is known as the “Doomsday glacier” because if it collapsed, it could raise sea levels by several feet, inundating coastal communities and low-lying island nations.
Nasa craft ‘touches the sun’
A Nasa spacecraft has officially “touched” the sun, flying through the unexplored solar atmosphere known as the corona. Although the Parker solar probe flew through the corona in April during the spacecraft’s eighth close approach to the sun, scientists said it took some months to get the data back and then confirm it. Nour Raouafi, a project scientist with Johns Hopkins University, described the news as “fascinatingly exciting”
Tory steps down over party
A Conservative former mayoral candidate who attended a Covid regulation-breaching Christmas party has stepped down as chair of a police and crime committee. Shaun Bailey’s team organised the “raucous” gathering at the Conservative Campaign Headquarters on 14 December 2020, when London was under Tier 2 restrictions. Bailey remains a member of the committee and the London Assembly.
Judge calls for Andrew deal to be released
A judge has ruled that a secret 2008 settlement, which reportedly protected Prince Andrew against a lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse, should be made public. The agreement was reached between Virginia Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in 2019, while awaiting a sex-trafficking trial in New York. US district judge Loretta Preska said that, in the absence of any valid objection by Epstein’s estate, the document should be made public.
House suggests charges against Trump man
The US House of Representatives has recommended criminal contempt charges against Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff to Donald Trump. The vote, the first in which the House has upheld contempt proceedings against a former member since the 1830s, came a week after Meadows ended his cooperation with the chamber’s committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. The issue now heads to the justice department, which will decide whether to go ahead with a prosecution.
IMF urges Sunak to consider new furlough
Rishi Sunak must prepare to bring back the furlough scheme to save shops and restaurants if further restrictions are introduced, according to the International Monetary Fund. Kristalina Georgieva, its managing director, said: “Should there be the need for more restrictive measures, especially affecting contact-intensive sectors, then the policy support will have to be calibrated accordingly.”
Malta legalises cannabis
Malta has become the first European country to legalise the growing and possession of cannabis for personal use. Under the new laws, anyone aged 18 or over will be allowed to possess up to seven grams of the drug without risk of prosecution. Growing up to four cannabis plants at home, and storing up to 50g of the dried product, will also be permitted. Smoking it in public or in front of children remains illegal.
Police probe Mother Teresa charity
Police in India are investigating a charity started by the late Mother Teresa for alleged “forceful conversions”. Authorities in the state of Gujarat are investigating whether the Missionaries of Charity forced girls in its shelter home to wear a cross and read the Bible. The Telegraph said the probe comes as the Hindu nationalist government pursues a crackdown on the country’s Christian minority.