Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 8 February 2022

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

1

PM pressure over Starmer slur

Boris Johnson is facing renewed pressure to withdraw his claim that Keir Starmer failed to prosecute sex abuser Jimmy Savile – a conspiracy theory described as “baseless” by The Times. On Monday, the Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary David Lammy were surrounded by anti-vax protesters shouting “traitor” and “Jimmy Savile” near parliament. The PM used Twitter to condemn the “absolutely disgraceful” behaviour, but some Conservative MPs and party figures have urged him to apologise for his Savile comment in the wake of yesterday’s incident.

2

Intel ‘shows Russian doubts’

Intercepted communications obtained by Washington have revealed that some Russian officials think a major invasion of Ukraine would be costlier and more difficult than Vladimir Putin and other Kremlin leaders realise. The news comes after the French and Russian presidents showed no sign of de-escalating the Ukraine crisis yesterday, despite lengthy talks at the Kremlin aimed at negotiating a peaceful way forward. Moscow publicly denies any plans to invade, but Western powers have become increasingly concerned by the possibility of a Russian military move.

3

Six new oil fields get go-ahead

The construction of six new North Sea oil and gas fields has been given the green light, despite the PM’s vow to make the UK a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050. The Treasury is anxious about the economic impact of switching to greener forms of power too quickly, said the Daily Mail, prompting chancellor Rishi Sunak to ask business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to fast-track the construction licenses. Ministers have pledged to continue to support oil and gas production, despite calls for all domestic fossil fuel extraction to be halted.

4

Porn sites must verify age

Ministers have resurrected plans to make pornography websites require British users to prove they are over 18 by providing data such as their credit card or passport. The government said the legislation, which is part of the draft Online Safety Bill, will give children better protection from explicit material. But the Open Rights Group, which campaigns to preserve digital freedoms, said the rules would benefit age verification companies while offering “little practical benefit for child safety, and much harm to people’s privacy”.

5

Police collusion found in loyalist murders

The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has found “significant” investigative and intelligence failings by Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers in a series of loyalist murders during the Troubles in south Belfast in the 1990s. Marie Anderson said it was “totally unacceptable” that police used informants within the Ulster Defence Association who were engaged in crimes such as murder. The Irish Times said Anderson’s report “laid bare a litany of collusive behaviours” between police and the loyalist paramilitaries. A senior officer for the PSNI, the successor to the RUC, said the report made for “uncomfortable reading”.

6

Nepal accuses China of encroachment

The Nepalese government has accused China of encroaching into Nepal along the two countries’ border, according to a report leaked to the BBC. The report marks the first time that Nepal has officially accused Beijing of interference in its territory. It was commissioned last year following claims that China had been trespassing in the western district of Humla, but China’s embassy in Kathmandu denies any encroachment. Nepal and China’s border is around 870 miles long, with much of it in remote, hard to reach areas.

7

Captain Tom charity under scrutiny

The foundation set up in the memory of Captain Tom Moore spent £240,000 on costs and consultants in its first year – more than it gave away in grants, said The Times. The paper noted that between May 2020 and May 2021, the charity spent £400,000 after receiving more than £1m in donations, with almost £696,000 remaining unspent. Almost one-tenth of the foundation’s income went on fundraising consultancy fees, including to a firm run by Moore’s daughter. Moore became a national hero in 2020 after raising money for charity by walking laps of his garden.

8

‘Eunuch Maker’ arrested

A man nicknamed the “Eunuch Maker” has been arrested following claims he carried out castrations on dozens of men in his London basement flat and broadcast the procedures on pay-per-view TV. The Daily Telegraph said the castrations are thought to be part of a “genital nullification movement” mainly followed by people who don’t identify as male or female. In an online interview, the 44-year-old suspect said he had undergone the procedure himself because he wanted to “look like a Ken doll with nothing down there”.

9

Australian PM apologises to rape survivor

The Australian prime minister has made a formal apology to a former political staffer who says she was raped by a colleague in the country’s Parliament House in 2019. Brittany Higgins’ allegation and complaints about the way she was treated by managers shook the nation and led to a review of the parliament’s “boys’ club” culture. “I am sorry to Ms Higgins for the terrible things that took place here,” said Scott Morrison in parliament today. “The place that should have been a place for safety, that turned out to be a nightmare.”

10

Paralysed people walk again

A clinical trial has seen three paralysed people being able to walk again after having 16-electrode devices implanted in their spinal cords. The implants send electrical pulses to the muscles, mimicking the action of the brain. According to AFP, the men were able to take steps “shortly after the 6cm implant was inserted and its pulses were fine-tuned”. Dr Jocelyne Bloch from Lausanne University Hospital, one of the study’s leaders, described it as a “very emotional moment”.

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