Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 13 February 2022

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

1

Biden warns Putin over Ukraine

More than a dozen countries have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine with claims that an invasion by Russia could be imminent. The US, UK and Germany are among those who told their nationals to leave, along with others, including Australia, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan. Meanwhile, in a phone call yesterday, President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the US and its allies will respond “decisively and impose swift and severe consequences” on Russia should he decide to invade Ukraine.

2

Next variant ‘could be worse than Delta’

Leading scientists have warned that a future variant of Covid-19 could be much more dangerous and cause far higher numbers of deaths and cases of serious illness than Omicron. Prof Mark Woolhouse, of Edinburgh University, said a future variant “could be less pathogenic but it could, just as easily, be more pathogenic”. Leading virologist Prof Lawrence Young said: “The idea that virus variants will continue to get milder is wrong. A new one could turn out to be even more pathogenic than the Delta variant, for example.”

3

May aide warns PM on policing

Boris Johnson has been warned by Theresa May’s former deputy that the government is in “very dangerous territory” over an ally’s comments about the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into lockdown parties. On Friday, a “senior ally” of the PM asked The Times: “Do you want the Met Police deciding who the prime minister is?” Damian Green, a former policing minister, said: “The operational independence of the police is a key part of any democracy, and anyone speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister needs to understand and respect that.”

4

Nicaraguan rebel dies in jail

Former Nicaraguan rebel Hugo Torres has died in prison aged 73, eight months after he was detained on treason charges. Torres had been transferred to a hospital after his health deteriorated and died there of an undisclosed illness, the government said. The Havana Times said that, in 1974, Torres “risked his life in an operation to free a group of political prisoners of the Somoza dictatorship, among them Ortega, who ordered his imprisonment” last year during the “political witch hunt against the Nicaraguan opposition”.

5

Injuries after pub collapse

Thirteen people have been injured after a mezzanine floor collapsed at a pub in east London. Emergency services were called to the Two More Years bar in Hackney Wick yesterday afternoon and rescued seven people who were trapped after the incident. Paramedics said three people were seriously hurt and 10 more had minor injuries. A man who was in the venue told Sky News “there was just this sort of cracking sort of noise” and then “the whole thing just came down in a matter of seconds”.

6

UN staff abducted in Yemen

Suspected al-Qaida militants have abducted five UN workers in Yemen. Officials said the workers were abducted in the southern province of Abyan late on Friday and taken to an unknown location. Russell Geekie, a spokesperson for the UN in Yemen said the organisation is in “close contact with the authorities to secure their release”. The Observer said abductions are frequent in Yemen, an “impoverished nation where armed tribesmen and al-Qaida-linked militants take hostages to swap for prisoners or cash”.

7

PM to ‘restore a smaller state’

The Prime Minister’s new chief of staff has said that Boris Johnson’s government will take “a step back from people’s lives” as it seeks to “restore a smaller state” after the pandemic. Steve Barclay said a priority of Johnson’s reset will be to reduce the size of the state, following record levels of government spending and interventions. Writing for the Sunday Telegraph, Barclay declared: “It’s time to return to a more enabling approach. To trust the people, return power to communities and free up business to deliver.”

8

Olympian attacked horse

An Olympian horse trainer is under fire after video emerged of him whipping a horse with a branch to force it to enter a pool of water during training. Sir Mark Todd, who trains racehorses, is filmed striking the animal 10 times on the legs. “I wholeheartedly apologise to the horse and all involved for my actions in this video clip,” he said, adding that “one of the main things I preach is… that patience and kindness is the best way to get results” from horses.

9

Camilla ‘to be crowned alongside Charles’

Camilla will be crowned alongside Charles in a Coronation that will be “radically streamlined,” claimed The Mail on Sunday. According to the report, the service at Westminster Abbey will be “markedly shorter and cheaper” than in the past. Plans are being drawn up with the codename Operation Golden Orb. Last week the Queen declared it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla would be known as Queen Consort when, “in the fullness of time”, her son becomes King.

10

China censors Friends plot

Top streaming platforms in China have censored an LGBTQ plotline in the TV series Friends.  In the episode, dialogue regarding Ross’s ex-wife, Carol Willick, who divorces him after realizing she is a lesbian, were removed. Other conversations that were sexually suggestive were also erased, noted CNN. Fans protested on the Chinese social media site Weibo, with #FriendsCensored becoming the most trending topic on the platform. However, that hashtag was later censored.

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