Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 14 February 2022

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

1

Ukraine requests Moscow meeting

Ukraine has asked for a meeting with Russia within the next 48 hours so the Kremlin can provide “transparency” about what they are planning. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow has ignored formal requests to explain the build-up of some 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine’s borders, the BBC reported. Boris Johnson said he plans to hold further talks with world leaders as they work to bring Russia “back from the brink” of war. Reports over the weekend suggested Russia will invade Ukraine on Wednesday.

2

Postmaster inquiry begins

A public inquiry begins today to examine the wrongful convictions of hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses between 2000 and 2014. In what is seen as the UK’s most widespread miscarriage of justice, more than 700 sub-postmasters were wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting due to a flaw in a computer system called Horizon. The inquiry will look at whether the Post Office knew about faults in the IT system. One of the wrongly convicted post officers told the BBC he would like “someone on the other side to be charged and jailed like I was”.

3

‘Vast’ racial health inequalities

There are “overwhelming” racial health inequalities in the NHS, according to a new review commissioned by the NHS Race and Health Observatory. The review, seen by The Guardian, found “vast” and “widespread” inequality in every aspect of the healthcare system, which it said is harming the health of millions of patients. Experts have called for radical action to address the barriers to accessing healthcare and poor ethnicity data collection which has “negatively impacted” the health of black, Asian and minority ethnic people in England for years. 

4

Banks to pay £4b in bonuses

Banks are preparing to pay annual bonuses of more than £4b at the same time as customers face a cost-of-living crisis. Over the next fortnight, NatWest, Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group are expected to report total profits of £34bn and bumper bonus payouts, reported The Times. Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, said the news “highlights the miserable results of the UK’s longer-term approach to economic policymaking… bending over backwards for the super-rich and waiting in vain for them to bestow prosperity on the rest of us”.

5

Fifth wave overwhelms Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has said the “onslaught” of a fifth wave of Covid-19 infections has overwhelmed the city’s capacity to deal with the virus. Daily infections have multiplied by 13 times over the past two weeks, from about 100 cases at the start of February to more than 1,300 on 13 February, said The Guardian. Lam’s government will coordinate with Beijing officials who will help Hong Kong with testing, treatment and isolation facilities. Hospital beds for Covid-19 patients in the global financial hub are already at 90% occupancy, added the paper.

6

Water firms ‘flout sewage rules’

Water companies are releasing raw sewage into rivers more than 1,000 times a day despite guidance to only do so when there is heavy rainfall. Analysis by the Daily Telegraph found that more than a third of sewage discharge occurred when there was no heavy rain, suggesting that companies are breaching terms of their permits. Environment Agency data showed that raw sewage was discharged into rivers and coastal areas for more than 3.1 million hours on more than 400,000 occasions throughout 2020.

7

HMRC seizes three NFTs

The UK tax authority has seized its first Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) in response to fears that the boom in digital art is providing new ways for criminals to launder money. The Daily Telegraph reported that HM Revenue & Customs seized three NFTs and about £5,000 worth of other crypto assets as part of an investigation into an attempt to defraud the taxman of £1.4m. Three people were also arrested. The government estimates that 2.3m people in the UK own a crypto asset and is trying to clamp down on crypto tax evasion.

8

Lammy slavery request rejected

Justice secretary Dominic Raab has rejected a request from David Lammy to pardon 70 abolitionists convicted for their role in the 1823 Demerara rebellion in the Caribbean. The shadow foreign secretary described the revolt, involving 10,000 slaves, as a “seminal moment” in the history of the human slave trade. In a letter to Raab, the Labour MP said the pardoning would be “a significant step in Britain’s acknowledgement of its role in the history of slavery”. Raab responded that it would be for Guyana’s president to grant such pardons.

9

RAF deputy chief ‘flashed bottom’

The RAF’s deputy chief has been suspended over claims he “flashed his bottom at his neighbours”, reported The Sun. Air Marshal Andrew Turner, 54, allegedly stood naked in the garden at his £1.4m home in Berkshire, leading his neighbours to say they were “shocked and disgusted” by the incident. The ex-special forces commander, who had been tipped to become the next RAF chief, has been “suspended from duty”. Turner has apologised for the incident, which he said caused “absolutely unintentional upset”.

10

Most influential TV names revealed

Russell T Davies, the man behind the award-winning It’s A Sin drama about friends growing up during UK’s HIV/AIDS crisis, has been named the most influential name in television. A panel of industry experts described the five-part Channel 4 show as a “beautiful tribute” that “challenged stigma”. Olly Alexander, the star of the series, took the second spot on RadioTimes.com’s TV 100 2021 list. Rose Ayling-Ellis, who was Strictly Come Dancing’s first deaf contestant, came third.

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