Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 18 February 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Brits warned over Eunice danger
The Met Office issued a second rare red weather warning to cover London and the east of England as Storm Eunice approaches. The warning, which means there is a danger to life from flying debris, is already in place across parts of south-west England and south Wales. Brits are being urged to stay at home as the storm sweeps across the country, with forecasters warning wind speeds could break records. Euncie “could well be one of the worst storms in three decades”, said BBC Weather.
Russia invasion ‘imminent’
Moscow is laying the groundwork to justify a war and is preparing to launch an attack on Ukraine in the coming days, top US officials have warned. Washington says evidence at Ukraine’s border shows Russia is “moving towards an imminent invasion” and is not withdrawing troops, CNN reported. President Joe Biden said military action could begin imminently, but stressed that a diplomatic solution was still possible. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has proposed a meeting next week with Russia’s foreign minister.
York to revoke Andrew link
The city of York plans to revoke Prince Andrew’s honorary freedom of the city after he settled the civil sexual abuse case brought against him in the US by Virginia Roberts Giuffre. The Duke of York has held the honour since 1987. A councillor said that although “York’s unique connection to the crown and the monarch is an important part of our city’s legacy and history… as council and city, we stand with victims of sexual abuse and are doing all we can to end violence against woman and girls locally”. Andrew has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Mind stays sharp until 60
A new study has found that a person’s mind is as sharp as ever until the age of 60, contradicting the longstanding belief that our brains begin to slow down after the age of 20. Researchers found that mental speed consistently improves until a person is in their late-20s, indicating they do not reach peak mental performance until they are around 30. After this, the mental speed metric remains “fairly stable” until the age of 60. “Our results challenge the widespread notion of an age-related slowdown in mental speed,” said the researchers from Heidelberg University in Germany.
Trump and children to testify
Donald Trump and his two eldest children have been ordered to testify under oath within the next three weeks as part of a probe into their business practices. Judge Arthur Engoron said the former president, Donald Jr and Ivanka must comply with subpoenas as part of what The Guardian described as a “billowing investigation” over alleged fraud in the valuation of assets belonging to Trump’s family business. A prosecutor said the move showed that “no one will be permitted to stand in the way of the pursuit of justice, no matter how powerful they are”.
France to pull out of Mali
President Emmanuel Macron has announced that France and its allies will withdraw their troops from Mali after almost a decade. The forces have been involved in the fight against Islamist militants in the West African country since 2013, but Macron said a breakdown in diplomatic relations, amid growing hostility from Mali’s ruling military junta, means France “cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de-facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share”.
Row over funding for MPs’ groups
More than £13m has flooded into an expanding network of MPs’ interest groups by private firms including healthcare bodies, arms companies and tech giants, reported The Guardian. Analysis by openDemocracy found that more than half of the total £25m in funding for all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) since 2018 has come from the private sector. The chair of the Commons standards committee has suggested that it might be time to ban commercial operators from funding and running APPGs.
Office occupancy still low
Staff are returning to offices in the highest numbers since the start of the pandemic, but office use still remains far below pre-Covid levels. Research by the property analysts Remit Consulting found that occupancy reached 27.5% on 10 February. However, this is far below the pre-pandemic levels of closer to 60%, with questions remaining over the future of traditional workplaces and businesses which rely on office workers. Guidance to work from home was lifted in late January in England, Scotland and Wales.
Neil launches lawsuit against Arcuri
Andrew Neil has launched libel proceedings against Jennifer Arcuri after she alleged that his name was listed in an address book owned by the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Legal filings show the broadcaster has followed through on his threat to sue Boris Johnson’s former lover after she claimed in a now-deleted tweet that Neil was on the “pedo elite train”. Neil said Arcuri’s comments were “evil lies” and “vile and untrue accusations”. He insists he never met Epstein.
Barristers trial vegan wigs
Vegan wigs are being trialled in courts after a barrister sold ten hemp-based headpieces to colleagues who typically wear ones made of horsehair, said the Daily Telegraph. Samuel March, a junior barrister, said his plant-based wigs are currently in the “testing phase”. March acknowledged that vegan barristers are “a small market”, but believes they will become the norm within courtrooms in “a few years”. Horsehair wigs were invented in 1822 by Humphrey Ravenscroft, whose company still manufactures courtroom clothing.