Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 22 February 2022

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

1

Troops sent into eastern Ukraine

Vladimir Putin ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine on so-called “peace-keeping duties” after signing a decree recognising the independence of the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. In an hour-long speech last night, Putin raged against Kyiv’s growing security ties with the West and referred to Russia having been “robbed” during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The UK government said it will sanction Moscow over Putin’s decision to recognise the two breakaway regions, with sources suggesting these sanctions will be “ratcheted up” in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

2

Experts query PM’s Covid move

Just hours after Boris Johnson declared his “pride” in England leading the world by shedding its final Covid restrictions, top scientific and medical experts warned that the virus is expected to return “in more virulent and dangerous forms”, said The Independent. Professors Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance said that the pandemic was “not over” and urged people testing positive to continue to isolate. The British Medical Association described the PM’s plan for “living with Covid” as “premature”.

3

Franklin drives flood warnings

Storm Franklin has caused severe flooding in parts of Northern Ireland, with further flood warnings still in place across England, Scotland and Wales. The highest wind speeds on Monday morning reached 79mph in Capel Curig in Wales and 78mph in Orlock Head, Northern Ireland, said the BBC. Storm Franklin arrived just days after Dudley and Eunice – the first time the UK has seen three named storms in a week since the system was introduced seven years ago. Reports suggest that Storm Gladys could potentially strike on Thursday.

4

Colombia abortion victory

Colombia has decriminalised abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, a move hailed as a “historic victory” by campaigners. The South American country’s constitutional court ruled five against four to decriminalise the procedure. Prior to the ruling, abortion in Colombia was only allowed in the case of a risk to the life or health of the pregnant mother. The Guardian said the news adds to a “recent string of legal victories for reproductive rights in Latin America” following rulings in Mexico and Argentina that lowered the barriers to abortion.

5

Fourth Covid jabs offered from March

Fourth jabs will start being offered to care home residents and those aged 75 and over from next month, said The Daily Telegraph, with a further rollout to millions of over-50s in the autumn. The boosters are being offered as a “precautionary” measure amid concern that immunity wanes more quickly in older and vulnerable groups, added the paper. Almost 70% of those aged 12 or over in the UK have had a booster since third jabs started being rolled out last September.

6

‘Betamax’ police ‘stretched thin’

The head of a review of the police service will warn today that a “Betamax police force” is unsuccessfully pursuing “blockchain-enabled criminals”, reported The Guardian. In a speech at the Centre for Policy Studies webinar, Michael Barber, chair of the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, will call for the modernisation of crime-fighting technology and new training for officers. In remarks which will allude to police cuts under recent governments, Barber will say that the blue line is stretched “too thin” and is focused on dealing with social issues instead of fighting and preventing crime.

7

More women in FTSE boardrooms

The number of women in FTSE 100 boardroom roles has leapt to 39.1% from 12.5% ten years ago, figures from global data company BoardEx have revealed. But the Fawcett Society, a charity which campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights, said the figures did not capture the “shocking lack of diversity” revealed in its 2022 Sex and Power Index, with “women of colour, disabled women and LGBTQ people missing from positions of power”. According to The Guardian, women make up only eight of the chief executives at the UK’s top 100 listed companies.

8

BBC under fire for Djokovic interview

The BBC has defended its interview with Novak Djokovic after senior insiders expressed a view that Amol Rajan’s sit-down with the tennis star amplified an anti-vax message. One senior insider told The Times that they felt Rajan had not pressed Djokovic hard enough on his “idiot beliefs” and that the involvement of a PR company meant the interview had “Cliff Richard vibes” – a reference to the BBC controversially filming a police raid on the pop star’s home from a helicopter in 2014.

9

Icahn launches McDonald’s board fight

The ruthless investor Carl Icahn has acquired 200 McDonald’s shares and nominated two political activists to be added to the fast-food giant’s board. It is believed that Icahn wants to force the chain to source its bacon, ribs and sausages from meat suppliers that treat pigs more humanely. The billionaire, who is “known for striking fear into the hearts of complacent chairmen and chief executives”, appears “to be going soft in his old age”, said The Daily Telegraph.

10

Billionaire must pay wife £300k monthly

The co-owner of the Chrysler Building has been ordered to pay his estranged wife £300,000 a month in what The Times called “the latest high-stakes divorce dispute in the High Court”. Michael Fuchs, 62, who is worth around £1.2b, married Alvina Collardeau-Fuchs in New York in 2012. The couple had two children together before separating two years ago, their split sparking a bitter legal battle with court documents claiming that Fuchs is seeking to “pull the shutters down” on his wife’s life and expenses.

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