Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 24 February 2022

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

1

Russia invades Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine, with reports suggesting there have been explosions near Kyiv, Kharkiv and other major cities across the country. In a pre-dawn televised address, the Russian president urged Ukrainian soldiers to “immediately put down arms and go home”. He claimed that Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine, but warned that Moscow’s response would be “instant” if anyone interfered. Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted this morning that Putin had launched a “full-scale invasion” with “peaceful Ukrainian cities… under strikes”.

2

England’s Covid rules lifted

Facemasks are no longer required on public transport anywhere in England, with all remaining legal Covid restrictions lifted from today. Health secretary Sajid Javid said it was “an important day” in pandemic history, but added that the virus is “here to stay” and members of the public should “continue to be sensible as we move forward on the road to recovery”. Scientists reported that no infections from the Delta variant were sequenced in the UK yesterday for the first time since last April, with the milder Omicron variant dominating.

3

Met officer called to No. 10 party

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that one of its officers was called out to a Downing Street party after a silent alarm was accidentally triggered. The Daily Telegraph said that although the officer responded to the incident along with a member of No. 10’s security staff, the alleged illegal gathering was not investigated further. The force has already faced questions over why officers stationed in Downing Street did not report alleged illegal gatherings that took place during lockdown restrictions.

4

Student loan period extended

Students who start university next year could be paying off their loans for 40 years after they graduate, reported the BBC. Loans are written off after 30 years under the current system, but ministers want to extend the repayment period to reduce the bill for taxpayers – a move which Labour says will “hit those on low incomes hardest”. The government has also announced a consultation on plans in England that would make university student loans unavailable to pupils who fail their maths and English GCSEs, or do not get two A-levels at grade E or above. 

5

Home abortions ‘to be scrapped’

Home abortions will be scrapped in the autumn, reported The Daily Telegraph. During the pandemic, women seeking to terminate a pregnancy in its first ten weeks have been able to secure “pills by post” after undergoing a video or telephone consultation. In around six months, the “remote” system is expected to be abolished, despite pleas from leading medics and women’s groups who have said it would be a “huge backward step” as home abortions are “safe, effective and often preferred by those facing terminations”.

6

Capitol livestreamer jailed

A woman who entered the US Capitol through a broken window and was filmed saying “this is war” has been sentenced to 45 days in jail, said CNN. Imelda Acosta, also known as Mariposa Castro, livestreamed the January 2021 riot for more than 40 minutes, broadcasting an attack on the police. The former owner of a tea and yoga shop, Acosta was fined $5,000 in addition to the 45-day sentence. During sentencing, Judge Reggie Walton said he had “been reading a couple of books on how civil wars start” and feared history might repeat itself.

7

Harry launches Mail claim

The Duke of Sussex has resumed his legal battle with the media by launching a libel action against the publishers of The Mail on Sunday. Court papers show that Prince Harry has filed a claim against Associated Newspapers which will reportedly focus on a recent article relating to issues over his family’s security, under the headline “Revealed: How Harry tried to keep his legal fight over bodyguards secret”. Harry also has claims pending relating to alleged phone hacking and unlawful information gathering against the publishers of The Sun and The Daily Mirror.

8

Starmer appeals to private sector

Keir Starmer is to announce that Labour will seek to “reimagine the role of government” as a partner to the private sector and take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit, said The Guardian. In a speech in Huddersfield today, the Labour leader will name six principles for the economy under a Labour government, which include ending the era of insecure employment. His words “will be seen as an attempt to draw a further line under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who was viewed with suspicion by many big business interests”, added the paper.

9

Election struggles for Le Pen

Two hard-Right French candidates are at risk of not qualifying for the country’s presidential election this year, said The Daily Telegraph. Although they polled in second and third place behind Emmanuel Macron, Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen are significantly short of the nominations needed to stand in the April vote. Under French election rules, candidates require the support of 500 mayors, MPs or senators, but this year, the local officials have to publicly declare who they are nominating for the first time. This has left some reluctant to support more extreme candidates. 

10

Veggies have ‘lower cancer risk’

Vegetarians have a 14% lower chance of developing cancer than meat-eaters, according to researchers from Oxford University, who analysed the data of more than 470,000 Brits. Male vegetarians have a 31% lower risk of prostate cancer, while the risk is 20% lower for male pescatarians. The Vegetarian Society said the study’s result “adds to a growing body of research reinforcing the positive, protective effects of a vegetarian diet”, but the researchers pointed out that smoking and body fat could have also been contributing factors. 

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