Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 February 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Ukraine, Russia to hold talks
Delegations from Russia and Ukraine have agreed to hold talks “without preconditions” at an unspecified time near the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, but hopes are not high for a peaceful resolution. In a televised address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he did “not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try”. The announcement came as Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s nuclear arms to be placed on high alert, causing oil prices to jump. Blasts were heard before dawn in Kyiv and Kharkiv, while a missile reportedly hit a residential building in the city of Chernihiv during the night.
Energy bills rise ‘by £700’
Householders are discovering the “stark reality” of rising energy bills as messages from suppliers reveal how much more they will pay from April, reported the BBC. About 26 million households are on variable energy tariffs or prepayment meters governed by regulator Ofgem’s price cap. A new cap from April means that a typical domestic energy bill will rise by about £700 a year, to around £2,000. Bills had been set to rise by around £400 a year, even without the impact of the Ukraine crisis, but Russia’s invasion means a “further bill shock in winter is likely”.
Ukrainians can join UK relatives
Boris Johnson has said that people who are settled in the UK will be able to bring their Ukrainian immediate family members to join them. The PM, who also announced a further £40m of humanitarian aid, insisted the UK would not “turn our backs in Ukraine’s hour of need”. Even with this latest development, Britain “finds itself well behind Europe in its offer of sanctuary to Ukrainians fleeing the war”, said the BBC’s home editor Mark Easton, who added that the UK government’s refugee response falls “far short of the open-door approach of countries in the EU”.
Ericsson ‘linked to IS corruption’
The telecoms giant Ericsson allegedly helped pay bribes to the Islamic State terrorist group in order to continue selling its services after the militants seized control of large parts of Iraq, leaked documents from an internal investigation have revealed. The Guardian said the investigation also uncovered allegations that Ericsson was involved in corruption in at least ten countries across four continents. The Swedish multinational has partially admitted to the findings and published a statement on its website conceding that Ericsson employees had engaged in widespread misconduct in Iraq.
Trump ‘easily’ wins election poll
Donald Trump “easily” won an informal straw poll when attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were asked their preference of potential 2024 presidential candidates. The former president received 59% of the vote, Florida governor Ron DeSantis came second with 28% and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was third with just 2%. The Times said the poll, conducted on Sunday, suggested that DeSantis was emerging as a “real threat” to Trump’s ambitions to return to the White House.
Hundreds apply for jab compensation
Hundreds of people have applied for compensation from the government, claiming to have been left severely disabled by the Covid jab, reported The Daily Telegraph. Some 920 applications have been lodged with a government scheme, established in 1979, that offers payments of £120,000 to anyone who suffers significant harm as the result of a vaccination. Of the more than 52 million Covid-19 jabs that have been administered in the UK, official figures put the number of fatalities at nine, added the paper.
‘Red wall’ pivotal to next election
The so-called “red wall” – the former Labour heartlands which voted Conservative in 2019 – will be the core battleground at the next general election, according to a new study. The Onward thinktank found that Labour could regain 31 seats in the north, Midlands and north Wales if constituents who voted Tory in 2019 switched back to their preferred party, said The Guardian. The study found that 60% of battleground seats at the next election are located in northern England compared with 20% in the south.
More Covid deaths in poor areas
Significantly more Covid deaths have occurred in the most deprived areas of England since the turn of the year, reported The Independent. Of the 7,053 deaths registered in the six weeks after 1 January, 1,589 (22.5%) were from the most deprived 20% of the country, compared to 1,188 (16.8%) in the least deprived 20%. Ministers have warned that these disparities will only widen under the PM’s plan for England to “live with Covid”.
‘Rain bomb’ kills six in Australia
At least six people were killed and hundreds of homes flooded when a powerful storm described as a “rain bomb” struck Brisbane and parts of Queensland on Sunday, said The Times. There were mass evacuations as the storm dumped more than 100mm of rain, causing flash floods and power cuts. Repairing the damage is expected to cost billions of pounds. Annastacia Palaszczuk, premier of Queensland, described the rain bomb as “just unrelenting” and “like waves of water”. “We never expected this rain,” she added.
‘Magic pill’ could extend dogs’ lives
A “magic pill” could help family dogs to live two years longer, reported The Daily Telegraph. Scientists in the US believe the drug, called rapamycin, may be able to elongate the average lifespan of a canine by as much as a third. Previous experiments with mice found rapamycin can extend the maximum lifespan of a rodent by anything between 9-30%. “We don’t know if those effects will be similar in absolute or relative magnitude in dogs, but I think it’s possible,” said Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology involved in the project.