Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 9 March 2022

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

1

Serving soldiers join Ukraine fight

Four serving British soldiers, including a 19-year-old Coldstream Guardsman, are thought to have gone to fight Russian forces in Ukraine, said The Daily Telegraph. The Ministry of Defence said that service personnel are banned from travelling to Ukraine and that anyone who does “will face disciplinary and administrative consequences”. According to The Sun, the teenager quit his Windsor barracks and booked a one-way ticket to Poland without telling his parents. The first successful mass evacuation has taken place in Ukraine, with 5,000 people evacuated from the city of Sumi, which has been under fierce Russian bombardment.

2

McDonald’s pulls out of Russia

McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola have joined the list of firms halting business in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The fast-food giant, which first opened in Moscow in 1990, said it was temporarily closing its 850 restaurants in Russia in response to the “needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine”. The BBC said McDonald’s decision “carries symbolic weight” and is likely to influence even more companies to cease operations in the country. 

3

PM hails variant-proof jab

A UK-made “variant-proof” vaccine may provide more durable protection against Covid-19 and other forms of coronaviruses which don’t yet exist, reported The Times. Boris Johnson hailed the technology, describing it as part of the “next generation of vaccines”. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will provide up to £32m in funding for the vaccine, which is made by the Cambridge University biotech spin-out Diosynvax. The jab is one of several in development which seek to target parts of the virus that are less likely to mutate.

4

Sturgeon: sorry for witch trials

Nicola Sturgeon has issued a posthumous apology to the thousands of people who were persecuted as witches in Scotland, reported The Guardian. The first minister told the Scottish Parliament that it was an “egregious historic injustice” that more than 4,000 people in Scotland were accused, convicted and often executed under the Witchcraft Act of 1563. She added that while the Witchcraft Act “may have been consigned to history a long time ago, the deep misogyny that motivated it has not”, which today expresses itself “in everyday harassment, online rape threats and sexual violence”.

5

Data shows ‘persistent’ school absences

Almost 1.8 million children missed at least 10% of school in the autumn term in England, according to data gathered from 145 councils. The BBC noted that as many as 122,000 children missed at least half of the term – even greater than the number initially thought. The latest estimates suggest that persistent absence from school (defined as missing more than 10% of lessons) is at a rate almost twice as high as before the pandemic. The Children’s Commissioner said she was “extremely concerned” and “surprised” at the scale of the absences.

6

Proud Boy leader arrested over Capitol

The former leader of the Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group that has openly endorsed violence, has been arrested and charged with conspiracy over the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021. Enrique Tarrio faces counts of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding, as well as two counts each of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers and destruction of government property. The Daily Mail reported that Tarrio was arrested in his underwear during an early morning raid.

7

Andrew settling Giuffre case

Court documents show that Prince Andrew is paying a financial settlement to his accuser Virginia Giuffre. A judge in New York signed the court papers on Tuesday, marking the final stage of settling civil sexual abuse claim. The Daily Telegraph reported that the Prince of Wales will lend his brother several million pounds to enable him to pay off his accuser. The Duke of York agreed on an out of court settlement with Giuffre, meaning he will not face a public trial over allegations that he sexually abused her when she was a teenager.

8

Banks reimbursing less than half of stolen cash

Banks are returning less than half of the amount of cash stolen from victims of transfer fraud, according to Which?. Britain’s biggest consumer group found that although more than 300,000 people lost £854m to scams in the two years to the end of June 2021, just 42% of the stolen cash was refunded to customers. Most lenders have signed up to a voluntary reimbursement code, which instructs banks to reimburse all customers who are not at fault. However, Which?’s Rocio Concha said the “low reimbursement rates demonstrate how the voluntary code isn’t providing the safeguards promised”.

9

‘Bully’ Bercow banned from Commons

An independent inquiry has found that John Bercow was a “serial bully” and a liar during his tenure in the House of Commons. Speaking to The Guardian, the former Black Rod Lieutenant General David Leakey said that the former speaker should never again hold any form of public office. Bercow, who has been banned from holding a parliamentary pass, described the investigation as “amateurish” and said he could get around any ban by being let in by a “friendly passholder”.

10

Javid: tax rises can’t keep funding NHS

Sajid Javid has said that taxes cannot rise again to fund the NHS. The health secretary warned that as the population ages, the government cannot “keep going back for more tax hikes on a smaller workforce”. The Times noted that health is expected to account for 44% of day-to-day government spending by 2024, up from 27% two decades ago. Meanwhile, the average age of the population will increase faster during the 2020s than it has for decades.

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