Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 11 March 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Russia chemical claims ‘worrying’
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has rejected claims by Moscow that Ukraine is developing chemical weapons, but said that the accusation itself is worrying, the Associated Press reported. “We have often been convinced that if you want to know Russia’s plans, they are what Russia accuses others of,” the president told the nation on Thursday. Washington has described Moscow’s claims as “laughable” and a “false flag” to justify Russia’s potential use of such weapons in the war. Russian forces have moved three miles closer to Kyiv in the past 24 hours, while the UN is holding an emergency meeting today to discuss Moscow’s accusation.
Covid toll ‘three times’ higher
A study has found that more than 18 million people are likely to have died as a result of Covid globally – three times higher than official records suggest. A consortium of health researchers at the University of Washington based their calculation on the number of “excess deaths” which they believe were caused directly or indirectly by the pandemic. Their report comes almost two years to the day from when the World Health Organisation first declared the rapid escalation of Covid-19 infections as a pandemic.
Public asked to host refugees
The British public will be asked to offer homes to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion under plans to be announced within days. The Home Office has faced criticism for the slow rollout of its scheme to resettle Ukrainian refugees with UK families. Government sources confirmed to The Guardian that ministers are launching a hotline and webpage allowing individuals, charities, businesses and community groups to offer rooms to refugees with no family links to the UK. Those offering a place to stay will be vetted and have to agree to house a refugee for a minimum period.
Empire actor jailed
The actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 30 months of felony probation, including 150 days in jail, for making false reports that he was the victim of a hate crime in 2019. The 39-year-old was found guilty on five counts of felony disorderly conduct for making false reports about what he said was an anti-gay and anti-black hate crime. After the judge handed down the sentence, the former Empire star said: “I am not suicidal, and if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself.”
Sunak to tackle cost of living crisis
Rishi Sunak will take some limited action to tackle the cost of living crisis in this month’s spring statement, government sources have told The Guardian. It is believed that the chancellor could raise state benefits by more than the 3.1% pencilled in during last autumn’s budget. Another option could include a further cut to the universal credit taper rate. But, a Treasury source warned, “there’s only so much that can be done, and we’ve never seen oil prices where they are now”.
Meta to allow violent speech against Putin
Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, will allow users to declare violence against Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers, in an easing of its rules against aggressive speech. Meta said it has temporarily made allowances for some violent speech, including calling for “death to the Russian invaders”, reported Reuters, which accessed internal emails outlining the policy shift. A spokesperson from Meta said that “credible calls for violence against Russian civilians” would still not be permitted. Russia has cracked down on several social media platforms in recent weeks.
Abramovich sanctions will ‘spark shootout’
Sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich will “spark a shootout” between three American-led groups who are bidding to save Chelsea from the threat of “financial Armageddon”, said The Daily Telegraph. US billionaire Todd Boehly, the Ricketts family, who own the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, are expected to compete for the club. At last night’s game against Norwich, Chelsea fans chanted Abramovich’s name, showing their support for the former owner. “He’s done so much for the club and for charities,” one Chelsea fan told ITV.
US: NK tested ballistic missiles
North Korea recently tested parts of a new intercontinental ballistic missile system (ICBM), the Pentagon has claimed. Pyongyang insisted the launches on 26 February and 4 March focused on developing a reconnaissance satellite, but the US said the tests were experimental and likely to be taking place before a full-range ICBM launch. With a minimum range of 5,500km (3,417 miles), ICBMs can reach the US and are designed for nuclear arms delivery. The Pentagon described the tests as a “serious escalation”.
Staring ‘is sexual harassment’
London commuters are being warned that staring is sexual harassment. Posters have started appearing in stations across the capital as part of a Transport for London campaign against “common examples of sexual harassment” – including catcalling, exposing, pressing, cyber-flashing and touching. Also on the list is “staring”, with one poster reminding travellers that “intrusive staring of a sexual nature is sexual harassment and is not tolerated”. A 2019 Centre for London survey found that women are nearly twice as likely as men “to mention personal safety as a barrier to walking and using public transport”, said MyLondon.
Eton to open northern sixth forms
Eton College is opening state sixth-forms in two northern towns and in the Midlands to help promising pupils gain places at Oxford, Cambridge and other top universities. The Times reported that the establishments will be in Middlesbrough, Oldham and Dudley, all of which suffer from deprivation. The sixth-forms will be created under the free schools programme and will accept 240 A-level pupils each year. “We are committed to sharing our educational vision and delivering outstanding educational opportunities to young people in these areas,” said Eton’s headmaster, Simon Henderson.