Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 14 March 2022

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

1

Moscow makes ‘Beijing plea’

Russia has asked Beijing for military equipment and economic support to aid its invasion of Ukraine, according to US officials. The BBC said the news has added to fears that China’s assistance might undermine efforts by the West to help Ukrainian forces defend their country. Washington has warned that Beijing will face “severe consequences” if it helps Russia bypass sanctions. The Chinese embassy in Washington denied hearing of any such request from Moscow and said China was focused on keeping the war in Ukraine from “getting out of control”.

2

Russia accused of naval blockade

The UK has claimed that Russian naval forces are “effectively isolating Ukraine from international maritime trade” by establishing a blockade over its neighbour’s Black Sea coast. The UK defence ministry said Russia “has already conducted one amphibious landing in the Sea of Azov and could look to conduct further such operations in the coming weeks”. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to end the war are thought to have made some progress, with Ukrainian and Russian negotiators set to resume talks this week.

3

Fury over Covid study scrapping

The government has been accused of “turning off the headlights at the first sign of dawn” over the decision to scrap nationwide Covid surveillance programmes, said The Guardian. One such study, which is called React and randomly tests about 150,000 people across England each month, will be abandoned at the end of March. Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, said the move is “symptomatic of a policy-driven movement to ignore the fact that the pandemic is not over” and warned that “losing these programmes will almost certainly end up costing more in terms of disruption than saved”.

4

Firms offer jobs to refugees

Marks & Spencer, Asos and Lush are three of the major businesses lining up to offer jobs to Ukrainian refugees when they arrive in the UK, reported the BBC. In an initiative led by British entrepreneur Emma Sinclair, a group of more than 45 large businesses is pressing the government to make it easier for those driven out by Russia’s invasion to come to the UK. Sinclair said the consortium was “purely altruistic” and not acting to promote any particular corporate agenda. “We [businesses] want people, we need people, and we want to help,” she said.

5

Ki-moon issues fracking warning

The former UN secretary-general has warned the UK against lifting the ban on fracking, pointing out that the world stands at a “dangerous” point in the climate crisis. Ban Ki-moon said countries must embrace renewable energy instead of returning to fossil fuels. He expressed fears that the war in Ukraine “will impact the international community’s effort to address climate issues” because “some European countries are even now considering how to address oil and energy shortages [by seeking] exports of some other [sources of] gas or oil”.

6

Iran missile strike ‘targeted Zionists’

Iran has claimed responsibility for a missile strike on the northern Iraqi city of Erbil early on Sunday, saying it was targeting an Israeli “strategic centre for conspiracy and mischiefs of the Zionists”. No serious injuries were reported, but the attack, which took place near a large US consulate building, “marked a significant escalation between the US and Iran”, said The Guardian. “The aggression which targeted the dear city of Erbil and spread fear amongst its inhabitants is an attack on the security of our people,” said Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

7

Squeeze on tenants tightens

A study has found that tenants already struggling with the cost of living crisis are likely to need an extra £1,000 this year to cover higher rent and essential bills. The estate agent Hamptons said the average household in Great Britain spent 42% of its post-tax income on rent in 2021 – the highest proportion since records began in 2010. A spokesperson said it was likely that discretionary spending would fall later this year, which she noted was “bad news for the wider economy”.

8

Obama tests positive for Covid

Barack Obama has announced that he has tested positive for Covid-19. “I’ve had a scratchy throat for a couple of days, but am feeling fine otherwise,” said the former US president in a tweet. Obama added that his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, has tested negative. He reiterated his support for the vaccine, saying his diagnosis was “a reminder to get vaccinated if you haven’t already, even as cases go down”.

9

Ministers shelve hunt trophy ban

The government has delayed its promised ban on imports of hunting trophies. Although ministers had pledged to introduce the Animals Abroad Bill this spring, a Whitehall source told The Times that there is now no timetable and that the bill will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. A survey found overwhelming public support for the ban but other measures that were due to feature in the bill, including banning imports of foie gras, are opposed by some Conservative MPs.

10

William Hurt dies at 71

William Hurt, the US actor whose roles ranged from the acclaimed 1981 neo-noir thriller Body Heat, to Marvel blockbusters like The Incredible Hulk and Avengers: Endgame, has died at the age of 71. Hurt won an Oscar for best actor in 1986 for playing a prisoner in a Brazilian jail in Kiss of the Spider Woman. His son, Alexander Hurt, told The New York Times that what he will remember about his father is “the pride he took in the work he did, and the pride we took – all of my siblings and I – in the work he did”.

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