Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 March 2022

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

1

Zelenskyy open to neutrality talks

Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine is prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace agreement, as long as it was agreed at a referendum and guaranteed by third parties. In a national address, he said: “A new round of negotiations is ahead, because we are looking for peace. Really. Without delay.” The BBC said neutral status for Ukraine is a “major point of contention” for Russia.

2

On-stage slap mars Oscars

Will Smith hit Chris Rock in the face during the Oscars last night after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. In a reference to Pinkett Smith’s shaved hairstyle, Rock said: “Jada, can't wait for GI Jane 2.” After taking to the stage to strike Rock, Smith twice shouted: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.” Smith later apologised. Pinkett-Smith has spoken in the past about suffering from alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss.

3

Shanghai starts phased lockdown

Shanghai will impose a phased lockdown to curb a Covid outbreak that has resulted in China’s highest caseloads since the early days of the pandemic. Authorities had so far resisted locking down the city of some 25 million people to avoid destabilising the economy, said the BBC, but a record 3,450 symptomatic cases were reported in Shanghai on Sunday, accounting for nearly 70% of the nationwide total. The city is China’s commercial capital.

4

Sunak says debt is ‘ballooning’

Rishi Sunak has warned that the country’s national debt is “ballooning” as he faces a backlash from within his own party over the cost-of-living crisis. The chancellor’s spring statement measures have been questioned by Tory critics, with one senior backbencher telling The Times the state of the economy is a “toxic witches’ brew”. A source close to Sunak said “some difficult decisions have to be made to fill the £400bn black hole Covid has created.”

5

Myanmar general will ‘annihilate’ rebels

Myanmar’s military ruler has vowed to “annihilate” resistance groups. Speaking at a military parade marking Armed Forces Day on Sunday, Gen Min Aung Hlaing also urged ethnic minorities not to support groups opposed to army rule and ruled out negotiations with them. The military seized power last year from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Since then security forces have killed more than 1,700 civilians, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

6

AI to be used by A&E

Hospitals will use artificial intelligence to predict daily A&E admissions weeks in advance, reported The Times. Software that analyses data, including 111 calls and the weather, is being rolled out in 100 NHS hospital trusts after trials showed it had an “impressive” ability to forecast daily admissions, using factors including local Covid-19 infection rates, traffic and 111 calls to model how many patients are likely to turn up at a particular A&E department each day.

7

Islamic State strikes in Israel

Two Israeli border police officers were killed and 12 people were injured in a shooting attack in Hadera on Sunday evening. The attackers waited for a bus to drive past before shooting towards civilians, said the Jerusalem Post. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its Telegram account. According to the SITE intelligence group, this is the first time since 2017 that Islamic State has officially claimed an attack in Israel.

8

Khan at odds with Dick on payoff

Sadiq Khan has reportedly tried to prevent Cressida Dick from receiving compensation for her removal as Metropolitan police commissioner. Discussions between the London mayor and Dick have become “extremely acrimonious” over the prospect of a gagging clause and the size of her payout, reported The Times. The hunt for Dick’s successor has been delayed by the failure to agree terms, although a settlement is understood to be close.

9

MP surgery after cancer diagnosis

Labour MP Dawn Butler has undergone surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer at a routine check-up. The MP for Brent Central, who is 52, said the cancer was only picked up because of routine breast screening in December. She recently had a mastectomy at Royal London Hospital. “A mammogram saved my life,” she told the BBC. “Without a mammogram, my cancer wouldn’t have been discovered.” Breast Cancer Now says more than 80% of breast cancers occur in women over 50.

10

William to ‘modernise’ monarchy

Prince William wants to modernise the monarchy by bringing to an end its “never complain, never explain” policy, according to reports. The royal is said to “respect” the approach favoured by his father and grandmother but is “looking ahead to how things will be in 40 years’ time” and “wants the monarchy to continue to be a unifying force, to bridge the gap”, said the Daily Mail.

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