Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 12 May 2022

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

1

PM signs Nordic security pacts

Boris Johnson has signed mutual security pacts with Sweden and Finland, agreeing to come to their aid should either nation be attacked. The deals, which also state that the countries would assist the UK in a crisis, represent “a warning shot to Moscow in case it is tempted to invade Sweden and Finland before they are expected to join Nato”, said The Telegraph. Today, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is expected to announce his approval for Finland to join Nato, marking an end to the country’s decades of neutrality.

2

‘Carbon bomb’ projects revealed

Fossil fuel companies are “quietly planning” scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits with catastrophic global impacts, said The Guardian. The industry’s short-term expansion plans involve the start of oil and gas projects that will produce greenhouse gases equivalent to a decade of CO2 emissions from China, the world’s biggest polluter. “If governments do not act, these firms will continue to cash in as the world burns,” said the paper.

3

Shock at killing of ‘reporting legend’

UN Secretary General António Guterres said he is “appalled” by the killing of veteran Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin. “Reporting legend” Abu Aqla, 51, was wearing a helmet and body armour clearly marked “press” when she was shot while covering a raid by Israeli forces. “Even after she fell to the ground, the fire did not stop,” said Shatha Hanaysha, another journalist who witnessed the incident. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem dismissed PM Naftali Bennett’s claim that it was “likely” Abu Aqla was shot by Palestinian gunmen.

4

Covid reported by North Korea

North Korea has imposed a strict national lockdown after confirming its first official Covid infections. State media said leader Kim Jong Un had pledged to eradicate the Omicron outbreak, which the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described as a “severe national emergency” that had breached the country’s “quarantine front”. North Korea has not previously acknowledged any Covid cases, but CNN said that “few believe that a country of around 25 million people has been spared by a virus that has infected millions worldwide”.

5

Sunak ‘could be replaced’

The Conservatives are divided over the cost of living crisis, reported the i news site. Some senior Tories are lobbying the government to introduce various policies to stimulate the economy, including cutting income tax, imposing a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, and raising universal credit, while others worry that such moves would simply prolong sky-high inflation. Rishi Sunak is resisting additional announcements before August but a “nuclear option” could see him sacked and replaced by a chancellor “more willing to ramp up spending in the short term”, said the paper.

6

Zahawi to target truancy

The education secretary is to announce a crackdown on children skipping school in the wake of the Covid pandemic. Writing for The Telegraph, Nadhim Zahawi declared that “if children are routinely absent from school, it is going to do incalculable harm to their life chances” so “having a strict approach, where attendance is simply non-negotiable, will help schools to deal with absenteeism when it arises”. The government is said to be “alarmed” at the scale of absenteeism during the Covid pandemic, even as the crisis eased in recent months.

7

Ambulance wait times are ‘dangerous’

Long waits for ambulances across the UK are having a “dangerous impact” on patient safety, medics have told the BBC. There has been a 77% rise in the most serious safety incidents logged by paramedics in England over the past year, compared to before the pandemic. A patient in Stoke died after waiting eight hours for an ambulance, while another died in Northern Ireland after waiting nine hours for treatment. Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, described the situation as a “crisis”.

8

Oil giant overtakes Apple

Apple has lost its position as the world’s most valuable company after it was usurped by Saudi Arabian oil and gas producer Aramco. The oil giant traded near its highest level on record yesterday, reaching a market capitalisation of about $2.4 trillion (£1.9 trillion), while the iPhone maker fell 4.4% in New York to $147.53, for a valuation of $2.3 trillion. The Telegraph said that “even if the move proves short-lived and Apple retakes the top spot again”, the role reversal “underscores the power of major forces coursing through the global economy”.

9

Drunk Commons staff cause concern

Drunken parliamentary staff have caused nine security incidents in a single month, reported The Times. A freedom of information request by Times Radio revealed that five of the nine breaches in March involving “intoxicated persons” were referred to the serjeant-at-arms and resulted in formal reprimands and Commons passes being suspended. Concerns have been raised about a “freshers’ week” ethos taking root among younger staff, prompting proposals for evening and weekend security screening to catch intoxicated passholders returning to parliament.

10

Ibuprofen ‘makes back pain worse’

A new study has found that using ibuprofen to treat a bad back may increase the chances of long-term pain, said The Telegraph. Researchers examined half a million British adults and found that those who used anti-inflammatory painkillers to treat a sore back had about a 70% higher risk of developing long-term pain, compared with those who had taken alternatives, such as paracetamol. The study’s authors suspect that anti-inflammatories weaken the immune reaction that plays an important role in repairing damage.

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