Hot News on 23/02/2021

Social media users say message is encoded in abstract red-and-white pattern on parachute

Internet sleuths claim to have decoded a hidden message displayed on the parachute that helped Nasa’s Perseverance Rover land safely on Mars last week. They claim that the phrase “Dare mighty things” – used as a motto by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – was encoded on the parachute using a pattern representing letters as binary computer code.

Reddit users and social media posters on Twitter noticed that the abstract red-and-white pattern on the parachute looked deliberate, and arrived at the result by using the red to represent the figure one, and the white to represent zero.

When ministers use emergency powers, they rely on public sympathy. But their crony bonanza is rapidly eroding it

The point of Brexit, according to its champions, was to liberate Britain from intolerable EU rules. One of these was that government contracts should always go out to transparent competitive tender. This was supposed to aid efficiency and avert the endemic corruption of certain European states. One such state now appears to be Britain.

Last November the National Audit Office estimated that since the coronavirus pandemic began, Whitehall had given out £18bn in procurement contracts, largely for PPE supplies and test-and-trace services, including to firms with little or no record of such work. It turned out that the government also secretly set up a fast conduit – a so-called VIP lane – for contracts to people personally known to ministers, peers and MPs.

Not everyone can – or wants to – look after their mental health by getting a sweat on. But there are plenty of other ways to give yourself a boost

As lockdown continues, exercise is often touted as one of the best ways to promote good mental health. But as good as running and cold swimming are if they work for you, they do not appeal to everyone. Nor are they an option if you are ill, frail, injured or living with a disability. I am chronically ill and have been shielding for a year; my greatest exertion has been lifting Oreos from the packet to my mouth.

I don’t want to brag, but I have not gone completely mad. When I spoke about this recently on Twitter, I received hundreds of messages from other disabled people who are finding their own ways to look after their mental health in lockdown (with very little physical effort). Here are some of our best tips.

Education and childcare prioritised in cautious lockdown roadmap after disastrous Christmas relaxation

Ireland is to start reopening some schools next week but is extending other lockdown restrictions until April to prevent another explosion in Covid-19 cases.

The government has prioritised education and childcare in a cautious new roadmap out of restrictions after a disastrous relaxation before Christmas led to Ireland having the world’s highest rate of infection.

Boris Johnson told a group of schoolchildren on Tuesday he quit journalism for politics because he felt guilty about 'abusing or attacking people' without putting himself in their shoes. The prime minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, said Johnson was referring to the job of reporters in holding the government to account

Lockdown has triggered a boom in the exchange of intimate shots – and now a new book called Sending Nudes is celebrating the pleasures and perils of baring all to the camera

Have you ever sent a nude selfie? The question draws a thick red line between generations, throwing one side into a panic while the other just laughs. And yet, as far back as 2009, that fount of moral wisdom, Kanye West, was advising how to stay safe. “When you take the picture cut off your face / And cover up the tattoo by the waist,” he rapped in Jamie Foxx’s song Digital Girl.

As the pandemic forces relationships to be conducted remotely, more people than ever are resorting to the virtual exchange of intimacies. Last autumn, a poll of 7,000 UK schoolchildren by the youth sexual health charity Brook put the figure at nearly one in five who said they would send a naked selfie to a partner during a lockdown.

The rodents are often considered ‘nuisance animals’, but they can play a vital role in maintaining healthy landscapes

Molly Alves steps down hard on the edge of a heavy wire trap, forcing its sides open with her hands. With care she lays the poised trap, baited with twigs and branches, in a bracingly cold stream. Her target? A beaver.

Beavers are often considered “nuisance” animals on the US west coast and, if captured, are destroyed by animal control companies.

The G7 needs to keep giving financial aid and other support if it wants to avoid ongoing disruption

Recognising that “no one is safe until everyone is safe,” the G7 recently announced additional steps to facilitate globally more “affordable and equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics” to combat Covid-19. But translating stated intent into effective action will require both bold political leadership at home and support for developing countries that goes well beyond financial aid. Getting it right won’t be easy, but the effort is essential if rich countries wish to avoid living in a fortress with the mentality to match.

The current inequality in vaccine availability and deployment is stark. According to UN secretary general António Guterres, just 10 countries account for 75% of all Covid-19 vaccination so far. More than 130 countries have not administered a single dose.

The men – plus one teenager living overseas – were targeted for allegedly posting ‘defamatory’ material about soldiers who died in clashes last year

Chinese authorities have arrested at least six people, and is targeting a teenager living overseas, for posting online about Chinese soldiers killed in a border clash last year.

Last week the Chinese government bestowed posthumous honours on four soldiers who died after the Galwan valley clash with Indian forces, in the disputed Himalayan border regions.

“Klara and the Sun,” the eighth novel by the Nobel laureate, portrays a near future of sinister portent, in which artificial intelligence has encroached on every sphere of human existence.

After weeks of legal wrangling, the former first minister is due to appear before a Holyrood inquiry

In August 2018 news leaked the Scottish government had investigated two allegations of sexual misconduct against Alex Salmond while he was first minister. It did so under new rules introduced due to the #MeToo movement, which allowed retrospective investigations into former ministers. Its findings were passed to Police Scotland, which launched its own investigation.

What would it be like if the Earth’s magnetic pole switched? Migrating animals and hikers would certainly need to reset their compasses, but could it play real havoc with life on Earth? Analysing the rings of an ancient tree pulled from a bog in New Zealand, researchers have been investigating what happened the last time north and south flipped – 42,000 years ago. Nicola Davis speaks to Prof Chris Turney about how it changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and, if combined with a period of lower solar activity, what impact this could have had on the environment and evolution

Like so many other families across the UK, the pandemic made her illness and death a heartbreaking struggle

My nan grew up on a farm in the Black Country during the war. In her youth, she was part of a dance troupe. She performed on stage with Arthur Askey, and was skilled in tap dancing, ballet and acrobatics. I have wonderful memories of her: as a kid, I remember standing in her kitchen looking up at her while we baked cakes, my nan tutting and smiling, as I cheekily stole chocolate icing.

Over her life, she worked for the NHS as a clerk and administrator. I’m not exaggerating when I say she never said a bad word about anybody. Her kindness knew no bounds: when she finished her dialysis for kidney failure some years ago, she would go and sit with patients who were alone during their own treatment. During the night, she would climb out of her own bed to hold the hands of patients who were crying out in severe pain.

PM says businesses will continue to get economic support until they can operate as normal

Boris Johnson has said he is “very confident” all restrictions on normal life will end on 21 June, saying the government will continue to provide economic support to businesses until they can operate as normal – appearing to confirm that many financial packages will be extended in the chancellor’s March budget.

Johnson said the government would “continue to put our arms around everybody” during the pandemic, when asked about unemployment, but suggested the coronavirus crisis had “accelerated” changes that had been happening naturally to the economy.

Covid-19 has spread around the planet, sending billions into lockdown. Find out where the virus has spread, and where it has been most deadly

Since first being recorded in late 2019 in China, the Covid-19 coronavirus has spread around the world, and been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

World’s Forgotten Fishes report lists pollution, overfishing and climate change as dangers

Freshwater fish are under threat, with as many as a third of global populations in danger of extinction, according to an assessment.

Populations of migratory freshwater fish have plummeted by 76% since 1970, and large fish – those weighing more than 30kg – have been all but wiped out in most rivers. The global population of megafish down by 94%, and 16 freshwater fish species were declared extinct last year.

President Biden held a remembrance ceremony at the White House as the Covid death toll passed half a million yesterday. Plus, Trump’s tax returns will be handed to prosecutors

Good morning.

More than 500,000 people in the US have now died from coronavirus, just over a year since the country detected its first case. That is more than the population of Miami, Colorado Springs or Minneapolis. It’s also more than the number of Americans who died in the second world war, Korea and Vietnam. In a primetime address to the nation last night, Joe Biden urged people “to resist becoming numb to the sorrow”, before a holding a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at the White House.

About 50 long-finned pilot whales became stuck in the shallow water off Farewell Spit, and about 26 have died

A team of experts and volunteers are racing the tides to save a pod of pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.

Dozens of the roughly 50 long-finned pilot whales have already died since they stranded on Monday, and the remaining animals stayed in the shallows on Tuesday morning despite efforts to move them out to sea.

Coverage of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala criticised by group who say such attitudes ‘discourage women from taking on leadership positions’

Senior African leaders at the UN have criticised the “sexist and racist” language used in coverage of the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the new president of the World Trade Organization.

Okonjo-Iweala, a graduate of Harvard University, was confirmed as the new head of the WTO last week, making her the first woman and the first African to lead the organisation.

Prototype developed in France is as accurate as PCR test and does not require lab processing

French researchers have developed a new coronavirus test that they say delivers results three times faster than rapid lateral flow antigen tests with – according to initial trial data – almost the same accuracy as more reliable, but slower, PCR tests.

The electrochemical test, which uses nanobodies taken from the camelid group of animals, returns a result within 10 minutes and, in an early test of 300 samples, proved 90% as accurate as a PCR test for both positive and negative results. It is being developed by scientists at Lille and Marseille universities and from the French national scientific research centre CNRS.

By resurrecting disco, soft rock and 80s R&B, and bringing spectacle to the world of dance music, the French duo changed the course of pop music again and again

It’s hard to think of an act who had a greater impact on the way 21st-century pop music sounds than Daft Punk. The style Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo minted on their 1997 debut album Homework – house music heavy on the filter effect, which involved the bass or treble on the track gradually fading in and out, mimicking a DJ playing with the equalisation on a mixer; drums treated with sidechain compression, so that the beats appeared to punch through the sound, causing everything else on the track to momentarily recede – is now part of pop’s lingua franca.

In fact, no sooner had Homework come out than other artists started to copy it. Within a couple of years, Madonna had hooked up with another French dance producer, Mirwais, employed to add a distinctly Daft Punk-ish sheen to her 2000 album Music, and the charts were playing host to a succession of soundalike house tracks – 2 People by Jean Jacques Smoothie, who turned out to be a bloke from Gloucester called Steve; Phats and Small’s ubiquitous Turn Around; and No 1 singles, Modjo’s Lady and Eric Prydz’s Call on Me among them.

Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Sweden put on notice over curbs to free movement

Brussels has put six EU member states on notice that their tight Covid border restrictions, including exit and entry bans, should be lifted over fears of a wider breakdown in the bloc’s free movement of people and goods.

Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Sweden have been given 10 days to respond to the European commission’s concerns that they have breached commonly agreed coronavirus guidelines.

The Morrison government is accused of ‘dehumanising’ people on welfare, who fear having to return to a more difficult life

Twenty-eight-year-old Gene Saraçi, who has been unemployed for four years, says he was “heartbroken” listening to Scott Morrison explain the government’s decision to increase jobseeker payments by just $3.57 a day.

“It just definitely demonstrates that this government has absolutely no concern or compassion towards people that are unemployed or underemployed.

The last days of Pinochet’s regime form the backdrop of this exciting dramatisation of a real prison-break plot

Here is the story of the biggest prison escape in Chilean history. In 1990, during the final days of the Pinochet regime, 49 leftwing prisoners escaped from a Santiago jail via a 60-metre-long tunnel dug over 18 gruelling months with spoons and screwdrivers. Local newspapers called it “The Great Escape” and “An Escape for the Movies”; the event was a natural for the big screen. Jailbreak digs into this historic episode with thrilling oomph and awe.

Much of the film’s pleasure derives from the ingenious ways the prisoners manage to dig the tunnel right under the noses of the watchful, sadistic guards. At one point, the crew use a pornographic poster to cover the opening to the crawl space where they would ultimately stack more than 50 tonnes of dirt. The guard takes no notice; he quips that the model is still wearing too many clothes. Later, the camera pulls back to reveal the real scope of the tunnel, all masterfully rigged with lights. Goosebumps.

Millions of Soviet citizens were sent to vast network of prison camps under Stalin. Now their descendants seek recompense

Alisa Meissner is paying to this day for the Soviet Union’s decision to exile her whole family from Moscow for their German heritage.

She still lives in a town just 30 miles from the gulag village where her family were sent in the 1940s after the outbreak of the second world war. And despite the rehabilitation of her exiled family, the denunciation of Joseph Stalin and the collapse of the Soviet Union, she has never been able to leave.

Monument in north Africa commemorates the fascist leader’s earlier role in the Rif war of the 1920s

The last public statue in Spain of the former dictator Francisco Franco has been removed from the city gates of Melilla, a Spanish enclave and autonomous city on the north-west African coast.

Without much fanfare, a group of workmen took down the statue on Tuesday, using a mechanical digger and heavy drills to chip away at the brick platform on which the statue stood, before lifting it off by a chain around its neck and carting it away in bubblewrap on a pickup truck.

Rolling coverage of the latest economic and financial news

Jonathan Athow, the UK’s deputy national statistician, says there are “tentative” signs that the UK’s labour market was stabilising at the end of last year, given the rise in company payrolls in the last two months:

Commenting on today’s labour market data, Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics Jonathan Athow said: (1/3) pic.twitter.com/vK3SSf6UUY

Jonathan Athow added: (2/3) pic.twitter.com/AvdIsDrvGZ

Jonathan Athow continued: (3/3) pic.twitter.com/ZHqQDnJWXG

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
Britain’s unemployment rate has risen to its highest level since early 2016, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit the labour market - particularly younger workers.

But, there are also signs that the jobs market is stabilising, with a small increase in the number of payrolled employees in December and January, and a pick-up in vacancies.

#Breaking The number of UK workers on payrolls increased by 83,000 last month but has fallen by 726,000 since February 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) pic.twitter.com/QyEaVVZKMC

There were 28.3 million employees paid through payroll in January, up 83,000 on December.

However, this was still 726,000 fewer than in February 2020, before the pandemic started to affect the jobs market https://t.co/JnDniCrnUb pic.twitter.com/8UU8SQWB7D

New analysis by age band shows that the 18 to 24 years age group has seen the greatest decrease in payrolled employees since February 2020.

Our latest labour market statistics have been published for October to December 2020 https://t.co/1DgbObMBLB pic.twitter.com/VCjyNs4y06

After the former Liberal’s brawl with Tanya Plibersek, the PM told him to stop promoting unproven Covid therapies and also to ‘look at his office’

When you pull this story apart, a lot of people have been talking to Craig Kelly over the past couple of weeks. It’s interesting, so let’s work through the list.

Scott Morrison spoke to the outspoken MP after he brawled in unseemly fashion with Tanya Plibersek in the press gallery corridor on 3 February. According to Kelly, Morrison told him to stop freelancing about unproven Covid-19 therapies and also to “look at his office”.

Guardian analysis indicates shocking figure likely to be an underestimate, as preparations for 2022 tournament continue

More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, the Guardian can reveal.

The findings, compiled from government sources, mean an average of 12 migrant workers from these five south Asian nations have died each week since the night in December 2010 when the streets of Doha were filled with ecstatic crowds celebrating Qatar’s victory.

Was the corporate immunity linked to $1.5m in political contributions from lobbyists? Only a full investigation can help us find out

Imagine fielding hundreds of calls from worried constituents at the peak of the first Covid-19 wave, trying to help scared families protect loved ones in nursing homes.

Imagine being stonewalled by those nursing homes and the department of health as you sought answers to life-and-death questions, knowing that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directive forced these unprepared facilities to take in thousands of Covid-positive patients.

The key is ventilation, ventilation and more ventilation – but isolation must be properly supported too

The government’s roadmap for ending Covid restrictions in England commits it to steps that may increase the rate at which the virus spreads. Some of that is unavoidable. But even as we reopen, there is more that we could do to mitigate the risk, and get us to the summer – and normality – without a resurgence.

One reason that east Asian countries have done better during the pandemic is that prior experience with Sars has given people the understanding of how respiratory diseases spread, and how to avoid them. Japan’s three Cs guidance – avoidance of closed spaces, crowded places, and conversations – helped it avoid a serious epidemic without imposing a national lockdown.

Sky After Dark commentator Rowan Dean has made multiple reports on the supposed secret agenda of the World Economic Forum’s 'the Great Reset', some of which have featured on Infowars

Europe’s most active volcano produces one of most striking explosions in decades

Mount Etna’s spectacular eruptions reached a peak on Monday when the volcano’s lava fountains soared to 1,500 metres – a display described by one expert as “one of the most striking in the last few decades”.

Europe’s most active volcano has been on explosive form in recent weeks, spewing incandescent magma and a copious shower of ash, reaching as far as Catania.

  • Restrictions due to end in time for 23 May
  • Move would require approval from 14 of 20 clubs

Premier League clubs are to vote on whether to allow fans back for the final day of the season with concerns that home teams could have an significant advantage in the battle for European places and the relegation fight.

Boris Johnson announced the government’s post-lockdown plans on Monday and up to 10,000 spectators could be let into grounds on 23 May, when Fulham are due to play Newcastle at Craven Cottage in what is potentially a relegation decider, and Brighton – currently fifth from bottom – travel to Arsenal. Spurs visit eighth-placed Aston Villa for a match that could be key to Europa League qualification.

US death toll passes 500,000; Syria approves Sputnik vaccine; UK government eyes return to normal by end of June

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

I’ll be bringing you the latest coronavirus developments for the next few hours _ as always, you can find me (and a movie recommendation) on Twitter, too @helenrsullivan.

Descend through the different zones of the ocean to discover its mesmerising marine life, how human pollutants are interfering – and what we can still do about it

In a somber address, the president urged Americans to overcome their political divides and follow health guidelines



In a somber address to the nation as the US surpassed half a million coronavirus deaths on Monday, Joe Biden urged the country to unify in its battle against the virus.

“I ask all Americans to remember those we lost and those we left behind. But as we all remember, I also ask us to act, to remain vigilant, to stay socially distanced, to mask up, get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” the president said in his address from the White House.

A Guatemalan third-division game produced one of the most blatant attempts to dupe a referee we’ve seen in a while. Batanecos FC player Rosbin Ramos picked up an object which had been thrown on to the pitch by fans, then hit himself in the face and collapsed to the floor, faking that it had been thrown at him. Sadly, his performance was wasted as the match officials didn’t see the incident so no punishments were given

During a global pandemic, 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured. Many are frontline workers who cannot practice social distancing

As the United States marks the terrible milestone of half a million souls lost to Covid-19, these deaths demand a grown-up conversation about the policies that shape our public life. When we look at the impact of this pandemic on other wealthy nations around the world, the disproportionate death toll we have sustained in the US exposes a basic failure of national security. Though we spend more than the next several nations combined on our military budget, our government was unable to protect its citizens against a deadly pathogen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this week that, during the first six months of the pandemic, life expectancy for the average American dropped by a full year. For African Americans, the impact was nearly three times as severe, exposing persistent systemic racism that was not corrected when corporations agreed to say “Black Lives Matter”. We have not simply suffered a disaster. This disaster has unveiled dysfunction in our society.

Venue kicks off 150th birthday celebrations with footage dating back to 1933, some of it unseen

A short film narrated by Mick Jagger featuring crowds, happiness and the sheer thrill of being together has been released to kick off the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Royal Albert Hall.

The Rolling Stones frontman reads from WH Auden’s poem For Friends Only in the 90-second clip, an emotional tribute to live music after a year without it.

The Australian has spent four weeks in isolation – double the usual requirement – to ensure she did not have coronavirus

There are calls to deport an Australian woman who has spent four weeks in New Zealand hotel quarantine because she is refusing to be tested for Covid-19.

Last month, Lucinda Baulch travelled to New Zealand from Victoria with three foster children who were moving into the care of local families in a trip arranged by the country’s child protection authorities.

Without the technology to produce mRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer jab, Australia and region remain ‘vulnerable to supply shocks’, scientists warn

Leading Australian scientists have called on the federal government to urgently develop additional onshore Covid vaccine manufacturing capability to protect against supply disruption as the country completes its second day of vaccinations.

In a pre-budget submission published on Tuesday, the Australian Academy of Science said without the ability to produce mRNA vaccines, Australia and the region remain vulnerable to supply limitations.

Millions who cannot afford to stay home still lack access to inoculation, even as their work puts them in harm’s way

Pharmacy workers helping maskless customers. Uber drivers transporting coughing passengers. Janitors cleaning contaminated workspaces.

Amid California’s slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout, millions of essential workers in high-exposure jobs are still waiting to get the life-saving doses, with many uncertain when or how they will get access.

Swathes of England’s landscape were shaped by the immense block of chalk that has lain beneath it for 100 million years. For a long time, even geologists paid it little heed – but now its secrets and symbolism are being revealed

On the British Geological Survey’s map, chalk is represented by a swathe of pale, limey green that begins on the east coast of Yorkshire and curves in a sinuous green sweep down the east coast, breaking off where the Wash nibbles inland. In the south, the chalk centres on Salisbury Plain, radiating out in four great ridges: heading west, the Dorset Downs; heading east, the North Downs, the South Downs and the Chilterns.

Stand on Oxford Street in the middle of the West End of London and beneath you, beneath the concrete and the London clay and the sands and gravels, is an immense block of white chalk lying there in the darkness like some vast subterranean iceberg, in places 200 metres thick. The Chalk Escarpment, as this block is known, is the single largest geological feature in Britain. Where I grew up, in a suburb of Croydon at the edge of south London, this chalk rises up from underneath the clays and gravels to form the ridge of hills called the North Downs. These add drama to quiet streets of bungalows and interwar semis: every so often a gap between the houses shows land falling away, sky opening up, the towers and lights of the city visible far in the distance.

Exclusive: summary from visit last year reveals Chinese officials offered scant details

Chinese officials did “little” in terms of epidemiological investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan in the first eight months after the outbreak, according to an internal World Health Organization document seen by the Guardian.

The internal WHO travel report summary, dated 10 August 2020, also said the team who met Chinese counterparts as part of a mission to help find the origins of the virus received scant new information at that time, and were not given any documents or written data during extensive discussions with Chinese officials.

The British socialite charged with aiding Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse has been denied bail twice since being arrested in July

Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite charged with aiding Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse, has offered to renounce her UK and French citizenship in an attempt to secure bail.

The offer to surrender her foreign citizenship is the latest attempt by Maxwell’s lawyers to secure bail for their client. Maxwell, 59, has been denied bail twice, with a judge deeming her to be a flight risk.