Hot News on 26/02/2021

Former first minister to give evidence as feud intensifies with former allies including Nicola Sturgeon

Alex Salmond is due to give evidence at Holyrood on his allegations of a Scottish government conspiracy against him, with MSPs expected to issue a last-ditch order seeking the release of evidence.

The former first minister is expected to testify on oath from 12.30pm after weeks of wrangling over his appearance, and legal battles over the publication of his allegations against his former protege Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National party.

RJ Cutler’s two-hour-plus Apple documentary on the pop phenom reveals an exceptional artist grappling with both superstar fame and lame parent jokes

By age 19, the singer Billie Eilish has reached heights of fame and success that feel both otherworldly and familiar, carried by the same tides of generational mega-popularity that have buoyed such teen music idols as Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus before her, but with a Gen Z twist. It’s Eilish publicity canon that the then-15-year-old rocketed to social media fame after her older brother and co-producer, Finneas, posted a song they recorded for her dance class, Ocean Eyes, to Soundcloud, that they recorded her smash debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? in his childhood bedroom, that the two MaGyver everyday sounds – a dentist’s drill, the slurp of Eilish’s Invisalign retainer – into songs that garner billions of streams.

Related: The betrayal of Britney Spears: how pop culture failed a superstar

Elizabeth MacDonough rules that Federal minimum wage rise cannot be part of Covid recovery bill going through Senate

Getting the federal minimum wage raised to $15 per hour from its current level of $7.25 an hour has been a key policy goal for progressive Democrats. It has hit an obstacle in the Senate. As Erica Werner writes for the Washington Post:

President Biden’s proposed $15-an-hour minimum-wage increase cannot remain in his coronavirus relief bill as written, the Senate’s parliamentarian said Thursday. The ruling could be a major setback for liberals hoping to use Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief bill as the vehicle for their long-sought goal of raising the federal minimum wage.

And it could create divisions in the party as some push Democratic leaders for dramatic action to get around the parliamentarian’s ruling. Democrats next steps are not clear. Liberals are pressuring Senate majority leader Charles Schumer to challenge the ruling on the Senate floor, although the White House has dismissed that idea.

Hi, and welcome to our live coverage of what is set to be a busy day of US politics, with quite a lot in the diary. Here’s a quick catch-up on where we are, and what we expect to see.

Landmark emissions disclosures cover 22-year lifetime of 1,429 aircraft sold in 2019 and 2020

Planes sold by Airbus in 2019 and 2020 will produce well over 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide during their lifetimes, according to landmark first estimates of the aerospace manufacturer’s emissions.

Airbus sold a record 863 planes in 2019, which would translate to 740m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over a 22-year period, according to figures seen by the Guardian. It sold 566 planes last year, for which lifetime emissions would be 440m tonnes.

French PM says worrying Covid spread in 20 areas; global death toll passes 2.5m; Brazil death toll passes 250,000. Follow latest updates

Hello and welcome to our continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, with me, Alison Rourke.

Before we kick off, here’s a summary of the top points so far:

Getting up at dawn used to be vital, but pandemic productivity levels show early risers no longer have the moral high ground

A study from Finland has discovered – I paraphrase slightly – that early risers are better than night owls. As I am an extreme night owl writing this at nine o’clock in some morning or other, I dismiss the findings utterly and assume the researchers have to be in the pay of Big Lark.

Documentary photographer Kirsty Mackay examines the causes of the ‘Glasgow Effect’ in a highly personal project. She looks at Glasgow’s excess mortality in comparison to the UK average and shifts the focus from the individual to government policy.

  • The Fish That Never Swam will be published as a book later this year.

In Glasgow people’s lives are cut short: male life expectancy in Possil is 66, in Penilee three young people took their own lives within the space of one week this June, suicide in Glasgow is 30% higher than in English cities, male life expectancy is seven years short of the UK average and women’s is four years less. This is not isolated to areas of deprivation – Glaswegians across all social classes experience a 15% reduction in life expectancy.

We have known about the “Glasgow Effect” for more than a decade. However, the root causes for Glasgow’s excess mortality are not in the public domain. The explanation lies in government policy – not with the individual and their lifestyle choices. Local and central government policies created an environment where segregation, alienation, mass unemployment, the generational trauma that followed, poverty and deprivation constitute a public health concern. During the 1970s and 80s Glasgow was in a “managed decline”. Unbeknown at the time, the city was starved of funding from Westminster.

One year on from the nation’s first case of coronavirus, Aotearoa has largely eliminated the virus - communications played a key part in its success

“Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” The catch cry of pandemic Britain under Boris Johnson, revived last month, might sound familiar to New Zealanders now enjoying their “unstoppable summer”.

Johnson’s three-part slogan reportedly derived last March from a suggestion by Ben Guerin, a 25-year-old Kiwi who advised on the Conservatives’ social media strategy. His attention had been caught by a phrase that was increasingly prevalent in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s messaging back home: “Stay at home, save lives.”

Yanshui beehive fireworks festival was almost cancelled but has gone ahead to hopefully ward off virus

The fuse was lit. Dozens of helmeted worshippers and adrenaline seekers stood stoic if they could, or ran from the flaming projectiles and paper shrapnel, the thousands of explosions ringing ears a block away. In the final days of the lunar new year celebrations and as part of the lantern festival, this notorious Taiwan folk event was much scaled down but no less dramatic, and in the current global climate, newly significant.

The Yanshui beehive fireworks festival was almost cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. But then it was revived, for the same reason.

In normal times, most diplomats can expect to end a foreign posting with an official – if not always fond – farewell from their hosts and a comfortable journey back to their native country.

But for one group of Russian envoys and their families, the coronavirus pandemic meant there was only one way home: under their own steam on a hand-pushed rail trolley.

A more conventional exit from North Korea has not been possible since the country closed its land borders and banned international air travel early on in the pandemic

As ministers review the feasibility of Covid vaccine passports, what limits could society fairly put on refusers?

It’s the exclusive club millions long to join, the VIP pass that promises to smuggle us past the velvet rope. Although so far, it’s only for older and vulnerable people. Every day, the Covid jab starts to look more like a golden ticket back to normality, or at the very least a holiday. Without one, it’s already impossible to book many cruises, or an international flight with Qantas. And in more daring pensioner circles, it’s becoming the key to an illicit social life too.

An older acquaintance let slip this week that underground dinner parties are back among his friends, although invites are strictly limited to those who are jabbed. He hasn’t yet dared take advantage, but wonders whether, when legal socialising resumes this summer, vaccine refusers will find themselves social pariahs.

Two-thirds of doses delivered to country have yet to be dispatched to vaccination centres

Two-thirds of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses delivered to Belgium have yet to be distributed to vaccination centres, officials have admitted, as the country became the latest in Europe to report a sharp rise in coronavirus infections.

Belgium said infections were up 24% compared with the previous week, at a daily average of 2,300. All age groups were affected except for over-80s, who have been prioritised for vaccinations.

Wary organisers call for government cancellation insurance as ticket sales soar

Festival organisers are enjoying record ticket sales after the government’s announcement of its roadmap out of lockdown, despite uncertainty over what state support exists if last-minute cancellations have to take place.

“Lots of our members have seen sale spikes since Monday, which has generated lots of consumer confidence,” said Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals. “There is a huge appetite for live experiences and I don’t think that is surprising. It’s about communal experiences, being outdoors in groups.”

Faced with evidence of crimes against humanity, we can’t rely on the glacial pace of international law to provide justice

It’s a scene that’s been played out both in high drama and a blockbuster thriller, in Death and the Maiden and in Marathon Man – a victim chancing many years later upon their tormentor – but in Berlin in 2014 it happened for real. Anwar al-Bunni was in a grocery shop when he ran into a fellow Syrian émigré whose face was familiar. It took him a while to realise that the man was a former intelligence officer who, al-Bunni was sure, once interrogated and jailed him.

That encounter led to a trial in a Koblenz court of both that officer and an underling, and this week the more junior of the pair, Eyad al-Gharib, was found guilty of aiding and abetting a crime against humanity inside one of Bashar al-Assad’s jails, a crime that included torture. The verdict was hailed as a first encouraging crack in the impunity of the Assad regime, which has not yet faced justice for the hundreds of thousands of Syrians it killed as it suppressed an uprising that began a decade ago.

‘Non-fungible tokens’ are unique images, clips or poems traded online for increasingly large sums

Pudding Daintytot is a pink cat, with hearts sprinkled over its chest, a rainbow cresting behind it, draconic horns, wings and a tail.

“Born” in January 2019, Pudding is a “cryptokitty”: an example of what is known as a “non-fungible token”, the latest cryptocurrency craze – unique images, film clips, animations and even poems, which are bought and sold online for increasingly large sums.

Mark Machin steps down from position after traveling for first dose of vaccine while most Canadians wait to receive their first jab

The head of Canada’s largest pension fund has resigned after disregarding public health advice and travelling to Dubai for a dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board announced on Friday that CEO Mark Machin had stepped down from his position, after the Wall Street Journal first reported Machin’s trip late on Thursday.

While brands big and small are exploring disability-friendly clothing, it remains a niche market that struggles to reach consumers

From constrictive corsetry to blistering 6in heels, the oft-quoted line: “You have to suffer for fashion,” has afflicted humanity for centuries (however much it seems alien to our current wardrobe of Zoom-friendly sweatpants). But what happens when even a simple garment is disabling? Or when suffering for fashion is not a stylistic choice, but an everyday reality that can affect someone’s quality of life?

For many disabled people, off-the-peg clothes are inaccessible and cause discomfort, from fiddly buttons to seams that chafe in a wheelchair. “Clothing plays an important part in living well,” says Monika Dugar, the designer of Reset, an adaptivewear brand that launched at a virtual event during London fashion week. “Due to restricted mobility, clothing choices can impact whether people with disabilities can operate functionally.”

With Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine close to distribution in the US, the end of the pandemic seems a big step closer. But not everything will return to normal right away

Public health authorities want people to keep wearing masks and social distancing, even after they receive a vaccine. This might seem counterintuitive – after all, if someone gets a vaccine, aren’t they protected from the coronavirus?

The answer is complicated: the vast majority of people who are vaccinated will be protected from Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus, even though they do not display any symptoms.

Therapeutic Goods Administration may follow US in allowing vaccines to be stored at warmer temperatures

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine could soon be delivered at temperatures 50 degrees warmer than currently required if Australia follows the US’s lead to ease the rollout.

The US Food and Drug Administration has announced it will allow the vaccines to be transported and stored at conventional pharmaceutical freezer temperatures for a period of up to two weeks.

PNG’s Grand Chief led the country to independence in 1975 and served four terms as prime minister

The man who led Papua New Guinea to independence, the country’s Grand Chief and longest-serving prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, has died in Port Moresby, aged 84.

Known throughout the country as “Papa blo Kantri” – Father of the Nation – Somare served as prime minister for a total of 17 years, over four terms, and was revered as a pivotal figure in the country’s peaceful transformation from colony to independent nation. He is depicted on PNG’s 50 Kina banknote.

Biden may inadvertently achieve what Trump couldn’t: destroying the Iran deal, Obama’s main foreign policy achievement

“Diplomacy is back!” President Joe Biden declared at the Munich Security Conference last week. But so is bombing Syria, apparently. Biden has only been president a bit more than a month, but he has already ordered his first bombing campaign. (It took Trump four months to do the same.) The target was facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militia in retaliation for rocket attacks against US troops in Iraq earlier this month.

Presumably, Biden wanted to signal to Iran that it would pay a heavy price if it ordered attacks against US troops in order to pressure Washington to return to the Iran nuclear deal. But by bombing Syria for this reason, Biden proved how failing to rejoin the nuclear agreement endangers US national security – Iran’s nuclear program continues to advance while the US and Iran glide closer to a military confrontation.

The Books of Jacob, praised by the Nobel prize judges and winner of Poland’s prestigious Nike award, will be published in the UK in November

The magnum opus of Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk – a novel that has taken seven years to translate and has brought its author death threats in her native Poland – is to be published in English.

The Books of Jacob, which will be released in the UK in November, is the Polish author’s first novel to appear in English since she won the 2018 Nobel prize for literature for what judges called “a narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”.

Latest updates: Robert Buckland said prison inmates will not be prioritised over other groups but emphasised need for speed and protecting staff

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, has refused to rule out the prospect of prison inmates and staff being vaccinated en masse in the next phase of the rollout of the coronavirus jab.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is due to publish its recommendations on who should get the vaccine once the rollout to the first nine priority groups – including the over-50s – is complete, PA news reports.

What is clear is that the need for speed is everything here. I will be supporting anything that gives us speed and maximises the impact that it has.

Prisons are a closed environment, like care homes. I have got to think about the welfare of staff. I am particularly anxious to make sure that prison staff get the vaccine.

Unions say company should have done more to reward workers for dedication during pandemic

Sainsbury’s and Argos workers are to receive a third pandemic bonus and a pay increase of more than 2% to match the real living wage outside London, as supermarket sales continue to boom during the high street lockdown.

Minimum hourly pay for Argos workers outside London will rise from £9.00 to £9.50 from March, and from £9.30 to £9.50 for Sainsbury’s staff. Pay for Sainsbury’s staff in central London will rise from £9.90 to £10.10, still short of the independently calculated living wage of £10.85.

Skrillex, Erol Alkan and those close to the French duo chart how they went from being industry outsiders to defining the trajectory of dance music

Following their split this week after 28 years, Daft Punk have ascended to pop Valhalla. Perhaps they’re sitting next to Prince, whose pirouetting falsetto funk and emotional vulnerability inspired the duo’s 2001 masterpiece Discovery, and Led Zeppelin, from whom they cribbed double-necked guitars and 10-tonne drums on 2005’s Human After All. Yet those albums were met with a mixed reception – audiences and critics alike had to learn to trust Daft Punk’s vision of the future.

For British producer-DJ Erol Alkan, whose fan forums were an essential incubator of the blog house movement that swept through club culture in the 2000s, the Parisians had a “deeply profound impact” on a generation, including Alkan. “They were a gateway into so much music that I love, and a big part of that admiration comes down to their position as outsiders,” he says. Daft Punk’s magpie approach to songwriting and visual art was a dominant story of early 21st-century music, similarly colouring the work of MIA, 2ManyDJs, the Avalanches and other sample-stitchers. Although some commentators queried how much inspiration could actually be bound up in recycling, Alkan thinks that in Daft Punk’s case, “the references are strong and familiar, and there is enough of themselves in there for it to always remain theirs”.

Coronavirus pandemic meant the envoys and their families had to travel home in an unconventional way

In normal times, most diplomats can expect to end a foreign posting with an official – if not always fond – farewell from their hosts and a comfortable journey back to their native country.

But for one group of Russian envoys and their families, the coronavirus pandemic meant there was only one way home – under their own steam on a hand-pushed rail trolley.

Can’t get to a gig? No problem. Here’s a collection of classics that evoke the sweaty euphoria of the real thing

Stepping into a venue full of sweaty strangers is still a frustratingly distant prospect, so as live music IRL continues to be benched, our only option is to dig into the giddy world of concert albums. Where better to start than with Daft Punk’s relentlessly pumping Parisian electronica party, complete with unbridled whoops of glee and synth singalongs from a rightly jazzed home-town crowd. It’s now tinged with an added wistfulness following this week’s announcement that the pair have split up after 28 years.

The recent sale of a cast for £12,500 is a testament to the Romantic poet’s enduring legacy, on the bicentenary of his death

There’s no mention of John Keats’s name on his tombstone – in fact you might accidentally pass right by it while strolling through the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome, were it not for its distinctly dour epitaph. “Here lies one whose name was writ in water,” is the bitter description, etched at Keats’s dying request, the final sentiment from a poet who believed his words would fade into oblivion.

When Keats died from tuberculosis aged 25, on 23 February 1821, the furniture in his room – now a museum – was burned. But his face was shaved and prepared, so a plaster cast could be applied to preserve his likeness. Now, 200 years on, two versions of Keats’s death mask produced by two castmakers circulate galleries, auctions and private collections for large sums. Their value is a testament to Keats’s enduring appeal; Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak owned one and would reportedly take it from its box next to his bed to stroke its forehead.

The Guardian’s picture editors select photo highlights from around the world, including the reopening of Sydney’s Opera House, New York Fashion Week, and the festival of Purim

Subterranean protest against high-speed rail line lasted 31 days in tunnel near London station

The anti-HS2 tunnel protest close to Euston station in central London has finally ended after the ninth climate activist emerged from underground.

The subterranean environmental protest has lasted for 31 days, one of the longest in UK protest history, although not quite breaking the record of the 40-day tunnel protest in Essex in 2000.