Friends of the Earth cites documents suggesting UK’s reputation could suffer if it pulled $1.15bn of promised support
The UK was “embarrassed” into funding a huge gas project in Mozambique while considering ending overseas support for fossil fuels, a court has heard.
During a three-day high court hearing, Friends of the Earth highlighted government documents that suggested there would be “obvious repercussions” if the government did not follow through on $1.15bn of support to an offshore pipeline and liquefied natural gas plant in Cabo Delgado province.
Jackie Green’s mother died from Covid on 18 December last year, after months of them both following the rules
At 1.20am on 18 December last year, Jackie Green got a call from the hospital where her 86-year-old mother, Beryl Harris, had contracted Covid on the ward. “And they were calling to tell me she had passed away,” Green said, her voice breaking as she spoke. “When I put the phone down I just sat and howled. The pain was just incredible. Mum was my only relative.”
After the call ended, she said, “I just sat there. I couldn’t move for probably two hours.” Friends called but “nobody can say anything or do anything to make it feel any better. Her death just seemed so unnecessary, and pointless.” Green, who lives on her own, spent the evening of the 18th – and Christmas – alone at home.
Sports fans will be required to show proof of a negative Covid test before attending live events in England, as part of a new range of measures announced by the government to halt the spread of Covid.
A Covid pass that shows evidence of at least two vaccine doses will also be accepted at live sports events, but reports that the vaccine passport would be the only means of gaining access have proved to be unfounded.
Reporters Without Borders calls increasing media oppression in China a ‘great leap backwards’ and says Hong Kong journalism is ‘in freefall’
Xi Jinping has created a “nightmare” of media oppression worthy of the Mao era, and Hong Kong’s journalism is in “freefall”, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
In a major report released on Wednesday, the journalism advocacy group detailed the worsening treatment of journalists and tightening of control over information in China, adding to an environment in which “freely accessing information has become a crime and to provide information an even greater crime”.
There are allegations that several other events may have contravened Covid rules
As an investigation is launched into a party held in No 10, other alleged gatherings are under the spotlight amid allegations that some in Downing Street may have contravened Covid rules. An inquiry announced by the prime minister is focused on facts surrounding what happened on 18 December 2020, however.
It’s important to know how boosters work, but they must not impede the push towards worldwide vaccination
First there was Alpha, then Beta, Gamma and Delta. Now, thanks to the tremendous efforts of scientists in sub-Saharan Africa, the world is getting to grips with the Omicron variant. This new variant of Covid-19 has a number of mutations that distinguish it from previous ones, raising concerns among scientists that the vaccines we are currently using may not remain as effective against it. In response, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that all over-18s in Britain should be able to get a Covid booster shot, as long as three months have elapsed since their last vaccine.
The logic behind boosters is that ensuring the UK population has a high level of immunity will reduce the number of people requiring hospitalisation or dying as a result of the spread of Omicron. This is based on the hope that it is unlikely the vaccines we are currently using will be totally ineffective against the new variant, but it is too early to be definitive about this.
Dr Charlotte Summers is a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge
Manchester United: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Matic, Bailly, Shaw, van de Beek, Mata, Lingard, Diallo, Greenwood, Elanga.
Subs: Heaton, Mengi, Shoretire, Kovar, Hardley, Savage, Iqbal.
Young Boys: Faivre, Maceiras, Camara, Lustenberger, Lefort, Martins Pereira, Aebischer, Elia, Rieder, Ngamaleu, Siebatcheu.
Subs: Zesiger, Sierro, Kanga, Sulejmani, Jankewitz, Burgy, Maier, Toure, Lauper, Hefti, Zbinden, Laidani.
Thousands more vaccinators and volunteers to assist with delivering jabs, as UK misses daily target
The NHS is to hire an extra 52,000 vaccinators and volunteers to “ramp up” its booster drive one year after the national vaccination programme became the first in the world to administer a Covid-19 jab.
The huge recruitment push comes as millions more people can book their Covid booster vaccine on Wednesday as the NHS cuts the qualifying time from six months after a second dose to three.
Boris Johnson announced eight days ago that every eligible adult in the UK should be offered a Covid booster by the end of January under plans to boost protection against the Omicron variant. “We’re going to be throwing everything at it, to ensure everyone eligible is offered a booster in just over two months,” the prime minister said.
More than a week after that announcement, the NHS is today updating its online booking system to enable every adult aged 40 and over and all those in high-risk groups to arrange their Covid booster jab to take place three months after their second dose. A row over red tape that has hampered the programme opening up more widely has also erupted between senior national staff at NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency.
In selecting a Manchester United XI that may never again play together due to its blend of fringe and senior players requiring game-time, Ralf Rangnick will have pleased all fielded while gleaning precious information regarding the interim manager’s new squad.
Heading the file is how Mason Greenwood sparkled with a spectacular opener and was at ease executing the high press Rangnick demands. The German will be less enamoured of the way Donny van de Beek dozed to allow Young Boys an equaliser but can gain succour, too, from the willingness of all in red to bring a zest to the contest.
Minister overseeing review indicates tougher regulation of gambling industry
Gambling firms could be forced to ask punters for payslips to prevent “unaffordable” losses, the minister overseeing a landmark review of the sector has said, citing a “moral obligation” to tackle addiction.
Chris Philp, who took over as gambling minister in September, outlined a series of government proposals, indicating a tougher regulatory environment that would reduce industry revenues.
Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has given a powerful and emotional speech in parliament in response to news a Christmas party was held at Downing Street last December while London was under Covid-19 restrictions. ‘Working in intensive care, I wept behind my mask as three children talking, to their dying mother on an iPad, begged her to wake up’, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said. ‘While parties were held at Number 10.’ She asked Boris Johnson during Question Time, 'How does the prime minister sleep at night?'
Marks & Spencer’s £19.50 black jumper is unexpected hit with female priests
It’s a job that comes with a range of uniform options: dog collars, cassocks, surplices, albs, tippets and chasubles, all available from good clerical outfitters. But clergy are now snapping a new item from an unexpected source – Marks & Spencer.
The retailer’s women’s black jumper with the word “Believe” emblazoned in bold colours is a hit with female priests, leading one Church of England bishop to describe it as “the new clergy uniform”.
Pelé is in hospital to undergo treatment for a colon tumour, São Paulo’s Hospital Albert Einstein said on Wednesday. It added that the 81-year-old former Brazil international was in stable condition and should be discharged in the next few days.
The three-times World Cup winner underwent surgery to remove a colon tumour in September and spent nearly a month in hospital. The hospital said at the time that he would need to undergo chemotherapy.
Charity warns of ‘catastrophic’ increase in tree and plant disease because of climate breakdown
At least 30,000 ash trees are due to be felled by the National Trust this year at a cost of £3m due to dieback, as the charity warns of a “catastrophic” increase in tree and plant disease because of climate breakdown.
Changing weather patterns are expected to cause pests and diseases that destroy trees to thrive, which could bring dramatic change to British landscapes.
Findings suggest boosting antibodies can compensate for jabs being less well matched than to earlier variants
The Omicron variant of coronavirus can partially evade the protection of vaccines and previous infection, according to one of the first laboratory studies into the matter.
However, the findings suggest immune escape is “not complete”, which means that boosting antibodies can compensate for vaccines being less well matched to Omicron than to earlier versions of the virus. Scientists said that while the clinical implications were yet to be confirmed, the findings strongly supported the idea that booster vaccinations would be effective.
In the United States, testing varies widely by city, county and state. In the UK, tests are free and sent to your home, as it should be
On Monday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, boasted about the Biden administration’s coronavirus testing apparatus. “We’ve quadrupled the size of our testing plan. We’ve cut the cost significantly over the last few months,” Psaki told reporters, noting Americans will now be able to get the costs of tests reimbursed by their private insurers.
“Why not make them free and give them out everywhere?” a reporter asked.
Government faces backlash over video showing aides joking about Downing Street Christmas party
The government is facing a furious backlash after a video emerged showing senior No 10 aides joking about lockdown rules and a Christmas party held at Downing Street.
After Boris Johnson and various aides repeatedly denied that a party took place at all and that Covid rules were broken, Johnson said on Wednesday he “apologises unreservedly for the offence that [the video] has caused” as well as “for the impression that it gives”, while still insisting that, as far as he was aware, no party took place.
Exclusive: Government strips council of role in programme, which replaced Erasmus after Brexit
The British Council will be stripped of its role in running the £110m Turing student exchange scheme and replaced by the outsourcing firm Capita, the Guardian has learned.
The decision, which has yet to be made public, has shocked higher education insiders, who fear the loss of the British Council’s long experience with international educational exchanges. The council has helped hundreds of thousands of young people find work and study placements abroad.
Farmers and rural business owners call for stricter rules and enforcement
Fly-tipping incidents in England increased last year, with household waste accounting for by far the biggest proportion of the problem, which has been worsened by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
From March 2020 to March 2021 in England, 1.13m fly-tipping incidents were dealt with by local authorities, an increase of 16% on the 980,000 reported in the previous year, according to data released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Wednesday. Higher numbers of incidents were reached in 2007-09, but the way the data is collated has changed, so direct comparisons with years before 2018 are not possible.
Registered births fell by 3.7% in 2020, with the total fertility rate at an all-time low of 1.58 babies per woman
Australia’s fertility rate continues to plummet, with registered births dropping below 300,000 for the first time in 14 years.
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday showed there were 294,369 registered births in 2020, a decrease of 3.7% from 2019. The previous year’s decline was 3%.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls out Lauren Boebert on Twitter for posting a picture of her family holding rifles in front of a tree
Leftwing congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has spoken out about the hypocrisy of gun-wielding Christmas card photos, an emerging trend among several Republic lawmakers who have posted holiday photos showing themselves and their family holding military-style rifles.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez called out far-right congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who had posted a picture of her family, including her small children, holding rifles in front of a Christmas tree.
Mum was determined to abide by the rules – we never even got to say goodbye to each other
I used to have a joke with my mum where I’d call her the rubber ball, because she always seemed to bounce back from any illness she had. My mum was called Beryl Harris, and she was 86 when she died of Covid-19. She died in hospital on 18 December last year – the same day as the non-socially distanced Christmas party at No 10.
We had had a terrible few years already. My stepfather Brian had developed an aggressive form of vascular dementia that meant he deteriorated very quickly; he was diagnosed when he was 74 and died when he was 78. That really took its toll on my mum and me, not least emotionally. My mum was just coming out of that very bleak period, and feeling far more positive about things – she was getting her zest for life back again, and it was really lovely to see.
Jackie Green is a member of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice
Force cites policy of not investigating past alleged breaches of Covid rules and lack of evidence
The Metropolitan police has said it will not investigate the Downing Street Christmas party widely reported to have been held last year.
In a much awaited statement the force said it had a policy of not retrospectively investigating alleged breaches of coronavirus laws.
While she was dying in a hospice, separated from her family, Downing Street staff were taking us for idiots
Today we are hearing a lot about what was apparently happening in Downing Street on Friday 18 December; a party in total contravention of the coronavirus restrictions imposed on the rest of us. Let me tell you how I spent that day.
I was 15 when my mum and dad came home from a “precautionary” brain scan in August 2016 to tell me and my sister that my mum had a terminal brain tumour.
Daisy Harris is a student
Prosecutors cast doubt on Kim Potter’s claims she thought she held a Taser: she had years of training but got it ‘dead wrong’
The suburban Minneapolis police officer who killed Daunte Wright violated her training and “betrayed a 20-year-old kid” when she shot him with a handgun instead of a Taser during a traffic stop, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.
Prosecutor Erin Eldridge began her opening statement at former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter’s manslaughter trial by telling jurors that a police officer’s fundamental duty is to protect the sanctity of life. She also said Potter had received extensive training, including in risks of firing the wrong weapon.
Most splashed on the leaked video showing No 10 staff joking about a lockdown party Downing Street denies took place
After a video was leaked on Wednesday evening showing No 10 staff joking about a lockdown Christmas party that Downing Street has claimed never happened, most UK newspapers have splashed on the story as the biggest of the day – with some notable exceptions.
The story’s wide impact was emphasised on Tuesday night when Ant and Dec joked about the news on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, saying the show’s participants “categorically deny any suggestions that they had a party and this fictional party definitely didn’t involve cheese and wine or a secret Santa”.
Katie Allan was only 20 when she was locked up. Three months later she was dead. Her parents believe the Scottish Prison Service failed her and needs radical change
Katie Allan had her period the day she was sent to prison.
The 20-year-old from East Renfrewshire was sentenced to 16 months in Polmont, near Falkirk, in March 2018 for a drink-driving offence in which a teenage boy had been injured. His parents wrote to the sheriff urging a non-custodial option, and Katie’s family had been assured by their lawyer that the chances of their daughter, a first-time offender studying geography at the University of Glasgow, being sent to prison were “next to nothing”.
NHS halves wait for third jab for over-40s from six to three months in ‘boost to booster programme’
Millions of people in England will be able to book their Covid booster vaccine on Wednesday as the NHS cuts the qualifying time from six months after a second dose to three.
Every adult aged 40 and over and all those in high-risk groups will be able to arrange their Covid booster jab to take place three months after their second dose as the vaccine programme widens significantly today.
Alt-folk group the Portraits hope to top charts with version of Sheeran’s Photograph – as singer pins hopes on Elton John collaboration
A band who accused John Lewis of copying their arrangement for a Christmas song are going head-to-head with Ed Sheeran for this year’s Christmas No 1 slot, using one of the pop superstar’s own songs.
Alt-folk group the Portraits were selected on Wednesday by the Official Charts Company as one of 13 contenders to top the Christmas charts.
Outages hit Ireland and parts of UK after severe winds, rain and snow sweep in from Atlantic
Almost 60,000 homes in Ireland and 1,000 properties in Scotland have been left without power after Storm Barra swept in from the Atlantic bringing severe winds, rain and snow.
The latest outages came days after the final homes in Britain were reconnected after Storm Arwen, which caused “catastrophic damage” to electricity networks mainly in north-east Scotland, affecting 135,000 properties.
They are Britain’s largest bird and, flying overhead, Theroux described them as sounding like ‘a couple making love in a hammock’
The mute swan is not so much a bird, more of a national treasure: the avian equivalent of Sir David Attenborough or the Queen. And just like them, swans are widely loved and admired.
Yet people also sometimes fear swans: when a territorial male chases after you, hissing and spreading his wings, he can be a fearsome adversary. And at times, people wilfully seek to harm them. Perhaps because they present such huge and obvious targets, swans are regularly shot and killed.
Review by firm, which is close to breaking even in final quarter of 2021, comes as Omicron variant spreads
The travel company Tui has narrowed its annual losses but is reviewing whether to make cuts to the remainder of its winter programme in light of rising coronavirus cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.
Posting a €2.4bn (£2.1bn) loss for the year to the end of September, down from €3.5bn the year before, the group said it was close to breaking even in the final quarter of the year, which was 93% booked, although still 31% below pre-pandemic levels.
Latest updates: Labour launches social media attacks against prime minister over ‘partygate’, ahead of PMQs this afternoon
This, from my colleague Archie Bland, explains what today’s papers are saying about the No 10 Christmas party video story.
Good morning. PMQs can sometimes come across as a tedious and pointless hoopla, but it is the hardest diary engagement for a PM to avoid, and so it can be a catalyst for decision. With a big question looming, the PM has to have an answer. And by 12pm today Boris Johnson will have to have decided what to say about the partygate crisis.
The policy meant to tackle doxxing on the platform has left many anti-fascist activists locked out of their accounts
How could a policy intended to protect against doxxing and harassment go so wrong, so quickly?
Last week, Twitter announced it would start penalizing users who tweet “private media”, or images of other users shared without their consent, “that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate and reveal the identities of individuals”.
Near 1,900-year-old skeleton discovered with nail through heel bone during excavation in Fenstanton
Found at the site of a future housing development in Cambridgeshire, the near 1,900-year-old skeleton at first did not seem particularly remarkable.
Aged 25 to 35 at the time of death, the man had been buried with his arms across his chest in a grave with a wooden structure, possibly a bier, at one of five cemeteries around a newly discovered Roman settlement at Fenstanton, between Roman Cambridge and Godmanchester.
Controversy centres on alleged get-togethers at Downing Street last year when London was under strict lockdown
On Tuesday last week, the British tabloid newspaper, the Mirror, published a story that claimed parties had been held at Johnson’s Downing Street residence in the run-up to Christmas last year.
Rowena Mason and Zoe Williams look at the potential consequences of the bombshell video that has thrown doubt on Boris Johnson’s repeated denials that there was a Christmas party at No 10 last year. Plus: Aubrey Allegretti, Peter Walker and Jessica Elgot look at what the byelections tell us about the need for a progressive alliance