Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Friday 25 Jan 2019

1. Queen calls for unity amid Brexit chaos

The Queen yesterday made a speech in which she urged the country to “seek out the common ground” and “never lose sight of the bigger picture” - comments widely interpreted as referring to Brexit. The Queen told the Sandringham Women’s Institute in Norfolk that “as we look for answers in the modern age”, we must respect “different points of view”.

2. Alex Salmond charged with attempted rape

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond appeared in court in Edinburgh yesterday to face 14 charges - two of attempted rape, two of indecent assault, nine of sexual assault and one breach of the peace. The 64-year-old, who was leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) for more than two decades, told reporters outside the court that he was “innocent of any criminality”.

3. UK recognises Venezuela leader as US leaves

Britain has joined the US, Canada and other nations in recognising the leader of the Venezuelan opposition as the country’s new leader following a disputed election. Meanwhile, the US has instructed its diplomatic staff to leave the country and told other citizens to “strongly consider departing”. President Donald Trump has not ruled out military action.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

4. Rabbit virus killing brown hares

A deadly virus has jumped from the UK’s rabbit population to its brown hares, with cases confirmed in Dorset and Essex. Rabbit haemorrhagic disease type two has already made the leap between species elsewhere in Europe and is now threatening the UK’s brown hares, the number of which has already declined by 80% in recent decades.

5. Australia explorer’s grave found in London

The controversial excavation of a central London cemetery to make way for the HS2 rail project has uncovered an archaeological needle in a haystack: an inscribed coffin containing the remains of the first European to circumnavigate Australia. Captain Matthew Flinders died in 1814 at the age 40, and his headstone was removed from St James’s Burial Ground during the expansion of Euston Station soon after. He remains a major figure in Australia.

6. Opposing bills to end US shutdown fail

Two bills to agree a budget and thereby end the longest government shutdown in US history have both been rejected by the country’s Senate. In a blow for President Donald Trump, the Republican bill he sponsored received fewer votes than the Democratic alternative. Trump is still calling for funding for his Mexico border wall.

7. Taxpayers to pay £24bn for oil decommissioning tax relief

Tax relief granted to oil firms removing hundreds of North Sea wells, rigs and pipelines will cost the Exchequer an estimated £24bn over the next 20 years, according to the National Audit Office. Oil production has contributed around £300bn to government coffers since the 1960s, but production has been in decline since peaking in the 1980s and late 1990s.

8. Rare sharks found off Wales

One of the rarest species of shark in the world is alive and well, and living in waters off the coast of Wales. Angel sharks were known to exist in seas around the Canary Islands but following an appeal for information, fishermen have reported a number of sightings of the critically endangered species near Wales too.

9. Rocking beds ‘promote better sleep in adults’

A study has found that being rocked to sleep is not just effective for children: adults lying on a specially designed laboratory bed that rocked them gently throughout the night woke less often and slept more deeply. Volunteers wearing electrodes to record their brain waves spent three nights sleeping in the lab in Geneva.

10. Briefing: how life on Earth began

The conditions for life on Earth were created when the planet crashed into another body the size of Mars about 4.4 billion years ago, a new study claims.

For life to emerge on an otherwise dead planet, “an assortment of chemical compounds, or volatile elements, are required, including carbon, nitrogen and sulfur”, says science news site Gizmodo. Conventional scientific thinking has always been that Earth’s volatile elements arrived through a steady bombardment of ancient meteorites.

How life on Earth began

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.