Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 February 2022

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

1. Deaths during Ukraine clashes

The president of Ukraine has told world leaders that Ukraine would defend itself against any Russian aggression. As tensions rose, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed on a third day of clashes between Ukraine’s military and Russian-backed rebels. US Vice President Kamala Harris threatened a “swift, severe and united” response if an invasion takes place and Boris Johnson said that evidence suggests Moscow is planning “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”.

2. New gales forecast as UK tidies up

Britain is set for winds of up to 80mph on Sunday even as swathes of the country are still cleaning up from Storm Eunice and tens of thousands of homes faced a second night without power. Yellow weather warnings are in place for Sunday across most of England outside the North East for wind, and for heavy rain across Manchester, the Pennines and the North West. A Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge told The Guardian we can expect “wet and windy weather” to continue well into next week.

3. PM ‘announces premature victory’

Boris Johnson is to announce the end of the legal duty to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 tomorrow. The prime minister will set out his intentions to repeal all pandemic regulations in England as part of his “living with Covid” plan. He will claim that the country can rely on the vaccine programme, testing, and new treatments to keep people safe. However, Labour said the PM is “declaring victory before the war is over, in an attempt to distract from the police knocking at his door”.

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4. PM won’t commit to standing down

Boris Johnson has refused to confirm that he would resign if police say he has broken lockdown laws. Although the PM has returned his questionnaire to the Metropolitan Police who are investigating Downing Street parties, when he was asked by the BBC whether he would resign if police decide to take action, he said: “I can’t comment about a process that is under way.” The police investigation was launched in January after an internal inquiry led by civil servant Sue Gray passed information to the force.

5. AI shows glimmers of consciousness

Computer scientists have warned that advanced forms of artificial intelligence may already be displaying signs of consciousness. MIT researcher Tamay Besiroglu and OpenAI cofounder Ilya Sutskever have warned that some machine learning AI may have achieved a limited form of sentience. The Independent said this raises the question of whether, if machines achieve sentience, it would be “ethically wrong to destroy them or turn them off if they malfunction or are no longer useful”.

6. Epstein sidekick found hanged

A close associate of the late US financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been discovered dead in his prison cell in France. Jean-Luc Brunel was found hanged in his cell in La Santé prison early on Saturday morning. The 76-year-old had been held for over a year as he was investigated on suspicion of the rape of minors and trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation. Brunel had denied any wrongdoing. His French lawyers told CNN their client’s “decision was not guided by guilt, but by a sense of injustice”.

7. Trump social media launching next week

Donald Trump’s new social media project is set to launch on Monday, according to posts from an executive on a test version viewed by Reuters. “We’re currently set for release in the Apple app store for Monday Feb 21,” said the executive who has worked on Truth Social. The Observer said the project will join a “growing portfolio” of technology companies that are “positioning themselves as champions of free speech and hope to draw users who feel their views are suppressed on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube”.

8. Chinese ship illuminates Aussie jets

A Chinese warship used a laser to “illuminate” an Australian Air Force jet in what Canberra described as a “serious safety incident”. The statement from the Australian Defence Force said “acts like this have the potential to endanger lives”. CNN said that pilots targeted by laser attacks in the past have reported disorienting flashes, pain, spasms and spots in their vision and even temporary blindness. There have been previous reports of Chinese vessels pointing lasers at Australian aircraft in 2018 and 2019.

9. Carr tells abused to laugh about it

Jimmy Carr is under fire again after making contentious remarks about child sex abuse. During an interview, he said: “I have done a lot of jokes about paedophilia and I am sure at every show there is someone that was inappropriately touched.” He added: “And how do you process that? How do you win? Well, the best reward is a life well-lived and to move on and laugh about it.” Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said: “Personally I have never met a survivor who laughed about it or found it funny.”

10. Wandsworth has ‘gender-skewed’ ratio

Wandsworth is the borough with the highest ratio of young women to men in the country, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Data showed there are 33% more females in their twenties than males in the borough in southwest London, making it one of the most “gender-skewed” parts of Britain, said The Sunday Times. The south-west-London borough also has one of the lowest crime rates in inner London.

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