Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 16 December 2022

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

1. Flu ‘could kill 30,000’

Flu hospitalisations in England have soared by more than 40% in a week, according to analysis of NHS data by The Telegraph, which also shows that rates are more than eight times higher than expected. Flu hospitalisations are so high that they have overtaken Covid admissions for the first time, and admissions next week could pass the peak of the 2017-18 outbreak, which led to nearly 30,000 deaths. Experts said that increased mixing indoors due to the cold weather is leading to more people catching flu and other winter viruses.

Europe’s winter twindemic of flu and Covid

2. Putin ‘could flee to Argentina’

Vladimir Putin could be planning to flee to South America, according to reports. With his war in Ukraine “turning into a disaster for Russia”, the Russian president is “doing his best to keep out of the public eye”, said The Times, and will not take to the ice in Red Square for his traditional ice-hockey match with allies and bodyguards. He also appears to be planning to skip his annual state of the nation address to parliament. A Kremlin source said that Putin could escape to Argentina or Venezuela.

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How the Ukraine war began and how it could end

3. Musk suspends critics’ accounts

Twitter has suspended accounts belonging to several prominent reporters covering the company’s owner, Elon Musk. After accounts of technology journalists at CNN, the Washington Post, Mashable and the New York Times were suspended, Musk claimed the accounts had published “assassination coordinates” on him, but the journalists “had not distributed that type of information”, said CNN. The development “apparently marks a significant attempt” by Musk to “wield his unilateral authority over the platform”, the broadcaster added.

4. Dairy farms polluting rivers

Government data shows that livestock farms in England polluted rivers 300 times last year, causing 20 major incidents. The dairy industry is “the worst environmental offender”, said the BBC, and is linked to half of all farm pollution. However, only six farms were prosecuted in 2021, with the Environment Agency only issuing warning letters in the other cases. “I think farm pollution has been hidden away for far too long,” said a woman who lives near a polluted river in Somerset.

AUG 21: Toxic run-off from cities, oil spills and fly-tipping: the state of England’s river

5. Sunak pressed to talk to nurses

The prime minister is under growing pressure to negotiate with striking nurses after four former Tory ministers joined health service leaders to call for Rishi Sunak to negotiate. Steve Brine, a former health minister, was the latest of those to publicly push for the government to ask the pay review body to look again at the rise it recommended earlier this year. Meanwhile, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association union has voted to accept Network Rail’s improved pay deal in a referendum.

Winter strikes: who will back down first?

6. Inflation has ‘peaked in UK’

The Bank of England governor has “broken ranks” with European and American central bankers by announcing that inflation has now passed its peak in the UK, said The Telegraph. Andrew Bailey welcomed the “first glimmer” of hope that the highest inflation in decades is coming under control as the Monetary Policy Committee announced another 0.5 percentage point rise in interest rates. However, inflation could “remain very high for months to come”, wrote the the BBC’s economics editor Faisal Islam.

What is inflation and why is it so high?

7. More Raab bullying claims emerge

An internal Whitehall survey has found that a third of staff in ministerial private offices at Dominic Raab’s department claim to have been bullied or harassed in the past 12 months. A civil service survey from this week, which has been leaked to the Guardian, shows that 10 of the 33 people who worked most closely with the justice secretary said they had been treated badly. Raab, who faces eight formal complaints over alleged bullying, has vowed to “thoroughly rebut and refute” complaints.

Dominic Raab: the deputy PM at centre of new bullying row

8. Labour holds seat in by-election

Labour have held their seat in Stretford and Urmston in the latest by-election. Andrew Western becomes the Commons’ newest MP after winning by a majority of 9,906, securing 69.65% of the vote. Western, who previously led Trafford Council, said the result sent out a “strong message”, showing 12 years of Conservative government was “coming to an end”. With temperatures in the area below freezing on polling day, only 25.8% of voters eligible to cast their ballot turned out.

9. US releases more JFK files

Authorities in the US have ordered the release of thousands of documents on the murder of JFK in full for the first time. The White House said that, with the publication of some 13,173 files online, more than 97% of records in the collection were now publicly available. Kennedy was shot during a visit to Dallas, Texas, on 22 November 1963. His assassination “prompted a whirlwind of questions from the public and researchers, plenty of conspiracy theories and reflexive secrecy from the government”, said CNN.

Why have the JFK assassination files been kept secret for so long?

10. Harry and William ‘beyond repair’

Prince Harry has accused the Prince of Wales of “screaming and shouting” at him at a Sandringham summit and briefing against him. In the final episodes of the Netflix series about the Sussexes, Harry said of a 2020 summit at Sandringham that “it was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me and my father say things that just simply weren’t true”. Royal insiders believe Harry’s relationship with his brother may be “damaged beyond repair”, said The Times.

Harry & Meghan: a serious attempt to set the record straight?

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