Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 11 February 2023

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

1. US shoots down ‘high-altitude object’

Joe Biden ordered a fighter jet to shoot down an unidentified “high-altitude object” off Alaska, the White House said. The unmanned object was “the size of a small car” and posed a “reasonable threat” to civilian aviation, said a spokesman, adding that the object’s purpose and origin was unclear. The news comes just days after the US shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon, following a “political firestorm”, said ABC News.

2. Arrests at asylum hotel

Three people were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder following clashes outside a hotel providing refuge for asylum seekers on Merseyside. Police said officers were dealing with two groups of protesters after a demonstration descended into chaos outside the Suites Hotel. Missiles were thrown and people took what appeared to be sledgehammers to a police vehicle, said the Liverpool Echo. Pro-migrant groups went to the scene in reaction to the protest to show their support for the asylum seekers.

3. ‘Carrot and stick’ job scheme trialled

Universal credit claimants will be required to spend a fortnight on an intensive programme designed to get them back into work or risk losing payments, under government plans to reduce unemployment. The Treasury believes that the scheme could form part of a “carrot and stick” approach to encourage people back into work. It is already being piloted in four areas: Crawley in West Sussex, Pontefract in West Yorkshire, Partick in Glasgow and Coalville in Leicestershire. The prime minister has said that “we need to look at how our welfare system is operating”.

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4. Partner sure Bulley didn’t fall into river

The partner of Nicola Bulley has said he is “100 per cent convinced” that she is not in the River Wyre. Speaking to Channel 5 news two weeks on from her disappearance, Paul Ansell dismissed the police’s suggestion that it is most likely his partner of 12 years accidentally fell into the water. He added that he was not criticising Lancashire Constabulary, describing their efforts as “incredible”. The 45-year-old vanished on a riverside dog walk in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.

5. Erdogan vulnerable in Turkey

Rescue workers in Turkey are still searching for survivors after more than 23,000 people were killed and tens of thousands injured after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on Monday. Events in Turkey have “raised big questions” about whether such a large-scale tragedy could have been avoided and whether President Erdogan could have done more to save lives, said the BBC. With “elections on the horizon, his future is on the line after 20 years in power”, said the corporation.

6. Labour MP denies tax claims

A former chair of the Labour Party chairman has denied claims that he had been investigated by HMRC or paid a tax penalty. Ian Lavery, the MP for Wansbeck, told the BBC that he “does not owe a single penny” in tax. His denial came after the ipaper published a series of questions about payments dating back more than 10 years. The allegations focus on payments Lavery received from the National Union of Mineworkers.

7. Partygate probe names whistleblowers

The investigation into whether Boris Johnson knowingly misled MPs over lockdown parties has hit an obstacle after whistleblowers were told they will not remain anonymous. After speaking to witnesses who have already submitted evidence, The Telegraph said they have been told they will be named alongside their evidence to the former PM, unless there are exceptional circumstances. This has caused some to be hesitant about speaking out. “It is like telling the mafia”, said one witness.

8. River quality sinking in England

Just 6% of England’s rivers are on course to be healthy by 2027, according to a report. Rivers are being “subjected to torrents of human effluent for thousands of hours every year”, said the ipaper, while “pollution from our farms, roads and homes frequently wash into them”. Feargal Sharkey, the former pop star turned environmental campaigner, said: “I think we genuinely now need to change the legislation to make directors of water companies personally liable, with jail sentences to help focus their attention”.

9. WW2 bomb explodes in Norfolk

A huge blast was heard for miles when a world war two bomb found in Great Yarmouth detonated as work was being done to defuse it. Military specialists were attempting to disarm it when there was an unplanned detonation at around 5pm. There were no reports of injuries but officers told the Eastern Daily Press that a number of car windows were smashed in the blast and scaffolding on the third bridge crossing project was damaged.

10. Historic hunt expelled

A hunt in Wiltshire is set to be shut down after a video appeared to show a fox being fed to hounds. Members of Avon Vale Hunt, which dates from 1888, were filmed allegedly pulling foxes from a den and throwing them to hounds while they laughed and cheered. The footage was described as “disgraceful” by the hunting community, while hunt saboteurs also condemned it. A British Hound Sports Association disciplinary panel expelled the hunt, ruling that the video revealed “serious breaches” of its core principals and rules.

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