Dumped fishing gear is killing marine life. Yet no governments seem to care | George Monbiot

One Scottish trawlerman is so incensed by the dumping of nets he’s come to me – a longstanding critic of his industry – with evidence

How could they be so careless? How do fishing vessels lose so many of their nets and longlines that this “ghost gear”, drifting through the oceans, now presents a mortal threat to whales, dolphins, turtles and much of the rest of the life of the sea? After all, fishing gear is expensive. It is either firmly attached to the vessel or, using modern technologies, easily located.

I’ve asked myself these questions for a while, and I think I now have an answer. It comes from an unlikely source: a trawlerman working in Scotland. I’m not a fan of trawling, but I recognise that some operations are more damaging than others. He and his colleagues now appear to be pulling in more nets than fish. On trip after trip they catch vast hauls of ghost gillnets and longlines, often wrapped around marine animals. He has sent me his photos, which are so disturbing I can scarcely bear to look: drowned seabirds, decapitated seals and fish and crustaceans of many species, which died a long, slow death. Where are these nets and lines coming from? He believes they’re being deliberately discarded.

I have checked his identity, but he wants to remain anonymous. Like other local trawlers, his boat brings its waste to land. The problem, he says, lies with large vessels, many from France and Spain, that spend four to six weeks at a time at sea. They don’t have enough storage space for the rubbish they generate: most of the hold is dedicated to frozen fish. Worn-out gillnets and longlines should be returned to port for disposal. But those he retrieves have a revealing characteristic: the expensive parts, those that can be reused – floats, weights and hooks – have been cut off. This, he believes, is a giveaway: if you find a net or line like that, it has been deliberately thrown overboard.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

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Meningitis B cases rising sharply among students in England, study finds

Exclusive: Cases are exceeding pre-pandemic levels, particularly in university students

Meningitis B cases among students in England are rising sharply and exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Meningococcal group B bacteria are a serious cause of life-threatening infections, including meningitis and sepsis. While most people recover, some can die. Others may suffer a permanent disability as a result, including brain damage, epilepsy, hearing loss, or the loss of limbs.

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Country diary: In this buffeting wind, we are light as lichen spores

Chapel fell, Weardale: Giddy from the gales, we lean against a stone wall. Something here is in its element

The weather for today’s walk, judged according to Sir Francis Beaufort’s wind force scale, feels like force seven – a near gale. The relevant definitions seem to fit.

“Whole trees in motion”? Branches of a gnarled mountain ash on the fellside, hunched in its own wind shadow after decades of bending before prevailing south-westerlies, clatter together as we passed.

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From the archive: Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet – podcast

We are raiding the Audio Long Read archives to bring you some classic pieces from years past, with new introductions from the authors.

No language in history has dominated the world quite like English does today. Is there any point in resisting? By Jacob Mikanowski

• Read the text version here

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Northern leaders to put culture at centre of region’s post-pandemic recovery

Report making case for culture as catalyst for levelling up wins cross-party backing

Think of “the north” and images that come to mind include Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North, the sculpture of Henry Moore and Manchester’s music scene.

But now a rare show of cross-party unity has called for all of the cultural icons of northern England to be a catalyst to rebuild the region and rebalance it with the rest of the UK.

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Boris Johnson’s faster broadband promise is being broken, say MPs

UK ‘little nearer to closing great digital divide’ between cities and rural areas, says committee

Boris Johnson’s promise to “level up” the nation by providing next-generation-speed broadband to most homes by 2025 is under threat as rural dwellers are left behind in the internet revolution, according to a report by parliament’s spending watchdog.

The report by the public accounts committee found that the government is relying too heavily on companies, most notably BT Openreach and Virgin Media O2, to achieve Johnson’s key election manifesto pledge of addressing the UK’s status as a global laggard in broadband speeds.

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Millionaires call on governments worldwide to ‘tax us now’

Group of 102 wealthy people say tax would help tackle gulf between rich and poor

More than 100 members of the global super-rich called on Wednesday for governments around the world to “tax us now” to help pay for the pandemic response and tackle the gulf between rich and poor.

The group of 102 millionaires and billionaires, including Disney heiress Abigail Disney, said the current tax system is rigged in their favour and needs to be rewritten to make taxation fairer for hard-working people and restore trust in politics.

Pay for the Health and Social Care Levy twice over every year – eliminating the need to raise national insurance on working people.

Cover the salaries of an additional 50,000 new nurses.

Pay for the permanent increase of universal credit.

Build 35,000 affordable houses and retrofit the UK’s draughtiest homes to reduce the cost of energy bills and help fight the climate crisis.

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Cabinet expected to approve relaxation of plan B Covid restrictions in England

Measures introduced to fight spread of Omicron could be lifted next week with millions told to return to workplaces

Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage

Boris Johnson is expected to instruct millions to return to workplaces across England as he tries to placate furious MPs with a review of Covid restrictions that could end all rules introduced to combat Omicron.

The cabinet will meet on Wednesday morning to examine Covid data and review plan B restrictions imposed in December amid the rapid spread of the variant, with Johnson set to update the Commons later in the day.

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Ghislaine, Prince Andrew and the Paedophile review – a grisly story of sexual abuse and royal palaces

How did a newspaper tycoon’s daughter become a paedophile’s accomplice? And how does the royal family fit in? Abuse survivors and others speak out in this disappointingly brief show

What a piece of work is man. And, just occasionally – relatively speaking – woman, too. In Ghislaine, Prince Andrew and the Paedophile (ITV), reporter and presenter Ranvir Singh traces the grisly story of Ghislaine Maxwell and her conviction on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy for her part in procuring underage girls – a child of just 14 in one of the cases brought to trial – for the convicted paedophile and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

At 45 minutes (plus adverts) it is not an in-depth investigation to match either the four-hour Netflix miniseries Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich nor the three-part documentary by Sky, Epstein’s Shadow (the latter skewing close to the view of Maxwell as victim, but nevertheless covering a lot of ground in detail).

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Westminster mood increasingly toxic as Tories mull next steps

Analysis: Gossip increasingly focusing not on whether vote of no confidence in PM will happen but whether he will survive it

Most places you look in parliament, people are putting on a brave face.

Devout-looking ministers and friends of Boris Johnson beam with confidence as they proclaim the prime minister is still safe, and his popularity will quickly rise when Covid restrictions are lifted and the Downing Street party scandal dies down.

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Tory MPs openly discuss Johnson challenge as mood ‘turns dramatically’

MPs from across party confident of enough letters to trigger leadership contest after Sue Gray’s report

The mood of Conservative MPs was hardening against Boris Johnson on Tuesday night, with open talk of how to oust the prime minister and who should succeed him as he gave a disastrous interview claiming not to have lied over Downing Street parties.

A string of Tory MPs from various ranks and wings of the party said they believed there would be enough letters to trigger a leadership contest after the publication of the Sue Gray report into allegations of lockdown breaches.

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French skier charged with manslaughter of five-year-old British girl in collision

Experienced skier accused of hitting holidaying girl in ski school at excessive speed

A French skier who killed a five-year-old British girl after slamming into her at a resort in the Alps has been charged with manslaughter.

Prosecutors in the nearby town of Bonneville said the accident had been caused by the experienced skier’s excessive speed, and charged a 40-year-old local man with manslaughter late on Monday after an inquiry was launched that morning.

The incident took place as the girl was learning to ski late on Saturday morning in Flaine, northwest of Chamonix.

The public prosecutor told local newspaper Le Dauphiné: “This is a man totally unknown to judicial authorities, who is clearly also devastated by the accident.”

An autopsy also took place on Monday morning establish the exact cause of death. Local TV network France 3 Regions said initial reports suggested “a very violent shock”, and that the results would be passed on to the judge. The skier risks up to three years in imprisonment and a €45,000 fine, France 3 Regions said.

The badly wounded girl died onboard a helicopter that was rushing her to hospital despite attempt at resuscitation after she was plunged into immediate cardiopulmonary arrest. She had been taking part in a lesson organised by the French Ski School (ESF) with four other children.

The public prosecutor for Bonneville told France Bleu that the child was in single file behind the group and was about to make a right turn when she was “very violently” hit by a skier arriving at high speed who tried unsuccessfully to avoid her.

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Carillion tribunal: KPMG ex-partner denies forging documents

Evidence focuses on KPMG’s ‘misleading’ disclosures about audit of company that collapsed in 2018

An ex-partner of KPMG sought to portray himself as negligent because it was the “lesser of two evils”, a tribunal heard today, as former employees of the big four accounting firm gave evidence about its audit of collapsed outsourcer Carillion.

The tribunal is investigating claims made by the Financial Reporting Council, which regulates accountants, that KPMG and its staff misled FRC inspectors by forging documents in relation to its work on the accounts of Carillion and a software company, Regenersis.

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Health department warning over vaccine mandate for NHS England staff

Exclusive: Leaked document says data on jabs’ effectiveness against Omicron weakens case for compulsory vaccination

Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage

Ministers have been issued with a stark warning over mandatory Covid vaccines for NHS workers in England, with a leaked document saying growing evidence on the Omicron variant casts doubts over the new law’s “rationality” and “proportionality”.

Two jabs will become compulsory for frontline NHS staff from 1 April after MPs voted on the legislation last month.

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‘I put my arms around her’: doctor’s story captures anger at No 10 parties

Prit Buttar, who tweeted about comforting grieving woman, says he wanted to show difference in experience between ordinary people and Downing Street

When Dr Prit Buttar, a retired GP, decided to break social distancing rules and offer his embrace to a bereaved woman, it was a gesture of core humanity. “Everybody on the team would have done exactly the same, Covid or no Covid,” he said from his study near Kirkcudbright.

He did not envisage, a year on, that his recollection of that moment would inspire a cathartic outpouring of similar memories from people across the UK, or that he would become a reluctant – though passionate – advocate for the fury and dismay of ordinary people at the boozy rule-breaking in the seat of power.

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Artist to weld copy of Dachau gate in Leeds performance piece

Rachel Mars will create replica of concentration camp entrance over three days as part of Transform festival

A replica of the entrance gate to the Dachau Nazi concentration camp is to be recreated over three days in Leeds for an art project asking questions about what memorials are for and who has the right to make them.

Dachau was constructed a few miles from Munich in 1933. During the war it became a death camp where more than 41,000 people were murdered before US troops liberated it on 29 April 1945.

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‘Not a colony’: Welsh council defies London to declare St David’s Day holiday

Gwynedd gives workers paid time off despite Westminster’s refusal to back plans

For centuries the citizens of Wales have proudly marked St David’s Day with parades, concerts, flag-waving and the wearing of daffodils. But this year the feast of their patron saint will be celebrated with particular gusto by many, after Gwynedd council bosses defied ministers in London and voted to give up to 5,000 of its workers an extra day off.

While Scotland and Northern Ireland designate a bank holiday to celebrating their patron saint, Wales does not, which has long been a source of discontent.

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Treasury plans crackdown on ‘misleading’ cryptocurrency ads

Move to change law would see assets subject to the same FCA rules as shares and insurance

The government has unveiled plans to crack down on misleading cryptocurrency ads by making them subject to the same regulations as marketing for other financial products such as shares and insurance.

The Treasury has responded to rising concern over a surge in ads promoting cryptoassets, which are unregulated in the UK, and the potential for naive investors to lose money given the highly volatile price swings of digital currencies such as bitcoin.

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Nicola Sturgeon announces lifting of Omicron restrictions in Scotland

Nightclubs can reopen and three-household limit on indoor gatherings to end from next Monday

Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage

Restrictions brought in before Christmas to stem the Omicron surge across Scotland are to be lifted from next Monday, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said.

Nightclubs will reopen, there will be an end to social distancing and to a three-household limit indoors, Sturgeon said, adding that the country had “turned the corner on the Omicron wave”.

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A lesson in putting people before parties and profit | Letter

Simon Jones, founder of Volunteer Riders UK, reveals how a group of volunteers did what was right and proper in a global crisis, unlike the Conservative government

I set up Volunteer Riders UK to prevent as many families as possible going through the pain of loss that I felt losing my brother. Volunteer Riders has managed to deliver more than 10m pieces of PPE and equipment to medical staff on the frontline. The equipment has also been distributed among communities, and in private homes, schools and workplaces. We did that with people sewing, printing and manufacturing the products.

We provided all this for not a penny. We put people before any money, reward or business.

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Winchester College society was cult-like, finds report into child abuse

Members of Christian Forum in 70s and 80s ‘showed signs of what would today be described as radicalisation’

A cult-like evangelical Christian society at a leading private school allowed a powerful and charismatic barrister to groom and sadistically abuse boys with impunity, an investigation has found.

Members of the Christian Forum at Winchester College “showed signs of what would today be described as radicalisation”, said a 197-page review commissioned by the elite school into abuse carried out by John Smyth QC.

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Bristol Energy owner is latest UK supplier to go bust

Ofgem will appoint new firm to take on 176,000 households affected by collapse of Together Energy

The owner of Bristol Energy has gone bust weeks after the struggling council-owned supplier assured its customers that the business was stable despite record-high gas market prices.

The energy regulator, Ofgem, will appoint a new supplier to take on the 176,000 households affected by the collapse of its parent company, Together Energy, which is part-owned by Warrington borough council.

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‘Nocebo effect’: two-thirds of Covid jab reactions not caused by vaccine, study suggests

US trial shows inverse version of placebo effect behind many symptoms such as headaches and fatigue

More than two-thirds of the common side-effects people experience after a Covid jab can be attributed to a negative version of the placebo effect rather than the vaccine itself, researchers claim.

Scientists in the US examined data from 12 clinical trials of Covid vaccines and found that the “nocebo effect” accounted for about 76% of all common adverse reactions after the first dose and nearly 52% after the second dose.

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Brighton bee bricks initiative may do more harm than good, say scientists

Special bricks could attract mites or encourage spread of disease if not cleaned properly, say some experts

An initiative in Brighton aimed at helping protect the bee population could do more harm than good, scientists have warned.

The council in Brighton has passed a planning condition that means any new building more than five metres high will have to include swift boxes and special bricks with holes known as bee bricks. They will provide nesting and hibernating space for solitary bees.

There are about 270 species of bee in Britain, just under 250 of which are solitary bees that live alone, although often nest close to one another.

Solitary bees in Britain are highly diverse, and so are their nesting habits. Most British species nest in the ground, excavating their own nest.

The honeybee is probably the best-known bee. They live socially and are led by a queen and serviced by male drones and female worker bees.

The bee population is thought to have declined in the UK since the 1970s. For example, the number of managed honeybee hives in England dropped by 50% between 1985 and 2005, and 67% of common widespread moth species have declined since the 1970s.

Since 1900, the UK has lost 13 species of bee, and a further 35 are considered under threat of extinction.

The decline in population is thought to be because of changes in land use, which has led to habitat loss. Other issues affecting bees include disease, pesticides, pollution and climate change.

One of the best ways of helping bees is thought to be by planting flowers rich in nectar.

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Covid live: Scotland to lift all restrictions brought in over Omicron variant; Poland expects 60,000 daily cases by mid-February

First minister Nicola Sturgeon urged people to remain cautious; Polish health officials say the country has entered a fifth wave

More than 900 Covid deaths in England and Wales in first week of JanuaryCalls for French MP to resign after announcing Covid protocol from IbizaAustralia records deadliest day of the pandemicHong Kong to cull thousands of hamsters after Covid found on 11UK Covid and Boris Johnson developments – live

China’s postal service has ordered workers to disinfect international deliveries and urged the public to reduce orders from overseas after authorities claimed mail could be the source of recent coronavirus outbreaks, Agence France-Press reports.

In recent days, Chinese officials have suggested that some people could have been infected by packages from abroad, including a woman in Beijing whom authorities said had no contact with other infected people but tested positive for a variant similar to those found in North America.

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Man, 40, goes on trial charged with 1994 murder of six-year-old Rikki Neave

James Watson, who was 13 when Rikki was killed, lied for decades to cover up the murder, prosecutors allege

The six-year-old schoolboy Rikki Neave was murdered 27 years ago by a boy aged 13 with a “grotesque interest” in child murder who lied for decades to cover up the killing, a court has heard.

James Watson, 40, denies the murder of Neave, who went missing in November 1994 and whose body was found in woodland near Peterborough the following day.

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Boris Johnson: nobody warned me No 10 party was against the rules

Prime minister refuses to rule out resigning should he be censured by Sue Gray’s inquiry into rule-breaking

Today’s politics news – live updates

Boris Johnson has claimed “nobody warned me it was against the rules” for a drinks party to be hosted in Downing Street during the first lockdown, but also refused to deny the possibility he could resign should he be censured by the inquiry into rule-breaking.

The prime minister, speaking publicly for the first time in almost a week, said he “hoped people would understand the circumstances we were operating in” at No 10 during the first lockdown.

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Why protesters are worried about the police and crime bill – video report

Amika George, an activist who founded the #FreePeriods campaign, shares her worries about the police and crime bill.  She started her non-profit campaign group in 2017 and two years later got the government to commit to funding period products in every state school and college in England.

The Guardian reporter Damien Gayle explains what is behind the government’s police and crime bill and what it could mean for protesting.  On Monday night, the House of Lords voted down proposed changes in the law that would give more powers to police over the way they treat protests. Sections of the bill have been condemned by human rights activists as a ‘vitriolic attack’ on the right to protest, freedoms to show dissatisfaction or to call for change.

This week, activists and protesters across the UK have taken to the streets rallying against a bill that would limit their rights to protest and give tougher sentences to those who break the rules

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Boris Johnson denies Cummings’ claims he was warned about Downing St party – video

The prime minister has denied having been warned that a No 10 party held during a coronavirus lockdown in May 2020 was breaking the rules. Johnson repeated his apologies for ‘misjudgments made’ and claimed he thought the party was a work event and that nobody told him it was against the rules.

He also denied having seen the email invitation to the event until media reports about it emerged. His former top aide Dominic Cummings – now a fierce critic – alleged on Monday that the prime minister had been told the party broke the rules, and that he lied to parliament by denying it

UK politics news – live updatesWhat has Dominic Cummings said about No 10 parties?
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Which is more dysfunctional – the US or the UK? I’ve created a Global Embarrassment Index to figure it out | Arwa Mahdawi

Living in the US, I have always seized every opportunity to insist things are better in Blighty. But now both countries look ludicrous

For years now I have been living with a chronic condition that I’ve finally been able to diagnose as Privileged Immigrant Derangement Syndrome (PIDS). Let me explain: more than a decade ago I left my native Britain to go and work in New York. I wasn’t fleeing persecution, poverty, or life in a failed state; I just wanted to live in the US. There were more opportunities, I didn’t have to navigate the suffocating class system, and, most importantly, my English accent gave me a competitive edge. Women swooned at my vowel sounds (I’m not making that up: they swooned … OK, I promise at least one woman swooned) and everyone assumed I was on tea-drinking terms with the Queen.

Anyway, that’s the PI bit of PIDS. The D bit is this: when you spend extended time away from your home country, it’s easy to build up a romanticised version of it in your head. I became a cheerleader for all things British; I even bought a pair of union jack wellies, and wore them with pride whenever it rained. As my long-suffering American wife can attest, I seized every opportunity to say how much better things were in Blighty than Stateside. We had a superior healthcare system; we weren’t gun-nuts?; our infrastructure was better; our political system wasn’t as drenched with money, and was less corrupt. Even our rain was better. On and on I went about how the UK was infinitely superior to the US.

Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist

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Witness willing to testify she saw Prince Andrew with a ‘young girl’ at London nightclub

Virginia Giuffre’s lawyers seek her statement to counter the royal’s insistence he has never met their client or visited the club

A woman who may have seen Prince Andrew with Virginia Giuffre at a London nightclub 20 years ago is “willing” to provide testimony in Giuffre’s civil lawsuit against the royal, whom she accuses of sexual abuse, the witness’s lawyer said.

“I am proud to represent Shukri Walker, who has bravely stepped forward as a witness and encourages others who may have information to do so as well,” the lawyer Lisa Bloom said in an email.

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Johnson v Cummings: victor still uncertain in test of honesty

Analysis: while Cummings clearly wants to bring down PM, it does not necessarily mean he is making things up

It is perhaps a testament to current UK politics that the survival of a prime minister could come down to a test of honesty between two famously slippery individuals. But while Dominic Cummings very clearly wants to bring down Boris Johnson, it does not necessarily mean he is making things up – at least not always.

In an addendum to an earlier post on his Substack blog on Monday, Cummings argued that Johnson’s defence of why he attended the “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020 – he believed it was a work meeting – was a lie.

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Omicron measures in UK may be scaled back next week, says Sajid Javid – video

The health secretary has said restrictions introduced to stem the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant could end next week. Javid said he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ that this could happen after an apparent peak in hospitalisations. ‘I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than they are absolutely necessary,’ Javid told the House of Commons

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Government wins appeal over contract for firm linked to Dominic Cummings

Court overturns ruling that £550,000 deal given to polling company Public First was unlawful

Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage

The court of appeal has overturned a ruling that found that a government contract given to a polling company with links to Dominic Cummings was unlawful.

The lord chief justice reversed a ruling made last year after he found the original judgment to be “unprecedented”, and questioned how it perceived an alleged bias.

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More than 900 Covid deaths recorded in England and Wales in first week of January

ONS records 58% rise on previous week but figures are artificially high due to Christmas bank holidays

Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage

There were 922 Covid deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to 7 January, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

This was a rise of 58% from the previous week. However ,the increase is artificially high because the figures in the previous week’s release were affected by the Christmas and Boxing Day bank holidays.

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UK faces a pay squeeze – and higher interest rates look likely

Analysis: Jobs market is booming, but Bank of England seems set to heap more pain on households

A cursory glance at the latest jobs market figures suggests the economy was in good health as the end of 2021 came into sight.

In the three months to November employment rose by 60,000 and the unemployment rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points on the quarter to 4.1%.

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Hundreds of dementia care homes found to be substandard in England

Exclusive: Guardian analysis finds one in five homes rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘require improvement’ by CQC

Hundreds of care homes in England are providing substandard care to dementia patients, analysis by the Guardian has found.

One in five homes specialising in dementia are rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), inspection reports show. Some pose such a serious risk to people with dementia – including filthy conditions, poor infection control and untrained staff – that inspectors have ordered them to be placed into special measures.

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Mastercard fined £31.5m over illegal UK prepaid cards cartel

Five firms fined total of £33m for agreeing not to compete with each other for local council business

Five payment companies including Mastercard have been fined a total of more than £33m for operating illegal cartels when providing prepaid cards for local authorities to distribute to vulnerable people.

The companies were found by the Payment Systems Regulator to have broken competition law by agreeing not to compete with each other for the authorities’ custom.

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What has Dominic Cummings said about No 10 parties?

PM’s former adviser has published new claims about lockdown events in Downing Street but it is unclear what impact they will have

UK Covid live: all the day’s developments as they happen

Dominic Cummings has published new revelations on his blog, claiming the prime minister was warned on multiple occasions about a party in Number 10 during the first lockdown, where invitees were asked to “bring your own booze” to the garden.

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Shrewsbury ban two fans for eight years over Hillsborough chants

Bans follow video footage of fan chants about HillsboroughClub says behaviour brought ‘our good name into disrepute’

Shrewsbury have banned two people from all games for a total of eight years following events surrounding their FA Cup match with Liverpool earlier this month.

Video clips emerged after the third-round tie at Anfield on 9 January appearing to show some Shrewsbury supporters singing a song about the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, in which 97 Liverpool supporters died.

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UK children pick ‘anxiety’ as their word of 2021

In the second pandemic year, this was the top choice of more than 8,000 children asked for the words they would use to discuss health and wellbeing

“Anxiety” has been chosen by children as their word of the year for 2021, according to new research from Oxford University Press – but teachers have plumped for “resilience”.

OUP’s academics have analysed the evolution of children’s language, and how they use it to reflect their emotions and experiences, for more than a decade. They draw from the largest children’s English language corpus in the world, the Oxford Children’s Corpus. This year, they chose to focus on wellbeing as their research focus, given the impact of Covid-19 on education, and concerns about children’s mental health.

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UK Covid live: Dominic Raab says Cummings’ claim Johnson lied to parliament is ‘nonsense’

Latest updates: justice secretary also says normally if a PM lies to the Commons they would need to resign

Raab admits lying to parliament a resigning matter ‘Operation Rinka’: Tory rebels up pressure on PM to resignDominic Cummings says Boris Johnson lied about lockdown partiesGlobal coronavirus updates – live

Last night the government suffered 14 defeats in the House of Lords on the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill. My colleague Jedidajah Otte has the story here.

Here are some tweets from peers about the votes, which represent a significant setback for the Home Office, particularly because some of the clauses in the bill relating to protest were only introduced when the legislation was in the Lords, and cannot now be reinserted when it returns to the Commons.

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MI5 investigated Texas synagogue hostage-taker in 2020

UK intelligence officers concluded Malik Faisal Akram posed no threat, which allowed him to travel to US and buy gun

The British man who took hostages at a Texas synagogue had been under investigation by MI5 as a possible Islamist terrorist threat as recently as 2020, Whitehall sources acknowledged on Tuesday morning.

British intelligence closed the investigation, however, after officers had concluded Malik Faisal Akram from Blackburn posed no threat, and as a result he was able to freely travel to the US and purchase a gun.

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Dun, Dun Duuun! Where did pop culture’s most dramatic sound come from?

Did the iconic three-note sequence come from Stravinsky, the Muppets or somewhere else? Our writer set out to – dun, dun duuuun! – reveal the mystery

There’s surely only one thing that unites Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the 1974 comedy horror Young Frankenstein and The Muppets’ most recent special on Disney+. Regrettably, it is not Kermit the Frog. The thing that appears in all of these works has no easily recognisable familiar name, although it is perhaps one of the most recognisable three-beat musical phrases in history. It starts with a dun; it continues with a dun; it ends with a duuun!

On screen, a dramatic “dun, dun duuun” has appeared in everything from Disney’s Fantasia to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to The IT Crowd. In 2007, a YouTuber scored a video of a melodramatic prairie dog with the three beats, earning over 43m views and a solid place in internet history. Yet though many of us are familiar with the sound, no one seems to know exactly where it came from. Try to Google it and … dun, dun, duuun! Its origins are a mystery.

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How many more babies must die before England stops jailing pregnant women? | Rona Epstein

There is always an alternative to a custodial sentence. No court decision should endanger the life of an unborn child

In the past three years, two babies born inside English prisons have died. In September 2019, a woman, now known as Ms A, gave birth alone in her cell at HMP Bronzefield and the baby died. In July 2020, a baby was stillborn at HMP Styal. Prison will never be a safe place for pregnant women, so why are our courts still sending them there?

Geraldine Brown, Maria Garcia de Frutos and I set about trying to answer that question. Our research into pregnancy in English prisons (there are no women’s prisons in Wales), published this week, has convinced me that imprisoning pregnant women is disproportionate, cruel and simply unnecessary.

Rona Epstein is an honorary research fellow at Coventry Law School

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Raab admits lying to parliament a resigning matter amid claims PM misled MPs

Justice secretary says claims Boris Johnson lied about No 10 lockdown party are ‘nonsense’

Today’s politics news – live updates

Dominic Raab has admitted that lying to parliament is “normally” a resigning matter, amid claims that the prime minister deliberately misled MPs over his knowledge of a Downing Street party.

Boris Johnson’s former senior aide Dominic Cummings had earlier accused the prime minister of lying when No 10 denied Johnson had been warned against allowing a “bring your own booze” garden party during lockdown.

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Punk singer Hazel O’Connor hospitalised after ‘bleeding on the brain’

The 80s pop star was placed in an induced coma, but brother says ‘she is tough and is responding to stimuli’

The 1980s pop singer and actor Hazel O’Connor is recovering after what her family described as a “serious medical event”.

O’Connor was found at home in southern France on Sunday and taken to hospital, where she was found to have suffered a bleed on the brain. She was placed in an induced coma for 24 hours while receiving treatment.

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BBC chief warns licence fee freeze will leave £285m funding gap

Tim Davie says keeping fee at £159 for two years will mean fewer programmes and services

The BBC will be forced to axe some of its programming after being left with a £285m gap in funding from the two-year licence fee freeze, its director general has warned.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Tim Davie said there was “no doubt” the freeze would affect the broadcaster’s frontline output.

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‘We’ve been forgotten’: the British embassy security guard in Kabul

Abdullah says guards who risked their lives for the British cannot understand why they have been abandoned

Abdullah*, 34, was a security guard for the British embassy, employed under contract by GardaWorld, and had a senior management role, looking after other locally employed embassy guards. He and about 180 colleagues had hoped to be evacuated to the UK at the end of August, but the evacuation was stopped by a bomb at the airport. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) made a clear commitment that all GardaWorld staff would be allowed to travel to the UK, but this has not happened.

We’ve heard nothing from the Home Office or the FCDO and life is becoming very hard for everyone who worked for the British embassy. Surviving when there is no income and no work is very difficult. We’re still hoping we will get an email about evacuation plans, but we haven’t heard anything. The UK government is helping footballers and writers to leave the country, but there has been no help for us. We feel like we should be first in line because we risked our lives for the British government. It’s a huge disappointment for all of us.

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UK workers’ pay rises fall behind inflation amid cost-of-living crisis

Unemployment falls to 4.1%, close to its level before the Covid pandemic

Pay for workers in Britain has fallen in real terms for the first time in more than a year, despite signs that employers shrugged off concerns over the Omicron coronavirus variant to continue hiring in December.

Average wages, after taking account of inflation, dropped in November for the first time since July 2020 amid growing concerns over the hit to living standards this year from high inflation and surging energy bills.

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