Labour

Continuing the Harman controversy, the Telegraph reports Patricia Hewitt’s apology for her part in “PaedophileGate”:

Harriet Harman appeared increasingly isolated over her links to a paedophile group after Patricia Hewitt apologised for her own role in the controversy, saying she had been “naïve and wrong”.

The Labour deputy leader has repeatedly refused to say sorry after it emerged that the National Council for Civil Liberties, where both she and Miss Hewitt worked in the 1970s, had given support to the Paedophile Information Exchange.

Former minister Miss Hewitt’s frank admission that she had “got it wrong” on PIE contrasts sharply with Miss Harman’s insistence that she has “nothing to apologise for”.

The Guardian also reports Hewitt’s remarks.

Ukraine

The Independent reports on the Ukraine crisis: Masked men of the Crimea overshadow the country’s new dawn

To the new government in Kiev the attack on the administrative heart of the semi-autonomous region – mainly populated by ethnic Russians – was seen as part of a plot, to justify possible military intervention by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As the Russian flag flew over the building in Simferopol, armoured personnel carriers from Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol were on the road. There were reports that a brigade of Russian special forces were on notice of deployment to protect bases in the region; warplanes were in the skies over the frontier as 150,000 troops carried out manoeuvres on the ground.

The Guardian leads with the story: Conflict fears rise after pro-Russian gunmen seize Crimean parliament, also observing that “a similar group later stormed the city’s airport”. Con Coughlin in the Telegraph does not think NATO will step in, but these are dangerous times for East Europe – let us hope that the EU and Russia do not over-react.

Surveillance

Yahoo webcam users’ ‘intimate’ images intercepted by GCHQ spy programme, Snowden files reveal, The Independent reports.

British agents spied on millions of people through their webcams using a program likened to the surveillance system in George Orwell’s 1984, according to leaked secret documents.

The surveillance agency GCHQ used a hacking program codenamed Optic Nerve to view British citizens in their homes as they used the Yahoo! webcam chat system, the classified files revealed by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and published by The Guardian show.

The original Guardian report is here.  It includes this:

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”.

Immigration

The Telegraph reports that Net migration soars over 200,000 despite David Cameron’s pledge

Net migration has risen to its highest point since 2011 in a blow to the Government’s pledge to cut levels to the “tens of thousands” by the next general election.  The surge was partly driven by a huge increase in the number of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens coming to Britain, which jumped 166 per cent from 9,000 to 24,000 year-on-year.

The Office for National Statistics said estimates for the 12 months to the end of September revealed a net flow of 212,000 migrants to Britain, compared with 154,000 the previous year. It now seems highly unlikely that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will be able to meet the net migration pledge.

In the Daily Mail, Vince Cable’s take on the figures is reported: Soaring immigration is good, says Cable: Business Secretary mocks Cameron’s failure to control EU influx. The article includes this graphic:

immigration figures

Floods

Government must do more to protect households at risk of further floods, say Tory MPs whose constituencies are worst hit, The Independent reports.

As new figures reveal that eight of the 10 constituencies most at risk of flooding are represented by Tories, the MPs have sounded the alarm about the urgent need to tackle the increasingly extreme weather they expect as a result of climate change.

“The recent floods are a wake-up call on the need to do more to protect households from severe weather events. We also need a renewed focus on tackling climate change, as well as preparing for it,” said Neil Parish, Conservative MP for flood-hit Tiverton and Honiton in Devon.

Europe

The Guardian reports on Merkel’s visit with: Angela Merkel hints at EU treaty change but sends warning to Britain.

Angela Merkel has taken the first tentative steps towards outlining a modest framework for negotiations to persuade British voters to remain within the EU, in an in-out referendum which David Cameron will call by the end of 2017 if he wins next year’s general election.

The German chancellor, who pleaded with Britain in a speech to a joint session of parliament on Thursday to remain a “strong voice” within the EU, declared in Downing Street that a deal was “doable” though she warned that the negotiations would not be a “piece of cake”.

Merkel said that Britain would have to win the support of the 27 other leaders of the EU, and added: “I firmly believe that what we are discussing here is feasible, is doable … it is not a piece of cake. It is going to be a lot of work. But we have already worked quite hard on other issues. If one wants Britain to remain in the EU, which is what I want, if one at the same time wants a competitive union that generates growth, one can find common solutions.”

In answer to the thinly disguised smoke and mirrors or Merkel’s speech, there is a kind of “right of reply” with an adjacent article: Nigel Farage: we can’t change a thing in Europe

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence party, has admitted on the eve of the European election campaign: “We’re whistling in the wind if we think we can implement a Eurosceptic agenda from within the European parliament.”

He also said “we cannot change a thing in Europe” and that while Eurosceptics could “have some fun” in the European parliament trying to block legislation, it would “not last very long”. Farage’s remarks at a TaxPayers’ Alliance event on 18 February emerged on the eve of Ukip’s spring conference on Friday.

In his speech, Farage said he did not think it would be possible to secure a 33% blocking minority of MEPs across the parliament after the elections, even though he says “the important thing for Ukip is to lead the group that is bang in the middle of the sceptic movement in parliament”.

Economy

The Mail has a report on the changes to the average personal economy: Typical wage up just £1 a week since 2002: Figures show how spending power has been under attack by rising cost of living

The average worker in Britain is earning the same salary today as they did more than a decade ago, official figures revealed yesterday.  The shocking figures, from the Office for National Statistics, highlights the crippling impact of the rising cost of living on a workforce robbed by the financial crisis of a decent payrise.

For a typical worker with a full-time job, their salary is currently £517.50 a week – but this is just £1 a week more than they earning in 2002. These figures have been adjusted for inflation to show how the average Briton’s spending power has been under attack from the rising cost of living.

NHS

The Telegraph leads with Jeremy Hunt’s promise of a revolution in care for dementia sufferers

Britain’s elderly will witness a revolution in dementia care, which will transform the country into a “global leader” in fighting the illness, Jeremy Hunt said.

The Health Secretary announced a new ambition for the NHS, stating that by March next year those with suspected dementia should receive a diagnosis within six weeks, rather than six months as is currently the case in parts of the country.

Meanwhile the Express reports on a new pill to fight ageing: Could drug be secret to a longer life?

Now a team at the National Institute on Ageing at the National Institutes of Health in the US has discovered a “promising strategy” to arrest ageing. They have found that activating a specific protein not only extends lifespan, it also delays the onset of age-related metabolic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and improves general health by lowering cholesterol and inflammation.

The discovery centres on a protein called SIRT1. Drugs that increase its activity in the body have been found to slow the onset of ageing and delay age-related diseases in several animal models. Lead researcher Dr Rafael de Cabo said: “Here, we show for the first time that a synthetic SIRT1 activator extends lifespan and improves healthspan of mice fed a standard diet.”

UKIP

In the Telegraph, Kate Maltby suggests that pandering to UKIP won’t win the Tories any young voters

Yesterday’s Guardian carried a warning to the Conservative Party by David Skelton, Director of Renewal, that any pact with Ukip would bring disaster. Actually, it’s unlikely to be a disaster because it’s unlikely to happen: there’s no evidence that Ukip itself has any incentive to accept a pact. Whenever I listen to my friends in the Country Before Party campaign (aggrandising, like most political slogans – shouldn’t all great political parties have the best interests of their country at heart?) I’m always struck by how sure they seem that Ukip’s chief goal should be to win Labour seats in the North. Before the Wye and Sale East by-election, Ukip’s friends in the Tory Party assured me that they could take the seat: as Dan Hodges noted at the time, Ukip’s failure not only to win but even to secure 20 per cent of the vote should have put paid to any hope of Ukip winning in Labour heartlands. If it hadn’t been for the devastation caused by the floods in the same week, this political flop would have dominated the news.

Most of the commenters do NOT agree with her analysis though.

 

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