BIDEN SENDS BOMBERS OVER IRAN
The Express reports: THE US has sent B-52 bombers to fly over the Middle East accompanied by aircraft from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other nations in an apparent warning to Iran, as Washington and Tehran’s tensions continue to boil over. A pair of the bombers flew over the region on Sunday, marking the latest military demonstration from the US to Iran since President Joe Biden took office. It marked the fourth fly-over into the Middle East this year and the second under the Biden administration, to deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the US military’s commitment to security in the region. Fly-overs by US bombers were commonplace under former President Donald Trump’s final few months in office.
BORIS SAYS WE ARE IN TOUGH TIMES
The Daily Mail reports: Boris Johnson rejected the condemnation over the proposed one per cent pay increase for NHS staff – despite Labour suggesting it will back nurses going on strike.The PM insisted the government had given health workers as much as we can as protests took place outside Downing Street and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth suggested he would be ready to join picket lines.The Royal College of Nursing has called for a 12.5 per cent increase and set up a £35million strike fund, while Unite has said it could ballot members after the ‘insulting’ 1 per cent figure was proposed by the Department of Health. But on a visit to a vaccination centre in London today, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m massively grateful to all NHS staff and indeed to social care workers who have been heroic throughout the pandemic. What we have done is try to give them as much as we can at the present time.The independent pay review body will obviously look at what we’ve proposed and come back. Don’t forget that there has been a public sector pay freeze, we’re in pretty tough times.’
BORIS BOLSTERS BRITAIN’S DEFENSE MEASURES
The Independent reports: The government are due to unveil plans to fit a £9 million, White House style bunker beneath Whitehall in an effort to bolster Britain’s defence measures. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has green lighted the building of the command room – or The Situation Centre (dubbed SitCen) – for use during such emergencies as terrorist strikes and crisis including pandemics. Due to open this summer, it will be next door to the Cobra meeting rooms in the basement of the Cabinet Office where ministers currently deal with emergencies. In the reportedly high-tech set-up, Johnson will be able to watch drone strikes and military engagements on huge interactive display screens, allowing the PM to track events in real-time. The SitCen project is part of the governments review of defence, security and foreign policy due to be unveiled on 16 March.
BRITAIN TO IGNORE EU RULES
TheExpress reports: The Northern Ireland Office has confirmed it is now clearing many products containing soil for shipment from Britain in response to complaints from nurseries who have been unable to get their regular stock. The decision is a direct violation of the EU’s ban on importing goods containing soil from outside the bloc. A Northern Ireland Office official in Belfast told Politico the ban was having a direct, and often disproportionate, impact on lives and livelihoods, including an unacceptable disruption to the flow of critical goods.The move was described as temporary and practical ”pending further negotiations with the EU aimed at finding a new long-term policy which would be “appropriate and risk-based”. Since January 1, when Britain left the single market but Northern Ireland continued to adhere to its rules, the EU has prohibited shipping anything from potted plants to muddy tractors in accordance with the Northern Ireland protocol.
SNP MELTDOWN CONTINUES
The Mail on Sunday reports: The SNP meltdown gathered pace today as two polls found Scots would reject independence in a referendum – with Nicola Sturgeon hugely damaged by her public war with Alex Salmond. A majority said they backed the union in separate surveys after a long run of results suggesting separatists would win a new vote north of the border. Savanta Comres research for Scotland on Sunday gave a 52-48 per cent margin for ‘no’, excluding those who said they were not sure. Meanwhile, a Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times gave a 51-49 percent split, and suggested just a third believe she has been entirely honest about in the spat with Mr Salmond. The findings will cause fresh panic in the SNP, and are a boost for Boris Johnson after growing alarm about Ms Sturgeon’s drive to break up the UK.
SIX MILLION HIDDEN PATIENTS COULD FLOOD NHS THIS YEAR
From the Daily Mail: Health bosses have warned of a hidden waiting list of six million patients who haven’t come forward for treatment could flood the NHS later this year. Head of the NHS Confederation Danny Mortimer said that official waiting list could swell to unprecedented levels that have not been seen in more than a decade. Mr Mortimer added that patients should expect to wait months – and in some cases up to a year – to be treated after Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget offered no new investment to meet previous guarantees on waiting times. The NHS Confederation estimated that there was a 30 per cent drop in the number of patients being referred for treatment from 2019 to 2020. It is thought that these 5.9 million hidden patients still require treatment but do not appear in any NHS statistics. But almost two thirds are expected to join waiting lists later this year – with figures expected to grow from 4.6 million in December 2020 to 8 million by October 2021.
MORE TIME NEEDED FOR CUSTOM CHECKPOINTS SAY PORTS
From the Guardian: A string of British ports are urging the government to delay the next wave of Brexit red tape, saying that border checkposts will not be ready for the July deadline, while inland customs facilities being built are also behind schedule. With the Brexit minister, Lord Frost, reportedly is considering reviewing plans for full customs checks all imported goods pressure is building on ministers to push back their deadlines, and set out measures for scaling back controls. Exports into the EU from the UK have been subject to controls since 1 January, but the British government decided to delay import controls until the summer to give traders time to prepare. From 1 July, however, ministers expect checks to take place at more than 30 designated border control posts (BCPs), where goods, plants and animals entering from the EU by sea, rail or air can be inspected.
PROPOSED GREAT BURROW BETWEEN BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND
The Telegraph reports: A tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will move a step closer this week when a Government review recommends a feasibility study into it. A major Union Connectivity review is expected to say that civil servants should formally appraise the plans for a fixed link between the two islands, most probably between Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland. The undersea tunnel has already won the enthusiastic private backing of both Boris Johnson, who first proposed a fixed link across the Irish Sea in 2018, and Alister Jack, the Scotland Secretary. The link would be the same length as the Channel Tunnel and go some way to smoothing the flow of freight between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
SMACKING AND PHYSICAL ABUSE INCREASE IN LOCKDOWN
The Telegraph reports that Britain has taken a terrible backwards step in its treatment of children as cases of smacking and physical abuse soar in lockdown, the NSPCC chief executive has warned. In a wide-ranging interview with The Telegraph, Sir Peter Wanless said the rise in physical violence has left him feeling “disturbed”. He warns families being locked up at home, which has seen children being educated by parents, has had a pressure cooker effect.
TEENAGE GIRLS DEVELOPING TIC DISORDERS DUE TO STRESS
The Times reports that there has been a surge of teenage girls developing tic disorders and Tourette’s syndrome as a result of stress during the pandemic. Specialists at Great Ormond Street and Evelina children’s hospitals in London have seen referrals for tics nearly double since Covid arrived, mostly in adolescent girls. In an article in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal, due to be published today, psychiatrists describe an “explosion of tics” which they believe has been triggered by anxiety. A trend of posting tics on social media has made matters worse, they say, with sites such as TikTok “reinforcing and maintaining symptoms”.
SHOW YOUR FACE IT’S A SIGN OF FREEDOM SAY SWISS
From the Daily Mail: Switzerland is to become the latest European country to ban face coverings such as burqas, following the likes of France and Denmark. Voters approved proposals to ban full facial coverings in a tight referendum, passing by a margin of 51.2-48.8 per cent. The move, started before the Covid-19 pandemic, has been dubbed the burqa ban by local politicians and media while demonstrators opposed to the proposals marched this evening in protest. It outlaws anything covering faces, which also includes wearing ski masks and bandanas during protests. Masks to protect against Covid-19 are allowed as coverings are permitted for health reasons. Walter Wobmann, chairman of the referendum committee and a member of parliament for the Swiss People’s Party, said: “In Switzerland, our tradition is that you show your face. That is a sign of our basic freedoms”.
From ‘My London News’: London’s red telephone boxes are a hallmark of both the capital and Britain as a whole, in fact in 2006 they were voted one of Britain’s top 10 design icons of all time. However, in this digital age we don’t get quite as much practical use out of them, and many have disappeared entirely. However, some Londoners are using their creativity to address this issue, and it’s increasingly common to see London’s telephone boxes repurposed. One of those is Walkmisu. Using only the best Italian ingredients, they sell seven different flavours of handmade tiramisu including strawberry, pistachios and Nutella – all out of a pair of tiny red phone boxes.