US, allies trying to lure Russia into a war – Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of deliberately creating a scenario designed to lure his country into war and of ignoring Russia’s security concerns over Ukraine. In his first direct public comments on the crisis for nearly six weeks, a defiant Putin showed no sign of backing down from security demands that the West has called “non-starters” and “a possible excuse to launch an invasion”, which Moscow denies. “It’s already clear now…that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored,” Putin said at a media conference with the visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of several NATO leaders trying to intercede with him as the crisis has intensified.
Premature to declare victory over COVID – WHO
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has decalred that it was “premature for any country to declare victory” over COVID. During his usual briefing from Geneva, he also noted that since Omicron was identified “about 90 million cases have been recorded” and expressed concern at the “worrying increase in deaths in a large proportion of the regions of the world”. He emphasised that the virus was “dangerous and continues to evolve”. WHO has called for caution in easing restrictions.
UK writes off £8.7billion of pandemic PPE
The British government has written off £8.7billion it spent on defective, unsuitable and over-priced personal protective equipment (PPE) bought during the pandemic. Department for Health documents show items costing £673million were unusable, while £750million of equipment was not used before its expiry date. The largest write-off – £4.7billion – was because the government paid more for it than it is currently worth. A further £2.6billion of equipment was judged to be unsuitable, but authorities believe it could still be sold or given to charities.
UK price rises nearly double in January, says report
Shoppers in the UK have been hit by the highest price rises in nearly 10 years after shop inflation almost doubled over the past month. Shop price inflation jumped from 0.8% in December to 1.5% in January, the BRC-NielsenIQ price index indicated. Many families have been struggling with a cost of living crisis as fuel prices and energy bills soar. The latest official figures showed inflation at its highest rate for 30 years.
Israel imposing ‘apartheid’ on Palestinians – Amnesty
Israel is carrying out “the crime of apartheid against Palestinians” and must be held accountable for treating them as “an inferior racial group”, Amnesty International says. A new 280-page report details how Israeli authorities enforce a system of oppression and domination against the Palestinians, listing a range of Israeli abuses, including extensive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, administrative detention and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians. Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid rejected the report as “divorced from reality”, accusing Amnesty of an anti-Semitic agenda.
Spanish parliament to investigate clergy abuse
The Spanish parliament has admitted a request by three parties to create a commission of inquiry into possible cases of abuse of minors committed within the Catholic Church. The request was made by Podemos, one of the two members of the ruling centre-left coalition, and by two independence parties from Catalonia and the Basque Country. The vote of the Socialist Party (PSOE), the main member of the government, will be decisive for the formation of the commission of inquiry.
Afghanistan: ‘You can cut a flower, but you cannot stop spring’
Actress Angelina Jolie has told the European Parliament that “You can cut the flower, but you can’t stop the arrival of spring”. Speaking during the high-level conference on Afghan women, she quoted Afghan women’s rights activist Malalai Joya and urged leaders around the world “to make those in power in Afghanistan accountable for their treatment of women and civil society, to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches women and organisations led by women, and to stop the violent push-backs of vulnerable refugees that are taking place on some borders.” EP president Roberta Metsola underlined that “the rights of Afghan women and girls must be a priority in humanitarian aid.
ABC suspends Whoopi Goldberg over Holocaust comments
ABC News has suspended popular Afro-American actress Whoopi Goldberg, host of ‘The View’, for two weeks after criticism sparked by her claim that the Holocaust “is not about race”. Announcing the move, network president Kim Godwin called her statements “wrong and offensive”. He admitted that Whoopi had apologised, but added that at the same time he asked her to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments. He said, “The entire ABC News is in solidarity with our Jewish colleagues, friends, family and communities. “