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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 15 February 2023

1

Secret unit ‘meddled with elections’

An investigation by undercover journalists has uncovered a team of Israelis who claim to have manipulated more than 30 elections around the world using hacking, sabotage and automated disinformation on social media, according to The Guardian. The unit, known as Team Jorge, appears to have been “working under the radar” in elections in several countries for more than two decades, said the paper. “Disinformation” is being “weaponised” by the group, which runs a private service offering to “covertly meddle in elections without a trace”. Tal Hanan, who runs Team Jorge, said: “I deny any wrongdoing.”

2

Hunt cracks down on sick notes

Doctors will be told to sign fewer people off work with sick notes under upcoming plans in the Budget to get more people back into work and reinvigorate the economy. Some 2.32m people were signed off with long-term health conditions last summer, according to the Labour Force Survey, up from 1.95m before the pandemic in the summer of 2019. Doctors “would be encouraged to focus on recommending ways people with long-term illnesses can continue to work with support”, said the Daily Telegraph, rather than using sick notes to authorise them to drop out of the labour market entirely. But a critic said that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s “rhetoric, echoed by the rightwing press”, is that “being too ill to work is a lifestyle choice”.

The millions missing from Britain’s workforce: a ‘troubling’ trend

3

Chinese camera warning

British police could be spied on by Beijing because of their reliance on Chinese-made cameras, said the government’s independent watchdog on surveillance. The biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner said most forces across England and Wales use camera equipment that is either made in China or contains important Chinese components. Alex Younger, the former head of MI6, said the UK should “wake up” to the threat posed by China, adding that western nations were “under full press of Chinese espionage”.

Does Rishi Sunak have a China problem?

4

Trans death possible hate crime

The murder of transgender girl Brianna Ghey is now being probed as a possible hate crime. The 16-year-old, from Birchwood in Warrington, Cheshire, was found by members of the public on a path in Linear Park, Culcheth, on Saturday afternoon. After previously saying there was no evidence to suggest the teenager was the victim of a hate crime, Cheshire Police have issued a statement that said all lines of inquiry were being explored, “including whether this was a hate crime”. Friends said she had been bullied for years at school because of her gender identity.

5

Minister admits Brexit ‘frictions’

A cabinet minister has admitted that Brexit has created new barriers to doing business. Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, told the BBC that he accepted that new “frictions” between the UK and the EU “will have an impact”. Asked if leaving the European Union had hit business investment, he replied: “I think if you have a situation where you create frictions between yourself and your major trading partners, I think you have to accept that that will have an impact.”

Brexit: a divisive anniversary

6

Queen consort to drop divisive diamond

Camilla is to wear a recycled crown for the coronation that will not feature the Koh-i-Noor diamond, Buckingham Palace has announced.  The diamond is “controversial for the circumstances in which it was acquired, and what it has come to symbolise,” said The Guardian. The crown will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds, part of the late Queen Elizabeth’s personal jewellery collection and often worn by her as brooches.

Koh-i-Noor diamond: the controversy over Queen Consort Camilla’s crown

7

‘Postcode lottery’ for HRT

Women face a “postcode lottery” on hormone replacement therapy, reported the i news site. An analysis of prescription data has shown that GPs in the least deprived areas are spending three times as much on HRT, while women in the south of England are most likely to be prescribed the treatment. “One of the problems is that for many years women have been told that the menopause is a natural thing, that it just causes a few hot flushes and you’ve just got to get through it,” said Dr Louise Newson, a menopause specialist.

HRT shortage: has ‘medical sexism’ caused menopause drugs crisis?

8

Watchdog closes antisemitism measures

Labour has been taken out of special measures by the equalities watchdog, as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it is satisfied with action taken by the party to improve how it handles antisemitism complaints. The EHRC has now concluded a three-and-a-half year investigation, which found unlawful harassment of Jewish members in the party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. In a speech later today, Labour leader Keir Starmer will welcome the development, but add: “I don’t see today’s announcement as the end of the road. I see it as a signpost that we are heading in the right direction.” For “many British Jews, Labour is no longer seen as toxic”, said the Jewish Chronicle.

Jeremy Corbyn: what happens if former Labour leader stands again?

9

Cop ‘sexually assaulted abuse victim’

A Metropolitan Police officer sexually assaulted a woman in her home by sucking on her breast, Southwark Crown Court has been told. PC Fabian Aguilar-Delgado, 40, was on duty and in full uniform when he allegedly kissed the woman before sucking her breast in May 2020. The court heard that the alleged assault occurred after the officer offered to search the woman’s house for her abusive ex-partner. He denies a single charge of sexual assault.

10

Kiwi hostage paraded in Papau

Rebels in Indonesia’s Papua province have released photos and footage of a man they say is the pilot from New Zealand they took hostage last week. Phillip Mark Mehrtens was abducted by separatist fighters from the West Papua National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement, who stormed his single-engine plane shortly after it landed on a small runway in Paro, in the remote Nduga district. In the “chilling video”, rebels threaten to kill him if the Indonesian Army hunts for them, said Stuff.

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