Top story: ‘Liberating feeling’ to speak free of Trump
Hello, Warren Murray bringing you the first thing you should read for the last time this week.
Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, has spoken of a “liberating feeling” of being able to speak scientific truth about the coronavirus without fear of “repercussions” from Donald Trump. Fauci returned to the White House podium after Joe Biden released a national Covid-19 strategy and signed 10 executive orders to combat a pandemic that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the US.
Fauci insisted he had always been candid, noting: “That’s why I got in trouble sometimes … It’s very clear that there were things that were said – be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine [pushed as a treatment by Trump] and things like that – that really was uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact.”
In the UK, ministers are considering paying £500 to everyone in England who tests positive for Covid-19 and therefore needs to self-isolate, the Guardian reveals this morning. It comes after government polling found only 17% of people with symptoms are getting a test, because people fear having to stop working. An “Official Sensitive” policy paper also proposes police be given access to health data to crack down on quarantine breaches. Boris Johnson has raised fears that tough Covid restrictions could continue well into the spring and beyond – causing anxiety among some Tory backbenchers who are urging an easing of restrictions if vaccination rates stay on target.
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‘No get out of jail card’ – Mitch McConnell is leading Republicans who are asking to have Donald Trump’s impeachment trial delayed, ostensibly so he can prepare a legal defence to the charge of insurrection. The leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said he was still negotiating with McConnell on how to conduct the trial, “but make no mistake about it. There will be a trial, there will be a vote, up or down or whether to convict the president.” Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, has said Trump does not deserve a “get out of jail card” just because he has left office. Trump will not have the White House counsel’s office to defend him, as it did in his first trial, and members of his past legal teams have indicated they do not plan to help.
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Nissan UK ‘better off under Brexit’ – Nissan has said Brexit will give it an edge as it can buy batteries for its electric cars from within the UK to avoid tariffs. Its factory in Sunderland will also push ahead with a new version of its Qashqai SUV this year. Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s chief operating officer, said: “Brexit gives us the competitive advantage,” explaining it was not reliant on batteries imported from east Asia unlike many of its rivals, who from 2027 will face tariffs if they continue to do so. The Brexit deal keeps most car exports between the UK and EU free of tariffs provided they contain enough parts from either side of the Channel. Nissan was previously one of the loudest car industry voices warning against Brexit. Separately, marine conservationists say catches of key species such as cod should be reduced this year as the UK negotiates fishing rights with the EU, with only a third of key populations in British waters currently being fished at sustainable levels.
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Broken bond – The boss of Britain’s state-owned National Savings & Investments has apologised for dismal customer service after a surge in withdrawals left the bank struggling with “unprecedented” demand and a drop in staffing linked to the pandemic. NS&I, which runs a monthly prize draw for premium bondholders, is also pausing a controversial decision to stop sending physical cheques to winners that had caused anxiety for some elderly and vulnerable savers. The move contributed to a 43% jump in complaints in the six months to September. Savers pulled £26.5bn from the bank in the final three months of 2020. NS&I warned it was likely to be more than £9.5bn short of its £35bn full-year funding target by March.
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Global plea for climate preparedness – More than a million young people around the world have urged governments to prioritise measures to protect against climate breakdown during the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. World leaders are due to videoconference on Monday to consider how to adapt to the extreme weather, wildfires and floods that have become more common as temperatures rise. Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary general, will lead the Climate Adaptation Summit, and leaders including Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Narendra Modi are expected to attend. Thousands of scientists including four Nobel winners have signed a separate call for adaptation to be prioritised.
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Patient – A devoted dog named Boncuk has spent days waiting outside a hospital in Turkey where her sick owner, Cemal Senturk, was being treated.
Senturk’s daughter, Aynur Egeli, said she would take Boncuk home but the dog would run back to the hospital. On Wednesday, Boncuk was finally reunited with Senturk when he was discharged. “She’s very used to me. And I miss her too, constantly,” Senturk said.
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Jürgen Klopp shouldered the blame for Liverpool’s first league defeat at Anfield since April 2017 – a 1-0 loss to Burnley – which he described as a “massive punch in the face”. The pandemic is placing “real pressure” on preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, the Australian prime minister has said, after a report claimed the Japanese government had privately concluded the Games will have to be cancelled. Dominic Thiem, the US Open champion and world No 3, has denied the top players are receiving a notable advantage before the Australian Open by spending their 14-day quarantine in Adelaide. Spanish player Paula Badosa has become the first player to test positive to Covid-19 while in hard quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.
Ash Barty, the women’s No 1, has promised to “be better” after breaching Covid-19 rules by forgetting to wear a mask while shopping at a supermarket in Melbourne. England have announced their squad for the first two Tests of their tour of India, with Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes returning to the fold. This year’s London Marathon is set to be the biggest marathon staged, with organisers increasingly hopeful that a full national rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine will enable 100,000 runners to take part. Premiership Rugby has started an investigation after an error in a laboratory resulted in Bath’s squad and management needlessly having to isolate at home. Former rugby league and union international Sam Burgess has told an Australian court about a heated argument with his father-in-law that is now the subject of a criminal charge. And a former national speed skating coach in South Korea has been sentenced to more than a decade in prison for sexually assaulting double Olympic gold medallist Shim Suk-hee.
Google has threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia, saying it is unworkable to pay news providers (including the Guardian) for using their content, in accordance with a proposed law. Asian shares have eased from record highs after a recent rally that was driven by hopes for a massive US economic stimulus under the new Biden administration. MSCI’s broadest gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside of Japan was off 0.2%. The Nikkei eased 0.4%, retreating from a 30-year peak on Friday, as investors refrained from placing big bets ahead of the corporate earnings season. The FTSE looks like opening flat to a few points down. Sterling is worth $1.371 and €1.126 at time of writing.
Not too bad in isolation? Our exclusive on the proposed £500 payment to people who test positive for Covid-19 is the splash for today’s Guardian print edition. Flooding caused by Storm Christoph also features, along with Geoffrey Woolf who has gone home after 306 days in hospital from coronavirus, and the survival stories of other patients. Others have followed the story: the Times says “£500 for catching Covid”, the Telegraph has “£500 payment for positive test” and the Mail calls it the £500 Covid cashpoint”.
The i has “Vaccine doses overhaul to tackle unfair roll-out in UK” – the Guardian reports that vaccine supply is to be cut in half in the north-east and Yorkshire to allow London and other regions to catch up on immunising the over-80s. The Metro berates “Covid thugs” who “berate our 999 heroes” – saying violent assaults against emergency workers have become the most common crime of the pandemic. The Mirror has “Give teachers jab in memory of caring Donna” – a campaign is under way in the name of Donna Coleman, an educator who died of Covid at age 42.
The Express has “We won’t pay”, saying a million over-75s are in “revolt” over the BBC licence fee. The FT focuses on the efforts of the incoming Biden administration to make up for the indifference of the previous: “US joins international effort to ensure global access to vaccine”.
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