Top story: Covid-19 widens schooling gaps – report
Hello, I’m Warren Murray with the stories that are moving the meter this morning.
The children’s commissioner for England has called for a complete overhaul of early years services and a government-funded rescue to prevent mass closures of nurseries and childcare providers. Anne Longfield’s report, Best Beginnings, says that last year 29% of all five-year-olds – and 45% of those eligible for free school meals – were below the expected level of development by the time they reached school, leaving them more likely to be excluded, to struggle with reading and writing, leave school with no GCSEs, and vulnerable to mental ill health and obesity. In the aftermath of coronavirus and the lockdown, surveys suggest as many as one in four nurseries and pre-schools could close within the year – rising to one in three in deprived areas. Longfield recommends an expanded childcare offer of 30 hours’ universal free childcare and early education for all two, three and four-year-olds, and 15 free hours for all one-year-olds.
In coronavirus news more widely: the Democratic party has urged elected leaders and party delegates to skip the national convention in August in Milwaukee, while the Republican National Committee has announced plans to scale back its convention scheduled for next month in Jacksonville, Florida. Boris Johnson is to announce £3bn of extra funding for the NHS in England as he tries to reassure the public that the government is prepared in the event of a winter second wave of Covid-19 cases. In Spain, nearly 100,000 mink are being culled after coronavirus infection was found amongst the farmed animals and their handlers. Head to our global live blog for continuing coverage.
‘Pawns of Chinese influence’ – The US attorney general, William Barr, has accused Disney and Hollywood studios of “kowtowing” to the Chinese Communist party. Among examples, Beijing objected to a virus in the film World War Z being shown as originating in China, and the “Ancient One” in the Marvel film Dr Strange was changed from being Tibetan to Celtic to avoid upsetting China, Barr said. The attorney general also lashed out at US technology companies, calling them “pawns of Chinese influence”, a claim several of them swiftly rejected. Barr said Disney and other American corporations should not undermine “the classical liberal order that has allowed them to thrive”. China has meanwhile called the Trump administration “very pathetic” amid reports that Washington is considering a sweeping visa ban on Communist party members.
Calls to scrap two-child limit – Nine hundred women were forced to disclose their child was conceived by rape to claim a tax credit under the government’s two-child cap on benefits. The “rape clause” was introduced to enable women whose third or subsequent child was conceived through rape to gain exemption from the limit. But women’s groups and rape crisis charities argue it is inhumane. Labour and the SNP have called for the two-child limit to be abolished to help struggling families. Families hit by the limit lose £53 a week for every ineligible child compared with what they would have received before its introduction. A study has found affected families cut back on food, medication, heating and clothing.
‘Tortured queens’ jibe of race tsar – The newly appointed chair of the race and ethnic disparities commission has been forced to apologise after the Guardian unearthed comments he wrote referencing “tortured queens playing hide and seek”. Tony Sewell now says he was “wrong and offensive” to make the disparaging comments when writing in The Voice newspaper after the former footballer Justin Fashanu disclosed he was gay in 1990. Sewell told the Guardian those views “do not reflect my views today nor indeed the views of modern society”. Sewell’s appointment to head the commission, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, had already sparked concerns because he has previously questioned the idea of institutional racism.
Hackers hit vaccine projects – Russian state-sponsored hackers are targeting UK, US and Canadian efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine, according to Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre. It said the group known as APT29 was “almost certainly” part of the Kremlin’s intelligence services. British officials would not say if any of the attacks had been successful in stealing medical secrets but none of the vaccine research had been compromised as a result. Oxford University and Imperial College London are among UK organisations at the forefront of global efforts to find a vaccine.
Should we still trust Twitter? A major security breach saw the verified accounts of world leaders, celebrities and corporate brands hijacked to publish fraudulent messages – and it could have been much worse. “Imagine this happening the night before the election,” said Bruce Schneier, a prominent security technologist and fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. “It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to go, ‘Wow!’” The fiasco raises a host of questions, chief among them: should we still trust Twitter? And even if we don’t, what can we do about it? Julia Carrie Wong examines the implications.
Today in Focus podcast: Populists win in divided Poland
A narrow win for the populist incumbent Andrzej Duda in Poland’s presidential election has cleared the path for the rightwing Law and Justice party to pursue anti-LGBT policies and further assault the courts and free press. The Guardian’s Christian Davies reports from Warsaw.
Lunchtime read: ‘No memory of doing most of my films’
Malcolm McDowell was once the embodiment of youthful rage and rebellion. Now, the Clockwork Orange star is reconciled to a life of golf, gangster flicks and the odd glimpse of genius.
Paceman Jofra Archer faces an England disciplinary process after the unapproved visit to his home that breached the team’s biosecurity rules and could have caused a “disaster”. Marcus Rashford enjoyed his best on-field performance since the Premier League restarted as he drove Manchester United to a win over Crystal Palace that maintained their push for a Champions League berth. Zinedine Zidane said the league would be Real Madrid’s main objective this season, and now his side has delivered after the 2-1 win over Villarreal sealed the La Liga title. Owner Dan Snyder has hired a District of Columbia law firm to review the Washington NFL team’s culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct following the surfacing of sexual harassment claims. Eddie Jones is willing to risk exposing England’s secrets in a documentary after the coach gave his blessing for a TV series that could lead to a cash boost for the Rugby Football Union. And in Formula One, Lewis Hamilton says making the black power salute at last week’s Styrian Grand Prix felt as if it was a pivotal moment for him and one he would never forget.
Shares in Netflix have fallen despite positive quarterly earnings and the addition of 10 million new subscribers during the global lockdown. However, the company expects demand to fall off as workers lose their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis, causing investors to sell their stakes. The FTSE100 is on course to rise 0.3% this morning while the pound will buy you $1.257 and €1.104.
The Russia vaccine scandal is all over the fronts – best headline goes to the Star, which calls Putin and his hacker hoodlums “The dukes of biohazard” and puts the president in a cowboy hat. Most other headlines are along the same lines as the Guardian’s: “Russia tried to steal virus research and interfere in election, says UK”. Metro calls them the “sinister Cozy Bear hackers”.
Away from that topic our paper’s front page also reports Shamima Begum’s court win allowing her to return to Britain and challenge the stripping of her citizenship. “Jihadi bride can return to to UK”, says the Express. The Mail promotes its Littlejohn column, which accuses judges of putting “the interests of terror suspects ahead of the safety of the rest of us”. The Mail’s actual splash is “Boris at war with his Covid experts” – that’s after Johnson exhorted the nation to get back to work but Sir Patrick Vallance said working from home remains a very good option (a story that makes a sidebar on the Telegraph’s front too).
Aside from the vaccine hacking story, the FT has “UK on track to sell record £533bn of debt to finance pandemic response”. The Times leads with “Stars’ phone records fixed” – it claims a VIP phone company executive was recorded boasting that the rich and famous were able to have their call records manipulated to stop them being used in evidence.
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