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Treasury unease over fears of No 10 U-turn on national insurance hike
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Embattled PM may scrap policy to win support of rightwing Tory MPs and save his job over alleged lockdown parties

The Treasury is becoming increasingly alarmed that Boris Johnson may be preparing to scrap the national insurance rise in a desperate attempt to placate rightwing Tory MPs as he fights to save his job.

The Guardian understands Rishi Sunak has privately stressed to MPs that the tax rise must go ahead as planned a with one frontbencher who has met him in recent days speculating the chancelloras position could become untenable if Johnson seeks to overrule him.

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Brit awards 2022: Inflo is first non-white winner of producer of the year
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Sault co-founder, who has worked with Adele and Little Simz, thanks aall the Black producers before me a I am youa

Inflo, the genre-straddling producer known for work with Adele, Little Simz and Michael Kiwanuka, has been announced as producer of the year in 2022as Brit awards.

It is the first time a non-white artist has won the award since the inception of the Brits in 1977.

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aTime for the trutha: MPs call on Boris Johnson to publish apartygatea report
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Cabinet Office officials wrangle over final version of Sue Grayas findings on alleged Covid rule-breaking parties

Boris Johnson has been told it is atime for the truth to be releaseda as he faced more calls to publish a long-awaited report into apartygatea in full and not asuppress crucial detailsa.

Officials in the Cabinet Office are still wrangling over the final version of Sue Grayas findings on a string of alleged Covid rule-breaking parties in Downing Street and other parts of government.

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Womenas Ashes Test match, day two: Australia v England a live!
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101st over: Australia 331-8 (Jonassen 2, King 1) Alana King on Test debut comes to the middle, and immediately gets an immaculate outswinger that she nearly nicks. But she hangs in there, and chops a ball off her pads for her first run. Jonassen then gets her score going with a clip off the hip for two.

Gorgeous delivery from Katherine Brunt! Looks like itas on the line of middle and off stumps, but swings away just enough to beat the defensive prod and hit the top of off. Bails off from a perfect piece of bowling. Brunt has a chance at a Test five-for.

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Protests flare across Poland after death of young mother denied an abortion
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Family of Agnieszka T say they want to asave other women in Poland from a similar fatea, as case met with anger over restrictive termination laws

Protests are under way across Poland after the death of a 37-year-old woman this week who was refused an abortion, a year since the country introduced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

On the streets of Warsaw on Tuesday night, protesters laid wreaths and lanterns in memory of Agnieszka T, who died earlier that day. She was pregnant with twins when one of the foetusa heartbeat stopped and doctors refused to carry out an abortion. In a statement, her family accused the government of having ablood on its handsa. Further protests are planned in CzAstochowa, the city in southern Poland where the mother-of-three was from.

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Lawyers question strength of Prince Andrewas response to lawsuit
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Legal experts question whether document filed with US district court can help royal avoid adisastrousa trial

British lawyers have cast doubt on the strength of Prince Andrewas defence to Virginiaas Giuffreas lawsuit and whether it can help him settle the case, thereby avoiding a adisastrousa court trial.

In papers filed with the US district court on Wednesday, Andrew denied sexually abusing Giuffre when she was a minor and also sought to bar his accuseras claim on grounds including the time elapsed since the alleged offences a despite a New York statute having extended the window for child victim claims a and her awrongful conducta.

Andrew and convicted sex-trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell have been photographed at numerous social events together.

Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to the charge of procuring a minor for prostitution.

Andrew had been on Epsteinas private plane and stayed at some of his homes.

The infamous photograph depicts Andrew, Giuffre and Maxwell at Maxwellas home.

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Teenager charged over suspected hate crime after Jewish men attacked
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Malaki Thorpe, 18, accused of racially aggravated actual bodily harm in north London

A teenager has been charged over a suspected hate crime after two Jewish men were attacked in north London on Wednesday, the night before Holocaust Memorial Day.

Malaki Thorpe, 18, of Tottenham, will appear at Highbury Corner magistrates court on Friday charged with two counts of racially aggravated actual bodily harm (ABH) and one count of possession of an offensive weapon.

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Record numbers of women reach 30 child-free in England and Wales
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In 1971, just 18% of 30-year-olds had no children a today the figure has risen to 50%, reports the ONS

Record numbers of women are reaching the age of 30 child-free, new official figures have shown.

More than half (50.1%) of women in England and Wales born in 1990 were without a child when they turned 30 in 2020, the first generation to do so, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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UK university staff plan 10 more days of strikes in pay and pensions rows
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Union says more than 50,000 staff expected to take part in latest walkouts starting next month

More than a million students at 68 universities across the UK are to be hit by further strike action with up to 10 days of campus walkouts starting next month, union leaders have said.

The University and College Union (UCU) said more than 50,000 university staff were expected to take part in the latest round of action over pensions, pay and working conditions, beginning with a five-day walkout from 14 February.

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McDonaldas new amenu hacka includes a aLand, Air & Seaa burger
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The fast food chain has said components for the sandwich will be sold separately and customers will have to assemble it themselves

Burger giant McDonalds is causing something of a flap with a bizarre new set of forthcoming amenu hacksa that includes a sandwich called aLand, Air & Sea,a combining fish, beef and a bird with dismal flying abilities a the chicken.

Menu hacks have in recent years become a popular way for the public to customize creations from existing items on fast food chain menus.

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British scientist finds new species of rare leafhopper in Uganda
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The last recorded sighting of a leafhopper from the same genus as Phlogis kibalensis was in 1969

A new species of insect has been found in the Ugandan rainforest that belongs to a group of insects so rare that its closest known relative was last seen more than 50 years ago.

The species of leafhopper, named Phlogis kibalensis, was discovered by a British scientist doing field work in a national park in western Uganda.

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aI thought: I could be dead by the end of thisa: Cate Le Bon on making art from Covid chaos
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She moved to the Mojave desert, but the pandemic stranded the psychedelicist back in her native Wales. She explains how athree people losing their minds in a terraced housea ended up with an album of the year

aIt looks like the bottom of the ocean, the light is completely different. And the perspective of time changes out here. The days are so long.a Down the line, Cate Le Bon is describing the beauty of desert living. aEverything is so still,a she says. aSound travels differently out here. It feels like youare in a vacuum, and you choose when you want to break the seal.a

She still speaks about the Mojave with the wonderment of a newcomer; the events of the past two years mean that she has spent perhaps just two months in the home she bought in Joshua Tree, California. Instead, she pinged around the globe from Wales to Topanga Canyon, anything to keep working; producing records for John Grant and Devendra Banhart and recording her own sixth album, the spectacular Pompeii, the follow-up to her Mercury-nominated 2019 album Reward.

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Honduras: can first female president usher in a new era for women?
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Xiomara Castroas inauguration will cap a remarkable rise but she faces daunting challenges around femicide and abortion

Xiomara Castro has been sworn in as the first female president of Honduras on Thursday, marking the culmination of a remarkable rise to power that began just over 12 years ago when she led a massive protest movement in response to the ousting of her husband, former president Manuel aMela Zelaya, in a military-backed coup.

Castroas resounding victory in the 28 November election has generated hope for a new era for women in the country with the highest rate of femicide in Latin America and some of the regionas most draconian laws with regards to reproductive rights.

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Barry Cryer was cheeky, kind and a canny engineer of comedy | Mark Lawson
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A generous-hearted jokesmith, Cryer created laughs for generations of comics, was a consummate performer and had a lifelong commitment to wit

The best work of Barry Cryer, who has died aged 86, was in two different ways unseen. He wrote jokes for generations of comedians from Tommy Cooper and Morecambe and Wise through the Two Ronnies to Rory Bremner, and much of his professional pleasure came, like that of a demolition expert, from appreciating carefully engineered explosions from a distance. A lot of the big laughs he received personally came on radio, where he was a chairman during the 1972 first series of Iam Sorry I Havenat a Clue before becoming a pivotal and consummate panellist for the rest of his life.

While his TV appearances were much more infrequent, Cryer was immediately recognisable, partly due to to a distinctive look a prematurely white hair offset by big, thick, black-framed spectacles.

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Prime suspect Boris Johnson gives Sue Gray the slip in Wales
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The prime minister tries to shore up Tory support en route while talking rhubarb about animal rescues from Kabul

Boris Johnson: Where are we off to?

Special adviser: Wales.

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Neil Youngas battle with Spotify is principled a and comfortable
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In pulling his music from Spotify in protest at Joe Roganas Covid misinformation, the singer continues a life of political action a but unlike others, he doesnat need to please the streaming giant

If you had been forced to predict which blue-chip American rock legend was going to suddenly pull their music off Spotify in protest at the streaming site hosting a far-right-friendly podcast that spreads medical misinformation, Neil Young would have been a very safe bet.

He is famously among the most ornery, uncompromising and capricious of said blue-chip legends. The years that produced his most famous work also played host to Young wilfully sabotaging his own commercial prospects in order to follow his muse (or, as he memorably put it, aheading for the ditcha); suddenly abandoning tours midway by directing his tour bus to pull off the motorway en route to the next show; whimsically declining to release a succession of completed albums; and incurring the wrath of his partners in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY) by removing their contributions from the master tapes of his songs before releasing them. He spent a substantial chunk of the 1980s making wildly uncommercial albums, apparently with the specific intention of annoying his record label, which ended up suing him for being unpredictable a it lost, perhaps because, as his labelmate Elton John put it, its lawsuit afelt a bit like suing Neil Young for being Neil Younga.

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Parties inquisitor Sue Gray also in charge of finding Ofcom chair
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Selection process descended into farce after Paul Dacre was offered the job by Boris Johnson

Sue Gray may hold the fate of the prime minister in her hands a but the senior civil servant has been given extra time to help choose the next head of Ofcom, after the government once again extended the deadline to apply for the job.

When not investigating who was dragging suitcases of booze into Downing Street for lockdown-busting parties, Gray is also leading the increasingly farcical interview process to find a new chair of the media regulator. This began almost two years ago, when the former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was offered the job by Boris Johnson aover a rather sad bottle of winea as part of a government bid to install right-leaning figures in key public roles.

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Key points from Prince Andrewas response to Virginia Giuffreas lawsuit
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What the royalas lawyers said in his answer and defences to the sexual abuse suit against him

Prince Andrew has filed his answer and defences to Virginia Giuffreas sexual abuse lawsuit against him, brought in the New York district court. Here are some of the key points from the court papers. The princeas lawyers say:

Prince Andrew denies the allegations contained in paragraph one of the complaint. (Paragraph one of the complaint: aThis suit arises out of defendantas sexual abuse of plaintiff when she was under the age of 18 years old.a)

Prince Andrew lacks sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations contained in paragraph two of the complaint. (Paragraph two: aDuring 2000a2002, beginning when plaintiff was 16, plaintiff was the victim of sex trafficking and abuse by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.a)

Prince Andrew denies the first clause in paragraph seven of the complaint. He lacks sufficient information to admit or deny the remaining allegations contained in that paragraph. (Paragraph seven: aPrince Andrew was a close friend of Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who spent years overseeing and managing Epsteinas sex trafficking network, and actively recruited underage girls, including plaintiff.a)

Prince Andrew denies the allegations contained in paragraph nine of the complaint. (Paragraph nine: aAfter publicly feigning ignorance about the scope of Epsteinas sex-trafficking operation and sympathy for Epsteinas victims, Prince Andrew has refused to cooperate with US authorities in their investigation and prosecution of Epstein and his co-conspirators.a)

Prince Andrew admits that he met Epstein in or around 1999. He denies the remaining allegations in the first sentence of paragraph 30 of the complaint, and lacks sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations contained in the second sentence of that paragraph. (Paragraph 30: aAccording to Prince Andrew, he first met Epstein in 1999 through Maxwell, Prince Andrewas close friend. Prince Andrew and Maxwell have been photographed at numerous social events together.a)

Prince Andrew lacks sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations contained in paragraph 33 of the complaint. (Paragraph 33: aIn 2006, Prince Andrew invited Epstein to his daughteras 18th birthday party, despite Epstein being charged with procuring a minor for prostitution only one month prior.a)

Prince Andrew lacks sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations contained in paragraph 38 of the complaint. (Paragraph 38: aThe below photograph depicts Prince Andrew, plaintiff, and Maxwell at Maxwellas home prior to Prince Andrew sexually abusing plaintiff.a)

[Virginia] Giuffreas complaint should be dismissed because this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the action.

Giuffre, through her own actions, inactions, and other conduct a including, without limitation, entering into the 2009 release agreement with Epstein containing a broad third-party release of her claims against Prince Andrew and others a waived the claims now asserted in the complaint.

Assuming, without admitting, that Giuffre has suffered any injury or damage, Giuffre and/or others, who are not Prince Andrew, contributed in whole or in part to the alleged damage.

Assuming, without admitting, that Giuffre has suffered any injury or damage alleged in the complaint, Giuffreas claims are barred by the doctrine of consent.

Giuffreas alleged causes of action are barred in whole or in part by her own wrongful conduct and the doctrine of unclean hands.

Giuffreas claims are barred in whole or in part by the applicable statute(s) of limitations.

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aDonat Look Upa: humanity could avert asteroid Armageddon, say scientists
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Planet likely to be spared from catastrophic end if 10km-wide Earthbound asteroid was spotted, analysis finds

As a planet-killing asteroid hurtles towards Earth in the film Donat Look Up, scientists Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio scramble to get the world to take the threat seriously.

For many, the Netflix hit was an allegory of the worldas inaction on climate change, but now a pair of physicists have taken a more literal view of the question at the heart of the drama: if a 10km-wide asteroid is six months away from impact, is it possible to avert a planet-ending catastrophe?

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Lifting England Covid rules while 3bn people unvaccinated reckless aA experts
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Scientists warn Boris Johnson that failure means new Covid variants will put thousands of lives at risk across UK

Boris Johnson has been accused of taking a reckless approach to public health by lifting all plan B Covid restrictions in England while failing to take enough action to get jabs to 3 billion unvaccinated people in poorer countries.

The prime minister has robustly defended his record on the pandemic this week while awaiting the findings of the Sue Gray report on the apartygatea scandal, insisting he agot the big calls righta on the biggest global health crisis in a century.

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Wales set to lift most Covid restrictions after passing Omicron peak
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The first minister, Mark Drakeford, said the country would be moving to alert level zero on Friday

Many more Covid restrictions are being lifted on Friday in Wales, allowing nightclubs to reopen and some rules on social distancing to be scrapped.

But people will still be obliged to wear masks in most indoor places and on public transport while Covid passes will be needed for larger indoor events and gatherings.

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aIall wear one for the foreseeablea: masks abound despite England rule change
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Many shoppers and commuters in London and Birmingham kept their faces covered a although not all

Although wearing a face mask was no longer a legal requirement, many travellers and shoppers in London and Birmingham chose to continue covering up as they went about their morning business.

Commuters at Birmingham New Street committed to widespread mask-wearing, with almost half still wearing them around the station and many saying they would put one on when they got on a train.

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WHO chief backs Neil Young over Covid misinformation row with Spotify
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Singer thanked for astanding up against inaccuracies' after the streaming service refused to remove Joe Roganas podcast

The World Health Organization chief has backed the veteran rock star Neil Young in his dispute with the music streaming behemoth Spotify, thanking the musician for astanding up against misinformation and inaccuraciesa around Covid vaccinations.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHOas director general, tweeted that awe all have a role to play to end this pandemic and infodemica a in particular social media platforms.

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Islamophobia isnat just a Tory problem a it runs right through British society | Owen Jones
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Media coverage, political rhetoric and the failure of non-Muslims to speak out have made anti-Muslim racism mainstream

As the Toriesa most senior Muslim female politician, Sayeeda Warsi, puts it, to be accused of Islamophobia is acareer enhancinga, but to be a victim of Islamophobia is acareer destroyinga. She should know: her often lonely public campaign against Islamophobia has been rewarded with political exile. What could be described as Warsias law applies to Nusrat Ghani too: a Tory politician who claims to have been sacked as a minister because her aMuslimnessa was amaking colleagues uncomfortablea.

Compare and contrast their experience with Zac Goldsmithas: after a failed London mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan that was accused of being riddled with Islamophobia, Goldsmith was elevated to the House of Lords and made a minister. Or what of Nadine Dorries, who has retweeted far-right criminal Tommy Robinson, and responded to a video from Khan about tackling Islamophobic hate speech with: aHow about, aitas time to act on sex abusing grooming gangsa instead?a

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

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Black people were Hitleras victims too a that must not be forgotten
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On Holocaust Memorial Day, it is vital we remember all the people targeted by the Nazis

Many people, even those with no more than a passing interest in sport, have heard of Jesse Owens, the American athlete who ruined Adolf Hitleras moment in the sun. For there can be no question that Hitler saw the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin as the ideal platform from which to amplify Nazi propaganda and demonstrate his white supremacist ideology. But Owens, the grandchild of a slave, shattered that illusion.

Owens became the first US track and field athlete to win four gold medals at a single Olympiad. For most of the watching world, his dominance in the 100m, 200m, long jump, and 4x100m relay was a powerful repudiation of Hitleras myth of a superior race of humans, the Aryans. So stung were the Nazis by Owensa exploits in their own backyard that their chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, would later write in his diary that awhite humanity should be ashamed of itselfa. By this he meant that it had been a mistake to allow black athletes to compete at the worldas grandest sporting event.

Olivia Marks-Woldman is the chief executive and Farayi Mungazi is the senior communications officer at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

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This may be Rishi Sunakas best chance to seize the crown. But will he dare to take it? | Polly Toynbee
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Anyone who stays in the cabinet is complicit with Boris Johnson. The chancelloras window for action is shrinking fast

He sits there silently on the frontbench, the man with nothing to say about the great swirl of chaos all around him. What is Rishi Sunak thinking? aThere is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.a Miss it, warns Brutus the conspirator, and all his life will be abound in shallows and in miseriesa. Indeed, this chancellor may never get another chance to shoot through to No 10.

But when exactly is that damned tide at the flood? When Grayas anatomy of No 10 parties is published, perhaps. Or when those notoriously dilatory plods report? Boris Johnson hopes that delaying the partygate reckoning will allow him to fortify his dam against that flood. His backers try to frighten Tory MPs by threatening that a new leader means a general election.

Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist

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Steve Bell on Johnson, Putin, Ukraine and cake a cartoon
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Taxpayers lost billions on MoD housing a so I canat feel sorry for Terra Firma
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Privatisation mania in the 1990s led to a disastrous deal with Guy Hands a ministers are right to try to rectify the situation

The government has sold assets at rotten prices many times over the decades, but the sale of Annington Homes in the dying days of John Majoras administration in 1996 was one of the very worst deals. Televisionas Michael Portillo, the defence secretary at the time, was the man who approved the sale-and-leaseback of 57,400 Ministry of Defence homes to the Japanese bank Nomura for APS1.7bn, a sum that a quarter of a century of house-price inflation has made look ridiculous.

The worst part was that the MoD, in exchange for a 25-year discount on rent, took responsibility for maintenance and refurbishment, tasks that would normally fall to the landlord. When the National Audit Office reviewed the whole arrangement in 2018, it concluded that taxpayers were worse off by APS2.2bn-APS4.2bn during the first 21 years of a set-up intended to last for 200.

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