Top story: MPs to have their say, belatedly
Good morning everyone. Graham Russell here with the news to start your week.
Theresa May will today justify her decision to order military strikes on Syria without first seeking parliamentary approval, telling MPs it was in Britain’s interest and was aimed at preventing human suffering. She is expected to point out that “there is broad-based international support for the action we have taken”. The PM will also pledge a further diplomatic push to bring Bashar al-Assad’s regime back to the negotiating table in Geneva, and ensure chemical weapons attacks are fully investigated.
Senior government ministers were out in force over the weekend, seeking to explain the rationale behind Saturday’s action, with the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, insisting the missile strikes on chemical weapons facilities were “timely, appropriate and commensurate”.
Jeremy Corbyn, in an opinion piece for the Guardian, has said the attack was “legally questionable” and either entirely ineffective as a deterrent or a precursor to wider military action. “Neither possibility offers an end to the war and suffering, or any prospect of saving lives – rather the opposite. The intensification of military action will simply lead to more deaths and more refugees,” he wrote. He also called for the restoration of a UN chemical weapons inspections regime.
Across the Channel, Emmanuel Macron has used the strikes to burnish his military credentials, and has even boasted during an interview that he steered Donald Trump on the best action to take in Syria,
Trump, the ‘stain’ – James Comey has launched a broadside against Donald Trump’s character, saying he is “morally unfit” to be president, treats women like meat and is a “stain” on everyone who worked for him. The former FBI director – who Trump has variously called a “leaker”, “liar”, “slippery” and a “slimeball” – was giving his first TV interview since the launch of his new book, A Higher Loyalty. Other highlights include Comey’s analysis of Trump’s hair and skin, the difficulty of briefing him on claims he had been in a Moscow hotel room with urinating prostitutes and the decision to reopen the Hillary Clinton emails inquiry. Richard Wolffe writes that Comey helped Trump to power, now he wants to undo the deed.
Stephen Lawrence – The father of the teenager stabbed to death 25 years ago in an infamous racially motivated attack has forgiven his son’s killers, saying they had inadvertently “created a legend”. Neville Lawrence said Stephen’s murder in south-east London had sparked debate about racism and policing, and he was now motivated to speak about the recent surge in knife crime. “It is even more urgent now that I talk to these youngsters and explain to them the pain and the suffering they inflict on families,” he said. Danny Leigh spoke to Duwayne Brooks, who was with Stephen Lawrence when he died.
The ultimate Tess – An ambitious search for alien worlds begins on Monday, weather permitting, with the launch of Nasa’s planet-hunting spacecraft, Tess. It will be flung into an unprecedented orbit around Earth on one of Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rockets and spend two years observing 200,000 of the brightest stars in the sky. Alongside other measurements, scientists hope to work out the planets’ masses and densities, and perhaps even the gases in their atmospheres. It will build on the work of the Kepler space telescope, which showed astronomers the Milky Way is home to at least two billion potentially habitable planets. “We think we’ve got a spacecraft that is ready to kick ass,” said Nasa’s Stephen Rinehart.
Windrush – A group of Caribbean countries has been snubbed by No 10 in their request to discuss the immigration plight of the Windrush-generation of British residents, some of whom now face the prospect of proving their right to stay in the UK. Some diplomats feel the UK is not taking seriously a problem that is affecting large numbers of long-term UK residents who came to Britain as children. Some have been threatened with deportation to countries they left as children 50 years ago. Others have been denied access to healthcare, lost jobs or been made homeless.
Harmony in, homosexuality out – Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, has banned “homosexual” content from its platform, saying it wants to create a “harmonious community environment”. The move sparked outcry, mostly under the hashtag #iamgay, with many referring to China’s constitution, which says citizens’ “personal dignity” is “inviolable”. China’s online space has come under increasingly tighter control. In January, authorities ordered Sina Weibo to shut several portals to eliminate “vulgar” or “harmful” online content.
Lunchtime read: the world’s last ‘human zoo’
Nearly 60 years ago, Belgium staged a glittering 200-day celebration of postwar social, cultural and technological advances. The event, which is said to retain an “important place in the collective memory of the Belgian nation”, is being honoured this week but one of its exhibits not so much – the world’s last “human zoo”. In three hectares of tropical gardens, the colonial power put Congolese men, women and children on show in “traditional” dress behind a bamboo perimeter fence for the education and amusement of white Europeans. They would spend their days carrying out their crafts by straw huts while they were mocked by visitors. “If there was no reaction, they threw money or bananas over the closure,” one journalist wrote at the time. For Guido Gryseels, the head of Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa, combating the prejudices at the core of the zoo remains the focus of his work.
Pep Guardiola’s champions will go down in history as one of the best to grace English football, writes Jonathan Wilson. Yes, City outlaid a net £360m under Guardiola but he has also improved players and blended them to accentuate their assets. Vincent Kompany has challenged his City team-mates to retain a title handed to them by Manchester United’s shock defeat to West Brom.
A world tour surf event has been put on hold in Western Australia after a man was attacked by a shark nearby. The Championship Tour was stopping at Margaret River but heats were cancelled after a man in his 30s was taken to hospital with leg injuries. In rugby union, Jonathan Joseph’s place on England’s tour of South Africa is in jeopardy after he was hobbled by an ankle injury during Bath’s drubbing by Saracens. The 41-6 win confirms the Sarries’ place in the play-offs for the ninth season in a row.
Shares were mixed in Asia after an upbeat start to the week, with Chinese benchmarks hit the most. The missile strikes on Syria appeared to have little impact on trading, with all eyes on Chinese GDP data, due on Tuesday.
Dismal weather has sparked a 6% year-on-year drop in UK shopper numbers, the steepest high street drop since the end of 2010.
The pound is buying $1.425 and €1.155.
There are two stories in town today, according to the front pages: fears of a Russian “cyber war” on Britain and Manchester City’s triumph over Manchester United.
The Mail, Mirror, Telegraph and Express all splash on fears that Moscow will use hackers and trolls to retaliate against the UK for the US-led strikes on Syria over the weekend. Most of the front-page stories quote Boris Johnson saying the UK has to “take every possible precaution” to prepare for possible revenge cyber-attacks on targets such as the NHS and electrical facilities.
The fallout from the Syria strikes also makes the FT front, with the paper leading on “Trump vows to follow air strikes with more sanctions on Russia”. The Guardian splashes on the prime minister defending her decision to act: “May hits back at critics: bombing Syria was ‘in our national interest’”, as does the Sun with its lead story: “Back me or back brutality”.
Singing a different tune is the Times, which has a story about patients deciding how they spend NHS money as a result of a huge expansion of personal health budgets.
For more news: www.theguardian.com
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