Among 17-year-olds in the UK, one in ten will have used hard drugs, such as ketamine and cocaine, a study by the University College London suggests. Nearly a third of 17-year-olds had tried cannabis and more than half admitted to binge-drinking alcohol. Almost 20,000 young people, born between 2000 and 2002, were surveyed as part of the Millennium Cohort Study. Drug-use rates were higher among white teens than black teens. A quarter of 17-year-olds had assaulted someone, including shoving, slapping or punching, over the previous 12 months. Levels of vandalism and weapon use were similar to when they were 14 but shoplifting rose from 4% in early adolescence to 7% a few years later. It remains to be seen how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected engagement in these behaviours.
Christian MP Gregory Campbell has defended his claim that the BBC's Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year Competition was ‘the BBC at its Black Lives Matter worst’. The semi-final featured five black singers and three black judges. He believes the singers were not representative of the best gospel singers in the country, the BBC is not diverse, and the show had ‘one colour scheme’. The presenter of the competition said very few white people applied, and the best singers were chosen. The MP then asked him if he was trying to make him believe there wasn't a single white person good enough when both black and white sing gospel. The presenter said the show celebrated a style of music that came out of black communities and black experience in this country; Campbell's comments show a lack of understanding and ignorance about gospel music.
The UK has experienced a week of dangerous snow and ice culminating in below -20C temperatures. Local councils are warning residents to take extra care while the cold snap lasts, as the weekend weather will turn ‘quite hazardous’. The Centrepoint charity for homeless young people is urging the public to contact them if they see people living out in the cold. Charities are also advised to offer anyone seen to be sleeping rough a hot drink, meal, blankets or clothing. Over 100 street cleaning and waste collection teams have been diverted from regular duties to clear snow from footpaths and routes to medical centres to enable COVID immunisation to continue. On 11 February nine flood warnings indicated flooding is very likely; a further 88 flood alerts indicate that flooding is possible as the snow melts and further freezing rain continues.
Bosnia is a transit country for migrants trying to get to the EU, but the border is currently closed. This has left thousands of migrants stranded like Salman and his brothers, sleeping rough in abandoned buildings, makeshift tents and even in old freight wagons. Winter temperatures are way below zero. Some of Salman’s fellow-travellers developed mental health problems on their journey from Pakistan to Bosnia. Middle-class families save thousands of euros to send their sons to Europe. They have been stranded for 18 months, with no way forward, no way back, crushed by the guilt of having failed their families back home. They have tried several times to cross the Bosnian-Croatian border, without success. The local authorities refuse to open a migrant camp in the region. NGOs have stepped in to offer them a place to get warm. Many are economic migrants from Pakistan or North Africa.
The EU is expected to ask for more time to ratify the Brexit trade deal. UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, claimed that a resolution to EU/UK strained relations required a ‘different spirit’ from the EU. Frost blamed tensions on the bloc struggling to get used to a ‘genuinely independent actor in its neighbourhood’. He also pointed to ‘niggling border issues’ of the EU placing barriers on live UK shellfish exports. Brussels has told British fishermen they are barred indefinitely from selling live mussels, oysters, clams and cockles to EU member states. The ban is affecting restaurants on the continent as well as British fishermen. Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a trade war with Brussels if it didn’t back down in the escalating row. There is no legal barrier to this trade continuing, on animal health grounds and on public health grounds. There is legal provision within existing EU regulations to allow UK trade to continue.
Thousands of Christian villagers fled military bombardment in Karen State on the same day that Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was ousted from power in a military coup. The army shelled districts of mainly Christian ethnic Karen villagers, forcing them to escape into inhospitable mountainous jungle with what little they could carry. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest since Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, were overthrown three months after winning a landslide election They have been replaced with a military government. The ethnic cleansing tactics used by the army against the Kachin were condemned in a 2018 UN Human Rights Council report with many testimonies of torture, rape and other abuses by military personnel. In 2020, 100,000 predominantly Christian Kachin remained scattered across 138 refugee camps, in crowded conditions with little sanitation and at great risk from coronavirus.
On 29 January Al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen released a video documenting preparations for a raid on Camp Simba US military base. The 55-minute video features a meeting between Al-Shabab leaders and the attackers; of training and preparations for the raid; final messages from the attackers; and drone footage of the raid in progress. The leader vowed more attacks on US targets and rallied his ‘soldiers of Allah’ saying, ‘I hope that base becomes the place where we hear the defeat of the disbelievers’, and encouraged Muslims in the Horn of Africa to join the ranks of his group. Also five churches were set ablaze in quick succession between 21 and 26 January. Pray for the fearful residents living in the area and the congregations of Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal and Catholic churches. See
Ahead of the March elections, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is repeating promises he made nine years ago to control crime rates in Arab towns and villages. A recent firefight broke out on 1 February, when the police tried to stop men from shooting at a house. The Arab gang started shooting at the police with automatic weapons. When it was over, two young people were dead. One was suspected of firing at the house, but the other, Ahmed Hijazi, was a nursing student who happened to be in the vicinity but was not involved in the incident. The next day, thousands from local Arab towns and villages took to the street to protest Hijazi’s death and the police's inability to rein in crime in Arab society. Over the weekend, thousands more marched against escalating crime rates. Netanyahu has spent the last few weeks visiting Arab towns and villages and holding Zoom meetings with Arab mayors to discuss crime and violence in their towns.