Media Watch 18/2/15

By Rowan Williams

The United States has accused Russia of violating the terms of the ceasefire in Ukraine after fighting continued in the town of Debaltseve, though some pro-government forces are reportedly leaving the town. Pro-Russia separatists have said that they now control most of the town, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged Ukrainian soldiers in the region to surrender. The town of Debaltseve is of particular importance to separatist forces as it lies on the railway lines between the separatist strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk. In New York, meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution drafted by Moscow supporting the ceasefire agreement reached in Minsk, though anger was expressed by some ambassadors towards Russia near the vote. US Ambassador Samantha Power was particularly critical of Russia’s actions, calling it “ironic” that Russia was “backing an all-out assault” while it supported the ceasefire.

Dual-fuel customers who get both gas and electricity from Britain’s ‘big six’ energy suppliers have missed big savings by not switching their suppliers, according to early evidence from an inquiry. The inquiry by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which began in summer 2014, found that loyal and vulnerable customers of the big six pay up to £234 more annually than customers who switched their provider. Those who did not switch provider were often those on low incomes or without qualifications, or those over the age of 65. Energy Minister Ed Davey has said that energy suppliers could be broken up into smaller companies in order to improve competition. Britain’s big six currently control 92 percent of the UK energy supply market, and are often accused of raising prices quickly when wholesale energy prices increase, and only allowing prices to fall slowly if wholesale prices fall.

A court in Fuzhou, China has ruled that a former death row inmate acquitted of poisoning two children be paid 1.14 million yuan (almost £120,000) in compensation. Nian Bin, 39, had been found guilty of poisoning neighbours with rat poison in 2006, but a court in Fujian province ruled he be freed in August 2014, citing insufficient evidence. Nian maintains that he confessed to crimes while being tortured by police. Use of the death penalty has attracted some debate in China, after the country’s lawmakers removed the death penalty for a slew of offences in 2014. China is still believed to execute more prisoners than any other nation, however.

The Papers

More pastoral issues make the headlines today. The Guardian leads with news of a warning from Church of England bishops in an open letter to politicians that “Democracy is failing”. The bishops have also called on the government to deliver a “fresh moral vision and better treatment of poor and vulnerable”, according to the paper. The Times leads with the same story, writing that Prime Minister David Cameron is “incensed” at the intervention by the bishops, which the paper is describing as an attack on Britain’s political culture and the government’s welfare reforms. The Independent, meanwhile, leads with news of the “despair” of drug firms trying to find a cure for dementia. Repeated failures to find a cure have forced numerous pharmaceutical companies to withdraw funding for research, the paper reports, though experts warn that without better treatment, Alzheimer’s disease could cause a “global economic crisis”. Further medical issues make the headlines in The Daily Telegraph, with the paper writing that the “Misery” of the menopause “can last for 14 years”, according to a study by US scientists. The suggested length is far longer than previously thought, and lasts “three times longer than it is safe to take HRT” to treat the symptoms. The Financial Times leads with news of inflation in Britain – it has hit the “lowest level on record” in what is a “boon for consumers”, with one group estimating low inflation to have already saved UK households £350 in six months.

British Media on China

On Chinese New Year: On the eve of Chinese New Year, many UK media outlets took the opportunity to cover the festival in one way or another. The BBC covers Chinese New Year with a picture-heavy news article, noting that China is currently engaging in “what is considered the world’s biggest annual human migration”. The Guardian also runs a picture-heavy piece, featuring facts about the festival, noting that 138 Chinese cities have banned use of fireworks this year due to pollution concerns. The Independent and Daily Telegraph report on a map showing the scale of human migration in China during the New Year period.

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