Media Watch 3/2/15

By Rowan Williams

MPs will hold a crucial vote on Tuesday to decide whether babies may be created from the DNA of three people, in effect creating ‘three-parent babies’. MPs will cast free votes, with party allegiances to be set aside for the decision. The UK would be the first country in the world to recognise three-parent children should the vote be passed. The ‘three-parent’ technique aims to prevent certain genetic diseases being passed on to children, and involves a procedure similar to IVF, with the DNA of two parents being combined with that of a healthy donor woman. DNA taken from the donor woman ensures healthy mitochondria in the child, with 0.1 percent of the child’s DNA coming from the female donor. Defective mitochondria can lead to brain damage, heart failure and blindness. The vote has been met with opposition from the both the Catholic and Anglican Church, who have said that the technique was unethical as it involves the destruction of embryos. Scientists have pointed to widespread patient support, and urged MPs to vote in favour of the technique.

United States President Barack Obama has set out plans to tax US companies on their profits held abroad. It has been estimated that firms including Apple and Microsoft hold as much as US$2 trillion in profits offshore, with technology and pharmaceutical firms holding the most cash overseas. Under President Obama’s plans, firms would pay a 14 percent one-off levy on their cash already held offshore, with a 19 percent tax to be paid on future profit earnings. Economists have predicted that the tax could raise US$238 billion and would raise US GDP by 1.5 percent if money raised were channelled into new US infrastructure. President Obama’s proposals will require approval from Republican-dominated Congress before they can be passed into law, with the law likely to be met with stiff opposition from the Republican Party. It is expected that President Obama’s current proposals will be used to start a political debate on the subject, and will probably not be passed into law in their current form.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit China before the end of May, the Indian Foreign Ministry has announced. The visit will be the latest move in India’s plans to cement its relationship with major foreign powers. Although annual trade between India and China is approaching £44 billion, tensions remain over a border dispute between the two countries; Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September 2014 was itself overshadowed by a standoff between Chinese and Indian forces in the remote Ladakh region. On a trip to Beijing last weekend, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj promised new ideas to end the deadlock in border disputes that have persisted for years.

The Papers

A mix of stories make the headlines today. Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband’s relationship with business leaders continues to make the headlines in The Daily Telegraph. Miliband had countered criticism from Boots boss Stefano Pessina with comments about tax evasion; industrialist Sir Nigel Rudd has “hit back” at Miliband by suggesting that his “personal attacks” are stifling debate. The Financial Times leads with news of Greece’s plans “to end stand-off with creditors”. The plans include “swapping debt for growth-linked bonds and targeting wealthy tax evaders”, the paper writes. The Guardian, meanwhile, leads with a report into “The locums on £1,760 a day”. Some A&E specialist doctors have been found “profiting from chronic NHS staff shortages” by working as locum doctors and charging daily fees for their services. The NHS’ bill for medical agency staff has hit £2.6 billion a year due to staff shortages, the paper reports. The Independent leads with news of an outcry after an undercover film exposed the “brutality” of the halal food industry. “Sickening scenes from Yorkshire” have been reported, with abattoir workers violently mistreating animals, with the video expected to “raise fears about animal welfare across rest of Britain”. The Times leads with news that Prince Charles has spoken out against being used as an “arms salesman to Middle East”, with Charles telling government ministers he no longer wishes to be used to promote arms sales. The report comes from an “authoritative new autobiography” on the Prince.

British Media on China

On China’s second aircraft carrier: Reports have emerged that China is working to produce its second aircraft carrier, earning coverage from The Daily Telegraph and an agency piece in The Guardian. The Daily Telegraph writes that China is “silently” forging ahead with its plans, and “is believed to have plans for up to four aircraft carriers”. Reports on the internet that a contractor had been commissioned to work on the project “were swiftly deleted”, the paper writes. The Guardian’s piece notes that while Liaoning Party Secretary Wang Min previously stated that China hoped to have a second aircraft carrier by 2020, authorities have since “ordered that all reports of Wang’s remarks be deleted”.

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