Top story: ‘Children become addicted to likes’
Hello, here we are on a Friday morning. I’m Warren Murray and these are the stories on the agenda today.
Social media is fuelling sharply higher rates of depression among girls than boys, a study that interviewed almost 11,000 14-year-olds has found. As many as three-quarters of 14-year-old girls who suffer from depression also have low self-esteem and are unhappy with how they look. Greater daily hours of social media use corresponds to an increase in depressive symptoms, explained Professor Yvonne Kelly from University College London, as well as poor sleep.
Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, warned that even some children as young as nine “are becoming almost addicted to ‘likes’ as a form of social validation that makes them happy”. Shannon McLaughlin, 18, from Blackburn, who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in her early teens, said: “People mostly share the positive things about life on social media, without showing the negatives … Seeing that everyone was happy and enjoying life made me feel so much worse.” Barbara Keeley, the shadow minister for mental health, said social media firms should be forced to adopt a duty of care to protect young users.
Separately this morning, paediatricians are saying that screen time is not inherently bad for children, but parents do need to focus on making sure their children get enough sleep, exercise and family interaction. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has produced guidance including a checklist for whether your family’s screen time is under control.
Pelosi back in the chair – Democrats have reclaimed power in the US House of Representatives from the Republicans and elected Nancy Pelosi back to the speaker’s position that she was the first woman in history to hold. Pelosi swore into office the 116th Congress, which includes a record 102 women. “Our nation is at a historic moment,” she said. “Two months ago, the American people spoke and demanded a new dawn.”
In their first act since taking back control, Democrats last night tested their power by passing legislation to end the near fortnight-long government shutdown. Donald Trump has pledged to veto the bill – which ignores his demands for billions of dollars for a border wall – but it sets the tone for what is expected to be a tumultuous final two years of the president’s first term. Republicans still have control of the Senate. Pelosi had to counter Democratic calls for generational change to regain the speaker’s chair. Fifteen of her own party voted against her.
Police plan for Brexit hard border – Almost 1,000 police officers from England and Scotland will train for deployment in Northern Ireland in case a no-deal Brexit causes disorder along the Irish border, the Guardian has learned. The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said the Republic was also making serious preparations and reiterated there could be no EU renegotiation with Britain. University leaders say a no-deal Brexit poses “one of the biggest threats” ever faced by the sector, which contributes over £2bn to UK GDP every year, supports 944,000 jobs, and drives British science and innovation. There was a 9% decrease in the number of EU postgraduate research students enrolling at Russell Group universities this academic year, following a 9% decline the previous year. Overall enrolments have fallen 3%, reversing years of growth. In Brexit politics, more than half of Conservative party members would rather leave the EU with no deal than see Theresa May’s Brexit deal adopted, according to a survey. And the Brexit ferry company Seaborne Freight not only doesn’t own so much as a plastic swan pedalo – it also appears to have copy and pasted terms and conditions on its website from a takeaway pizza service.
Us and them – Dubbed “Fat Cat Friday”, today the average CEO of a FTSE 100 company has already pocketed the equivalent pay for the whole of 2019 of a typical full-time worker in Britain. The High Pay Centre and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have found top executives earn 133 times more than the average worker, at a rate of around £1,020 per hour or £3.9m annually. That’s up 11% compared with a year earlier. Meanwhile it has been revealed that Google moved €19.9bn ($22.7bn) through a Dutch shell company to Bermuda in 2017 to reduce its foreign tax bill.
After all the horror, Assad stays – Syria’s ruler has essentially won the country’s brutal war and will remain in power with Russian backing, Britain’s foreign secretary has conceded. But in remarks directed at Moscow, Jeremy Hunt said: “If you’re going to be involved in Syria then you need to make sure that there really is peace in Syria. And that means making sure that President Assad does not use chemical weapons.” Many Arab states have also accepted that Assad has survived the seven-year civil war and are preparing to reopen embassies in Damascus. The British government has previously been at the forefront of calling for Assad to make way for a new government. Donald Trump recently shocked allies and triggered the resignation of his defence secretary by declaring he would pull all US troops out of Syria.
Close to the bone – The Green party MP Caroline Lucas will today call for a tax on meat to help make the farming industry carbon-neutral. “If the world’s diet doesn’t change, we simply can’t avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Lucas will tell the Oxford Farming Conference. Globally, livestock rearing is estimated to be responsible for about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, and the “Veganuary” movement is this month encouraging people to abstain from or abandon meat-eating. But Phil Stocker, chief executive of the NSA, defended British sheep farming as one of the least intensive forms of livestock farming compared with beef, pork and poultry megafarms and feedlots in other parts of the world: “Our unique, grass-based method of sheep production in Britain is hidden within more global and general statistics.”
Lunchtime read: Our protein obsession needs a shake-up
Around half of all UK consumers are apparently seeking to add “extra protein” to their diets, writes Bee Wilson: “In just a few decades, whey protein has gone from waste product to aspirational lifestyle enhancer … Anxiety about protein is one of the things that drives a person to drink a flask of vitamin-padded beige slurry and call it lunch.” The fixation has been taken to dangerous levels, potentially contributing to eating disorders, and harm to the liver, kidneys and skeleton.
In 2005, two biologists named David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson produced the “protein leverage hypothesis”, that this essential nutrient could be the missing link in the obesity crisis. Since the 1960s, the absolute level of protein consumed by the average westerner has not changed. What has changed is the ratio of protein in our diets – and if many of us overeat, it could be partly because our bodies are desperately seeking out the right ratio of protein – a nutrient essential for life – in a food environment flooded with refined wheat, oils and sugars. “The urgent question,” writes Wilson, “is how we can get our protein ratios back to a healthy level.”
Manchester City have reignited the Premier League title race, handing Liverpool their first loss of the season in a pulsating 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium. A two-footed lunge from City captain Vincent Kompany left Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp apoplectic post-match, but it was the poise and calm of Sergio Agüero that helped City dent their nearest rivals, writes Barney Ronay.
Cheteshwar Pujara continues to frustrate Australia in the fourth Test in Sydney, as India close in on a first-ever series win on the continent. And the Rugby Football Union hopes a shift to full-time professional contracts will help England Women compete with the world’s best, after announcing a historic 35-player squad.
Japanese markets fell as they opened today for the first time in 2019, following Apple’s earnings warning and a technology-led sell-off on Wall Street. Shanghai, the Hang Seng and South Korea’s Kospi have made gains. In Asia, some traders cheered a private survey showing that China’s services sector expanded in December. Investors fear a slowdown of the world’s second largest economy. The FTSE is forecast to open higher. Sterling has been trading around $1.263 and €1.109 overnight.
No two papers lead on the same story today. The Mirror’s splash is about the arrest of preacher Abu Hamza’s son in connection with the stabbing of a bouncer in Mayfair: “Hamza son quizzed on sex party murder”. The Express has a story about recalled medication: “Blood pressure pills in cancer alert”.
The Times has “Doctors tell parents to cut children’s screen time”, the Sun has an England footballer snorting cocaine: “3 lines on a shirt”, the Mail reports: “Speedboat fugitive police: we haven’t got a clue” and the FT’s lead is: “Apple’s China warning sends tremors through stock markets”. Different Brexit stories lead the Telegraph: “Most Tory members would back no deal”, the Guardian: “Police put 1,000 officers on standby for Brexit chaos in Northern Ireland” and the Independent: “Universities face going bust after no-deal Brexit”.
The Guardian Morning Briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes bright and early every weekday. If you are not already receiving it by email, you can sign up here.
For more news: www.theguardian.com