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Five things you need to know today: Patel’s letter and Banksy’s bonanza

Your daily round-up of news snippets. 

By New Statesman

Patel: Facebook encryption threatens “safety of our children”

In an open letter, Priti Patel has asked Facebook to reconsider it addition of end-to-end encryption to its Messenger platform. Whatsapp – which is owned by Facebook – already encrypts all messages. A New York Times investigation published last week found that nearly two-thirds of reports of child sexual imagery came from Facebook Messenger and that Facebook as a whole accounted for 90 per cent of reports.

UK wildlife in steep decline

With 133 species already extinct and a further 15 per cent under threat of extinction, British wildlife is sharply in decline, according to a new report from the National Biodiversity Network. The greatest impact is due to changing land use; with 72 per cent of land in the UK now being used for agriculture and thousands of miles of additional roads, habitats for wild animals are being eradicated.

Scotland bans smacking

Scotland has joined 57 other countries in making the physical punishment of children illegal. Following a similar change to the law in Wales earlier this year, the legislation removes the defence of “justifiable assault” that has previously protected parents against a potential charge of assault for smacking their children. Parents in England and Northern Ireland can still claim a legal right to “reasonable chastisement”.

More evidence in Trump impeachment case

Further evidence has emerged showing that the Trump administration, the office of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and President Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, co-ordinated a statement announcing an investigation by Ukraine into the family of Mr Trump’s possible opponent in the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden.

Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the EU and a significant donor to Trump’s election campaign, texted Zelensky’s staff before and after his call with the president to reiterate how important the investigation was to Ukraine’s receipt of $400m in aid.

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Banksy’s “Devolved Parliament” sells for nearly £10m

Despite Brian Sewell’s pronouncement that “his work has no virtue”, Banksy’s 13-foot painting of the House of Commons populated by chimpanzees has sold for $12m (£9.7m). A spokesperson for Sotheby’s said, with admirable honesty, that “this image has incredible currency”.

Anyone without £10m to spend on a simplistic demonisation of Britain’s legislature should turn on their television where Nigel Farage, and indeed the Prime Minister, are handing them out for free.

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