The Government has issued new guidelines aimed at curbing mobile phone use in schools to improve behaviour and minimise disruptions. The move follows previous calls for phone bans. Education secretary Gillian Keegan emphasised the need for consistency across schools but hinted at potential legislation if the guidelines prove ineffective. While some students see benefits in limited phone access, the Association of School and College Leaders doubts the effectiveness of the guidelines, considering existing school policies. Critics argue that the Government should focus on more pressing issues, such as funding and special needs. The announcement coincides with calls for tighter regulations on children's social media access following a tragic incident. However, the Government remains cautious about restricting phone access for under-16s. Despite differing school policies across the UK, complete phone bans are rare, and the UN has highlighted global concerns about phones' negative impacts on education.

There has been a chorus of international condemnation after the Russian authorities announced the death of Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison on 16 February. His widow Yuli Navalnaya has deliberately stepped into the spotlight by declaring her commitment to continue his fight for a better Russia. Blaming Vladimir Putin, she has called on fellow Russians to join her in opposing him. Her message resonates with those opposed to Putin's regime, offering hope and inspiration. Previously reserved, Yulia has emerged as a woman of resilience and moral authority, compelling in her grief and love for her husband's cause. Meanwhile, a court in the far north will hear a case brought by Navalny’s mother, who at time of writing still had not been allowed to see her son’s body: see

On 21 February, In a coordinated effort across four German states, with cooperation from France and Belgium, law enforcement agencies launched a targeted operation against a suspected human-smuggling gang at dawn. This response to illegal trafficking reflects growing concerns over such activities in Europe. It aimed not just to make arrests but to dismantle the entire network. The raid sheds light on the human suffering behind smuggling, emphasising the need for international collaboration to address its root causes. It underscores the importance of comprehensive strategies prioritising human dignity and safety. While there are questions about its long-term impact, the move represents a pivotal moment in the struggle against trafficking. It serves as a beacon of hope for a future where exploitation does not thrive on the vulnerabilities of the desperate.

The US military has conducted four ‘self-defence’ strikes against Houthi forces in Yemen, destroying seven cruise missiles, a mobile ballistic missile launcher, and a drone aimed towards the Red Sea. These were regarded as an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships. Israel's Arrow missile defence system intercepted an air attack from the Red Sea direction near Eilat. The Houthis, controlling populous Yemen regions, have targeted vessels tied to the US, UK, and Israel since November. The USA condemns their actions as terrorism, citing attacks on civilians and shipping, but the Houthis claim that their actions are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Their attacks have disrupted global commerce, rerouting ships around Africa, exacerbating humanitarian crises in regions like Sudan, Ethiopia, and Yemen. Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has urged Hamas to drop their ‘absurd’ demands for releasing Israeli hostages: see

Two major parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), have agreed to form a coalition government following inconclusive national elections. PMLN president Shehbaz Sharif, who will be the prime ministerial candidate, has stated that they have the necessary numbers to govern. Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP will be the presidential candidate. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which won the most seats but lacked a majority, accused rivals of stealing their mandate. Claims of vote-rigging have been fuelled by a confession by a top official who has implicated the head of the election commission and a top judge. This has prompted protests, due to which social media platform X has been inaccessible. The delay in forming a government had caused concern; the country is grappling with an economic crisis amid slow growth and record inflation and rising violence by armed groups. It needs a stable administration with the authority to take tough decisions.

A new database by Malaysian climate watchdog RimbaWatch has shown that despite global efforts to combat climate change, Southeast Asian countries are still planning to develop numerous fossil fuel projects, which could significantly increase carbon emissions. These planned projects could lead to a surge in emissions, posing a major challenge to the region's commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. This is the first time that an assessment of the carbon cost has been made in the region: RimbaWatch has used the data available from the fossil fuel companies themselves, such as the Malaysian giant Petronas. The report also emphasises the urgent need for transparency and accountability in assessing the environmental impact of these projects. It calls for greater scrutiny and regulation to ensure that the countries align their development plans with global climate goals and prioritise sustainable energy alternatives.

6 February was the anniversary of two earthquakes that brought mass destruction to south Türkiye and northwest Syria, with over 50,000 lives lost. There were 1.7 million people in Hatay province, home to Türkiye’s largest Christian community; now there are only 250,000, as residents have moved to stay with relatives or find shelter elsewhere. A SAT-7 team who revisited the area found many who stayed living in ‘cities’ of container units. Rebuilding is under way, but the pace is slow and the task colossal. Although destruction was less widespread in Syria, many factors are preventing recovery. After twelve years of conflict, over four million people in the area were in need of humanitarian aid even before the quakes struck. Government corruption, international sanctions, and a collapse in the value of the Syrian currency have compounded the problem. The Bishop of Aleppo, Magar Ashkarian, said that although the earthquake had increased Christian migration abroad, denominations have come closer: ‘We live together in a very close relationship and try to help entirely without discrimination’.

Bishop Christopher Saunders has been charged with rape and a string of sex offences - some against children. The 74-year-old was arrested on 21 February, after parallel investigations ordered by police and the Pope. Mr Saunders, who denies the allegations, was refused bail. He is one of the most senior Catholics to face charges of this nature. The offences he is alleged to have committed include two counts of rape, 14 of unlawful and indecent assault, and three of child abuse. For years, he has faced allegations of sexual abuse made by several Aboriginal men from communities in his parish. When the accusations were first aired in 2020, the initial police investigation was closed without charge. However after a historic inquiry was ordered by the Pope - and its 200-page report subsequently leaked to the media last year - police began a new investigation.

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