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Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron Marks India Massacre

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The five things you need to know on Wednesday 20 February 2013...

1) 'DEEPLY SHAMEFUL'

David Cameron today laid a wreath at the memorial to the 1919 Amritsar massacre in India, bowing his head and standing in silence to pay respect to those who died. Writing in the memorial book of condolence, Cameron described the massacre as "a deeply shameful event in British history", adding "we must never forget what happened here".

He is the first serving prime minister to visit the Sikh holy city, the scene of the most notorious atrocity in Britain's imperial history in India when hundreds of people died after British troops opened fire on a protest. In the condolence book, Cameron wrote: "This was a deeply shameful event in British history, one that Winston Churchill rightly described at the time as 'monstrous'.

"We must never forget what happened here, and in remembering we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right of peaceful protest around the world."

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as, much like parliament, Mehdi Hasan is in recess.

2) MPS LOSE THEIR BEEF

This just got serious. Tests for horsemeat contamination have been stepped up again as the House of Commons catering outlets were dragged into the growing scandal. As the Food Standards Agency widened its probe, the parliamentary authorities admitted four beef products had been withdrawn from the heavily subsidised eateries used by MPs, peers and staff.

A Commons spokesman told the Press Association the products withdrawn were steak and kidney pie, beef and onion pie, steak and kidney suet pudding, and beef Italian meatballs.

3) 20% OF CHILDREN IN POVERTY

One in five British children live below the poverty line, new research has revealed. The Campaign to End Child Poverty published figures on Wednesday showing that 20.2% of British children are classified as below the poverty line before housing costs.

In eight areas of large cities, over four out of every 10 children lived in poverty in 2012, the research showed. But that is a decrease on the 19 parliamentary constituencies that had 40% of children living in poverty in 2011.

The poorest constituency for children was Manchester Central, with nearly half (47%) of children living in poverty. Over four in 10 children were living in poverty in Belfast West (43%), Glasgow North East (43%), Ladywood, Birmingham (42%), Liverpool Riverside (42%), and Middlesbrough (40%).

In London, 40% of children were living in poverty in Tower Hamlets, 42% of children were below the poverty line in the constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow while 41% were living in poverty in Poplar and Limehouse.

4) IS YOUR CONSCIENCE CLEAR?

Food banks must not be allowed to become a permanent fixture in the UK and Europe, or used by governments to "clear their conscience" and neglect their duty to protect the country's poorest people, a top UN official has warned.

The emergency food banks are now accepted by governments as the norm, which they “absolutely should not be”, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter told HuffPost UK.

The fact that 62% of children in poverty are living in families where at least one of the parents has a job is “very striking” he said. “That is very worrying. It is really unacceptable. It shows wages are too low, people have to work part-time and not by choice, or that minimum wage legislation is not adequate. But it is worrying to see that in a country like the UK.”

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5) US 'SEQUESTER'

WASHINGTON -- With less than two weeks until $1 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts will begin to take effect, President Barack Obama on Tuesday gave another push to Congress to pass his proposal to offset the sequester through spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy -- an approach that still lacks Republican support.

"Our top priority must be to do everything we can to grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs," Obama said during remarks at the White House, standing alongside a group of emergency responders. "That's why it's so troubling that just 10 days from now, Congress might allow a series of automatic, severe budget cuts to take place that will do the exact opposite."

Obama ticked off how "brutal" the cuts would be if lawmakers allow "this meat cleaver approach to take place." Among other things, they would hurt military readiness, slash investments in energy and medical research, result in thousands of teacher layoffs, and degrade the ability of emergency responders to respond to disasters, he said, motioning to the people behind him.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@JamesTapsfield If 4g income had been £2.34bn in Budget, deficit wd have been rising this year. Stand by for Balls to erupt and Osborne blame OBR

‏@smashmore_PH Anyone want to know what David Cameron looks like in an Indian prayer hat and big orange scarf pic.twitter.com/t1DwLocA

900 WORDS OR MORE

Mary Riddell in The Daily Telegraph: "Who’ll be left standing when the Tories’ secret weapon goes bang? Labour needs to up its game on immigration and welfare to see off Lynton Crosby’s threat."

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian:"Forget fairness. This mansion tax is ideological cowardice. A fair extension of the council tax would be easy, lucrative, progressive – and anathema to people like Balls and Cable."

Gavin Barwell in The Daily Telegraph: The Prime Minister’s visit will help build new bridges with India, but our national debate over immigration is scaring students and businesses away

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol