Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 18 Jul 2012

The Week’s super-quick catch-up on the main news talking points, available from 8am daily

Syria
1. BOMB ATTACK KILLS ASSAD ADVISORS
Syrian defence minister Daoud Rajiha and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat have been killed, and other senior figures injured, in a bomb attack in Damascus. The Free Syria Army has claimed responsibility. The attack comes after days of fighting as rebel forces declare that the final battle for the capital is underway.
Business
2. HSBC FACES £640M FINE OVER LAUNDERING
Europe's biggest bank, HSBC, faces a huge fine after the US Senate heard staff at global subsidiaries, including Mexico, laundered billions of dollars for drug cartels and terrorists. One boss resigned in front of Senators yesterday. According to Nils Pratley in the Guardian, it "almost puts Barclays in the shade".
UK News
3. RAUSING CHARGED OVER WIFE'S BODY
Hans Kristian Rausing, the 49-year-old scion of the Tetra Pak family said to be worth more than £4bn, appears in court today charged with preventing the lawful and decent burial of his wife Eva's body. The body was found after Rausing was stopped by police on July 9 on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Business
4. OLYMPIC OPENING CUT AFTER G4S LAPSE
Danny Boyle's much-anticipated opening ceremony for the Olympic Games has been cut by 30 minutes in the wake of the G4S security fiasco. According to the Sun, the show had to be simplified because the performers – 10,000 of them, not to mention 70 sheep – all have to be searched entering the stadium.
5. UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS THANKS TO OLYMPICS
Unemployment has fallen once again and is now at its lowest level since last summer. In the three months to May the number of people looking for work fell 65,000 to 2.58 million, and the Office of National Statistics said a jobs boom in London, where 61,000 more people were in work, could be down to the Olympics.
6. CAMERON VISITS AFGHANISTAN
Prime Minister David Cameron has paid a surprise visit to British soldiers in Afghanistan. He also met Afghan officials during a trip to Helmand province, where most of the UK's 9,500 troops are based. It is a year since Cameron last visited Afghanistan and British troops will soon begin pulling out of the country.
7. STUDY: LAZINESS AS DEADLY AS SMOKING
A major global study suggests that lack of exercise is killing as many people as smoking. Published in the Lancet, the report suggests that almost a third of the world's adult population are not active enough, leading to 5.3m deaths each year from heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancer.
Tour de France
8. SCHLECK QUITS TOUR AFTER DOPE TEST
Cycling star Frank Schleck has been forced to quit the Tour de France after testing positive for a banned diuretic. The 32-year-old Luxembourger was said by his RadioShack-Nissan team to have been shocked by the results of the test which were "like a rock to his head". He was in 12th place overall.
9. AMERICAN SCOUTS UPHOLD GAY BAN
Despite campaigning across the US from figures including Star Trek's George Takei, who played Mr Sulu, the Boy Scouts of America have decided to uphold a ban on "open or avowed" gay people from being part of the organisation. Chief exec Bob Mazzuca said the policy would be supported by US families.
Dance
10. HOT TICKET: SADLER’S WELLS SEDUCTION
A revival of Matthew Bourne’s 2002 ballet Play Without Words has opened at Sadler’s Wells. Based on Joseph Losey’s film, The Servant, it tells a story of seduction and intrigue between a rich employer, his fiancée and his servants in 1960s Chelsea. “A joy to watch”, says The Daily Telegraph.