Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 15 Aug 2012

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

Politics
1. COMMUTER FEARS AS FIRSTGROUP WINS BID
Britain’s largest rail operator, FirstGroup, has won the bid to run the West Coast mainline from 9 December, replacing Virgin. Rail campaigners, already up in arms over yesterday’s train fare rises, fear the high bid made by FirstGroup will mean more fare rises and cuts in services if the company is to make a profit.
Tia Sharp murder
2. TIA SHARP MURDER TRIAL SET FOR JANUARY
Stuart Hazell, the man charged with the murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp, is expected to make his plea at a hearing on 19 November. The 37-year-old made no application for bail when he appeared via a videolink at the Old Bailey today. A provisional date for trial has been set for 21 January.
3. IRAN TRAINING SYRIAN MILITIA, SAYS US
The United States claims to have proof that Iran is helping build and train a militia force in Syria to prop up President Assad’s regime. Gen Martin Dempsey, America’s most senior military officer, said the militia was available to take the pressure of Syrian forces who are showing signs of fatigue and low morale.
Assange extradition
4. JULIAN ASSANGE ‘GRANTED ASYLUM’
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, wanted for extradition to Sweden where he is under investigation for sexual offences, has been granted asylum in Ecuador with his application “approved” by President Rafael Correa, The Guardian reports. Assange has been in the country’s London embassy since 19 June. He faces arrest for breaching bail if he steps outside.
London 2012
5. SCHOOL PLAYING FIELDS UNDER THREAT
Schools will no longer be forced by law to guarantee a set amount of space on their playing fields for team sports, threatening David Cameron's plans for a renaissance in school sports, it emerged last night. The government plans to scrap a legal requirement on how much outside space each school must provide, dependent on pupil number.
uk austerity
6. OLYMPICS PUSHES UK UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN
UK unemployment fell to 8% between April and June from 8.2% in the previous quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics, although analysts believe it is a temporary decrease caused by the Olympics. The number of people working part-time because they can't find a full-time job has increased to an all-time high of 1.42 million.
7. STANDARD CHARTERED TO PAY £217M OVER IRAN
Standard Chartered has agreed with New York financial regulators to pay a £217m “civil penalty” following accusations of money laundering and hiding $250bn of transactions with Iran. Regulators, who last week named the bank a “rogue institution”, will install a monitor in Standard Chartered’s New York offices.
Media
8. BBC CHIEF HEADS TO NEW YORK TIMES
Outgoing BBC Director General Mark Thompson, 55, is to become the chief executive of the New York Times Company, the Times announced last night. The company, which owns television stations as well as newspapers, said Thompson’s experience with digital media “on a global scale” made him the “ideal candidate”.
World business
9. OZ UPHOLDS BAN ON CIGARETTE BRANDING
Australia's highest court has thrown out a challenge by tobacco companies against a law that requires brand colours and logos to be removed from all cigarette packaging. It means that, from 1 December this year, cigarettes in Australia will be sold in olive green packets showing graphic images, such as cancer-riddled mouths.
Theatre
10. HOT TICKET – CLASSIC IRISH DOUBLE ACT
A revival of Brian Friel’s 1964 play ‘Philadelphia, Here I Come!’ has opened at the Donmar Theatre to strong reviews. In Friel’s tragicomic tale of an Irishman in two minds about leaving his homeland, two actors play the lead character’s public and private personae. “Note-perfect”, says the Evening Standard.