Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Saturday 21 Dec 2013

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

1. NHS IS ‘TOO POWERFUL’ TO CRITICISE
The NHS is on the brink of crisis because it has become “too powerful” to criticise, says the official regulator. Chairman of the Care Quality Commission David Prior tells the Daily Telegraph the health service should not be treated as a “national religion” while millions of patients receive a “wholly unsatisfactory service" from GPs and hospitals.
2. GCHQ SPIED ON CHARITIES & ISRAEL
British and US intelligence agencies spied on charities, aid organisations and the office of the Israeli prime minister, according to leaked top secret documents. GCHQ and the NSA targeted organisations including Unicef, the United Nations children's charity, and humanitarian group Médecins du Monde. They also targeted the then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.
3. NIGELLA WON’T FACE DRUGS PROBE
Nigella Lawson will not face an investigation over claims she has taken cocaine, says Scotland Yard. Two former personal assistants, who were cleared yesterday of defrauding Lawson, told a court that the television chef had taken the class-a drug. After the verdict yesterday, Lawson railed against the “deliberate smears” which were part of a “sustained background campaign” against her.
4. WHICH IS UK’S MOST DESIRABLE AREA?
Hart in Hampshire has been crowned as the most desirable place to live in the UK for the third year running. The average home in the area costs 5.8 times UK average. It boasts a male life expectancy rate of 82.9 years, compared with the national average of 79 years, and an 80% employment rate. The top 50 areas in the survey did not include any from Wales or Northern Ireland.
5. OBAMA: ‘THIS HASN’T BEEN WORST YEAR’
Barack Obama brushed off suggestions that 2013 has been his worst year as president during a tough end-of-year press conference. “That’s not how I think about it,” he told reporters in the White House briefing room. The press conference was dominated by questions about healthcare and NSA surveillance. “I believe 2014 will be a breakthrough year for America,” he said.
6. WEBBER WANTED TO DEMOLISH APOLLO
Over a decade ago Andrew Lloyd Webber recommended demolishing the London theatre where a ceiling collapsed this week. The composer owned the Apollo theatre between 2000 and 2005. At the time, he told The Times: “The Apollo in particular is a shocking place. I suggested that both it and the Lyric should be knocked down and replaced by top-quality modern theatres.”
7. LOCKERBIE MEMORIAL SERVICES DUE
Memorial services will be held in the UK and US today to mark the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing. Services in the Scottish town and London will be held to remember the victims of the 1988 disaster, in which Pan Am flight 103 was blown from the skies. In the US, a ceremony will be held at the Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington DC.
8. BIZARRE FINE FOR FRENCH PUB
Officials in France have fined a pub €9,000 for “undeclared labour” because a customer returned some empty glasses to the bar. After the customer returned a drinks tray to the bar in Brittany, officials from the social security agency reportedly leapt into action, accusing the owners of wrongdoing. The owners, who were held in police custody, said: “It is a scam.”
9. COUNTERFEIT VODKA ‘CAN KILL’ DRINKERS
Cheap, counterfeit vodka on sale in British stores could contain chloroform or industrial alcohol which can damage eyesight or kill. Trading standards officers say sales of counterfeit vodka have doubled over the last year. They have found cleaning fluids or antifreeze in some bottles. Health experts say the drinks can cause nerve damage, giving the victim symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
10. CAN 'POOL REPLACE GUNNERS AT TOP?
Liverpool can go top of the Premier League today if they beat Cardiff in the lunchtime kick-off. With star striker Luis Suarez signing a new long-term deal at Anfield, the Reds could be in confident mood. Later, Manchester United host West Ham, while Manchester City travel to Fulham. Current leaders Arsenal face Chelsea on Monday.