Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 24 September 2021

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

Driver shortage shuts fuel stations

Lorry driver shortages have been blamed for the closure of some petrol stations, which had run out of fuel. The BBC said a “handful” of BP stations and a small number of Esso-owned Tesco Alliance stations had to close because of driver shortages, which have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and Brexit. The Road Haulage Association says the UK is 100,000 drivers short and has urged the government to relax visa restrictions for foreign workers. The Times says soldiers could be asked to drive fuel tankers.

2

Fluoride to be added to water

Millions of people are to have fluoride added to their drinking water after the chief medical officers said that it would cut tooth decay. Chris Whitty has brushed aside concerns over safety, saying there is no evidence that fluoride causes cancer and condemning “exaggerated and un-evidenced” claims about health risks. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, will gain powers to add the mineral to water across England under laws going through parliament.

3

Osborne courts Putin-linked firm

George Osborne has won a deal with a company set up by an oligarch linked to Vladimir Putin. The former chancellor brought EN+, a metals company, on board as a client for the bank Robey Warshaw, which he joined this year after resigning as editor of the Evening Standard, The Times reported. In the past seven years the bank has made profits of £207m for its work on mergers and acquisitions. EN+ was set up by Oleg Deripaska, who is the subject of US sanctions for activities linked to the Russian state.

4

Taliban ‘to resume amputations’

A veteran Taliban enforcer said the movement will once again carry out executions and amputations of hands. Speaking to Associated Press, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi said: “No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Koran.” He said that “cutting off of hands is very necessary for security” because it had a deterrent effect, adding that the cabinet was considering whether to carry out the punishments in public.

5

Ministers plan restaurant tips reform

The government is planning legislation to ban restaurant owners from taking customer tips and service charge payments from workers. The law comes after a series of news stories about companies keeping money from card payments intended for waiting and kitchen staff. The issue became more urgent because the pandemic caused a switch to cashless payments, with 80% of all UK tipping now happening by card.

6

HIV transmission ‘eliminated by 2030’

England is “on target” to eliminate HIV transmission by 2030, a new study has concluded. The research, performed by Cambridge University and Public Health England, found that the number of people aged between 15 and 74 living with diagnosed HIV in England increased from 83,500 in 2013 to 92,800 in 2019. However, the study’s senior author said: “Overall, we see a positive picture for the HIV epidemic in England, with a dramatic fall in the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV.”

7

R Kelly ‘like MLK’, says lawyer

R Kelly’s lawyer has compared the singer to Martin Luther King in the closing argument of the singer’s sex-trafficking trial. Deveraux Cannick said both men held the government to account and urged jurors to acquit his client. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is accused of grooming and sexually abusing women and underage girls. The singer, 54, denies all charges against him.

8

PM dodges universal credit question

Boris Johnson has declined to reveal whether he could live on the basic universal credit payment. Asked by a reporter if he could live on £118 a week, he said: “I have every sympathy for people who are finding it tough, I really, really do.” Asked if he meant he could not live on £118 a week, Johnson replied: “It means that we want to support families in the best possible way.” When told this could be seen as saying ‘no’ by default, he said: “Those are your words.”

9

Hezbollah threatens Beirut judge

Hezbollah has said it will “usurp” the judge looking into the Beirut port blast if his investigation “doesn’t work out”, according to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. Wafiq Safa, a high-ranking Hezbollah official, ​reportedly issued the threat to Judge Tarek Bitar through an ​unnamed intermediary who relayed the contents of the message. “It is unclear what was meant by ​the threat to ‘usurp’ Bitar,” said CNN, “but the warning has raised concerns that the judge could be at risk of being physically harmed.”

10

EU wants uniform chargers

The EU has proposed bringing the same charger to every phone, including the iPhone. The European Commission wants USB-C to become the standard across devices, including phones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld game consoles. It also suggested that the sale of phones and their charger should be separated, so that people do not end up with too many chargers, creating waste.

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