Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 May 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Pandemic ‘exposed UK weaknesses’
The government did not plan well enough for a threat on the scale of Covid-19, its own spending watchdog has found. The watchdog said that the pandemic exposed decades-long weaknesses in government and wider society, including neglect of social care and severe underfunding in local government. It added that a lack of planning had left ministers without a “playbook” on how to respond.
Trump inquiry now ‘criminal’
The New York attorney general’s office has announced that it is investigating the Trump Organization “in a criminal capacity”. The state’s top prosecutor, Letitia James, said the inquiry into Trump’s property company was “no longer purely civil”. The authorities have been scrutinising the former president's financial dealings before he took office. Trump denies any wrongdoing.
Raids will continue, says Netanyahu
Israel’s nine-day attack on Gaza has “set Hamas back by many years”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said. During a visit to an airbase in Israel’s south, Netanyahu said Hamas and Islamic Jihad had “received blows they did not expect” and he insisted that the bombardment would continue. France has filed a draft resolution with the UN Security Council, in co-ordination with Egypt and Jordan, calling for a ceasefire.
Farmers warn PM over Oz deal
Boris Johnson has been warned that his plan to allow Australia tariff-free access to UK food markets could put farmers out of business. In what would be the first bespoke trade deal signed by the government since Brexit, Australian food exporters would benefit from the same terms as those enjoyed by the EU. Senior figures in the government and farmers are concerned that these arrangements would become a baseline for future deals.
Unemployment falls as firms hire
The number of people out of work has fallen as firms prepare for the easing of lockdown by hiring new staff. Unemployment fell to 1.6m in the three months to March, compared with 1.7m in the three months to February, the Office for National Statistics said. The news helped push the pound briefly above $1.42 against a weaker dollar on international markets.
Pelosi calls for Olympics boycott
The US House Speaker has called for a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing due to concerns about human rights abuses. Nancy Pelosi said that though athletes would still participate, heads of state should not attend. “Let’s not honour the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China,” she said. The senior Democrat is the latest US politician to call for a boycott over the treatment of Uighur Muslims.
Confusion over amber list trips
Boris Johnson says people should not be holidaying in amber list countries, after a minister said people could go and visit friends. Environment Secretary George Eustice said people could go to those countries if they quarantined when they returned but the prime minister said: “I think it's very important for people to grasp what an amber list country is: it is not somewhere where you should be going on holiday, let me be very clear about that.”
Moderate drinking harms brain
Even moderate drinking adversely affects nearly every part of the brain, according to a study of more than 25,000 people. Higher volume of weekly alcohol consumption was associated with lower grey matter density, with alcohol explaining a reduction in grey matter volume of up to 0.8%. “There’s no threshold drinking for harm - any alcohol is worse,” said a researcher. “Pretty much the whole brain seems to be affected, not just specific areas as previously thought.”
PM’s Covid nurse quits
A nurse who cared for Boris Johnson when he was seriously ill with Covid-19 says she has handed in her resignation due to the “lack of respect” shown by the government for the NHS and healthcare workers. Jenny McGee, who kept vigil by the prime minister’s bedside for two days when he was in intensive care, said: “I’m just sick of it. So I’ve handed in my resignation.”
Mystery man exhumed
The remains of a man found on a South Australian beach more than 70 years ago will be exhumed in the hopes of solving one of the country’s most puzzling mysteries. Over the decades, several theories have emerged as to his identity, from cold war spy to rejected lover. Now, Australian police say advances in DNA technology make exhumation worthwhile due to “intense public interest”.