Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 15 August 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Taliban control all cities except Kabul
The Taliban now controls all key cities in Afghanistan apart from Kabul. The militants took control of Jalalabad, a key eastern city, without a fight. The US has started evacuating diplomats from its Kabul embassy, as Taliban insurgents continued “lightning advances” that will bring them to the door of Kabul in a matter of days, reports The Observer. CNN says the developments mean the US president is “staring down a pivotal moment in his presidency”.
Covid variant could set us back a year
Scientific advisers are warning the government that a future Covid variant that evades current vaccines could set the battle against the pandemic back a year or more. Ministers are under pressure to set out contingency plans to deal with a new variant after papers produced by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies suggested that the arrival of a variant that evades vaccines is a “realistic possibility”.
Call for social media gun checks
Lord Stevens, a former Metropolitan Police chief, says police should trawl through the social media accounts of people applying for firearms licences to prevent those with extremist views from having access to deadly weapons. A gunman who killed five people in a mass shooting in Plymouth told a 16-year-old girl that “women are arrogant and entitled beyond belief” in an online exchange just days before the shooting.
‘Inconsistencies’ found in Andrew story
Royal aides believe there are “inconsistencies” in the Duke of York’s account of his dealings with Virginia Giuffre, who has accused him in a US lawsuit of underage rape. The Sunday Times says Andrew’s legal bills are being underwritten by the Queen. Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday says a former employee of Jeffrey Epstein will swear on oath that he saw Andrew groping Virginia Giuffre on the billionaire’s “Paedo Island”.
Hundreds killed in Haiti earthquake
At least 304 people have been killed after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck in Haiti. An estimated 1,800 people are injured after people fled their homes fearing they might collapse, as churches, hotels and other buildings were reduced to rubble yesterday. The prime minister said there was “extensive damage” and declared a month-long state of emergency in Haiti, which is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake.
China ‘power grab’ blocked Covid response
China pursued a “power grab” at the World Health Organization which means the world “missed its chance to stop Covid-19,” claims The Sunday Times. The independence and leadership of the WHO were allegedly “severely compromised,” after Beijing secured WHO votes to install its chosen candidates as director-general and the WHO leadership prioritised China’s economic interests over halting the spread of the virus when Covid-19 first emerged.
Loach ‘expelled as part of witch-hunt’
The film-maker Ken Loach says he has been expelled from the Labour party. Loach claimed the move by the party was because he would “not disown those already expelled”, and he hit out at an alleged “witch-hunt”. Writing on Twitter, he added: “Starmer and his clique will never lead a party of the people.” It was reported last month that the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, was planning a purge of factions vocally supportive of his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.
BBC ‘plans Bashir charity response’
The BBC plans to respond to the Martin Bashir scandal by paying about £1.5m in “guilt money” to a charity chosen by the Royal Family, claims the Mail on Sunday. The donation represents the £1.15m the Corporation made from selling the global rights to Bashir’s Princess Diana interview, plus reparations. The plan comes after an inquiry by Lord Dyson found Bashir had lied to obtain the 1995 interview, using ‘deceitful’ methods.
Trudeau to call a snap election
Justin Trudeau is set to call for a snap election in a bid to cash in on a post-Covid economic rebound in Canada. The prime minister is expected to ask the governor-general to formally dissolve parliament, which would set in motion Canada’s eighth national election since 2000. At the 2019 election, Trudeau came up short of a majority, leaving him dependent on opposition parties to govern.
Carrie tells pregnant women to get jabbed
Carrie Johnson has urged other pregnant women to get the Covid vaccine after receiving her second jab. The prime minister’s wife, who is due to give birth to her second child in December, said she got her second jab on Saturday and was “feeling great”. The 33-year-old insisted: “The data shows there is no increased risk of miscarriage.” The number of pregnant women in intensive care with Covid has risen sharply.