Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 August 2021

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

1

Raab’s delegated call went unmade

A phone call to the Afghan government that Dominic Raab delegated to a junior minister despite being advised to make personally ended up not happening at all. The government initially said the request for help evacuating interpreters from Afghanistan had been delegated because the foreign secretary was busy on other calls. However, a spokesperson has now admitted it “was not possible to arrange a call” before the Afghan government collapsed. Raab remains under pressure to quit over his handling of the crisis, but has said he will stay.

2

Climate crisis impact described

Almost half the world’s 2.2bn children are already at “extremely high risk” from the impacts of the climate crisis and pollution, according to Unicef. The UN agency described the situation “unimaginably dire”. Meanwhile, a report by Tony Blair’s think tank said that climate change can be tackled with only small reductions in flying and driving and insisted we can continue eating meat and dairy if we cut consumption by an average of 20%.

3

Haiti ‘on its knees’ says PM

The prime minister of Haiti says his country is “on its knees” after more than 2,000 people were killed in Saturday’s earthquake. Ariel Henry said Haiti was “physically and mentally devastated” by the disaster. More than 12,000 people were injured and 332 are still missing after the 7.2-magnitude quake. Officials estimated that 600,000 need emergency assistance. 

4

Covid boosters could be shelved

A programme of Covid booster vaccines for all over-50s this autumn could be shelved, The Telegraph reported. Sources close to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation told the paper there is limited evidence to support such an approach and a “far more restricted” group, focused on the most vulnerable, may be targeted. However, an Israeli scientist has urged the UK to stick with a wider programme, saying: “Don't make our costly mistake.”

5

Taliban carries out ‘door-to-door’ search

The UN has been warned that Taliban fighters are going door-to-door to find people who worked for Nato forces or the previous Afghan government. Although the hardline group has insisted there would be “no revenge” after its swift takeover, an adviser to the UN said “it is in writing that, unless they give themselves in, the Taliban will arrest and prosecute, interrogate and punish family members on behalf of those individuals”.

6

US thought UK ‘out of mind’ on Covid

A new book has claimed that US officials thought their UK counterparts “were out of their minds” to aim for herd immunity as part of Boris Johnson’s initial Covid policy. “We thought they were nuts and they thought we were nuts. It turns out, in the end, we were a little more right than they were,” a Washington official told the authors of Aftershocks: Pandemic Politics and the End of the Old International Order.

7

UK ‘abandons’ guards in Kabul

Guards at the UK embassy in Kabul have been told they are not eligible for UK government protection because they were hired through an outsourced contractor. According to The Guardian, most of the 125-strong team of security personnel, employed by the global security firm GardaWorld, have been told informally that they no longer have jobs guarding the embassy. Many have been forced into hiding, fearing for their lives.

8

Britney accused of lashing out

Britney Spears has been accused of battery by an employee following a dispute in the singer’s California home. The staff member claims they were struck by the pop star, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. However, Mathew Rosengart, Spears’ lawyer, told CNN: “This is overblown sensational tabloid fodder - nothing more than a fabricated ‘he said she said’ regarding a cell phone, with no striking and obviously no injury whatsoever.”

9

Cinemas at half pre-Covid level

Takings at UK cinemas in the month since all Covid restrictions were lifted in England were at half their pre-pandemic level. Industry data showed £65.7m was spent in the four weeks after ‘freedom day’ on 19 July, compared to £129m during the same period in 2019. However, an industry boss said cinemas were “very pleased” with the figures and “pretty confident” they will get back to previous levels.

10

OnlyFans to ban explicit content

OnlyFans, the subscription site best known for its adult content, says it will block sexually explicit photos and videos from October. Although members will still be able to post some nude content on the site the material will need to adhere to new policies. The UK-based social media site allows its creators to publish videos and photos in return for tips or a monthly fee.

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