Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 31 August 2021

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

1

RAF ready to ‘strike’ Isis

The last US military flight has left Kabul airport, marking the end of America’s 20 year presence in Afghanistan. The final C17 aircraft left with the US ambassador on-board after midnight local time. Celebratory gunfire and fireworks were heard after the last plane departed, however, the RAF is prepared to launch fresh air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) in the country, according to the chief of the air staff. Mike Wigston said: “Ultimately what this boils down to is that we’ve got to be able to play a global role in the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh [Isis], whether it’s strike, or whether it’s moving troops or equipment into a particular country, at scale and at speed.”

2

Business confidence hits peak

UK business confidence has hit a four-year high, according to The Guardian. The latest snapshot from Lloyds Bank shows a combination of the vaccine rollout, the removal of lockdown restrictions and changes to self-isolation rules all contributed to greater optimism among firms in August. Overall confidence rose by six points to 36%, marking its highest level since April 2017. However, bosses have highlighted concerns about staff shortages, which they said could push up pay in the coming months.

3

Louisiana without power for weeks

Restoring power for Louisiana residents after Hurricane Ida may take weeks, a local official has warned. Around one million locals remain without electricity after Ida made landfall on Sunday bringing 150mph winds, the fifth strongest hurricane to ever hit the US mainland. About 5,000 National Guard members have been called up to aid search and rescue, but a local leader in the Greater New Orleans area said: “It’s going to be a difficult life for quite some time.”

4

Five-hour queues at Heathrow

Travellers arriving at Heathrow have said they faced queues of up to five hours over the bank holiday weekend. Passengers claimed that only a quarter of desks in the arrivals hall were manned, forcing them to wait for several hours. “Have been waiting over five hours,” one traveller said on Twitter, adding: “No water, no bathroom.” It is believed that the shortages were caused in part because Border Force staff were processing arrivals from Afghanistan.

5

Police investigating couple’s death

Police are investigating the death of a 22-year-old dancer in a suspected murder suicide after she was found dead alongside her boyfriend. Officers were called to a detached property in Kettering after receiving reports of concern for the welfare of the occupants. They discovered the body of Maddie Durdant-Hollamby lying next to the body of her boyfriend, Benjamin Green, 41. No arrests have been made.

6

One season of rugby can diminish brain

Just one season of professional rugby could cause a decline in a player’s blood flow to the brain and cognitive function, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of South Wales followed a professional rugby team over the course of a season, testing players pre-season, mid-season and post season. They found a decline in players’ ability to reason, remember, formulate ideas and perform mental gymnastics.

7

Ministers ‘escalate hostilities’ with BBC

The BBC licence fee is expected to rise by less than the rate of inflation over the next five years because the government is concerned about hitting households with higher bills. “The BBC is a hugely important national institution”, a government source said amid negotiations with the corporation over the licence fee, adding: “But equally these are hard times.” The Times said “the decision to impose a real-terms cut on BBC funding marks an escalation in hostilities by No. 10”.

8

Fry calls for mental health help for young

Stephen Fry has called for a network of mental health walk-in centres for children and young people. A survey by Mind found that almost one in three young people self-harmed in 2020. In February, there were 305,802 young people in contact with mental health services in England compared with 237,088 children in March 2020. The actor and comedian warned that the pandemic has taken a “huge toll” on young people’s mental wellbeing.

9

Ministers consider nappy tax

Disposable nappies could be taxed to push families to switch to green alternatives. According to reports, the move is being considered as a way to stop the products, which cannot be recycled, going to landfill. Following the announcement last week of action against throwaway plates, cups and cutlery, a Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: “The next single-use plastic item we are looking at is nappies.”

10

Nike gives staff mental health break

Workers at Nike’s corporate base in Oregon have been given a week off to support their mental health ahead of the return to the office in September. The US firm will “power down” for seven days to give employees a rest after the rigours of the Covid pandemic. The firm’s head of insights, Matt Marrazzo, told staff to “take the time to unwind, destress and spend time with your loved ones”. Nike’s move follows similar initiatives from dating app Bumble and Linkedin.

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