Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 September 2021

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

1

Army put on standby to ease fuel crisis

Boris Johnson has ordered up to 150 military tanker drivers to remain on standby to help fuel reach petrol stations hit by panic buying. Downing Street said army drivers would be ready to help deliver petrol and diesel on a short-term basis, but stopped short of an immediate deployment. Meanwhile, the man expected to replace Angela Merkel as German chancellor has blamed Britain’s decision to end freedom of movement with Europe after Brexit as the reason for the nation’s petrol crisis. Olaf Scholz said Europe “worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union”. 

2

Shadow minister quits with attack on Starmer

Andy McDonald has quit as shadow employment secretary, saying Sir Keir Starmer had ordered him to oppose the rise of the minimum wage to £15 an hour, making his position “untenable”. However, McDonald was later accused of sabotage because his move overshadowed a £28bn green spending pledge. A senior Labour official said: “This is clearly a pathetic orchestrated attempt to undermine the changes happening in the party.”

3

CIA ‘discussed assassinating Assange’

The CIA discussed abducting and assassinating WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, according to a US report citing former officials. Yahoo News reported that the discussions on kidnapping or killing Assange took place in 2017, as the Australian activist was entering his fifth year sheltering in the Ecuadorian embassy. A former Trump national security official said the senior CIA officials “were seeing blood.”

4

Afghan banks close to collapse

The banking system in Afghanistan is near to collapse, the chief executive of one of the nation’s biggest lenders has told the BBC. Syed Moosa Kaleem Al-Falahi, of the Islamic Bank of Afghanistan, said the country’s financial industry is in the grip of an “existential crisis” as customers panic. He said there are “huge withdrawals happening at the moment” and “banks are not functioning, and not providing full services”. Afghanistan is very dependent on foreign aid but since the Taliban takeover the West has frozen international funds.

5

Man charged with Nessa murder

A 36-year-old man will appear in court today, charged with the murder of primary school teacher Sabina Nessa. Koci Selamaj, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, was arrested in the seaside town in the early hours of Sunday, and a car was seized in a residential street around half a mile away. Nessa, 28, was killed as she walked through Cator Park in Kidbrooke, southeast London, on her way to meet a friend on 17 September.

6

North Korea ‘missile’ launch reported

South Korea claimed that North Korea has fired a projectile, presumed to be a short-range missile, into waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. The presumed missile was fired early on Tuesday morning, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said, adding that the South Korean military is “maintaining a readiness posture” for potential “additional launches”.  On September 11 and 12, Pyongyang said it tested long-range cruise missiles.

7

Lenders to launch ‘fraud 999’ line

Banks are launching an emergency phone hotline which The Times described as “the industry’s answer to 999” to address soaring levels of fraud. Banks hope that the phone line will stop hundreds of millions of pounds passing from customers to scammers each year, which costs banks enormous sums in refunds. Customers will be able to call 159 to receive help. The number was chosen because it goes diagonally across a phone keypad.

8

Commuting ‘helps mental and physical health’

Commuting brings benefits for mental health, fitness levels and work-life balance, according to researchers from University College London. Nearly half of the 3,000 people surveyed said that being in the office put them in a better frame of mind for work. Half said that they ate snacks more often when working from home and 43% believed that they were more distracted. Commuting “can have a positive impact on cognitive performance, wellbeing and productivity,” said Joseph Devlin, professor of brain sciences at UCL.

9

R Kelly ‘could spend rest of life in jail’

A jury has found singer R Kelly guilty of racketeering, including acts of bribery and sexual exploitation of a child, along with separate charges of sex trafficking. The R&B singer faced a total of nine counts - one count of racketeering, with 14 underlying acts that included sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery and sex trafficking charges. Sentencing is due on 4 May and Kelly could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

10

Oil leaps to three-year high

Oil prices jumped to three-year highs yesterday as Brent crude rallied 2.3% to $79.80, its highest price since October 2018. Goldman Sachs said Brent, which is based on the North Sea industry, could rise to $90 per barrel by the end of the year. The Telegraph reports that gas prices have “rocketed” due to “weak global production, low exports from Russia, poor storage levels in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and rising demand from economies emerging from lockdowns”.

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