Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 9 October 2021

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

1

Ministers to announce levies on gas bills

Pressure is growing on the government to support parts of the economy struggling with rising gas bills, as several Conservative MPs calls for ministers to act. Gas prices have risen 250% since January, drastically inflating costs, but leaders from the industry failed to agree a solution during talks with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. Meanwhile, the government plans to go ahead with levies on gas bills to fund low-carbon heating, despite rising prices.

2

One in six can’t buy essential food

Almost nine million people have not been able to buy essential food items in the past fortnight because they were not available, according to the Office for National Statistics. As supply chain disruption and labour shortages continue to hit, a survey found that 17% of adults could not buy some of the grocery products they needed between 22 September and 3 October. The government has appointed Sir David Lewis, the former chief executive of Tesco, as its supply chain adviser.  

3

Suicide blast in Afghan mosque

A suicide attack on a Shia mosque in northern Afghanistan killed at least 50 people and injured 143 others. The explosion happened during Friday prayers at the Sayed Abad mosque in Kunduz. A Taliban spokesman said security forces were on the scene and an investigation was underway. Islamic State said it was behind the attack. Sunni Muslim extremists have often targeted Shias, who they regard as heretics.

4

Court reinstates Texas abortion ban

A federal appeals court in the US has temporarily reinstated Texas’s near total ban on abortions. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to a request from the state’s attorney general that an injunction imposed against the law be lifted. In a statement following the latest ruling, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called on the Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness,” adding that “the courts have an obligation to block laws that violate fundamental rights”.

5

Free Covid tests could be scrapped

Ministers have concluded that mass free Covid tests must end because of the huge costs to the taxpayer. The Telegraph reported that plans are being made to scale back the arrangements that allow everyone to get a lateral flow test and some people to get PCR tests without paying. Under one proposal being considered by the government, free tests would be provided only in high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools, as well as for people with symptoms.

6

Amazon prints far-right book

Amazon printed a book by the leader of Britain’s fastest growing far-right movement in a deal that netted the tech giant up to 85% of the takings, reported The Times. In his book, Mark Collett, the leader of Patriotic Alternative, argues that “when it comes to the notion of white guilt, nothing is pushed more strongly” than the “alleged extermination of six million Jews at the hands of the German people”. Amazon said: “We believe that providing access to written speech is important, including books that some may find objectionable.”

7

Kids see anti-vaccine TikTok videos

Videos with Covid conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine messages are being viewed by children as young as nine on TikTok. NewsGuard, an organisation that monitors online misinformation, said it found accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers that discourage vaccination and spread myths about Covid survival rates. The social media firm told The Guardian it worked diligently to take action on content and accounts that spread misinformation.

8

Top-flight anger over Newcastle deal

Angry football clubs are demanding an emergency meeting on the Newcastle United takeover. According to reports, the other 19 Premier League clubs are united in opposition to a Saudi-led consortium being allowed to buy out Mike Ashley. Clubs fear that the arrival of a new set of billionaire owners will inflate transfer fees and wages. The deal has also raised concern among human rights groups, because the wealth fund is overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

9

‘Gig economy’ at Cambridge University

The University of Cambridge has been accused of using “overworked and underpaid” gig economy workers to provide the institution’s famous one-on-one tutoring system, reported The Guardian. Nearly half of undergraduate tutorials, or “supervisions” as they are known, are delivered by precariously employed staff without proper contracts. A spokesperson for the institution said “supervisor training is provided for free and the average pay for supervision, including preparation, is well above the living wage”.

10

Maddie investigators ‘confident’ they have their man

Prosecutors in Germany are “100% sure” sex offender Christian Brueckner murdered Madeleine McCann, reported the Daily Mirror. Investigators say they have the evidence to charge him and hope the probe will conclude next year. German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said: “We’re confident we have the man who took and killed her.” Madeleine vanished from her family’s holiday flat in Portugal in 2007.

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