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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 12 September 2023

1

Kim reaches Russia

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, has reached Russian territory as he heads for talks with Vladimir Putin in the Russian city of Vladivostok. Washington believes the two leaders are due to finalise an arms deal that would see North Korea supply ammunition and artillery for the war in Ukraine. “The deeper into trouble these two leaders have sunk, the more they appear to have realised they need each other,” said the BBC. While Putin “needs weapons”, Kim needs “money, oil, and food, to support his sanction-starved regime”, it added.

Would North Korean weapons tilt the war Russia’s way?

2

Sex abuse in surgery revealed

Two thirds of women working in surgery report having been sexually harassed by a colleague in or around the operating theatre, according to a study published in the British Journal of Surgery. There were 11 instances of rape reported by surgeons who took part in the research. Sexual misconduct is “rife” in surgery, the research paper concluded. There is an “untold story” of women being “fondled inside their scrubs”, of male surgeons “wiping their brow on their breasts” and men “rubbing erections against female staff”, said the BBC.

3

Hunt plays down tax cuts

The chancellor has said there is “unlikely” to be any spare money for tax cuts in the autumn statement. Jeremy Hunt’s “downbeat assessment” will have “disappointed many Tory MPs”, said The Times, as he predicted that taxes were more likely to rise than fall unless the government could find a way to improve growth. Meanwhile, Hunt has been urged to consider the “huge moral case” against cutting benefits as part of real-terms reductions to find extra cash.

UK economic woes: are tax cuts the answer?

4

Tense China-UK relations

China could be formally designated a threat to Britain after a Tory parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of spying. The arrest has “intensified debate” on whether the UK needs to be more robust in its dealings with Beijing, said The Times. However, The Telegraph noted that the Business Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, was one of several senior ministers to “talk up” the importance of relations with Beijing. “We wouldn’t be able to get to where we want to get to on net zero by completely stopping or banning Chinese products,” she said.

‘Major escalation’: Sunak confronts China after Parliament ‘spy’ suspect arrested

5

Crumbling concrete in Parliament

Crumbling concrete has been found in Parliament. Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac), of the kind that has led to the closure of buildings at more than 100 schools, was found in one part of the Palace of Westminster, but poses no “immediate risk”, said a spokesman. Concerns about the safety of the parliamentary estate are “long-standing”, said the BBC, and there have been “repeated warnings” in recent years about the threat of fire and asbestos across the site.

The RAAC concrete crisis: fears spread to hospitals, homes and theatres

6

Libya calls for flood aid

Libya has appealed for international help as around 2,000 people are feared dead after a huge flood tore through the city of Derna following a storm. The storm has caused “catastrophic flooding”, said Sky News, resulting in the “complete engulfing of entire neighbourhoods”. Two dams in Derna, which is home to around 100,000 people, collapsed, submerging much of the area and drowning some residents. Entire neighbourhoods have been “ravaged and washed away”, said the Libya Observer.

7

Deadly ants could reach UK

Experts are warning that deadly red fire ants could “invade” Britain, said The Telegraph. In the ant’s first official sighting on the European continent, entomologists found 88 red fire ant nests spread over five hectares in Sicily, Italy. Modelling shows that the ants could spread across 7% of Europe, with London a “prime candidate for colonisation”, said the paper. The ants are “every bit as nasty” as their name suggests, says the Daily Star. A bite or sting causes as burning sensation and in some cases chest pains, nausea, dizziness and anaphylactic shock.

8

Trade route ‘challenges China’

The US, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have announced a new trade route connecting India to the Middle East and Europe through railways and ports. Some commentators see the development as a “direct challenge” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure project which aims to connect China to the rest of the world, said CNN. Gulf states are trying to find a “balance” in “what they see as a world order that is no longer unipolar”, added the broadcaster.

The great lending game: IMF vs China

9

Sunak rating lower than Boris

A survey has found that, for more than half of voters, there are no circumstances in which they would consider backing the Conservatives at the next election. The YouGov researchers found that voters were “aligned with Labour in areas they cared most about”, including “spending on public services”, said The Times. Another YouGov study recorded Rishi Sunak’s lowest approval rating since he became PM, with only 26% of voters having a favourable opinion. His approval ratings are “lower than those of Boris Johnson at the point at which was forced from office”, said the paper.

Who will win the next general election? The odds and polls

10

‘Crappy hour’ in pub chain

A pub chain is charging customers 20p extra for a pint during the busiest times. Announcing its “dynamic” strategy, Stonegate, which has more than 4,500 venues across the UK, pointed to happy hours, two-for-one cocktails, and discounts on food and drink at certain times. But “this flexibility may mean that on occasions pricing may marginally increase in selective pubs and bars due to the increased cost demands”, it added. The Times was unconvinced, describing the costlier periods as “crappy hour”.

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