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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 26 March 2023

1

Tornado ‘wipes out town’

At least 26 people have died in Mississippi and Alabama after a tornado hit the southern US states. A storm system “ripped through Mississippi” and produced a tornado that “touched down and caused catastrophic damage to communities across the state”, said CBS. In Rolling Fork, a rural town about 60 miles northwest from the state capital of Jackson, “what were once buildings are now piles of scattered debris”, it reported. The town has been “almost entirely wiped out”, said the BBC.

2

Hancock duped by pranksters

Matt Hancock and Kwasi Kwarteng agreed to work for £10,000 a day to further the interests of a fake South Korean firm after being fooled by pranksters. Kwarteng had said he did not require a “king’s ransom”, while Hancock said his daily rate was “10,000 sterling”. The two former ministers are not prohibited from such meetings but there is “currently intense scrutiny of politicians’ outside earnings”, said The Observer. The men were duped by members of a campaign group, Led by Donkeys.

3

Putin to move nukes to Belarus

Vladimir Putin said that he had struck a deal with his close ally, Belarus, to station tactical nuclear weapons on its territory. The agreement paves the way for Russia to have part of its nuclear arsenal stored on foreign soil for the first time since 1996. The Belarusian regime is a “firm Kremlin ally and supporter of the invasion of Ukraine”, said the BBC. CNN said by moving nuclear weapons there, Putin is “scaring the world to distract from his problems”.

4

Middle-classes ‘like Sunak’

Middle-class voters are beginning to return to the Tories because they like Rishi Sunak, said a polling expert. Lord Hayward said Labour has become “overconfident” in recent months and the poll leads enjoyed by Sir Keir Starmer’s party are “overestimated”.  He added that there were signs of voters in affluent areas being won over by the “competency” of Sunak.  The Conservatives were encouraged by the most recent Delta poll showing the party up eight points on 35% – cutting Labour’s lead to just 10 points.

5

Trump rages at Texas rally

Donald Trump “lashed out” against the multiple criminal inquiries that have “bedevilled him” during a rally in Texas, said the BBC. The former president said that every aspect of his personal, financial and business life has been “turned upside down and dissected” but insisted he is “the most innocent man in the history of our country”. His address was “reminiscent of his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns”, said CNN, and “included many of Trump’s most often repeated false claims”.

6

Concern over child strip searches

Children as young as eight are being stopped and strip-searched by police, reported The Sunday Times. A total of 2,847 youths have been targeted in England and Wales in the past four years and nearly a quarter were aged between 10 and 15, according to the analysis from Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner. Black children were six times more likely to be strip-searched compared with national population figures.

7

Food banks could exacerbate poverty

The “growing reliance” on food banks risks discouraging proper government policies to deal with poverty, according to a letter from academics and charities. Writing to The Observer, scores of organisations and academics said that “the extraordinary efforts of food bank teams, increasingly backed by corporate involvement, should not blind us to the fact that an emergency food parcel cannot do more than temporarily alleviate hunger”. Signatories include the Independent Food Aid Network in the UK, as well as academics in the US, Austria and Germany.

8

Andrew ‘to write explosive memoir’

Prince Andrew is believed to be in talks to write an “explosive tell-all autobiography”, said the Mail on Sunday. The paper said the “disgraced Duke” is believes that writing an autobiography might allow him to set the record straight in the wake of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. However, it added, his “last major bid to do so” was the “notorious” BBC Newsnight interview in 2019, which “backfired spectacularly”.

9

More questions for Oftsed

Stress caused by Ofsted inspections was cited in coroners’ reports on the deaths of 10 teachers over the past 25 years, reported The Observer. Researchers have also established a link between school reports and heart attacks, strokes and nervous breakdowns, it said. The finding, released by the Hazards Campaign charity and the University of Leeds, will intensify what Ofsted has called the “outpouring of anger” in the sector over the death of Berkshire headteacher Ruth Perry, who killed herself in January.

10

Arrest in Hammond blackmail claim

A man has been arrested on suspicion of blackmailing the broadcaster Alison Hammond. West Midlands police said a 36-year-old was arrested at an address in Warwickshire last night, after the TV presenter was threatened that damaging lies would be spread about her if she did not co-operate with demands. The Sun said that the This Morning host has paid out large sums. “Bubbly Alison” gave the blackmailer a £5,000 BMW as his demands increased, it reported.

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