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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 31 January 2023

1

IMF downgrades UK economy

Britain is expected to be the only G7 country to see its economy shrink this year after the impact of Liz Truss’s brief reign prompted a significant growth downgrade from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF said it expected the UK economy to contract by 0.6% – 0.9 percentage points worse than it had forecast three months ago and slower than sanctions-hit Russia.  To add “further humiliation” for the chancellor and prime minister, even as Britain’s outlook was downgraded, most other countries around the world saw their forecasts upgraded, said Sky News.

Is the UK the ‘sick man of Europe’ once again?

2

MPs pass strike bill

MPs have passed plans to enforce minimum service levels for some sectors during strikes. Under the bill, which was passed by 315 votes to 246, some employees, including in the rail industry and emergency services, would be required to work during industrial action – and could be sacked if they refuse. However, a government bill aimed at cracking down on protest has suffered a number of setbacks in the House of Lords, “setting the stage for a tense showdown between parliament’s two chambers”, said The Guardian.

Minimum service levels and the right to strike

3

Unemployment ‘three times higher’

The real unemployment rate in the UK may be nearly three times higher than official figures according to a new report by the thinktank Centre for Cities. While the official rate is 3.7%, this triples to 12.1% when accounting for the three million people who have left the workforce “involuntarily”. These economically inactive people may be those “who stop looking for a job if they are discouraged, believe there are no jobs or struggle to work because of health issues,” said The Telegraph. Of the ten places with the highest hidden unemployment rates, nine are in the North of England, with one in Wales. The main reasons for this geographical disparity are health, skill levels and the availability of jobs, according to the thinktank.

The millions missing from Britain’s workforce: a ‘troubling’ trend

4

King’s coronation surprise

The King could become the first British monarch to be publicly anointed at his Coronation, reported The Telegraph. The most sacred part of the event, which sees the Archbishop of Canterbury pour holy oil from the ampulla onto the Coronation Spoon, and anoint the sovereign on the hands, breast and head, is traditionally conducted behind a canopy. However, a transparent canopy is being made by the Royal School of Needlework for the May ceremony. The dazzling celebrations are said to reflect Charles’ desire to be the ‘people’s King’, according to the Daily Mail, and will also give representatives from the Commonwealth and NHS workers “a chance to shine”.

King Charles coronation: what happens and will there be a bank holiday?

5

Hunt continues for missing radioactive capsule

Australia’s nuclear safety agency said it had joined the hunt for a tiny radioactive capsule that went missing as it was being transported by a mining company across Western Australia. An emergency search is underway for the device, which is about the size of a pea but could cause serious illness, including skin damage, burns or radiation sickness, to anyone who comes into contact with it. The capsule contains a radioactive isotope, Caesium-137, which emits radiation equivalent to receiving ten X-rays an hour. Caesium-137 contaminated much of the area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what is now Ukraine following a reactor meltdown in 1986. Rio Tinto, the mining company involved told the Sydney Morning Herald that it is taking the loss of the capsule “very seriously”.

Mining company apologises for losing potentially deadly radioactive capsule

6

Russia ‘threatens’ Israel and US

Russia “appeared to issue a veiled threat against Israel and the United States” when it condemned an attack on an Iranian weapons depot, said the Jerusalem Post. “Such destructive actions could have unpredictable consequences for peace and stability in the Middle East,” the Russian foreign ministry said. “That has to be understood by the organisers of the brazen raid, their backers and those who are gloating over the issue, holding on to the futile hope for the weakening of Iran.” The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have claimed that Israel was behind the attack on the facility, which is thought to be connected either to Iran’s nuclear programme or to its production of missiles or drones that could have been shipped to Moscow for its war against Ukraine.

The Israel-Iran shadow war

7

Long-term concussion effects found

Just one serious concussion can damage memory and brain power in later life, according to a study of more than 15,000 Britons. Oxford University researchers found three or more moderate brain injuries can have a long-term impact on attention span, memory and the ability to successfully perform complex tasks. The findings will “heap more pressure on rugby governing bodies” which are already facing a class-action lawsuit from former players over their historical handling of concussions and brain injuries, said the Daily Mail.

8

US won’t send jets to Ukraine

Washington has ruled out sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, despite growing demands from Ukrainian officials for air support. Asked if the United States would provide the jets, Biden told reporters at the White House, “No.” His comment comes a day after Germany’s leader also ruled out sending fighter jets. Ukraine announced a push for western fourth-generation fighter jets such as the F-16 after securing supplies of main battle tanks last week, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister said on Friday.

Will Western tanks put an end to peace talks for Ukraine?

9

Calls for Raab to step down

Dominic Raab is understood to be facing claims of bullying civil servants across several government departments. The claims, which Raab denies, are the subject of an inquiry by Adam Tolley KC, a senior lawyer, according to the Daily Telegraph. Rishi Sunak is now facing fresh questions about why he reappointed Raab to the Ministry of Justice despite documented complaints about him dating back to March. With the government still reeling from the Nadhim Zahawi episode, two former cabinet ministers told The Telegraph Raab is becoming a “distraction” over bullying claims and should step down.

Dominic Raab: the deputy PM at centre of new bullying row

10

Now it’s Musk v PayPal

Elon Musk is taking on his old company PayPal as Twitter bids to become an online payments business. The social media company is hiring people to start building a payments system and applying for the relevant licences in the US. Musk “cut his business teeth” as chief executive of a dotcom bubble-era company acquired by PayPal, said The Telegraph. After he bought Twitter, Musk said he would turn it into an “everything app” called X, evoking the name of the company bought by PayPal two decades ago.

Has the tide turned for Elon Musk?

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