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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 31 May 2023

1

Cabinet Office vs Covid inquiry

Rishi Sunak has been accused of a cover up as the Cabinet Office dug in its heels in its bid to withhold Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages from the Covid inquiry. The probe, led by retired judge Heather Hallett, has demanded unredacted notebooks, diaries and WhatApp correspondence between Johnson and 40 senior government figures, but the Cabinet Office is opposing the request arguing part of the material is of a “private” and “personal” nature. Hallett is “a rare example of a public servant doing her job and ministers are running scared,” said Isabel Oakeshot in The Telegraph.

Covid inquiry: what’s in Boris Johnson’s WhatsApps?

2

Putin ‘faces uprising’

A 1917-style revolution is approaching in Russia and “Tsar” Vladimir Putin should stand down to spare his life, said an opposition leader. “This regime is not solid, it is shaking,” Ilya Ponomarev, a former MP in the Russian Duma, told The Times. The politician, now living in exile in Ukraie, said: “The Tsar will have to go. If he goes now, he has a chance of going to the Hague and surviving.” The news comes after a Russian military chief suggested that a coup against Putin by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, was under way.

Wagner boss to pull troops from Bakhmut over ammunition row

3

AI doom debate

Artificial intelligence could lead to the extinction of humanity, experts have warned. Dozens of leading figures, including the heads of OpenAI and Google Deepmind, have put their names to a statement declaring that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war”. However, noted the BBC, other experts say the fears are “overblown”. One said “the most common reaction by AI researchers to these prophecies of doom is face palming”.

Pros and cons of artificial intelligence

4

King’s charity drops Schofield

The Prince’s Trust has dropped Phillip Schofield after he admitted he had an affair with a young male colleague and lied to cover it up. The charity, founded by the King, said it was “no longer appropriate” for the presenter to be its ambassador.  MPs are planning to question ITV bosses over the Schofield saga, said The Telegraph, as the Daily Mail asks: “Just how much did the £3.5m-a-year former Guardian chief at the helm of ITV know about the Phillip Schofield affair?”

Phillip Schofield: TV royalty’s fall from grace

5

EV infrastructure lagging behind

The “gulf” between the number of electric vehicles on the road and public charge points has more than doubled in parts of the country, according to industry data obtained by The Times. Across the UK there were 36 electric cars on the road to every standard public charger last year, compared with 31 at the end of 2021. The gap was most stark in the northwest, where there were 85 EVs to every charger by the end of last year, compared with 49 in 2021. The news “casts a shadow” over the government’s attempt to boost uptake of EVs, said the paper.

6

North Korea satellite crashes

North Korea said an accident caused its first space satellite to crash into the sea. “The new satellite vehicle rocket, Chollima-1, crashed into the West Sea ​​as it lost propulsion due to an abnormal startup of the engine on the 2nd stage after the 1st stage was separated during normal flight,” said the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Pyongyang had announced earlier it planned to launch a satellite by 11 June to monitor US military activities.

7

Muslim outcry in China

Thousands of Muslims surrounded a mosque in southwestern China in a desperate bid to prevent what they believed was an attempt by authorities to remove its dome and minarets. CNN said the tensions around the mosque, which belongs to the Hui ethnic group, comes “amid a sweeping campaign unleashed by China’s leader Xi Jinping to ‘sinicize’ religion”. This policy “aims to purge religious faiths of foreign influence and align them more closely with traditional Chinese culture”, said the outlet.

8

Questions over animal fuel

A study has warned that using the fat of dead pigs, cattle and chickens to make greener jet fuel will end up being worse for the planet. Demand for fuel made from animal by-products is expected to triple by 2030, said the BBC, powered by orders from the airline industry. However, Transport & Environment, a clean transport campaign group based in Brussels, said not enough animals slaughtered are each year to meet demand so industries will use more palm oil – a huge generator of carbon emissions.

Jet zero: future of flight or pie-in-the-sky thinking?

9

Police officer pleads guilty to sex crimes

A police officer who has pleaded guilty to more than 100 charges of inciting children to engage in sexual activity online told his victims that he wouldn’t be investigated because his job would protect him. Lewis Edwards, 23, of Bridgend, posed as a teenager on Snapchat to groom girls as young as 12 into sending him images and videos he secretly recorded. He will be sentenced in August

10

China Canada poll claims

Canada’s spy agency, Csis, told politician Erin O’Toole that Beijing campaigned to discredit him and suppress votes ahead of the 2021 election he lost to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. O’Toole told lawmakers that a Csis briefing last week confirmed what he “had long suspected – that my party, several of my parliamentary caucus members and myself were the target of a Chinese orchestrated campaign of disinformation and voter suppression in the run up to and during the 2021 general election”. Trudeau insists that Chinese interference did not undermine the integrity of the 2019 or 2021 election results.

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