Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Friday 15 Dec 2017

1. EU to move Brexit talks to trade deal stage

The EU nations will “rubber-stamp” an agreement to move the Brexit negotiations to the next level – setting the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU – when they meet today without Theresa May, according to the BBC. Last night, the Prime Minister received a round of applause from the assembled leaders after delivering a short speech.

2. Russia ‘poses threat to undersea cables’

UK defence chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach warned last night that the modernisation of the Russian navy means it now poses a threat to Britain’s many undersea communications cables. He said cutting one of the cables would be “immediately and potentially catastrophic” for the country’s economy.

3. HS2 redundancies ‘a shocking waste of money’

The state-owned firm running HS2, the high-speed rail link between London and the North, is guilty of a “shocking waste of taxpayers’ money” in shelling out unauthorised redundancy payments, MPs say. A total of 94 former employees were paid a total of £1.76m - “well in excess” of approved levels, the Public Accounts Committee says.

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4. Families with stable jobs facing homelessness

UK housing is now so unaffordable that even families with stable jobs – including nursing – are now a serious risk of homelessness, local government ombudsman Michael King is warning. King – whose office has helped nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and council workers – said: “Increasingly, [homeless people] are normal families who would not have expected to be in this situation.”

5. Britain First leaders charged with offences

The leader and deputy leader of far-right hate group Britain First have been charged with “using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour”. Paul Golding is charged over speeches he made in Northern Ireland on 6 August this year; his deputy, Jayda Fransen, over “an incident at a peace wall” in Belfast on 13 November.

6. Jo Cox commission calls for loneliness minister

A commission on loneliness set up by MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a right-wing extremist during the EU referendum campaign in 2016, is calling for a new minister for loneliness. in its final report, the group says loneliness is an “urgent crisis” that poses a “generational challenge” to governments, employers and civil society.

7. US woman charged with laundering bitcoin for Isis

An American woman has been charged with taking out fraudulent loans, converting them to online currency bitcoin and then wiring the money to terror group Islamic State. Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, a former lab technician in a Manhattan hospital, was arrested at JFK airport with $9,500 (£7,070) in cash. If convicted, she may face decades in prison.

8. Link between hot tea and lowered glaucoma risk

A study by US researchers has found a correlation between drinking hot tea and a lower risk of suffering glaucoma – though they stress that doesn’t mean drinking tea will necessarily reduce risk of the eye condition. More research is needed to establish why people who drank tea in the study were 74% less likely to be affected by glaucoma.

9. Nasa finds far away planets like our own

Nasa last night announced that it has found a solar system just likes ours, with eight planets orbiting a distant star. The key significance of the discovery is that it suggests there may be many such planetary systems in existence – and that machine learning was used to find it.

10. Briefing: the Honduras election crisis

Honduras has been shaken by a surge of political violence after its contested presidential election two weeks ago.

“The extreme electoral irregularities and the charged context in which they arose are threatening to inflame instability for years to come,” Al Jazeera English writes.

Honduras election crisis: violent clashes and no winner in sight

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