Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Friday 4 Jan 2019

1. US Democrats challenge Trump shutdown

US Democrats yesterday took over the House of Representatives and voted to end a partial government shutdown that has been paralysing services for more than two weeks. However, the vote is unlikely to change anything as US President Donald Trump can veto it. Trump wants $5bn (£4bn) in funding to build a US-Mexico border wall.

2. Doctors advise parents to cut screen time before bed

The Royal College of Paediatrics is advising parents to ensure their children do not watch TV or use online devices within an hour of their bedtime in order to avoid sleep disruption. Meanwhile, a study led by University College London has linked high social media use with depression in teenagers.

3. Seaborne boss left tax debt at former firm

The boss of the company controversially awarded a £14m deal to run ferries if there is a no-deal Brexit previously ran a shipping firm that collapsed in 2014 leaving a large tax debt, according to The Times. Seaborne Freight’s chief executive Ben Sharp has a “chequered business past”, says the newspaper. His new firm owns no ferries.

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4. British citizen detained as spy in Russia

A man with dual US-British citizenship has been imprisoned in Russia, accused of spying for the US. Paul Whelan, 48, is accused of trying to recruit Russians to spy for the US and of receiving a memory stick with a list of Russian agents. His family say he is innocent and critics of Russia say he has been seized as a bargaining piece.

5. Hotel powered by rechargeable battery

A chain hotel in Edinburgh is said to be the first in Britain to be powered by a rechargeable battery. The five-tonne 3m3 lithium ion battery at the Gyle Premier Inn is charged from the national grid at off-peak periods and then powers the 200-room hotel for several hours a day. The hotel hopes to save £20,000 a year on its electricity bill.

6. Universities warn against no-deal Brexit

A group of 150 UK universities is warning that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for British academia and “one of the biggest threats” ever faced by the sector from which it would take “decades” to recover. Meanwhile, the world-leading Russell Group of universities says applications from EU postgraduates have fallen.

7. Jury to rule on Ed Sheeran plagiarism claim

A jury in the US will rule whether British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is guilty of plagiarism after he was accused of copying the late Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On for his No. 1 hit Thinking Out Loud. The case will be decided by a jury after a judge refused a request from Sheeran’s legal team to throw out the case altogether.

8. Bosses’ pay exceeds staff’s three days into year

The UK’s top managers have already earned more just three days into 2019 than their employees will make all year, according to campaign group the High Pay Centre. But right-wing think-tank the Adam Smith Institute says the so-called Fat Cat Friday campaign relies on “cod statistics”, the BBC notes.

9. Viewers find Luther ‘too dark’ – literally

Critics and viewers of the BBC’s Luther are complaining that the gritty police drama is too dark in the literal sense. One viewer wrote on Twitter: “I know this dark brooding portrait of London is the essence of Luther, but I’d quite like to see at least 20% of what’s happening.” A new series of the show, starring Idris Elba, began on Tuesday.

10. Briefing: can Taiwan stay independent from China?

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called Taiwan independence a “dead end” and is seeking a “soft” pathway to unification.

However, Beijing maintains that it would “reunite” Taiwan with the mainland by force if separatists were to succeed in their drive to declare formal independence from China. So could it invade?

Will China invade Taiwan?

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