Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 17 August 2021

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1. Biden defends Afghan pullout

Joe Biden says he stands “squarely” behind his decision to pull US troops out of Afghanistan. Speaking after the Taliban entered Kabul, the US president admitted that the collapse of Afghanistan’s government unfolded “more quickly” than he expected. He blamed the Taliban’s ascendancy on political leaders who fled the country and the Afghan army’s unwillingness to fight. He also pointed the finger at his predecessor, Donald Trump, for leaving the Taliban “in the strongest position militarily since 2001”.

2. Hydrogen heating could raise bills

About three million households in the UK could begin using low-carbon hydrogen to heat their homes and cook rather than fossil fuel gas under new government proposals. The government has said that hydrogen will play a “critical” role in meeting Boris Johnson’s pledge to hit net-zero emissions by 2050. However, household gas bills are expected to rise under the scheme.

3. FTSE slips after China slowdown

The FTSE 100 dropped 1% yesterday, after a slowdown in China scared investors. Industrial production growth slipped from 8.3% year-on-year in June to 6.4% in July, the weakest pace in almost a year, while retail sales slowed to 8.5% in the same month, down from 12.1% in June. Other factors blamed for Beijing’s stutter include resurgent Covid cases, global shortages and severe flooding in July.

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4. Malaysian cabinet ‘steps aside’

Malaysia’s prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his cabinet have tendered their resignation to the king, according to a minister’s post on Instagram. If confirmed, the resignations would end a “tumultuous 17 months in office”, says CNN, but could also “hamper Malaysia's efforts to reboot a pandemic-stricken economy and curb a resurgence in Covid-19 cases”. Malaysia’s ringgit currency fell to a one-year low and the stock market slipped.

5. Homophobic attack in Birmingham

Two men in Birmingham have been attacked with bottles in what is believed to be a homophobic attack, police have said. The two men, who are in their thirties, were outside the Missing Bar in the city’s Gay Village on Sunday, when abuse came from a group of four men in a black SUV, who then got out and assaulted the victims. One of the victims said: “The Gay Village should be a safe area to be who you want and not have to tolerate people yelling homophobic remarks at you.”

6. Dylan denies abuse accusation

Bob Dylan has been accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl at his home more than 50 years ago. According to papers filed at a US court, Dylan gave the girl drugs and alcohol at his apartment in New York in 1965. He is accused of grooming the girl “as part of his plan to sexually molest and abuse” her. Dylan’s spokesman told USA Today that “the 56-year-old claim is untrue and will be vigorously defended”.

7. Geronimo given stay of execution

Geronimo the condemned alpaca may be spared after he was granted a stay of execution for a High Court judge to reexamine the case. Helen Macdonald, the alpaca’s owner, said that she was thrilled by the “safety window” for the animal, who had been ordered to be slaughtered after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis. Macdonald questions the accuracy of the results and the fate of her creature has prompted support and headlines around the world.

8. North dominates restaurant awards

A restaurant in Lancashire has been named the UK’s best for the second time running. Two-Michelin-starred Moor Hall in Aughton has landed the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Award two years after first winning it. With outlets in Yorkshire, Cumbria and Newcastle also in the top five, the outcome marks a “strong showing for the north of England”, parts of which have become destinations for “food lovers from across the globe,” says The Telegraph.

9. Beatrice calls stepson ‘bonus son’

Princess Beatrice says that she refers to her stepson as her “bonus son”. The Princess became stepmother to Christopher Woolf Mozzi, known as Wolfie, last year when she married his father, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. She is following the trend of using the terms “bonus child” and “bonus parent,” rather than “stepchild” and “step-parent”. Greetings cards retailers have begun selling “bonus son” and “bonus daughter” cards as the term grows in popularity.

10. Barcelona reveals €1.35bn debt

The president of Barcelona has revealed that the Spanish club is €1.35bn (£1.15bn) in debt. Joan Laporta, who described the situation as “very worrying”, blames predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu for the debt, accusing him of leaving a “terrible inheritance”. He blamed the club’s “dramatic” situation for Lionel Messi's departure. Messi announced an emotional exit from the Nou Camp last week and signed for Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year contract.

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