Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 August 2021

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

1. Biden says airlift will go on

Joe Biden says the US airlift from Kabul will continue despite a bomb attack that killed more than 90 people, including 13 US service personnel. Vowing to hunt down the perpetrators, he said: “We must complete this mission and we will.” CNN said America’s “longest war is ending as it began”, with the nation “mourning the dead of a terrorist attack and an outraged president vowing to hunt down the culprits in Afghanistan”.

2. Bank holiday Covid surge expected

Health officials are expecting a “bank holiday surge of Covid cases” as 500,000 people head to music festivals and millions more venture out to tourism hotspots, said The Guardian. The UK is expected to enjoy warm and sunny weather during the first bank holiday weekend since most restrictions were lifted this summer. Officials warned yesterday that parts of the NHS are already battling “unprecedented high-level demand”.

3. Barnier runs against Macron

Michel Barnier, who led the EU’s Brexit negotiations, has joined the race to become the conservative candidate in next year’s French presidential election. Launching his campaign, Barnier, 70, “sought to cast himself as an experienced, down-to-earth politician capable of healing French wounds in a turbulent era”, said The Times. In an attack on Emmanuel Macron, Barnier said the next French president needed “strength, vision but also humility”.

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4. Tories oppose benefit cut

Boris Johnson is under pressure from his own backbenches to reverse plans to cut universal credit payments from October. Ministers brought in a £20-per-week rise as a response to the Covid pandemic but it is due to be removed in October. However, Tory MPs Peter Aldous and John Stevenson say the increase should be made permanent “so that low-income families continue to be able to make ends meet”.

5. Thai police ‘tortured suspect to death’

Two Thai police officers suspected of being involved in torturing to death a man charged with drug offences have handed themselves into police after a video of the incident went viral. The footage showed a man being suffocated by a plastic bag placed over his head while he was pinned down by four men. An official police document had claimed that the suspect died of a drug overdose.

6. Tim Cook gets $750m pay award

Apple boss Tim Cook has received more than five million shares in the technology giant as a bonus triggered by the company’s rising share price. According to a company filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, he sold most of the shares for more than $750m (£550m). The paperwork showed that Cook was eligible for the award as the company’s shares had risen by 191.83% over the last three years. The software giant now has a market valuation of almost $2.5tn.

7. Activists target Buckingham Palace

Extinction Rebellion took its protests to Buckingham Palace yesterday, dyeing the water of a fountain blood red and defacing a monument to Queen Victoria. The group called on the Queen to “end the use of Crown land for industries which are contributing to the climate and ecological emergency and the death of animals”. Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, told protesters that they were diverting resources away from fighting crime.

8. Department stores vanishing

The UK has lost 83% of its department stores in the five years since the collapse of the BHS chain. Researchers tracked the UK’s largest chains, from Beales to Debenhams and House of Fraser, from 2016 to the present day. During that time, their number dropped from 467 stores to just 79. A spokesman said the data “undoubtedly highlights the acceleration of change in the retail sector in recent years, which the pandemic has only exacerbated”.

9. BA plans budget operation

British Airways has revealed plans for a budget airline to take on easyJet and Ryanair. The operation, at Gatwick Airport, is likely to put the IAG-owned flag carrier on a “collision course with unions if staff are put on less generous contracts”, said The Telegraph. BA said it was “working with unions on proposals for a short-haul operation at Gatwick” but experts say it is likely to face a difficult battle.

10. South Korea welcomes ‘special’ Afghans

South Korea has named arriving Afghans as “persons of special merit” instead of “refugees” in a bid to avoid anti-migrant sentiment. After a military aircraft landed in Seoul in the afternoon, transporting 378 Afghans who had worked for South Korea’s embassy and other facilities in Afghanistan and their family members, the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, said it was “only natural for us to fulfil our moral responsibility by helping the Afghans who helped our operations”.

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