Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 12 October 2021

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

1. Covid ‘UK’s worst public health failure’

The government’s early handling of the pandemic was one of the worst public health failures in UK history, a landmark inquiry has found. The 151-page Coronavirus: lessons learned to date report, published by the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee, found that the government took a “fatalistic” approach that exacerbated the death toll. Experts said locking down a week earlier than 23 March 2020 would have cut the 40,000 death toll in the first wave “by at least half”. Tory MPs Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark, who chair the committees, said the crisis meant it was “impossible to get everything right”, adding: “The UK has combined some big achievements with some big mistakes. It is vital to learn from both.”

The UK’s coronavirus timeline

2. NI rise ‘won’t be enough’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is likely to be “short of money” to spend on a number of public services despite a headline-grabbing increase in taxes, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The think tank found that the 1.25 percentage point increase in National Insurance contributions to pay for extra spending on health and social care, announced by Boris Johnson in September, may need to be doubled by 2030 in order to meet future demographic pressures.

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What the National Insurance rise means for you

3. Kim to build ‘invincible’ military

Kim Jong un has pledged to build an “invincible” military and accused the US of being the “root cause” of instability. The North Korean leader also said his military plans are not targeted at South Korea and that there should not be another war pitting Korean people against each other. The Guardian said the intervention is part of “an apparent continued effort to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul”.

Kim Jong Un’s sister warns of US and South Korea ‘invasion’ plot

4. Johnson backs Kwarteng in row

Boris Johnson is reportedly in favour of a multimillion-pound bailout of industries struggling with high gas prices. The prime minister is backing Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who has been pressing for government support for energy industries to stop thousands of jobs being lost. This means Rishi Sunak has “lost a Whitehall battle with the business secretary”, The Times said, after the Treasury “briefed against” Kwarteng over the weekend.

Ministers left ‘squabbling’ over energy crisis as Boris Johnson jets off to Marbs

5. Rooney refused Israeli translation deal

The Irish author Sally Rooney has refused to allow her new novel to be published in Hebrew because she supports a boycott of Israel. According to Haaretz, Rooney turned down a translation bid from Modan, an Israeli publisher. Her latest novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, was released in September and topped book charts in the UK and Ireland.

Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You: what the critics are saying

6. Couzens ‘flashed DJ in 2008’

The Metropolitan Police are investigating claims that Wayne Couzens flashed a woman in 2008 before officers “laughed in her face” when she reported it. Emma Wilson, a Magic FM DJ, believes she was sexually harassed by the former police officer 13 years before he murdered Sarah Everard. She added that when she reported the incident, police “laughed when I was describing the graphic bits and what he was doing, they thought that bit was particularly funny”.

Sarah Everard: why indecent exposure is still not taken seriously

7. Next Superman will be bisexual

DC Comics has announced that the new Superman, Jon Kent, will be bisexual. In its next comic book, Jon will be featured in a same-sex relationship with his friend Jay Nakamura as part of a series following the superhero as he succeeds his father, Clark Kent. Jon has already fought wildfires caused by climate change, scuppered a high school shooting and protested against the deportation of refugees in the new series.

8. Iraq catches Islamic State deputy

Iraqi forces have captured Sami Jasim, the deputy of former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said that Jasim was detained outside of Iraq but did not disclose the location or date of the arrest. In 2015, the US Treasury Department labelled Jasim as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Four years later, it placed a $5m (£3.6m) bounty on his head.

The state of relations between the Taliban and Isis

9. Climate sceptic group rebrands

One of the UK’s leading climate science deniers has rebranded, according to Politico. The Twitter handle of the Global Warming Policy Foundation was replaced yesterday by Net Zero Watch. The campaign, which is championed by Conservative backbencher Steve Baker, describes itself as setting out to “highlight the serious economic and societal implications of expensive and poorly considered climate and energy policies”.

Majority of Brits back stronger government action to combat climate change

10. California orders gender-neutral aisles

California has become the first US state to require major retailers to display toys and childcare items in gender-neutral ways. Although the new law does not ban boys and girls sections, it does order large stores to have a separate, gender-neutral section. This area should display “a reasonable selection” of toys and childcare items, regardless of whether they have been marketed towards a particular gender. Retailers face a fine for failing to observe the law.

Who's 'they'? The rise of the gender-neutral singular pronoun

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