Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 August 2023

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

1. Letby may have attacked more

Police believe Lucy Letby may have attacked 30 more babies after detectives noted “suspicious” incidents while she was on duty at the hospital where she murdered seven infants. The 33-year-old has been found to have been on duty for each of these unexplained collapses, said The Guardian. Letby is due to be sentenced later today but has indicated that she will not be in court for the hearing.

Lucy Letby: nurse found guilty of murdering seven babies

2. Fears of storm catastrophe

Tropical Storm Hilary is moving up Southern California where “millions of people are hunkering down under flash-flood warnings”, said the BBC. The state’s first tropical storm in 84 years has been deemed an “unprecedented weather event” by the Los Angeles mayor. In some areas it could bring a year’s rainfall in one 24-hour period. The storm brings the threat of “catastrophic flooding”, said CNN, while the Los Angeles Times said it is “rattling nerves”.

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The world’s most extreme weather events in 2023

3. Trump pulls out of debates

Donald Trump said that he will not take part in Republican presidential debates with his rivals in the race for the White House. “The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” he wrote on social media. He also boasted that a recent poll showed he had “legendary” numbers ahead of other hopefuls for the party’s ticket. The Republican National Committee has demanded that candidates sign a loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee in order to enter the debates, noted the New York Post.

How the GOP is becoming ‘the party of Trump toadies’

4. Inflation: Sunak not credited

Rishi Sunak has won little credit from voters for reducing inflation, according to a poll for The Times. The researchers found that only 8% of voters credited government policy for the fall in inflation, which dropped to 6.8% last month, according to data revealed last week. The prime minister said that the latest figures showed his “plan is working” but the poll suggests that the most commonly believed reason for the fall in inflation is other factors such as global oil and gas prices.

Cost-of-living crisis: is the UK over the worst of it?

5. GCSE disappointment forecast

An expert has predicted that around 300,000 fewer top-grade GCSEs will be awarded — twice the reduction seen last year. Professor Alan Smithers said in a report that some 100,000 pupils could miss out on three of the top grades as the qualifications are brought back to the levels of 2019, the last exams before the Covid pandemic, to “reverse the profligacy of teacher assessment”. Results will be announced on Thursday.

6. Russia’s Moon trip fails

Russia’s first mission to the Moon for nearly 50 years has seen its spacecraft crash into the surface. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said that it lost contact with the uncrewed Luna-25 as it was orbiting the Moon ahead of a planned landing. The failure of the mission is a “major blow” to the “prestige” of the Russian space programme and also to the Kremlin, which had wanted to use it to promote Russia as a “global technological superpower”, said The Telegraph.

Dark side of the Moon: will the race to lunar South Pole spark conflict?

7. China ‘not a hostile state’

The Foreign Office has told government officials not to use the term “hostile state” in case it upsets Beijing. The development means that the phrase has been “effectively banned” in government documents and internal communications on email and WhatsApp between civil servants, ministers and advisers, said The Times. The Foreign Office told an official that “states aren’t inherently hostile themselves, they just do hostile things”.

China’s ‘breathtaking’ infiltration of UK economy: an existential threat?

8. Royal blood ‘saved Andrew’

Prince Andrew’s “royal blood” saved him from being investigated by the FBI over his links to Jeffrey Epstein, said a US lawyer. Lisa Bloom, who represents five Epstein victims, spoke out on an upcoming US documentary, “Secrets of Prince Andrew”. She said a decision not to “go after” him was “made at the highest level”. Meanwhile, says the Daily Express, King Charles plans to bring Andrew “in from the cold”.

9. Xi visits South Africa

Chinese leader Xi Jinping heads to South Africa today for a three-day state visit intended to “bolster Beijing’s influence among developing and emerging nations”, said CNN, as ties with the United States remain “deeply strained and economic troubles bubble up at home”. His trip comes days after US president Joe Biden met with the leaders of Japan and South Korea in a show of “solidarity and force against rising threats from China”, added the outlet.

Biden turns on Beijing: is China really a ‘ticking time bomb’?

10. Spain scorer loses father

Spain’s winning goalscorer Olga Carmona was told after the Women’s World Cup final that her father had died. Reuters said that the Real Madrid left-back’s father had been fighting a long illness and died on Friday but her family kept the news from her until after the big match. “I know you have been watching me tonight and that you are proud of me. Rest in peace dad,” the 23-year-old wrote on social media.

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