Hot News on 22/07/2021

Fifteen questions on general knowledge and topical news trivia plus a few jokes – how will you fare?

Unlucky for some, incredibly it is the 13th edition of the quiz idea so haphazard that you feel it must have been scribbled down on the back of a cigarette packet in the pub, if only pubs had been open earlier in the year. Fifteen questions. Some of them are topical. Some of them are general knowledge. One will have anagrams and one will feature Kate Bush, and most of them are a tiny bit silly in some way. It’s just for fun; let us know how you get on in the comments.

The Thursday quiz, No 13

Latest updates: Kwasi Kwarteng says scope of exemptions will be ‘very narrow’, implying that shop workers won’t be included despite pressures caused by ‘pingdemic’

Good morning. On Monday Boris Johnson said that some critical workers would be allowed to use testing as an alternative to isolation after contact with someone testing positive, to save them from the “pingdemic”. But he refused to give details. No 10 said a bit more at lobby on Tuesday, but at PMQs yesterday Sir Keir Starmer said he had read the briefing several times and “I haven’t a clue what it means.”

This morning Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, was doing the morning interview round for No 10 and he said that today guidance will be published saying which critical workers will be exempt from the current isolation rules. He said:

We’re looking at different sectors and we will be publishing today the sectors that will be affected.

The list, I think, will be quite narrow, it will be very narrow, simply because we don’t want to get into a huge debate about who is exempt.

There will be many smaller businesses where if they only have one or two staff and they need to self-isolate, then that’s them needing to close their doors completely ...

I think what the most important thing for government to do is to recognise that the current situation is untenable ...

Related: Coronavirus live: UK business secretary ‘very concerned’ about food shortages; two more Tokyo athletes test positive

The 2019 attack in Yuen Long was captured by victims and bystanders on phones and shocked the city.
As a crackdown widens in her country, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is trying to build a broad phalanx of Western opposition to a dictatorship that she says is on its “last breaths.”

Recent graduates compete with last year’s grads who remain jobless, and with those rethinking their career priorities

Marie Roberts, a 2021 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, can feel the pressure of entering a competitive job market as the coronavirus pandemic in America appears to be waning.

After more than a year of remote learning, social distancing and economic chaos, she knew she wasn’t the only one now polishing her résumé and writing multiple cover letters to start her career.

Research suggests that chronic loneliness may be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. But do we know what loneliness actually is?

As a clinical psychologist who specializes in friendships and social connection, I am deeply concerned about the feelings of loneliness that so many of us are experiencing.

Three in five American adults report feeling lonely and 18% (roughly 46 million people) report that they have just one person or nobody that they can trust or turn to for help in their personal lives. These worrisome numbers are echoed across studies and across borders.

Always the diplomatic politician, forever the objective scientist, Germany’s chancellor gives her last annual summer press do

As she faced a lecture-hall sized auditorium packed with national and international press for the last time in her 16-year chancellorship, there was a sense that the room was simultaneously hearing from two very different people in Angela Merkel.

One was Merkel the politician, unafraid to talk up her achievements, who patted herself on the back for diplomatic victories and expertly fudged answers to difficult questions. The other was Merkel the scientist, who found it hard to skirt around uncomfortable truths and instinctively wanted to scrutinise her doppelgänger’s track record.

Millions thrown out of work by the pandemic faced months-long backlogs in receiving benefits, if they arrived at all

Unemployed workers are pushing for reforms and changes to America’s unemployment insurance system after millions of workers experienced severe problems in receiving benefits throughout the pandemic.

Workers across America faced long delays in receiving unemployment benefits as state systems were quickly overwhelmed with the mass influx of applications that caused months-long backlogs. Meanwhile, workers who made errors on their applications, had missing records or had their claims flagged had their benefits stopped – and often had difficulty restarting them once problems were resolved.

CBI says post-lockdown surge likely to break output records but leaves industry with acute cost pressures

The number of people employed in Britain’s factories rose at its fastest rate in almost half a century in the past three months as manufacturers sought to cope with a surge in post-lockdown order books, the CBI has said.

The business lobby group said jobs, investment, output, costs and prices were all rising rapidly in the strongest period of growth since the early to mid-1970s.

The vaccines minister has confirmed the government intends to go ahead with making Covid vaccination a condition for entry to nightclubs from September in England.

Nadhim Zahawi said that after a successful trial the government has rolled out the NHS Covid pass, which allows people to show their Covid status, whether proof of vaccination, test results or natural immunity. 

He added the government reserved the right to make its use compulsory in future but confirmed MPs will get a vote on plans to use Covid passports

Los Angeles infections have increased twentyfold and San Francisco positive cases have almost tripled in two weeks

Just over a month after the Golden State dropped all its coronavirus safety restrictions, numerous parts of California are seeing a dramatic increases in Covid-19 infections that have prompted counties to reinstate masking requirements and heightened calls for reaching the unvaccinated.

In Los Angeles, county figures show that Covid-19 infections have increased twentyfold in a month. In San Francisco, they’ve almost tripled in two weeks and, overall, California’s hospitalization numbers have increased by 58%, according to New York times data.

Policy will only apply to named staff in approved workplaces who are fully vaccinated

Workers from sixteen key services including health, transport and energy will not have to isolate after being pinged by the NHS Covid app, as it was revealed that more than 600,000 people in England and Wales were sent self-isolation alerts last week.

The raft of changes, after days of frantic talks with industry leaders, came amid open Conservative revolt over the so-called “pingdemic” with the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warning the government that it was facing a crisis of public trust in the system.

Drone footage shows the extent of the destruction after a record-breaking storm flooded streets and the subway, damaged dams and reservoirs and collapsed roads.

Cleanup efforts were under way in Henan province and the capital city, Zhengzhou, on Thursday.

Authorities said 200,000 people were displaced by the floods and more than 3 million people affected. 

France and Italy are seeking to bolster vaccination rates by making it harder for the unvaccinated to visit public venues including restaurants and sporting events.
A majority of Americans believe that the C.D.C., the F.D.A. and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci provide trustworthy guidance on the pandemic, despite attacks and misinformation, but even more trust their own doctors.

Retailers say shortages caused by self-isolating staff but lack of lorry drivers may be to blame

For shoppers the sight of “pingdemic”-related gaps on their local supermarket’s shelves will be a worrying reminder of their experience in the early weeks of the pandemic when panic buying emptied stores of food.

In the face of scorn and contempt from former IRA members, a small number of dissident groups remain committed to armed action. What do they think they can achieve?

In the early hours of 19 April 2019, Belfast-born Irish republican Anthony McIntyre was awakened by his wife, Carrie, in their home in Drogheda, just south of the border in Ireland. “It’s not true, it can’t be true,” she was saying. “Lyra has been shot dead.”

Drowsy, confused and not quite believing what he had just been told, McIntyre fell back asleep. He awoke the following morning thinking, “What did she tell me?” McIntyre looked online, and saw that it was true: their good friend, the 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee, had been observing a riot in Derry the previous night when she was shot by a republican gunman.

Victims’ commissioner for England and Wales criticises CPS’s ‘woeful’ performance as prosecutions drop 26% in a year

The Crown Prosecution Service must be held to account for its continued “betrayal” of rape victims, the victims’ commissioner of England and Wales has said, as new figures revealed rape prosecutions had fallen to another record low.

Dame Vera Baird said the CPS’s “woeful” performance was at “the root of the problem”, after the organisation’s annual figures showed that the number of cases that reach court dropped by more than a quarter in 2020-21. There were 1,557 prosecutions in England and Wales in 2020-21, down 25.9% from 2,102 prosecutions in 2019-20.

Charities, trade unions and belief groups among coalition, which is also attacking judicial review bill

An “unprecedented” coalition of more than 220 organisations has attacked proposed changes to the Human Rights Act and judicial review as a threat to freedom and justice.

The judicial review and courts bill, published on Wednesday, introduces restrictions on challenges to government decision-making in the courts, while a review of the Human Rights Act has yet to be published, but there are fears it will lay the path for its dilution.

In Britain, most pet cats are free to roam, but where do they go and what do they get up to? We fitted six cats with GPS trackers and found out

As I prepared to write this piece, my three-year-old cat, Larry, had been missing for 24 hours. I had checked under the bins, posted in a community Facebook group and Googled variations of “Lost cat how long normal before come home?” all day.

Larry was a house cat when we took him in, but my boyfriend and I had recently moved to a house with a garden so had started letting him out. Just like that, our adorable, loving, docile cat turned into the neighbourhood bruiser. He stopped snuggling with us in the morning, instead impatiently pawing at the door even before we had put down his breakfast.

WHO proposal to audit Chinese laboratories is ‘arrogance towards science’, says health minister

China’s government has refused to cooperate with the second stage of an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19, labelling a proposal to audit Chinese labs as “arrogance towards science”.

Chinese health officials held a press conference on Thursday to respond to last week’s proposal by the World Health Organization that the second phase of its investigation into the origins of the pandemic include “audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019”, meaning the city of Wuhan.

Almost all the state’s new cases were isolating during their infectious period, as South Australia recorded two new cases

Victorian health authorities are confident a Covid-19 outbreak in the state is being quelled, despite the state recording more than 20 cases in consecutive days.

All but two of the 26 cases recorded on Thursday had been in isolation for their infectious period.

Sulphur-crested cockatoos are learning to pry open bins, with researchers finding the new skill has caught on in 44 Sydney suburbs in just two years. With help from the public, Australian and German ecologists have documented cockatoos learning the bin-diving behaviour through social interactions. The research, published in the journal Science, also found differences in the cockatoos’ bin-opening technique between different suburbs, arising from 'local subcultures'.

  • Video courtesy of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour, Australian Museum Research Institute and Taronga Conservation Society Australia. 
As pandemic restrictions begin to relax, common viruses that cause drippy noses, stuffy heads and other cold symptoms have roared back to taunt your immune system.
  • Smith Rowe signs long-term deal after Aston Villa bids rejected
  • Arsenal plan third offer for goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale

Arsenal have tied down Emile Smith Rowe to a new long-term contract in a major pre-season boost for Mikel Arteta’s side.

Smith Rowe, who burst on to the first-team scene last season and became one of the top performers for a largely inconsistent side, has also been given the No 10 shirt in a further show of confidence in the 20-year-old attacking midfielder’s ability.

Measures expected to include pass for accessing variety of public venues as government seeks to drive up vaccination rate

The Italian government is poised to introduce restrictions on unvaccinated people as it pushes for more citizens to take a vaccine against Covid-19 amid a resurgence in infections.

Ministers are meeting on Thursday evening to approve a decree that could result in the adoption of restrictions similar to those seen in France.

NHS leaders dismayed over having to divert care money as Treasury exempted from meeting full offer

Ministers are forcing the NHS to cover part of the cost of its 3% staff pay rise in a move which health service chiefs say could lead to cuts in patient care.

The NHS in England will have to find about £500m to help fund the 3% increase that the health secretary, Sajid Javid, announced on Wednesday, despite already struggling to meet the extra costs of the pandemic, including the care backlog, and treatment for the soaring numbers of people with “long Covid”.

AlphaFold program’s prediction of nearly 20,000 human protein structures now free for researchers

Last year the artificial intelligence group DeepMind cracked a mystery that has flummoxed scientists for decades: stripping bare the structure of proteins, the building blocks of life. Now, having amassed a database of nearly all human protein structures, the company is making the resource available online free for researchers to use.

The key to understanding our basic biological machinery is its architecture. The chains of amino acids that comprise proteins twist and turn to make the most confounding of 3D shapes. It is this elaborate form that explains protein function; from enzymes that are crucial to metabolism to antibodies that fight infectious attacks.

New research suggests the iconic Xerces blue butterfly may have been its own species.

Victorian health minister Martin Foley has criticised prime minister Scott Morrison’s ‘constant appeal’ to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi) to change its advice relating to AstraZeneca. ‘I thought it was an unnecessary shot at professionals doing their job,’ Foley said. ‘If there is a problem, work through it with them, don’t blame them for doing their job’

The government mandate follows a similar declaration by France and is part of a broader debate over policies that restrict the activities of the unvaccinated.

Brazilian photographer Felipe Dana arrived in Gaza to cover the aftermath of the last war in May and was struck by how children were suffering psychologically

Australia prime minister Scott Morrison has said sorry for the sluggish rollout of the country’s vaccination program. ‘I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year,’ he said. ‘But what’s more important is that we’re totally focused on ensuring that we’ve been turning this around.’ The apology comes after he refused to say sorry when pressed by a radio host on Wednesday

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UK entrepreneur may have to stand trial in US but it’s hard to imagine the same situation in reverse

The Mike Lynch affair is not over yet. Priti Patel, the home secretary, has to decide if the extradition of the former Autonomy boss to face 17 counts including wire fraud and securities fraud can go ahead. Assuming she gives a green light, Lynch can request a right to appeal. If granted, the case could go all the way to the supreme court.

That may be the best place for it. Some of the questions raised are fundamental. One is whether Lynch can expect a fair trial in the US. David Davis, former Conservative minister and former shadow home secretary, spoke about a process of “ferocious intimidation” that relies on plea bargains and produces a 97% “conviction” rate.

Among those facing the human rights sanctions are Cuba’s defense minister and special forces troops who swept up protesters in a wave of arrests larger than any other crackdown over the last few years, if not decades.

The menopause brings an end to menstruation – but in the lead-up, many women experience periods that can disrupt their lives and careers

If Emma Pickett needs to make a long journey, she checks her calendar very carefully. She will often take an emergency change of clothes when she goes out, and if giving a lecture for work, has to ensure it is no longer than half an hour. Yet she rarely hears anyone talk about the reason so many older women secretly go to all this trouble; why they’ve started to stick to black trousers, give up the sports they loved, or plan days out – especially with children – meticulously.

“If you have a bunch of 12-year-olds in the car, you can’t say: ‘Sorry chaps, I’m just bleeding heavily today,’” says Pickett, a 48-year-old breastfeeding counsellor and author of The Breast Book, who also happens to be among the one in five British women who suffer from heavy periods in the run-up to menopause (or perimenopause). “You can talk about hot flushes, make a joke about it. But because menstrual blood is gross in our society, there’s no conversation about it. There must be women round the world just pretending they need to dash off for some other reason.”

A reader seeks advice on navigating a parent whose stance on vaccination is at odds with his future.

Move comes after the Brazilian president wrongly said masks were ineffective and touted unproven cures

YouTube has removed videos from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s channel for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, becoming the latest tech giant to pull his statements about the pandemic.

YouTube said in a press release the decision was taken “after careful review” and without consideration for Bolsonaro’s job or political ideology. The far-right former army captain, who has overseen the world’s second deadliest outbreak, has won widespread criticism for railing against lockdowns, touting unproven cures, sowing vaccine doubts and shunning masks.

Dramatic footage shows the moment an aluminium plant exploded in China's central Henan province after a record-breaking rain storm. Local government officials said the Dengfeng Power Group's plant exploded when floodwaters from a nearby river breached a wall and entered it

Supplier benefits from unusually cold start to 2021 and from rise in regulator’s price cap

British Gas has more than doubled its profits for the first half of the year after cold weather prompted customers working from home to turn their heating up, and small companies began to reopen for business following Covid-19 lockdowns last year.

Profits at the UK’s biggest energy supplier soared to £172m for the first six months of the year, from £78m in the same months last year, even after losing 114,000 home energy customers since the end of last year.

Heavy rains have flooded parts of central China's Henan province, upending the lives of tens of millions and leaving at least 12 dead. More than 20cm of rain fell in one hour in Zhengzhou, the regional capital, flooding the city's subway system and major roads. The heavy rains began on 17 July before severe downpours on 20 July

Businesses, transports and councils are dealing with staff shortages due to NHS app-enforced Covid isolations

Some mainline railway signal locations are at “critical levels” in terms of staff shortages, according to the RMT union. Its general secretary told the BBC that four out of five “very important” signal locations on the mainline are at critical levels and there was one location where 17 signallers have been told to isolate.

  • Hospitals are filling up, especially in areas with low vaccinations
  • CDC offers no change in guidance on mask wearing

The US is “at another pivotal moment in this pandemic” as rising Covid-19 cases show no signs of abating, driven by the Delta variant, and some hospitals are filling up, especially in areas with low vaccination rates, government officials warned on Thursday.

The US government did not change its guidance on mask wearing, despite debates going on in the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about whether those who have been vaccinated should once again be officially advised to wear masks indoors to prevent the spread.

Sentimental toffee-tin favourite was first painting on a UK postage stamp but has divided opinion since 1825

To some it is the epitome of ghastly chocolate-box sentimentality, described by Wordsworth as “a wretched histrionic thing”. To others it is a dazzling tour de force, praised by one critic as showing “the sparkling intelligence of youth”.

Members of the public will soon be able to join the debate as the National Gallery on Thursday announced it was buying the work in question for the nation: Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of Charles William Lambton (1818-31), popularly known as the “Red Boy”.

Government needs to put forward coherent proposals with more detail about what communities could expect, committee says

Boris Johnson’s plan to “level up” depressed areas of the UK to close the gap with London and the south-east risks becoming an “everything and nothing policy” that lacks definition, coordination and planning, according to an all-party group of MPs.

In a report on progress towards boosting regional health and economic activity, MPs said the government needed to come forward with coherent proposals with more detail about the outcomes communities could expect from a levelling-up agenda and how success will be measured.

More than 1,000 people have died of the virus since June, and their loved ones don’t want them to be forgotten

Ninety-six deaths; ninety-six lives lost. This week, the UK’s daily reported coronavirus death toll rose to its highest number since March. Now grieving families are speaking out to remind the public that these are not just statistics, and to urge people to get vaccinated and keep taking precautions.

Since the UK announced zero coronavirus deaths on 1 June for the first time in nearly a year, a further 1,114 deaths have been reported including 73 on Wednesday, signifying amid soaring cases that the vaccination programme has weakened but not broken the link between infections and fatalities. The total number of those who have lost their lives to the pandemic now stands at 128,823.

The country’s hi-tech surveillance industry is part of its identity – which is why its dark side often goes unexamined

After extraordinary revelations that the Israeli company NSO Group’s mercenary cyber-surveillance tool, Pegasus, was allegedly used to target political dissidents, human rights activists, journalists and politicians around the world, Israel should be asking itself a few questions. Does its groundbreaking hi-tech industry have a dark side? Do the actors involved in exporting lucrative surveillance products – including the defence ministry, which must approve such sales, or perhaps the top levels of the previous government – bear responsibility?

While top Israeli officials are taking the revelations seriously, Israelis appear neither shamed nor shaken. The day after the NSO story broke, there was an announcement from another company that would eclipse talk of the rogue use of surveillance spyware. Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would cease the sale of its products in the “occupied Palestinian territories”. By midweek one had to squint to find NSO in the Israeli media, as the ice cream incident was dominating headlines. Persecution of human rights defenders, sabotaging freedom of the press, surveillance of political opposition and possible links to grisly murder all took second place, while a non-violent political protest by a single private company, set to begin a year and a half from now (when Ben and Jerry’s licensing deal runs out), overshadowed everything.

With daily reports of breakthrough infections and the rise of the Delta variant, vaccinated people may need to take a few more precautions. Here’s what you need to know.

Business secretary says critical worker list will be released on Thursday amid ‘pingdemic’ chaos

Businesses are to be told on Thursday whether their staff could qualify for “critical worker” status, enabling them to leave self-isolation in England if they are double-vaccinated to avert major disruption to food supplies.

Overnight, reports and pictures emerged of some empty supermarket shelves, blamed on the hundreds of thousands of people “pinged” or contacted by test and trace and told to stay at home due to the rapidly rising number of Covid cases, which are at their highest level since January 2021. Industries from petrol stations to the postal service have also reported being affected by absences.

Albert Dupontel stars in his own hectic romp, which tries and fails to be funny about disability and dying

Bafflement has to be the chief response to this laboured, weirdly misjudged comedy from French actor and film-maker Albert Dupontel, supposedly inspired by the anarchic spirit of Terry Gilliam, who has been credited for “participation exceptionelle” and gets a wacky cameo. It’s also dedicated to the memory of Terry Jones.

But in fact this is a frantically French romp in the commercial mainstream, about as far from Python as it’s possible to get. (The original French title, Adieu Les Cons!, put me in mind of Francis Veber’s similarly strained satire Le Dîner de Cons.) Virginie Efira – not a comedy natural – plays Suze, a woman dying of a bronchial disorder, of all hilarious things. Before she dies, she wants to find the child she was forced to give up as an unmarried teen mother. But while she is at the government office begging for help, that department’s IT technician, Monsieur Cuchas (Dupontel), depressed at being passed over for promotion, shouts the phrase in the title and makes a bizarrely botched attempt to kill himself in the neighbouring office, accidentally shooting the young man being so unhelpful to Suze.