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News of September 2021

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What makes me thankful? I grew up in a world before Instagram. Sorry kids, no carefully curated data-extraction experience for you quite yet.

What makes me thankful? I grew up in a world before Instagram

On Monday, Facebook announced that it is “pausing” controversial plans to create Instagram for Kids, a version of its photo-sharing app designed for children under the age of 13. Does this mean Facebook has realised that it might not be in children’s best interest to hook them into social media at a tender young age? Has the company decided to put people above profit? Boris Johnson to consider using army to supply petrol stations. Hundreds of soldiers could be scrambled to deliver fuel to petrol stations running dry across the country due to panic buying and a shortage of drivers under an emergency plan expected to be considered by Boris Johnson on Monday.

Boris Johnson to consider using army to supply petrol stations

The prime minister will gather senior members of the cabinet to scrutinise “Operation Escalin” after BP admitted that a third of its petrol stations had run out of the main two grades of fuel, while the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents almost 5,500 independent outlets, said 50% to 90% of its members had reported running out. It predicted that the rest would soon follow. The developments led to growing fears that the UK could be heading into a second “winter of discontent” and warnings that shelves could be emptier than usual in the run-up to Christmas. House Democrats vote to establish federal right to abortion. House Democrats voted on Friday to establish a federal right to abortion, moving swiftly to advance the measure after the supreme court declined to stop a Texas law effectively outlawing the procedure and as they await a separate ruling next year that could further erode access.

House Democrats vote to establish federal right to abortion

The legislation, named the Women’s Health and Protection Act, is part of the party’s strategy to push back against the rush of state laws restricting abortions and to show their determination to defend reproductive rights, an issue they believe will resonate ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Joe Biden has urged support for the measure, but Republican opposition in the Senate all but ensures the bill will not reach his desk. With the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, presiding over the vote, the House passed the measure 218-211. All Republicans and one Democrat, congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas, opposed the bill. The Texas law makes no exemptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

Supply chain crisis: Tories poised to U-turn on foreign worker visas. Ministers are poised to agree an extraordinary post-Brexit U-turn that would allow foreign lorry drivers back into the UK to stave off shortages threatening fuel and food supplies.

Supply chain crisis: Tories poised to U-turn on foreign worker visas

Boris Johnson ordered a rapid fix on Friday to prevent the crisis escalating. Ministers met in an attempt to agree a short-term visa scheme permitting potentially thousands more lorry drivers from abroad to come to the UK. The prime minister is understood to have weighed in to demand a compromise from his warring cabinet, which was split over the issue, after scenes of chaotic queues at some petrol stations and warnings from suppliers that the shortage of fuel on forecourts could worsen. On Friday night, forecourt operator EG Group said it would introduce a limit of £30 worth of fuel per customer. The shortage of up 100,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers – exacerbated by the pandemic and Brexit – has also impacted the food sector and other industries. Prince Charles ‘cash-for-honours’ scandal grows with fresh allegations. Clarence House is facing fresh questions over further revelations in the royal “cash-for-honours” scandal involving middlemen who reportedly took cuts for setting up meetings between wealthy donors and the Prince of Wales.

Prince Charles ‘cash-for-honours’ scandal grows with fresh allegations

Prince Charles “met at least nine times” with William Bortrick, the alleged fixer at the heart of the claims, who is said to have received thousands of pounds to secure an honour for a Saudi billionaire and brokered a personal thank you letter from Charles to a Russian donor, the Sunday Times reported. Clarence House has previously said it had “no knowledge” of the practice of paid intermediaries arranging access to the royal family or honours in exchange for donations to the prince’s charities.

Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday reported that Charles met Bruno Wang, who describes himself as a Chinese philanthropist and donated £500,000 to the prince’s charity, the Prince’s Foundation. The Prince’s Foundation declined to comment on either articles when approached for comment. California recall vote show Trump’s big lie is now Republican playbook. It was a pre-emptive strike against truth by some of the biggest names on the American right wing.

California recall vote show Trump’s big lie is now Republican playbook

Former president Donald Trump warned that the ballot would be “rigged”. The Republican candidate Larry Elder predicted “shenanigans”. Taliban ban girls from secondary education in Afghanistan. The Taliban have effectively banned girls from secondary education in Afghanistan, by ordering high schools to re-open only for boys.

Taliban ban girls from secondary education in Afghanistan

Girls were not mentioned in Friday’s announcement, which means boys will be back at their desks next week after a one-month hiatus, while their sisters will still be stuck at home. The Taliban education ministry said secondary school classes for boys in grades seven to 12 would resume on Saturday, the start of the Afghan week. “All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” the statement said. France recalls ambassadors to US and Australia after Aukus pact. France has recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia for consultations sparked by the “exceptional seriousness” of Canberra’s surprise decision to cancel an order for French-built submarines and its security pact with Washington and London.

France recalls ambassadors to US and Australia after Aukus pact

The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the order to bring the ambassadors back to Paris “immediately” was made at the request of the French president, Emmanuel Macron. “This exceptional decision is justified because of the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States,” Le Drian said in a statement late on Friday. The French are furious at Australia’s decision to cancel a A$90bn (£48bn) contract it signed with the French company Naval Group in 2016 for a fleet of 12 state-of-the-art attack class submarines.

That deal became bogged down in cost over-runs, delays and design changes. After news of the ambassador recall, Lord Ricketts added: “Unprecedented between allied nations? Taiwan welcomes support from major allies after Aukus pact riles China. Taiwan has welcomed support from major allies after a US-Australia ministerial forum pledged stronger ties with the island and the European parliament called for a bilateral trade deal.

Taiwan welcomes support from major allies after Aukus pact riles China

A spokesperson for the foreign ministry also cautiously noted the British prime minister’s refusal to rule out getting involved in a war with China over the island, but said Taiwan was not asking anyone to fight on its behalf. The statements come amid rising international concern over China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region and one day after the US, UK and Australia announced the Aukus pact, a significant new security partnership, widely viewed as a move designed to counter Beijing. On Friday, senior government ministers at the annual US and Australian ministerial consultation (Ausmin) stated mutual intent to “strengthen ties with Taiwan”, which they described as a “leading democracy and a critical partner for both countries”.

None of the Aukus nations recognise Taiwan as a country. SpaceX rocket to take world’s first all-civilian crew into orbit. The world’s first crew of “amateur astronauts” is preparing to blast off on a mission that will carry them into orbit before bringing them back down to Earth at the weekend.

SpaceX rocket to take world’s first all-civilian crew into orbit

The four civilians, who have spent the past few months on an astronaut training course, are due to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8.02pm local time on Wednesday (1.02am UK time on Thursday). Barring any glitches, the two men and two women on the Inspiration4 mission are expected to orbit the planet for three or four days, performing experiments and admiring the view through a glass dome fitted to their Dragon capsule, before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. While the Inspiration4 crew has had flying lessons, centrifuge sessions to experience the G-forces of launch, and hours of training in SpaceX’s capsule simulator, the mission will be almost entirely automated.

‘Heartbroken’ Osage Nation leaders decry sale of sacred Missouri cave with ancient artwork. A Missouri cave containing Native American artwork from more than 1,000 years ago was sold at auction Tuesday, disappointing leaders of the Osage Nation who hoped to buy the land to “protect and preserve our most sacred site”. A bidder agreed to pay US$2.2m to private owners for what’s known as “Picture Cave,” along with the 43 hilly acres that surround it near the town of Warrenton, about 60 miles (97km) west of St Louis. Bryan Laughlin, director of Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers, the St Louis-based firm handling the auction, said the winning bidder declined to be named. Trump’s coup attempt has not stopped – and Democrats must wake up. The former president’s attempted coup is not stopping. He still refuses to concede and continues to rile up supporters with his bogus claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

Tens of millions of Americans believe him. Last Sunday, at a Republican event in Franklin, North Carolina, Congressman Madison Cawthorn, repeating Trump’s big lie, called the rioters who stormed the Capitol on 6 January “political hostages”. Cawthorn also advised the crowd to begin stockpiling ammunition for what he said was likely to be American-versus-American “bloodshed” over unfavorable election results.

“Much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs,” he said, “there’s nothing I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American.” Why the industry should heed China’s crackdown on video game players. Being a parent can feel, at times, like leading an authoritarian nation of one. You control what your subject can read, who they can speak to and what they can do; you deal with periodic revolts against your rule and occasionally engage in a simulacrum of democratic decision-making while knowing that you control the outcome.

But for all that authoritarian leaders like to present themselves as a parental figure for the country at large, it’s rare that they actually get involved with the day-to-day work of, well, parenting. Which is why the news that China is taking on the job of limiting gaming time caught the attention of so many parents I know. According to state news outlets, online gaming companies will be required to limit under-18s to just three hours of playtime a week, between the hours of eight and nine in the evening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. ‘Roe v Wade is a husk’: anguish and anger in Texas after abortion ruling. Anti-abortion bounty hunters began calling Amy Hagstrom Miller’s chain of four independent abortion clinics in Texas just hours after the supreme court issued a two-paragraph order that effectively ended access to 85% of abortion services in the state. Their apparent hope is to make an appointment for an illegal abortion, catch out the clinic and sue for a $10,000 reward, the bounty Texas lawmakers have placed on the heads of anyone – from cab drivers to clergy – who dare aid a woman in obtaining an abortion past six weeks gestation, before most know they are pregnant.

For clinic workers, as well as so many other people, a climate of fear has now descended on Texas. ‘I believe it’s a mental health issue’: the rise of Zoom dysmorphia. The effects of staring at ourselves for hours at a time during video conference calls has resulted in a breakdown of how we perceive our own self image. The phenomenon has been nicknamed “Zoom dysmorphia” by the dermatologist and Harvard Medical School professor Dr Shadi Kourosh, who has noticed an increase in appointment requests for appearance-related issues during the pandemic. “I was concerned that the time spent on these cameras was negatively affecting people’s perceptions of their appearance,” she says. Kourosh likens the video conference via phone camera to a “funhouse mirror” because, she says: “[People] are not looking at a true reflection of themselves. They don’t realise it is a distorted mirror.” She says factors such as the angle and how close we are to the camera mask how we really look.

New Zealand stabbings: man shot dead by police after ‘terrorist attack’ in Auckland. Covid: Vaccine complications dwarfed by virus risks. Mayor suggests Helsinki declare itself an English-language city. The US supreme court is now cruel, partisan – and squandering its moral authority. US supreme court refuses to block radical Texas abortion law.