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Parties Battle Over Economic Plans

The shadow chancellor has unveiled the Labour party’s plans to invest £400bn in tackling the climate crisis and social deprivation. In an election campaign speech in Liverpool yesterday, John McDonnell outlined Labour’s economic priorities and vowed to devolve some political decision-making to the north of England. The party has pledged £250bn for the creation of a green transformation fund, which would invest in clean energy over ten years. A new social transformation fund would also be created, channelling £150bn of investment into infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals and social housing. McDonnell said Labour’s aim was to shift “the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people”.

Meanwhile, Conservative chancellor Sajid Javid has revealed his own party’s economic plans. Speaking in Manchester, Javid said Britain needed “new rules for a new economic era” and pledged to loosen constraints on borrowing in order to spend as much as £20bn more on infrastructure projects each year. The chancellor said he intended to scrap existing Tory rules on borrowing to allow infrastructure spending to be boosted to a maximum of 3% of GDP. Javid was challenged on his plans to increase borrowing after criticising Labour for wanting to do the same thing. The chancellor defended his strategy, claiming that the Tories had “good reasons” for borrowing, while Labour could not be trusted with Britain’s economy. 


All 39 bodies discovered in a lorry container in Grays last month have been formally identified, Essex police has said. The 31 men and eight women found dead have all been identified as Vietnamese nationals. In a statement, assistant chief constable Tim Smith described the full identification of the victims as “an important step in the investigation” and said it would allow police to work with their Vietnamese counterparts to support families affected by the tragedy. "It is only right that we provide an opportunity for family members to take in the news confirming the death of their loved ones before releasing any further information,” Smith added.

The investigation into the deaths remains ongoing. On Monday, eight people were arrested in Vietnam in connection with the incident. They are believed to be members of an illegal people-smuggling ring operating in Vietnam’s Nghe An province. In the UK, two people have been charged with manslaughter over the deaths, including the driver of the lorry, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson. British police have also urged two other suspects, brothers Ronan and Christopher Hughs, to hand themselves in to the authorities. Both are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.

It made me understand the mechanisms of control and fascination.

French actress Adèle Haenel discusses the documentary Leaving Neverland, which she claims prompted her to speak out about her own experience of sexual harassment. Haenel said the documentary, which examines child abuse claims made against the singer Michael Jackson, changed her perspective on her relationship with film director Christophe Ruggia. Haenel was cast in Ruggia’s 2002 film Les Diables aged 12. The director reportedly developed an obsession with the young actress while filming.

According to Haenel, Ruggia invited her to his home where he forcibly kissed her. The director has admitted making “errors” in his behaviour but has denied accusations of sexual molestation. Haenel has refused to pursue legal action against Ruggia due to her mistrust of the French judicial system. However, many have heralded her decision to speak out about the harassment as a “turning-point” for the #MeToo movement in France. Among them is fellow actress Marion Cotillard, who praised Haenel for “breaking such a heavy silence".

In other news...


A former Congolese rebel leader has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bosco Ntaganda, nicknamed ‘Terminator’, was found guilty of sexual slavery, war crimes and crimes against humanity by judges on the ICC. It is the longest sentence handed down by the court since its creation in 2002. Ntaganda’s crimes were committed in the region of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2003. Judges said the rebel leader had a key role in running operations for the Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP) group, ordering its fighters to target and kill civilians. The group was responsible for several massacres of men, women and children in the region. Ntaganda surrendered to the US embassy in Rwanda in 2013 after the rebel group divided.


ITV, the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have joined forces to launch streaming service BritBox. The service is priced at £5.99 per month and will feature the broadcasters’ popular shows including Downton Abbey, Gavin & Stacey, Love Island and Broadchurch. ITV's group director for streaming, Reemah Sakaan, also confirmed a "whole slate of original programmes" are currently in development for BritBox. The service has been launched in the UK to take on streaming rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Sakaan has hailed BritBox as a UK-focused streaming option, saying: “The other streamers are US-focused so they make dramas for the US market, whereas BritBox is the faces, people and places that you know."


The London Stock Exchange is considering shortening trading hours after City lobby groups claimed long working days were impacting mental health and recruitment. In a letter to stock exchanges including London, Germany and Amsterdam, the lobby groups said the 8.5-hour European trading day was one of the longest in the world but did not deliver “material benefits” to investors. By comparison, the trading day is 6 hours in Asia and 6.5 hours in the US. The lobby groups have asked that European trading hours be changed locally from 8am-4:30pm to 9am-4pm. They believe the changes could help improve the mental health of city traders and help attract more women and working parents to the industry. The London Stock Exchange said it would consider the groups’ request in a formal consultation.


The ceiling of the Piccadilly Theatre in London partially collapsed on Wednesday, injuring several members of the audience. The venue was reportedly 20 minutes into its performance of the Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman when audience members began hearing the sound of dripping water coming through the ceiling. Part of the auditorium’s ceiling then caved in, prompting the evacuation of more than 1,000 people. Four theatre-goers were hospitalised while others were treated at the scene by paramedics. The Ambassador Theatre Group confirmed Thursday’s showing of the play would be cancelled and said it would provide an update on future performances as soon as possible.


A Scottish tourist who went missing while swimming off the coast of Réunion island in the Indian Ocean has reportedly been eaten by a shark. The 44-year-old man was last seen while swimming on Saturday. His failure to return prompted his wife to raise the alarm. Local authorities organised a full search of the island but both divers and sniffer dog patrols failed to locate the man. However, when a tiger shark was killed after posing a threat to other tourists swimming off Réunion this week, a post-mortem revealed a severed hand in the shark’s stomach. The hand was reportedly wearing the wedding ring of the missing British holidaymaker. While DNA tests are yet to be carried out on the hand, the island’s CSR Shark Safety Centre was told the ring “conformed to one identified by the man’s wife”.


‘Climate strike’ has been named Collins Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year. The dictionary’s lexicographers preside over a corpus of 9.5bn words, drawing up a list of ten significant new terms each year. ‘Climate strike’ has been crowned word of the year after 2019 saw protests staged across the globe in response to the ecological crisis. Its official definition is: “A form of protest in which people absent themselves from education or work in order to join demonstrations demanding action to counter climate change.”

Picture Of The Day
A ribbon is added to an installation in Berlin, Germany (Source: The Times)
A man hangs a ribbon as part of an art installation being built near the Brandenburg gate in Berlin. The installation has been created to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall and is made up of thousands of ribbons on which ordinary people have written messages. The ribbons are to be hung where the wall once stood on Saturday, marking 30 years since the structure was toppled.