Wednesday briefing: Prices rise as shortages bite

Ciao, Warren Murray here, ready to dive back into the news with you this Wednesday.

UK shop prices rose 0.4% in agosto, according to the British Retail Consortium, in a sign that driver shortages and Brexit-induced red tape are beginning to hit household budgets. Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC, disse: “Food retailers are fighting to keep their prices down as far as possible. But mounting pressures – from rising commodity and shipping costs as well as Brexit-related red tape, mean this will not be sustainable for much longer, and food price rises are likely in the coming months.”

There was a 0.6% rise in non-food prices, including a sharp increase in the cost of electrical goods caused by shortages of microchips and shipping problems. The indications of rising prices in the UK come as inflation across the eurozone surged to its highest level in a decade, with mounting costs of energy, goods and services hitting household spending.

Raab’s reckoning – Dominic Raab faces a grilling by MPs today over “the biggest failure of foreign policy in a generation” after the government was left scrambling to airlift thousands of people in Afghanistan. Ministers are to announce that refugees arriving under the Afghan relocation and assistance policy (Arap) for interpreters and others who supported Britain in Afghanistan will immediately be granted indefinite leave to remain as part of “operation warm welcome”, allowing them to study and work. Joe Biden is not backing down from his insistence on the rapid withdrawal, insisting it has been “not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries."

Sir Simon Gass, one of the UK’s most senior intelligence chiefs, has held talks with Taliban leaders in Qatar to negotiate safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals and Afghans who worked with UK forces, and to seek assurances the country will not become a base for international terrorists.

Midweek catch-up

> Concerns are growing over global coffee supplies amid tough coronavirus travel restrictions in Vietnam. It is the world’s second-biggest exporter of coffee, after Brazil, and a big producer of the widely used robusta bean variety.

> Shell has announced its aim to install 50,000 on-street electric vehicle (EV) charging points in the UK over the next four years, in an attempt to provide a third of the network needed to hit national climate change targets.

> Air pollution is cutting short the lives of billions of people by up to six years, secondo un nuovo rapporto. Coal burning is the principal culprit, researchers have said, and India is the worst affected. China has slashed air pollution in the last seven years but it is still shortening lives by 2.6 anni.

> Britney Spears’ attorney has accused her father of trying to get about $2m in payments before stepping down from the conservatorship that controls her life and money. A representative for Jamie Spears did not immediately respond to a request for comment – he has previously denied wrongdoing and defended his handling of his daughter’s financial affairs.

> The hotel chambermaids’ association Las Kellys in Spain is setting up a bookings website where tourists will be able to pick a room according to whether the staff enjoy decent working conditions – not just whether there are good balcony views.

‘Trustful’ or ‘accuser’? Radically different experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic have created toxic social divides in Europe, the European Council on Foreign Relations says. In its poll, majorities in eastern and southern states – countries like Hungary, Spagna, Portogallo, Poland, Bulgaria and Italy – said they or their family and friends had been adversely affected by the pandemic. But majorities in northern and western Europe felt the opposite – three-quarters of people in Denmark, 65% in Germany, 64% in France and 63% in the Netherlands said they were not seriously affected. Across all countries surveyed, 64% of respondents were broadly “trustful” of official decisions about Covid-19, mentre 19% were “suspicious” and about 17% were “accusers”, believing the main objective was to increase governments’ control over people’s lives. The lowest “trustful” figures were in Poland (38%), Bulgaria (50%) and France (56%).

Big change of heart – Patients in England are to start receiving a “gamechanger” drug that doctors say will protect tens of thousands of lives by cutting the number of people who have a heart attack or stroke. Inclisiran helps the liver rid the body of “bad” cholesterol, even in people who have already tried using statins. It is being made available immediately on the NHS after Novartis, the maker, agreed to lower the price. The deal will result in 300,000 patients using inclisiran in the next three years.

Day after day, Ahmad risked his life to come to the airport with his family, British passport in hand – only to be left behind when the last evacuation flight departed. Now he and many others who hoped to be rescued face an uncertain future in the new Afghanistan.

Stress can feel like a baseline condition for many of us – especially during a pandemic. But there are ways to help alleviate the very worst of it, whether through support, sleep or radical self-care.

Antoine Griezmann was the biggest mover on transfer deadline day, after the forward rejoined Atlético Madrid in a shock move from Barcelona on a season’s loan with an obligation for the transfer to become permanent. Harry Kane has insisted his conscience is clear after his unsuccessful attempts to force a move from Tottenham to Manchester City. British teenager Emma Raducanu defeated Stefanie Voegele 6-2, 6-3 in her debut US Open outing, and said after winning on her seventh match point: “I think everyone could tell I was getting a bit shaky.” Women’s world No 1 Ash Barty overcame a scare against Vera Zvonereva to reach the second round, while men’s top seed Novak Djokovic was too good for the ailing Holger Rune in his opener at Flushing Meadows.

Arsenal lifted the pressure on a trip to the Czech Republic in nine days’ time with un 3-0 defeat of Slavia Prague as they bid for a spot in the Women’s Champions League group stage. Joe Root has called on England to strive for a ruthless performance in the fourth Test against India, starting on Thursday at the Oval, with Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood all pushing to enter the captain’s swirling selection thoughts. And Brazilian football great Pelé has said that he was undergoing routine exams in hospital and that he was in good health, denying a report of a more serious health issue.

Asian stock markets have been mixed so far after Wall Street ended August with a gain for the seventh straight month. Shanghai and Hong Kong retreated while Tokyo and South Korea advanced. The Kospi in Seoul added a little, while Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 fell. New Zealand, Singapore and Bangkok gained while Indonesia declined. The FTSE is poised to open higher, while the pound is worth $1.373 and €1.164 at time of writing.

A night-vision photo of a departing US soldier lends an eerie air to the front of the Custode, the headline asking: “Why did they come if they wanted to leave us like this?” Page one also carries “No 10’s Covid passports fuel anti-vax feeling among doubters, study shows". Same picture and similar sentiments on Afghanistan in the Volte: “Our country is liberated, but we are left with ruins”. Il Telegraph says “Biden: US is no longer the world’s policeman”.

“Death to the west” – the Metro reports that the Taliban celebrated and gloated as western troops left. “Now UK’s in talks with Taliban” says the Daily Mail, which is about attempts to evacuate more British citizens and allies (il i calls it “Dunkirk by WhatsApp”). The Mail’s main picture shows Geronimo the alpaca with TB being led away to be put down, about which the Sun says “Geroni-no!” reporting that the animal was “hauled off and then executed”.

Il Mirror has “Miracle jab to stop heart attacks” and the headline in the Express about inclisiran is the same except for “Revolutionary” in place of “Miracle”. Il Financial Times says “Decade-high eurozone inflation raises heat on ECB to cut stimulus” – you can get the gist of that here.

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