Tuesday briefing: Alarming frequency of near-blackouts
- Aug 13, 2019 12:04 pm GMT
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Top story: Chaos loomed three times before
Hello – Warren Murray shedding some light on matters this morning.
National Grid put Friday’s chaotic blackout down to “incredibly rare” circumstances but the electricity network had three near-misses in as many months leading up to it.
The Guardian has been told that in every month since May there has been a “frequency excursion” – a severe dip in the grid’s frequency from its normal range around 50Hz. On Friday the blackout was triggered when the frequency slumped to 48.88Hz. Industry sources have confirmed the grid’s frequency has also fallen below 49.6Hz three other times in recent months – the deepest falls seen on the UK grid since 2015.
The energy regulator, Ofgem, has demanded an interim report on the blackouts by the end of the week and a full technical report by early September. Here are the questions National Grid will be called on to answer.
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Tuesday catch-up – Getting in early this week …
> UK diplomats are under orders from Boris Johnson to start winding up their work in Brussels because of Brexit. Critics say it will estrange the UK from key decisions. Labour is looking at a rapid no-confidence vote against the PM in September.
> Graduates of English universities face an increasing debt burden as total interest on undergraduate loans doubles from £4.2bn to £8.6bn a year by 2024. Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, has repeated Labour’s pledge to scrap tuition fees.
> There has been a fatal stabbing overnight in Camden, north London. Police were called to Munster Square at about 11.10pm and the victim was declared dead at the scene. There has been no name or age released, and no arrest has yet been made.
> Hong Kong’s airport remains disrupted with many flights cancelled amid continued protests against the Chinese Communist party’s control of the territory. Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive, has said it is headed down a “path of no return”.
> We have rounded up the best jokes from this year’s Edinburgh festival. The Briefing’s picks: the one about free-range chicken, followed closely by estate agent.
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Chlamydia shot works – The first ever vaccine against chlamydia has been deemed safe in a clinical trial. About 131m cases of the sexually transmitted infection are diagnosed worldwide every year and there were almost 220,000 new cases in England in 2019. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, but infection often has no symptoms and many people are unaware they have it. It is described as a “hidden epidemic” which without treatment can lead to fertility issues and an increased risk of HIV. The findings raise hopes that the jab could eventually be given at the same time as the HPV vaccine, which protects against certain cancers including that of the cervix.
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More proof of climate crisis – Gases heating the planet in 2018 were higher than humans have ever recorded, according to findings by the American Meteorological Society and US government. Greenhouse gas levels exceeded 60 years of modern measurements and 800,000 years of ice core data. The data was collected from more than 470 scientists in 60 countries. The global annual average for carbon dioxide – elevated by activities like driving cars and burning fuel – was 407.4 parts per million, 2.4 ppm higher than in 2017. And 2018 was the fourth-warmest on record since the mid- to late-1800s, while sea levels were the highest on record as global heating melted land-based ice and expanded the oceans. Sea surface temperatures were also near a record high while Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent was near a record low and glaciers continued to melt and lose mass for the 30th consecutive year.
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Canada suspects died by suicide – The triple-murder suspects Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky killed themselves, police have said after autopsies. Their bodies were found in the bushland of Canada’s Manitoba province after a weeks-long manhunt. They are blamed for the killings of American Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, and of Leonard Dyck, a Canadian botanist. Police are investigating a photograph of Nazi paraphernalia allegedly sent online by Schmegelsky.
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Stink on the Northern line – If you are plunging into London’s Kennington station today you might want to hold your nose. Mystery surrounds a strange odour that hangs in the air, described some some as smelling like sick, and by others as redolent of Burger King. In typical underground-ese, Transport for London said: “We apologise to customers who may have experienced an unpleasant smell at Kennington tube station recently. We are investigating the cause and will work to remove it as quickly as we can.”
Today in Focus podcast: Crisis in Kashmir
Azhar Farooq and Vidhi Doshi report on the consequences of the Indian government’s decision to impose direct rule on Kashmir from Delhi. Plus Jason Burke on life in post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.
Lunchtime read: High stakes of remain game
A week after Britain voted out, tens of thousands of people massed in Parliament Square – draped in the EU flag or wearing it as warpaint on their faces. “A new movement had been born: remainism,” writes Daniel Cohen today. “Remainists feel embattled, ignored; they lament what their country has become – the kinds of sentiments more usually associated with leavers.
“They used to pride themselves on their moderation; now, spurred on by rage, they divide the world into enemies and allies. What they are doing is loud, obsessive, tribal, confrontational – politics, in other words. Their fundamental demand – stopping Brexit – is now firmly in the mainstream. But with Boris Johnson in No 10 and 31 October approaching, the remainists are running out of time.” Separately, John Denham argues that for the sake of Britain’s own union, the “English interest” needs to be separated from ugly English nationalism. “English-identifying voters are the least satisfied with their political representation and are unlikely to feel Westminster understands them. They want English laws made by English MPs, and many would like a parliament for England. Certainly, if the union is to survive, English voters need to be convinced of its modern relevance just as much as voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
Eddie Jones has admitted he is powerless to stop England’s problem with off-field indiscipline after omitting Ben Te’o from his World Cup squad following his altercation with Mike Brown at a recent training camp in Treviso. England paceman Jofra Archer has insisted on the eve of his Test debut at Lord’s on Wednesday that he is ready for the five-day challenge and warned Australia not to doubt his stamina. Anthony Joshua is “very comfortable” with staging his heavyweight title rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia, despite growing criticism from human rights organisations, and does not believe it will damage his reputation, his manager Eddie Hearn has said. The rocky alliance between Suzann Pettersen and the Solheim Cup continues after the Norwegian was surprisingly handed a wildcard pick for the European team seeking to win back the trophy next month at Gleneagles. Andy Murray’s return to singles action after a seven-month absence ended in defeat in Cincinnati and the 32-year-old confirmed he would not consider playing singles at the US Open. And barely two weeks after winning $3m at the Fortnite World Cup, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf was “swatted” in the middle of a livestreaming session.
Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street lower amid anxiety the US-Chinese trade war will hurt already slowing global economic growth. Meanwhile investors were rattled by a Chinese government statement saying protests in Hong Kong showed signs of “terrorism”. Beijing’s use of the term terrorism “triggered a wave of risk aversion across global markets,” said a VM Markets report. The FTSE is very slightly higher ahead of the opening bell while the pound is trading at $1.206 and €1.078.
Several papers carry pictures of Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, at their first official engagement inside No 10. The Telegraph’s accompanying headline is “Public backs Johnson to shut down Parliament for Brexit”, quoting a poll that suggests voters want to exit on 31 October by any means. The Times has the same photo with the headline “US promises fast-track trade deals after Brexit”.
The Mail also carries the photo of the new couple in No 10, but it’s splash is “Ban hands-free calls in the car”. The i leads on that story too: “Hands-free car phone crackdown planned”. The Guardian splashes on “National Grid accused as series of blackout near-misses revealed” and also carries a picture of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, with the headline: “Focus turns to British socialite”.
The Mirror and the Express both have stories on Nigel Farage: “Storm over Farage’s vile attack on royal family” is the Mirror’s headline. The Express has “Fury over Farage’s scathing rant at the Royal Family”, but the paper saves its splash for “Shocking rise in police assaults”, reporting 23 attacks a day on officers in a “crime epidemic”.
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