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11 August

In the headlines

The death toll from the wildfires sweeping across the Hawaiian island of Maui has risen to 55, with 1,000 more missing. Governor Josh Green said it was the largest natural disaster in the state’s history; in the historic town of Lahaina, 80% of which has been destroyed, some tourists had to jump into the sea and tread water for hours. The UK recorded better-than-expected growth of 0.2% between April and June. Record temperatures saw GDP jump 0.5% in June alone, as people headed to pubs and restaurants to enjoy the summer weather. Vintage Fairy Liquid bottles have become the latest must-have collectable. The white containers with red tops, phased out in 2000, are fetching up to £200 on eBay, says Laura Freeman in The Times. “I sense a bubble.”


The most popular TV programme in America right now appears to be Suits, the previously unloved legal drama starring Meghan Markle (pictured). The show, which ran between 2011 and 2019, has been streamed for a record three billion minutes since being added to Netflix in mid-June. It’s funny, says Walt Hickey on Substack. Streaming companies spend billions of dollars on new content, yet “the main thing that viewers seem to want is a 134-episode nine-season procedural that ran on basic cable”.

Tomorrow’s world

Contrails, the thin white lines you sometimes see behind aeroplanes, account for around 35% of aviation’s global warming impact, according to the 2022 IPCC report. When Google teamed up with American Airlines to see if they could use AI to solve the problem, they found that with relatively minor changes to flight paths they could reduce contrails by a whopping 54%. If that were scaled up, which could be done for effectively zero cost, it would cut aviation’s global warming impact by almost 20%.


We are, apparently, in the middle of “Rat Girl Summer”, says The Washington Post: an era of “scurrying around the streets at all hours of the day and night, snacking to your heart’s delight, and going to places you have no business going to”. #RatGirlSummer emerged, naturally, on TikTok, where it has been shared more than 25 million times. The creator, Lola Kolade, offers four rules: spend most of your time out of your home; eat enjoyable food that gives you energy to “cause mayhem”; “let yourself be ruled by whimsy rather than embarrassment”; and, most importantly, don’t overthink. “If rats don’t think twice before stealing a slice of pizza and escaping across the subway platform,” Kolade asks, “why should Rat Girls?”


There’s something revealing about national character in each country’s favourite vape flavours, says Stuart McGurk in the FT. Here in cosmopolitan Britain we like combined fruit flavours (Watermelon Apple), sometimes with a hint of menthol (Strawberry Grape Ice) or tang (Sour Blue Raspberry). The straight-shooting Germans prefer a single fruit, Asian consumers go for minty ones, and Americans like them so sweet you can “feel the sugar on your teeth”. In the Middle East, it’s all about “rose petal variants, shisha-style”. Italian vapers are too macho for any of that – theirs is the only market that opts for tobacco flavour by choice.

Inside politics

Andrew Reid, a former UKIP treasurer, has revealed what it was like vetting aspiring candidates for the party. “One felt she was born on Sirius, eight light-years away,” he writes in a new book. Another “subscribed to the ‘lizard people’ theory about the royal family”, and yet another had been “convicted of starving 250 sheep to death”. Some tried to game the system. Before signing a pledge that they had “never engaged in, advocated or condoned racist, violent, criminal or anti-democratic activity”, one would-be candidate crossed out “criminal”.


It’s a golden lion tamarin, an endangered species of monkey in the Brazilian rainforest that has come back from the brink of extinction. Numbers of the long-tailed, copper-coloured simians were as low as 200 back in the 1970s, says AP. But thanks to an extensive conservation effort, the population is now up to around 4,800. “We are celebrating,” says Luís Paulo Ferraz, head of the Golden Lion Tamarin Association, “but always keeping one eye on other threats, because life’s not easy.”


Quoted 11.8.23

“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite.”

Bertrand Russell