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11 July

In the headlines

A lawyer representing the young person at the centre of the BBC presenter scandal has insisted “nothing inappropriate” happened and dismissed the story as “rubbish”. Director General Tim Davie will face questions over his organisation’s handling of the debacle during the corporation’s annual review later today. Mortgage rates have surpassed the level they reached during last year’s mini-Budget chaos to hit a 15-year high. The average two-year fixed-rate deal has risen to 6.66% and is predicted to top 7% by early next year. An eclectic collection of Charlie Watts’s literary loot is being auctioned off following his death two years ago. Items up for grabs include the Rolling Stones drummer’s first editions of The Great Gatsby and The Hound of the Baskervilles, and a life-sized replica of the Bayeux Tapestry.


When I was 19, says Rory Stewart in The Rest is Politics, I worked as a tutor for Princes William and Harry. One night, after a late bath, I found that I couldn’t unlock the bathroom door. As I struggled with the key, Prince Charles – ever the environmentalist – knocked on the door and reminded me to turn the lights off before bed. “I’m really sorry sir,” I replied. “I seem to have locked myself in the loo.” When he told me to stop being ridiculous, I turned the key so sharply that it snapped. The door – which turned out to be armoured – was broken down about 20 minutes later, revealing “the Prince of Wales in his dressing gown directing a group of people with axes”.


Sending a 👍 emoji may now be considered legally binding, at least in Canada. A judge in Saskatchewan ruled that when a grain dealer texted a photo of a signed contract to a farmer and received the thumb-up emoji in response, that constituted a legal agreement. The farmer, who never signed the contract or sent the grain, was forced to pay $61,000.

Inside politics

Joe Biden may have cultivated an image as a “kindly uncle”, says Axios, but behind closed doors he has a “quick-trigger temper”. Aides says he often blasts them by yelling things like “God dammit, how the f*** don’t you know this?!” and “Don’t f***ing bullshit me!” These “private eruptions” – so common that some staff try to avoid meeting the President alone – are seen as an “initiation ceremony” for new recruits. “If Biden doesn’t yell at you, it could be a sign he doesn’t respect you.”

Gone viral

This video of fireworks taken by a passenger as their plane landed in LA on 4 July has racked up more than 2.6 million views on Twitter. “You had the best seat in the city,” commented one user.

Quirk of history

During World War II, says the Knowable podcast, an American army doctor called Henry Beecher was preparing to operate on a badly injured soldier when he realised the hospital was out of morphine. Instead of admitting that to the patient, he simply injected him with saline solution – and found that he could carry out the operation “without any real anaesthetic”. Beecher had inadvertently discovered what we now call the placebo effect


It’s an artist’s illustration of the shiniest planet in the known universe. LTT 9779 b is around five times larger than Earth, and entirely shrouded in mirror-like reflective clouds made up of silicates and metals like titanium. Scientists at the European Space Agency say the gleaming exoplanet, which is about 260 light-years away, reflects 80% of its star’s light back into space.


“The war against intelligence is always waged in the name of common sense.”

Roland Barthes