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11 November

In the headlines

American security officials are urging Ukraine to seize the “window of opportunity” for peace talks, following Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson. Ukrainian soldiers are wary of re-entering the city, says The Wall Street Journal, amid claims Putin’s forces have “booby-trapped” key buildings. The UK economy shrank by 0.2% between July and September, making a recession likely by the end of the year. The contraction adds to Britain’s “new winter of discontent”, says the I newspaper: 100,000 civil servants are planning strikes in the coming months, alongside nurses, train drivers, postal workers, binmen, midwives, and potentially teachers. The art collection of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has sold at auction for a record-breaking $1.5bn. The priciest work, Seurat’s 1888 pointillist masterpiece Les Poseuses (below), fetched $149.2m.


Perhaps Putin is sane after all

Russia’s retreat from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson is a “humiliating defeat” for Vladimir Putin, says Max Boot in The Washington Post. Kherson was the only regional capital the Kremlin had captured in the invasion; without having it as a foothold, Russia cannot take the nearby cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa to “choke off Ukraine from the Black Sea, its major trade artery”. Positioned on the west bank of the mighty Dnipro River, Kherson also controls Crimea’s water supply via the North Crimean Canal. Kyiv will presumably shut off the water flow to the Russian-occupied peninsula, making it harder for Moscow’s forces to control.


The curse of the establishment Blob

Europe is “haunted by a spectre”, says James Snell in Politico – “or, more accurately, a Blob”. The Blob is a “ravening collective” determined “to kill any innovative idea”. It thrives in Britain, where civil servants all share the views of the university-educated middle classes associated with urban living and technocracy. The Blob is indifferent to economic growth, and likes “high taxes, the EU and the memory of the 2012 London Olympics”. It hates bold, risk-taking reformers – hence the downfall of Liz Truss and her replacement by the Blob-friendly Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt, two devotees to the “orthodoxy of Britain’s famously insular and stuffy Treasury”.

Gone viral

This drone footage of dolphins swimming with a surfer off the coast of southern California has been viewed almost three million times on Twitter. “I don’t know why dolphins are always so nice to us,” writes one user. “It’s disconcerting.”


Not only is Egypt the home of the Suez Canal, a “global choke point for shipping”, says Wired: about 17% of the world’s internet traffic travels through 16 communication cables that stretch across the country between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Control of these overland cables, “which are often no thicker than a hosepipe”, gives Egypt a potent bargaining chip in the telecoms industry.


London’s Dellasposa gallery is holding a lucky dip of David Bailey polaroids. Each buyer pays £1,200 for an envelope containing an unidentified picture from the famous photographer, only finding out which snap they’ve snagged when they open it up. Lucky art-lovers could get a picture worth several thousand – photos of Princess Diana, Cara Delevingne and Mick Jagger are all up for grabs. If you’re less fortunate, says The Times, you might end up with “a polaroid of what looks like mannequins preparing for sex”. See the full lineup here.

Tomorrow’s world

France has come up with a clever policy to ramp up its renewables, says Engadget: a law requiring all car parks with 80 spaces or more, new or old, to be covered by solar panels. The government says the scheme could generate 11 gigawatts of energy, “the equivalent of 10 nuclear reactors” – all while keeping parked vehicles sheltered from the elements.

Quirk of history

The Old Bailey judge who sentenced the Kray twins to life in 1969 later said they’d told the truth only twice in the whole trial, says The Spectator: “once when Reggie called a barrister a ‘fat slob’, and once when Ronnie said the judge was biased”.


It’s an extremely rare “pink aurora”, says, which was visible over Norway last week after a solar storm created a temporary crack in the Earth’s magnetic field. The resulting hole enabled “highly energetic solar particles” to penetrate deep inside the planet’s atmosphere. The Northern Lights are usually green because these particles interact with oxygen atoms; the aurora above is pink because they went so close to Earth’s surface – within 62 miles – that they hit nitrogen, the most abundant element in the air down where we are.



quoted 11.11.22

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely re-arranging their prejudices.”

American philosopher William James