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11 October

In the headlines

Russia appears to be running out of weapons and ammunition, GCHQ chief Jeremy Fleming tells Radio 4’s Today programme. Yesterday’s cruise missile and drone attacks against Ukrainian cities cost at least $400m. The government will have to make spending cuts of £60bn a year to balance its tax-cutting programme, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. That’s about 50% more than during “the hardest years of austerity”, says former Downing Street official Will Tanner on Twitter. Boozers are now offering “work from pub” packages, says the Daily Star. For £10, punters get Wi-Fi, a sandwich, unlimited tea and – most importantly – “heat!”

Human rights

Does the UN really care about human rights?

Anybody who still thinks the UN Human Rights Council cares about human rights must be either a “pathological optimist”, says The Wall Street Journal, or an idiot. Last week in Geneva, the council voted on whether it should debate China’s appalling abuse of the Uighurs in Xinjiang. The ballot fell 19-17 against even discussing it. And it wasn’t just the usual Beijing “lackeys” like Cuba and Venezuela. The world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia, voted to “ignore the documented persecution of a Chinese Muslim minority group”, as did Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, where Islam is the state religion.


We love being told what to do

Liz Truss may be a fierce enemy of state spending, says Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph, “but a government that spends £60bn (at least!) to keep your energy bills down is not”. This is just the latest massive bailout by the Tories, following furlough, Eat Out to Help Out and a National Insurance hike to bankroll the NHS. (The tax hike was cancelled, but the spending was not). Unfortunately, a simple solution to the energy crisis such as “promoting self-discipline” doesn’t fit with the current ideological programme. Truss’s government has blocked a planned public information campaign on the grounds that “people don’t like to be told what to do”. Well, “I could introduce you to a lady called Miss Whiplash [the 1980s English dominatrix] who has made lots of money proving that the opposite is true.”


The camo skirt, a favourite of early noughties pop stars like Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls, is making a comeback. Dua Lipa recently sported a fetching khaki miniskirt while exploring Chicago, while Rihanna layered hers over a pair of combat trousers. The best way to style the staple is with a body-hugging tank or turtleneck sweater and your favourite pair of knee-high boots, says The Cut. And always embrace the advice of fashion “guru” Paris Hilton: “Skirts should be the size of a belt. Life is short – take risks.”

Tomorrow’s world

The new iPhone keeps mistakenly thinking people riding rollercoasters have been in car crashes, says The Wall Street Journal. The new crash detection feature on the iPhone 14, as well as the new Apple Watch, automatically calls emergency services as unsuspecting rollercoaster riders are whipped around at high speed. One woman who was continuously contacted by an emergency dispatcher while on a ride only spotted the swarm of notifications when she was queuing up for the bumper cars. Upon realising, she quickly phoned back to reassure them that everything was OK.

Eating in

For the perfect cup of tea, never reboil a kettle, says Angela Pryce, a cuppa consultant who’s worked with Fortnum & Mason. Reboiling alters “the chemical structure of the water”, affecting its taste and appearance – far better to stick with “freshly drawn cold water”. Secondly, don’t put the milk in first if you’ve got a teabag in your mug, as it cools down the boiling water too much for proper brewing. The milk-first tradition supposedly comes from the need to protect delicate porcelain from cracking under naked attack from boiling water.


Vladimir Putin received an unusual present for his 70th birthday on Friday: a tractor. It came courtesy of his longtime ally, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, whose country specialises in producing agricultural equipment. It’s not immediately clear what Putin made of the “big-wheeled gift”, says BBC News, which had to compete with other unusual offerings, including two huge pyramids of melons from the president of Tajikistan.

Inside politics

America’s first bullet-train project has descended into an expensive mess. When the plan to link San Francisco and Los Angeles by high-speed rail was approved in 2008, it was expected to cost $33bn and be completed by 2020. Now the estimated bill has risen to $113bn, with only a “starter” line connecting a few cities in the middle of California to be finished by 2030. SNCF, the French rail company, got involved in the project early, but pulled out horrified in 2011. “They told the state they were leaving for North Africa, which was less politically dysfunctional,” one employee tells The New York Times. True enough, Morocco’s bullet train started service in 2018.


It’s an ultra-rare pink diamond, which fetched a record £52m at a Hong Kong auction last week. The 11.15-carat Williamson Pink Star diamond – named after another rose-coloured rock given to Queen Elizabeth II for her wedding – more than doubled the £20m estimate by Sotheby’s, setting a new world record for the highest price per carat. According to auctioneers, the “astounding result” was helped by the “alluring link to Queen Elizabeth”.


Quoted 11.10.22

“I intend to live for ever or die trying.”

Groucho Marx