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11 September

In the headlines

Westminster is in a “state of shock” over the news that a Conservative parliamentary researcher was arrested in March on suspicion of spying for China, says Politico. Chris Cash, 28, was the director of an influential policy group on Beijing, and had close links to senior Tories including Security Minister Tom Tugendhat. Rescuers in Morocco are “using their bare hands” to dig for survivors from Friday’s 6.8-magnitude earthquake, says BBC News. With heavy machinery unable to reach many of the remote mountainous villages near the quake’s epicentre, the death toll of 2,100 is still expected to rise. Home Secretary Suella Braverman says she is looking into banning American Bully XL dogs, after an 11-year-old girl in Birmingham was injured in the latest “appalling” attack involving the combative canines. Only four breeds are currently banned in the UK: the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, fila Brasileiro and dogo Argentino.


The winner of this year’s Washington Post travel photo contest was Karen Davis, for a snap of semi-feral Camargue horses in the marshy wetlands of southern France. Runners up include pictures of a group of penguins on an Antarctic iceberg; empty shelters in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park; the Utah desert from above; and the Golden Gate Bridge poking out of the San Francisco fog. See more here.

On the money

Swedish gangs are using Spotify to launder money, says Svenska Dagbladet. They convert the dirty cash – earned from drug deals, robberies, fraud and contract killings – into bitcoin, which is then used to pay nefarious techy types who sell “fake streams” on Spotify, earning real money for gang-affiliated artists. The practice, which began in 2019, is so widespread that some of the songs rise up the charts and became popular with ordinary listeners.

Quirk of history

Uncle Sam, the nickname for the American federal government, was a real person, says WorldStrides. During the War of 1812 – when British troops famously set fire to the White House – one of the suppliers to the US Army was a meat packer from Troy, New York, called Samuel Wilson. He labelled his barrels of beef “US”, which soldiers joked was short for Uncle Sam. In 1961, the US Congress formally adopted a resolution saluting Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s National symbol of ‘Uncle Sam’”.

From the archives

When speed limits were first introduced on Britain’s motorways as a trial in December 1965, many drivers weren’t happy about it. “It’s quite ridiculous,” one miffed motorist told the BBC. “You’re expected to, sort of, dawdle along at 70 miles an hour.” The trial was made permanent two years later after it led to a sharp fall in the number of accidents. Watch the full clip here.


To The Times:

I read the review of the exhibition dedicated to the life of Ken Dodd. I always thought his best line was after his protracted court case with the Inland Revenue. “I didn’t think it applied to me – I live by the seaside.”

Mike Roberts, Somerset


It’s the Great Wall of China, or at least it was, before a pair of lazy builders bulldozed through it to create a shortcut to their construction site. Police were called to the site in rural Youyu county when a large gap was found in a 500-year-old stretch of the structure – made of mud, rather than the more famous brick sections. They followed a trail left by digger tracks and arrested the two suspected culprits.


Quoted 11.9.23

“Nobody ever notices the host at a party, until the drink runs out.”

British author Anthony Gilbert