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12 August

In the headlines

GCSE grades have reached a record high for the second year running after exams were replaced by teacher assessment. Today’s results saw top marks rise by 2.7% to 28.9%. The Taliban are just 80 miles from the Afghan capital, Kabul, after Ghazni fell yesterday – the 10th city to be captured in less than a week. A power-sharing deal with the insurgents is on the table, a government source tells Al Jazeera. The smiley-face emoji is perceived by Gen Z as “patronising or passive-aggressive”. The Daily Star asks, how do “bedwetters” survive in this cruel world? 

Comment of the day


On the way back

Animal testing, which could be used for cosmetics in the UK for the first time since 1998, says The Guardian. The Home Office told charity Cruelty Free International the government had “reconsidered its policy” and was aligning with a European Chemical Agency decision that some cosmetic ingredients must be tested on animals for safety reasons. 


The + sign is everywhere these days, says Eric Schwartau in Gawker. It got tacked on to LGBT in 2017 as a “catch-all inclusivity signifier” and now helps “behemoth media conglomerates” rebrand as subscription streaming services: Disney+, Apple TV+, CNN+ and so on. But something doesn’t add up. These streamers offer us “adaptations, reboots and remakes” – less, not more. The + is an “identity void” for both sexuality and entertainment. “In our haste to include everything, we may end up with nothing.” 

Gone viral

A picture of a goose flying upside down has caused a stir on Instagram. The Dutch photographer thought it didn’t know how to fly because of the wind, but it turns out the bird was just showing off in front of friends. It’s known as whiffling, an expert told news website WGME. “Once young geese have mastered flying, they start to see what is possible and how far they can go. They do it to brag to their peers. Like, look at me!”


GCSE results suggest girls are “cleverer” than boys, says education expert Professor Alan Smithers in The Times. A third of the exams taken by girls this year were awarded at least a grade 7, equivalent to an A, compared with a quarter taken by boys. This reflects a trend first seen in the 1980s. 


Quoted 12-08

“I’m sick of following my dreams, man. I’m just going to ask where they’re going and hook up with ’em later.”

Comedian Mitch Hedberg

Snapshot answer

It’s a 121-year-old box of chocolates, sent by Queen Victoria as a Christmas treat to troops fighting in the Boer War. The tin boxes containing six chocolates were so sought-after that offers of £20 were floated by fellow soldiers hungry for more, despite privates earning only one shilling a day. Made for threepence a box in 1900, these chocolates are set to make a profit when they’re sold at auction on Monday by Hansons. A similar box went for £125 in 2018.