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12 May

In the headlines

The UK economy grew by 0.1% in the first three months of 2023. The Bank of England, which has dropped its previous prediction of a recession this year, has warned that inflation will not fall below 2% until 2025, and raised interest rates to 4.5%. Volodymyr Zelensky has been barred from making a video appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest final on Saturday, says The Times. The European Broadcasting Union, which includes the BBC, is worried that allowing the Ukrainian president to make a speech would politicise the contest. Prison guards in England and Wales have been ordered to stop referring to inmates as “convicts” in case it offends them. The edict from civil servants also warns against the phrase “ex-cons”, saying a more appropriate term is “prison leavers”.


Architectural Digest has compiled a list of the most beautiful post offices in the world, including a 1937 Art Deco masterpiece in Los Angeles; the grand Palacio de Cibeles, formerly the Palacio de Comunicaciones, in Madrid; the Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, designed by Alfred Foulhouz in the 1880s, when Vietnam was part of French Indochina; the sculpture-crowned Palazzo delle Poste in Ragusa, Sicily; and Mexico City’s 1907 Palacio de Correos de México, which appears “more like a royal palace than a post office”. See more here.

Inside politics

For the Tories, one silver lining about the otherwise dire local election results is that the other right-wing parties were nowhere to be seen, says Katy Balls in The Times. Just six of the 480 candidates who stood for Richard Tice’s Reform UK party were elected, while Ukip lost all its remaining councillors, “going from almost 500 in 2016 to zero”. The absence of a real threat from the right takes a lot of pressure off Rishi Sunak. Just this week, for example, top Brexiteers have been spitting blood over the ditching of plans to replace all EU-era laws by the end of the year. Were Ukip or Reform polling well, this would have “caused great alarm in No 10”. As it is, the PM can basically ignore them.


ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, has long insisted it is not under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. But that line stretches credulity, says Isabelle Feng in Le Monde. In April 2021, a CCP executive was handed one of the firm’s three board seats after three Chinese state-owned companies bought just 1% of the shares for a “paltry price”. And this January, ByteDance’s founder Zhang Yiming – whose shares gave him total control over decisions at the firm – sold his 98.81% stake to a tiny company with just two owners that had been created 20 days earlier. Nothing is known about either of them, and the paper trail quickly disappears into the opaque bureaucracy of the Cayman Islands.


Climate change could be bad news for short athletes like the 5ft 7in Lionel Messi, says the Daily Mail. A new study of professional triathletes found that compared to their shorter peers, taller men “are faster when temperatures are higher” – probably because their larger surface area means they can dissipate heat through sweating more quickly. The researchers concluded that people are rather like animals, “which tend to be stockier in areas where it is colder, like polar bears, and more lean, like brown bears, in hotter places”.

Quirk of history

On 18 April, 1930, the announcer on the BBC’s 8.45pm news bulletin simply said: “There is no news.” The rest of the 15-minute broadcast was filled with piano music.


Neuschwanstein Castle (above), built by Bavaria’s “Mad” King Ludwig in the late 1800s, is to become a Unesco World Heritage Site, much to the consternation of locals. The German state has spent nearly two decades preparing its application to elevate the relatively newly built castle to the same global status as the Egyptian Pyramids and Westminster Abbey. But nearby villagers are worried this will lead to an even greater influx of tourists, who already number about 1.4 million a year.


quoted 12.5.23

“We buy junk and sell antiques.”

Sign outside an antique shop in west London