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12 September

In the headlines

The state pension is set to rise by 8.5% in April, in line with average earnings, on top of a 10% increase earlier this year. Under the increasingly controversial “triple lock”, the payouts rise by whichever is highest out of inflation, earnings or 2.5%. At least 3,000 people are feared dead in Libya, and 10,000 missing, after a powerful storm unleashed devastating floods in the eastern city of Derna. Intense rainfall led to the collapse of two ageing dams, says The Guardian, releasing a fast-moving river that “simply washed away at least one neighbourhood”. Deadly red fire ants could be on their way to Britain, bug boffins have warned, after the invasive species was spotted in Europe for the first time. Solenopsis invicta, which has a sting so powerful it can cause anaphylaxis, was found in Syracuse, Sicily, having likely arrived from China or the US.

On the money

It’s not just ordinary Americans who are seeing their insurance premiums balloon because of extreme weather, says Bloomberg. A homeowner on Miami’s Star Island – an ultra-rich enclave with some of the highest house prices in America – was recently quoted $622,000 for annual house insurance, triple the previous year. A growing number of well-heeled residents are choosing to forgo hurricane insurance altogether, “risks be damned”.

Inside politics

In his new memoir, Rory Stewart provides “memorable pen portraits” of all the leading players he encountered in Westminster, says Adrian Wooldridge in Bloomberg. David Cameron came across like the “host of a pheasant shoot, rented only for the day”. George Osborne was an 18th-century French cardinal – “wryly observant of colleagues and capable of breath-taking cynicism”. And Boris Johnson? At first sight, he seemed like a Regency Squire “fond of long nights at the piquet table at White’s”, says Stewart. But his “air of roguish solidity” was undermined by “the furtive cunning of his eyes, which made it seem as though an alien creature had possessed his reassuring body and was squinting out of the sockets”.

Nice work if you can get it

Working from home appears to be driving a boom in mid-week golf, says Tim Harford in the FT. Stanford University boffins have found that the number of people playing on Wednesdays rose nearly 150% between 2019 and 2022, while numbers on Saturdays declined. Particularly popular is the Wednesday 4pm tee-off – that’s up more than 275%.

Quirk of history

London’s bus drivers have an “underappreciated role in the history of medical science”, says The Economist. In the late 1940s, no one could work out why so many people in Britain and elsewhere were suffering from heart disease. A young doctor called Jerry Morris began studying the medical records of London transport workers and made a “breathtaking” discovery: bus conductors, who were constantly walking up and down the vehicle’s stairs, had 30% less incidence of heart disease than drivers, who were sedentary. His revolutionary finding – that “exercise was keeping people alive” – utterly transformed “epidemiology, medicine and the way we live now”.


It’s Millie Laws, a yoga instructor in Lincolnshire whose class was recently mistaken for a ritual mass killing. At the end of an hour-long session, says The Daily Telegraph, seven yogis lay on their backs in “corpse pose” while Laws, 22, walked around in candlelight banging a shamanic drum. A couple walking their dog past the window mistook them for actual corpses and phoned the police, who duly turned up, sirens blazing – by which time all the “victims” had packed up and gone home. Laws says she feels “absolutely awful” for the couple, “because they’ve had the fright of their life and we’re just really chill”.


quoted 12-9-23

“Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom.”

Queen Elizabeth II