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13 July

In the headlines

The Ministry of Defence has rejected allegations that SAS “death squads” murdered dozens of unarmed civilians in Afghanistan. A BBC Panorama investigation found that special forces soldiers killed 54 Afghans during a six-month tour from 2010 to 2011. Eight MPs have made it on to the Tory leadership ballot, with former health secretary Sajid Javid pulling out after failing to garner enough support. The first round of voting is today: candidates must receive the backing of at least 30 Conservative MPs to stay in the race. Nasa has unveiled a flurry of full-colour pictures snapped by its new, super-powerful James Webb telescope, says the BBC. The intergalactic images include the “cosmic reef” of a nebula forming new stars, and a quintet of galaxies “locked in a cosmic dance”.

British politics

The fantasy world of the Tory right

The Tories have an “incredibly destructive tendency”, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. Whenever a leadership election comes around, the right of the party picks someone who “isn’t really right wing” and supports them as their candidate. When the anointed one then fails to live up to the right’s impossible expectations, they are accused of “betrayal”. It happened with John Major, Boris Johnson and Theresa May. Their latest “traitor-in-waiting”? Liz Truss. The Foreign Secretary has been heartily endorsed by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries as “probably a stronger Brexiteer than both of us”. Which is, of course, nonsense. Truss forcefully backed Remain in 2016 – indeed, she gave “one of the best speeches” of the whole campaign (watch it here).


Libyan oil is Putin’s “trump card”

Since 2019, the Wagner Group – a Moscow-affiliated network of mercenaries – has been embroiled in Libya’s civil war, says Robert Uniacke in Foreign Policy. About 2,000 fighters are operating in the country as “guns-for-hire” for the Libyan National Army (LNA), a faction that opposes the Western-backed government in the capital, Tripoli. Libya could well be Vladimir Putin’s “trump card” – indeed, it could prove more important than Russia’s struggles in Ukraine. For one thing, Libya is useful to Putin as a staging post for other African adventures: one air base has been used as a “logistics hub” to move soldiers and equipment to Mali, for example.

Gone viral

This video of sea lions chasing Californian beachgoers down the La Jolla Cove shore has racked up more than 800,000 views on Twitter. The creatures began their charge after a woman approached them to snap a picture up close, says NBC. “I’m cheering for the sea lions,” wrote one user.

Inside politics

“The left love to talk about diversity,” says Mercy Muroki in The Sun – except when it’s the Tories getting things right. Four of the party’s eight leadership candidates are ethnic minorities. Yet the response from the left has been negative. “Do you think the members of your party are ready to select a brown man, Rishi?” tweeted the leftie barrister Jolyon Maugham. For these naysayers, the diverse line-up “shatters their warped narrative” – that Britain is a “racist cesspit” and the Tories are responsible. “Even if you don’t like the individuals/Tories,” says former Conservative MP Rory Stewart on Twitter, doesn’t the diversity of the contest “say something good about Britain”?


Look at any advert for an analogue wristwatch, and the hands are almost always in the same position: 10 past 10. This is no accident, says watch website Hodinkee. Researchers have found that people subliminally associate the layout with a smiley face, making them slightly more likely to buy a pricey timepiece.

On the way in

Vegetable-flavoured martinis are, according to Bloomberg, “London’s latest drinking craze”. After trying several recipes, I can conclude they’re a mixed bag, says Stuart Heritage in The Guardian. The Greek salad martini, which includes cucumber, tomato, oregano and feta, was “really delicious, like a pizza”. A martini made with asparagus-infused vodka, on the other hand, tasted “like drinking the sea where someone has just urinated”. And the “pickletini” was as bad as it sounds. “There is a reason that 007 never sidled up to a bar and growled: ‘Martini. Shaken, not stirred. And can you make it taste like the worst bit of a Big Mac, please?’”


John Bolton, Donald Trump’s former national security advisor, is proud of even his shadiest exploits. When he appeared on CNN to discuss the January 6 Capitol insurrection, the host said: “One doesn’t have to be brilliant to attempt a coup.” Bolton was put out. “I disagree with that,” he replied. “As somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat – not here, but you know, other places – it takes a lot of work.”


It’s Charlene Mitchell and Scott Robinson, better known as Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, who are reprising their roles in Neighbours for its finale. The Australian soap rocketed the duo to worldwide fame, with almost 20 million Brits tuning in to watch the fictional couple wed back in 1988. Kylie’s dusted off her character’s iconic denim overalls to wave the show off after its 37-year run. “Now we’re back together,” she wrote on Instagram.


quoted 13.7.22

“One of the most reliable signs that you need a holiday is the conviction that you cannot spare the time to take one.”

British philosopher Bryan Magee