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13 September

In the headlines

Kim Jong-un has promised Vladimir Putin his full support in Moscow’s “sacred fight” against the West, during a meeting between the two leaders at a remote space centre in Russia’s far east. The Russian president appeared to confirm that his country would help North Korea build satellites, likely in exchange for an arms deal to bolster his forces in Ukraine. The UK economy shrank by 0.5% in July, more than economists had predicted. The Office for National Statistics blamed the unexpected dip on strike action and wet weather. The sweet spot for productivity – at work, the gym, anywhere – is to put in 85% effort rather than aiming for 100% and feeling dejected when you fail, American scientists have found. “If at first you don’t succeed,” says the Daily Star, “try, try, try again until you hit 85%. Then give up.”

Gone viral

This video of the 1,200-metre “grass slides” at the Hulunbuir Prairie in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia has racked up more than 2.5 million views on X (formerly Twitter). “Great going down,” says one user, but “the walk back up will be a nightmare”.


When Novak Djokovic won the US Open on Sunday, equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 major singles titles, he created a neat statistic, says ESPN. In his 72 appearances at the four majors – the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open – the 36-year-old Serb has reached the final in exactly half the tournaments, and won exactly a third.

On the money

Congestion at the Panama Canal is so bad that a gas shipping firm paid $2.4m to skip the queue, says Insider. That’s on top of the basic toll fee for crossing the crucial waterway, which ranges from $150,000 to more than $1m, depending on the size of the vessel. Shippers are paying top dollar for VIP passes because a serious drought has lowered the water level, limiting the number of ships that can pass through.

Inside politics

MP4, Westminster’s “ageing boy band”, are celebrating 20 years of playing together with a gig in Speaker’s House, says Patrick Kidd in The Times. The parliamentary rock group consists of Kevin Brennan (Lab, guitar), Pete Wishart (SNP, keyboards), Greg Knight (C, drums) and Ian Cawsey (Lab, bass and vocals). Brennan says they faced an “existential crisis” when Cawsey lost his seat in 2010, but decided to stay together after he noted that “the Police kept going despite none of them being real policemen”. Besides, Cawsey owned the speakers, “so they had to let him stay”.

Love etc

One “beautiful, sunny morning in June”, says Mary DeNike in The New York Times, I was in a cab in Manhattan, chatting to the driver in his native Russian, when he jumped out at a red light and ran into a sea of pedestrians. Unable to see him, I wondered what on earth he was up to – and worried what I’d do when the lights turned green. Then I spotted him in the crowd, hugging and kissing a woman about his age. He ran back, jumped in the cab and told me: “It’s the first time in 35 years that I’ve seen my wife while I was working.”


It’s Jennifer Aniston in a massive pair of inflatable trousers known as “compression pants”. The bulky bottoms, which deliver a special massage that stimulates the body’s lymphatic system, have become famous among celebs for their cellulite-busting qualities. They may look silly, says Edwina Ings-Chambers in the Evening Standard, but I’ve tried them and they’re “a little piece of body makeover magic”. They make your legs, “including ankles”, look less puffy, and the body feel “lighter and freer”. The only catch is the price tag: a whopping £10,000 a pair.


quoted 13-9-23

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there is no river.”

Nikita Khrushchev