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14 August

In the headlines

Two-thirds of NHS cancer waiting time targets are set to be scrapped in England, including the aim for patients to see a specialist within two weeks. Health bosses say new benchmarks – including starting treatment within nine weeks from the date of referral – will speed up care, given the old ones were “routinely missed”. Dorset Council claims it told the Home Office there was Legionella bacteria on the Bibby Stockholm three days before the barge was evacuated. Thirty-nine migrants were taken off the ship on Friday, less than a week after arriving, when traces of Legionella were found in the water supply. Parts of the UK may be “hotter than California” by the end of the week, says Sky News. Met Office forecasters predict temperatures across southeast England will top 30C this weekend – albeit with a few “heavy and persistent” rainstorms thrown in.


Princess Diana was “ahead of her time when it came to her shoes”, says Vogue. Not only are her ballet flats by French Sole back in fashion, but she also spent much of the 1980s and 1990s sporting one of the most popular trends of summer 2023: “silver shoes”. Whether they were closed-toe, sling-back, pointy or high-heeled, she had so many pairs that the costly cobbler Jimmy Choo, who met the Princess in the 1990s, confessed that he had lost count of the number of models he had designed for her.

Nice work if you can get it

The government has made several attempts to “bring down the costs of the bloated public sector”, says Steerpike in The Spectator: it capped pay rises for mandarins between 2016 and 2018, then froze salaries entirely in 2021. But Whitehall appears to have found a cunning workaround. New data shows that the number of senior civil servants earning more than £100,000 has increased by 88% since 2016, to 2,050. In other words, with pay rises verboten, officials have instead been promoted up the ranks and thus into higher salary bands. “Trebles all round!”


If you assumed most birds lying dead under power lines had died from electrocution, says The New York Times, you’d be wrong – in the US at least. Researchers walked along 122 miles of cables in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, collecting 410 avian carcasses. Of the 175 for which they could determine a cause of death, 66% had been shot. The dead birds were mostly ravens and raptors, a protected group that includes eagles, hawks and falcons. Why people do it, says ornithologist Brian Millsap, “just perplexes the heck out of me”.

Love etc

Analysts have looked at data from 100,000 Spotify playlists to find the most popular wedding reception songs, says Mental Floss. Ranked top was Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me), which appeared on nearly 11,000 lists, followed by Marry You by Bruno Mars, and, perhaps more surprisingly, Usher’s Yeah!

Tomorrow’s world

Bots are now better and faster than humans at the “are you a robot?” tests used to keep them out of websites, according to a new study. The finding calls into question whether CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) programmes are still worthwhile, given how annoying they are. “We do know for sure that they are very much unloved,” study author Gene Tsudik, from the University of California, Irvine, tells New Scientist. “We didn’t have to do a study to come to that conclusion.”


It’s a new candidate for “Britain’s most bizarre road markings”, says The Daily Telegraph. Recently painted on to a junction in the Devon seaside town of Paignton, the colourful scheme has been compared by locals to a children’s playground, a helicopter landing pad, and Legoland. Torbay Council says the red-and-blue pattern will make the area safer, but motorists have complained that they have no idea “what each colour is instructing them to do”.



“The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”

GK Chesterton