Skip to main content
The Knowledge logo

15 August

In the headlines

Salman Rushdie has been taken off a ventilator and is able to speak. “Though his life-changing injuries are severe,” says his son Zafar, “his usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact.” Iran’s government denies having any links to the attacker, but says the writer brought it on himself with his “insults on religion”. Labour leader Keir Starmer has thrown down the gauntlet to the Tories with a proposal to freeze energy bills for six months. YouGov polling says three quarters of Conservative voters back the £29bn plan. “Drip drip hooray,” says The Sun: sweltering Britain is finally in for some rain this week. However, thundery downpours hitting “bone-dry” ground could lead to flash floods in some areas.

Free speech

Salman Rushdie and the death of free speech

The Satanic Verses is a book “with a very bloody trail”, says Bari Weiss in Common Sense. After Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini offered a bounty, eventually raised to $3.3m, for Salman Rushdie’s murder, the author spent years in hiding. The book’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death; the Norwegian publisher was shot and critically injured. So why in 2015, when the chaos had subsided and “you might run into Rushdie at Manhattan cocktail parties”, did the writer say it was “the darkest time” he’d experienced? Because by then we had betrayed the “ferocious commitment” to free speech that had saved his life. If The Satanic Verses was published today, Rushdie would be condemned for “insulting an ethnic and cultural minority”.

UK economy

Britain is changing, not breaking

Inflation is surging, energy bills are soaring, and A&E departments are on their knees. “Wherever you look,” says Robert Colvile in The Sunday Times, “the headlines blare one simple message: Britain is broken.” Of course, many things are “very far from OK”. But the UK is not, as gloomy analysts at one investment bank claim, becoming “an emerging market country”. Since the 2008 crash, our economy has grown quicker than the euro area. The current crisis is hitting the continent just as badly, if not worse, because the reasons for our collective woes are the same: economic fallout from Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


Hugo Boss’s website now allows customers to create online avatars modelled on their precise body measurements, which can then try on clothes in a “virtual dressing room”. It should mean shoppers won’t have to purchase things in multiple sizes or deal with returns, says Input magazine. Your digital mannequin can even try on items in different ways – tucking or untucking a shirt, for example – and show how one garment looks layered with others.

On the money

The cost of a boarding school education is set to top £500,000 for the first time, according to a new analysis by the private bank Weatherbys. Since 2010, fees have risen by 3 to 5% annually, this year reaching £37,032 for the average boarder. If fees continue to go up by just 2% a year, parents will pay £505,955 to educate a seven-year-old starting at boarding school this September. If it’s more like 5% a year, the bill will top £650,000.

Nice work if you can get it

Nusr-Et, the London steakhouse run by viral chef Salt Bae, turned a staggering profit of £4.6m in its first three months, despite being widely panned by reviewers. The success of the hated eatery – ranked 16,978 out of 17,465 London restaurants on TripAdvisor – may be something to do with its outrageous prices: when it opened, a tomahawk steak covered in flakes of 24-carat gold sold for £850. The dish is no longer on the menu, but flash customers can still pay £680 for a Wagyu striploin steak, or splash £40 on a simple burger. Salt Bae, real name Nusret Gökçe, rose to online fame by sprinkling salt in such a way that it bounces off his elbow, making his restaurant a magnet for celebrity clientele, including David Beckham and Naomi Campbell.

Quirk of history

The opening sequence of Goldfinger, when James Bond staggers ashore in a wetsuit before peeling it off to reveal immaculate evening dress, may seem highly improbable. In fact, says The Times, a young Dutchman pulled off precisely the same trick in late 1941. Wearing an “experimental watertight suit” developed by MI6’s research division, Peter Tazelaar slipped ashore at Scheveningen and, just like Bond, stripped off to reveal a “pristine” dry suit. Concealed in the collar of his shirt was a message to the resistance from the exiled Dutch queen Wilhelmina. After a few glugs of brandy, he “staggered up the beach as though tipsy, weaving his way through the German officers enjoying their regular Friday night party at the resort’s Palace Hotel” – thereby infiltrating Nazi-occupied Holland.


Lewis Hamilton may be one of the most successful racing drivers in history, but he doesn’t like driving on actual roads. “I find it stressful,” he told a Vanity Fair journalist while driving him around the south of France. “This road is crazy. So much going on here. I’m going to turn around in a second.” On public roads, he explained, “anything can happen”.


It’s Sanna Marin, prime minister of Finland. On Saturday, the 36-year-old premier attended the Flow music festival in Helsinki to give a speech about the country’s music industry – before getting stuck in to proceedings herself. “Can someone forward me the Finnish prime minister’s invite-only fashion newsletter?” says one Twitter user.


Quoted 15.8.22

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

Mark Twain