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15 December

In the headlines

Nurses are going on strike for the first time today in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Former Conservative Party chairman Jake Berry has told TalkTV the government needs to increase its pay offer “by a lot”, though not up to the 19% boost union bosses are demanding. Prince Harry says his and Meghan’s battles with the press caused his wife to have a miscarriage, and that William screamed at him during a meeting about his future in the royal family. The claims come in the final three episodes of the couple’s Netflix documentary, which were released this morning. Police officers have broken into a London gallery to help an unconscious woman slumped on a desk, only to find it was a mannequin. The £18,000 sculpture in Laz Emporium, Soho depicts a woman with her head in a bowl of soup.


An energy “miracle” that could transform the world

The breakthrough in nuclear fusion at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California is “potentially the biggest news of the decade”, says Megan McArdle in The Washington Post. Of course, we need to treat the announcement with caution. Although scientists did achieve “ignition” – a reaction that produced more energy than it absorbed – it required “an array of 192 lasers so huge that the building where they’re housed is 10 storeys high”. And the energy surplus doesn’t factor in what it took to build and operate this mega-laser array. Clearly, abundant power that’s “too cheap to meter” is a long way off. But this is still a huge deal.


The “psychodrama” that will never end

“Harry and Meghan embody my silly generation,” says Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph. They obsess about “identity” and accuse the media of bias for pointing out that their Netflix documentary is “packed with disputed claims”. Their endless introspection is meant to be a victory over “toxic masculinity” and the “prison of British reserve”. It’s the same madness that says football managers have to double as therapists and politicians should “feel our pain”. What rot. Self-control used to be celebrated. Older generations kept working as doctors, despite the long hours and low pay, because “the world needs doctors”. Meghan and Harry ran away to America to spend more time looking after themselves, telling anyone who’ll listen “how hard it was living in that palace”.


Many of the female avatars created by the popular new app Lensa AI “seem to have one – er, two – things in common”, says Mia Mercado in The Cut: they all have huge boobs. I uploaded 13 photos of my face and got a batch of “fairly accurate illustrations”. Yet although only two of my submitted pics “contained the slightest suggestion of cleavage”, my avatar “had a chest that can only be described as ample”. Even more creepy, plastic surgeons say users are bringing these images in as reference photos for how they’d like to look. “Double yikes!”

Inside politics

Since leaving office in September, Boris Johnson has pocketed more than £1m from just four speaking engagements. But the former PM is already eyeing up another line of work: putting on poetry recitals. “I now have a pretty stonking repertoire,” he writes in The Spectator. “In 35 mins I can do the first 100 lines of the Iliad, the first 100 lines of the Aeneid, the first canto of the Divine Comedy and the whole of Lycidas… I propose to fill this unexpected hiatus in my career with vast lucrative theatrical renditions of these great texts, in ascending chronological order.”


When the satirist Craig Brown was composing a literary quiz, he read online that James Bond’s middle name was Herbert. “I thought this unlikely but not impossible,” he told The Oldie’s literary lunch. When he clicked on one of the links to see the source, however, it cited one Craig Brown. It turned out he had written a mock biography 15 years earlier, and people hadn’t realised it was a joke.

On the money

Elon Musk has lost his title of the world’s richest person to Bernard Arnault, the French fashion tycoon, says Bloomberg. Controversies around Musk’s Twitter takeover, plus a general slump in the value of tech companies, has led to the Tesla founder’s net worth falling from a high of $340bn to $164bn today. Arnault, 73, is the first European to take the number one spot – he’s made his $171bn fortune from the luxury group LVMH, which includes Louis Vuitton and Dom Pérignon champagne.

Tomorrow’s world

Flus, fevers and colds are raging across the northern hemisphere, says Wired, and tracking their spread helps health services prepare for an “influx of patients”. The California tech company Kinsa thinks it has a solution: collecting and analysing temperature readings from “smart thermometers” connected to the internet. Whereas most illness data is collected only when people feel sick enough to contact the doctor, these thermometers provide more up-to-date information because they’re used the moment symptoms start.


It’s one of the puzzles in GCHQ’s annual Christmas card. The instructions from the intelligence agency are as follows: “Rudolph needs to escape from this cyberspace maze by reaching the flag. He starts where indicated and can move North/East/South/West to points along the same layer, or he can Ascend/Descend between layers (as shown by the dashed lines). He can only go in the direction of the arrows. If he touches a key, then ALL the gold arrows will swap direction. What is his shortest route to get to the flag – and can you describe it using one seven-letter word?” See the answer here.


quoted 15.12.22

“A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

Samuel Goldwyn