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15 November

In the headlines

Downing Street is planning a steep increase in council tax to help fund social care, says The Daily Telegraph. Annual bills will “surge past £2,000” for the average household, with those in the most expensive tier paying up to £200 extra. The world’s population will pass eight billion today, according to the United Nations. It comes 11 years after the seven-billion mark was reached; numbers are expected to peak at 10.4 billion in the 2080s. Randy pensioners have sent sexually transmitted infections soaring by 20% among over-65s. Doctors blame the uptick on online dating, and the fact that, since there is little risk of pregnancy, many don’t bother using condoms.


The myth of “egalitarian France”

When Emmanuel Macron appointed esteemed historian Pap Ndiaye as the first black man to be France’s minister for education, says Philippe Bernard in Le Monde, it “unleashed a barrage of criticism and insults”. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen called it a “terrifying choice”; others involved in the “violent verbal stoning” denounced the bookish 57-year-old as an agent of the “deconstruction of our country”, a “racialist”, an “indigenist” and an “Islamo-leftist”. The fact that so many found it “offensive” for a Frenchman of mixed race (Ndiaye has a Senegalese father) to rise so high in the government shows just how bogus France’s claims to egalité really are.

Life online

Social media was doomed from the start

Twitter is “in chaos” under Elon Musk’s ownership, says Ian Bogost in The Atlantic, and Facebook is faring no better: it has lost “hundreds of billions of dollars in value” and Mark Zuckerberg has had to sack 11,000 employees. The thing is, “social media was never a natural way to work, play and socialise”. When it first emerged in the early 2000s with sites like Friendster and MySpace, a different term was used: social networks. As the name suggests, social networks “involved connecting, not publishing”; they were about building or deepening relationships, “mostly with people you knew”. Zuckerberg’s original vision for Facebook, after all, was to “connect every person in the world”.

Gone viral

Architect and data visualiser Ahmad Barclay has created an online tool combining modern maps of Britain with those from 100 years ago. See how your neighbourhood has changed here.

Inside politics

Politics is a “brutal and capricious trade”, says Matthew d’Ancona in Tortoise. Two years ago, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock held two of the top jobs in Westminster, both with an eye on No 10. Today, Sunak is PM, while Hancock is in the Australian jungle, reduced to “eating the tip of a camel penis” and being stung by a scorpion. But senior Tories are joking that Hancock is the lucky one. “Matt just has to chew on the occasional cow’s anus and try to be hated as little as possible,” says a former Cabinet minister. “Rishi has to turn round the economy and save the Conservative Party from electoral catastrophe. Honestly, I’d rather be dry heaving in the outback.”

Love etc

At Tiffany Trump’s wedding to Lebanese-American businessman Michael Boulos in Florida last weekend, Donald Trump gave a characteristically “romantic” speech, says Claire Carusillo in Gawker. “They were worried about rain,” he told the 500 guests. “They said, ‘Sir, we are going to build a big tent over the pool.’” The ever-savvy mogul wasn’t convinced: “I don’t want a tent because if you build a tent two things: number one, it costs a lot of money. Who wants to spend the money? And two, it’s just not the same. And I said, ‘Let’s take our chances, right Tiff?’” It didn’t rain.


The “mystery box” is the internet’s latest shopping craze, says Vogue: they’re bundles of luxury clothing and accessories that you buy for a set price without knowing what you’re going to get. The concept’s original pioneers, luxury fashion brand Heat, sold 1,000 boxes in just 20 minutes on Black Friday in 2019. Since then, the company has shifted more than 30,000, priced between £299 for a “streetwear” edition and £990 for a “superbrand” box. Their curated packages contain everything from high-end leather goods to sought-after handbags, by top-end designers including Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. Get yours here.


It’s pizza sushi, an “extremely questionable but oddly satisfying” dish created by an Italian chef, says Vice. Manuel Maiorano concocted the mashup during lockdown, when his restaurant in Tuscany, La Fenice, had to rely solely on delivery orders. The sushi rice is replaced with steamed focaccia bread which stays crispy even when cold, while the toppings are a Japanese-Italian hybrid: one style includes beef tartare, crispy onions, pecorino fondue, teriyaki sauce and sriracha.


quoted 15.11.22

“I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.”

Noël Coward