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16 August

In the headlines

At least five people have died amid “chaos” at Kabul airport after the Taliban seized the Afghan capital. The Islamists’ victory is “the biggest foreign policy catastrophe in 65 years”, says the Daily Mail. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace broke down on LBC radio, admitting “some people won’t get back” from Afghanistan and saying: “It’s sad that the West has done what it’s done.” It’s D-day for Geronimo the alpaca as a High Court judge rules on his death sentence. Supporters have vowed to act as a human shield from Defra vets. Britain is set for a 31C heatwave next week as a heat plume arrives from Spain. “Here comes the tum,” says the Daily Star.

Comment of the day


Inside politics

Whether or not you own a car affects your political leanings, says The Economist. At the 2019 general election the Tories had a 17-point lead among motorists. Labour had the same lead among the carless. Boris Johnson’s green ambitions could “dissolve this bond”, although some flashy infrastructure may keep Tory motorists on side. The Royal College of Art has been commissioned to design plug points for electric cars “as handsome as Giles Gilbert Scott’s famous red phone box”. 


Kate Clanchy’s Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, a book about teaching in British state schools, won the 2020 Orwell prize. This month the author was forced to apologise for talking about students with “chocolate-coloured skin” and “almond-shaped eyes”. But Kate described me perfectly, says one of Clanchy’s former students, Shukria Rezaei, in The Sunday Times. For Afghan Hazaras like myself, “almond eyes” is a beautiful reference widely used in our poetry. Authors must stand up to this “purity spiral”, says Lionel Shriver in The Times. One black blogger suggested “brown, dark brown, light brown, sandy brown… we’re not edible”. Is it really acceptable to compare minorities to “what we walk all over, to what gets washed away”? Sandy brown will be verboten “by tomorrow morning”.  


The American Midwest is home to 86,000 wild mustangs and numbers are increasing by up to 20% a year, says Natasha Daly in National Geographic. Helicopters round them up so they can receive fertility-control injections or be carted off to government-run ranches. Activists argue it’s “inhumane” to break up herds, but climate change and overpopulation mean the mustangs are running out of water and food, enduring “a slow, painful deterioration”.  

Gone viral

A 21-year-old student from Birmingham is stuck in Kabul after flying out there for a holiday. Miles Routledge arrived in the city late last week, believing the capital wouldn’t fall for another month. But after a brush with the Taliban (he told them he was Welsh rather than admit to being British), he ended up in a UN safe house and, according to his latest Facebook post, is being evacuated to a new location. He has been streaming video blogs on the website Twitch. He believes he might be safe, says The Sun, because of a £15 joke purchase that gives him the right to use the title “Lord” – as seen on his American Express card.


Quoted 16-08

“There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of the embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.”

Joe Biden, 8 July

Snapshot answer

It’s two apprentices from Cavendish Pianos, the only company producing pianos built wholly in the UK. Husband and wife Adam and Charlie Cox began training a new generation of craftsmen in 2013, after the Japanese giant Yamaha bought the UK’s only other homegrown company, Kemble. “Compared with the giant production lines in the Far East, we are making something more like organic bacon,” says Adam. The pianos are made from British beech and oak that “will be working longer than we will”.