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16 November

In the headlines

Joe Biden is “playing with fire” by encouraging Taiwanese independence, said China’s President Xi Jinping last night in a rare Zoom call between the two leaders. Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times added: “Whoever plays with fire will get burnt.” The Liverpool suicide bomber was a tattooed Christian convert and pizza chef who was refused asylum on several occasions. It is not known when he arrived in the UK, says the Mail, but he became known to authorities when he was arrested for waving a “large knife” around after the rejection of a 2014 asylum claim. The south of England will get the best view of a spectacular shooting-star display called the Leonids before dawn tomorrow. “Hunting for meteors is a waiting game,” says the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. “Bring a comfy chair and wrap up warm.”

Comment of the day


The West must stare down Putin 

When did the West lose Russia, asks Vladislav Inozemtsev in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Putin is a “quintessentially European deal maker”, albeit in the manner of a 19th-century statesman. If we’d indulged his spymaster’s zeal for loyalty, trust and flattery, we might have kept him from China. Putin had powerful friends in George W Bush and much of Europe in the early 2000s, supporting Bush’s war on terror and seeking greater integration between Russia and the EU.



Tomorrow’s world

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is rescuing orphaned sea otter pups whose mothers have been killed by great white sharks, says Mother Jones. The pups are raised by older otters in captivity, then released back into the wild to gobble up purple sea urchins, which have destroyed 95% of the carbon-capturing kelp forests off the Californian coast.

On the money

The animal charity for which Carrie Johnson works paid more than £150,000 to its chairman’s wife for “interior design services”. That amounts to 10% of the Aspinall Foundation’s total donations in 2020, says Rowena Mason in The Guardian. The foundation says the fee paid to Victoria Aspinall represents “value for money”.

Inside politics

The navy blue vertical band on the French flag was made lighter in 1976 to match the blue of the European Union’s flag, which it frequently flew alongside. It reverted to navy on President Macron’s orders in July, but no one noticed until this week. Interpreting this as an anti-EU snub is “nonsense”, officials tell Europe 1 radio: navy simply looks “more elegant”. 

On the way out

Europe’s house sparrows, which are dying out in droves because of pesticides and intensive farming. There are 247 million fewer of the little birds than there were in 1980, says the RSPB.

Snapshot answer

It’s a Peel P50, the world’s smallest car. Alex Orchin, 31, a 6ft-tall musician, is driving his tiny motor – just 4ft high and 4ft 6in long – from John O’Groats to Land’s End to raise money for Children in Need. The car has a top speed of 35mph and the 870-mile journey will take up to three weeks. “When you’re driving, your knees are either side of the steering wheel, you’re basically sitting on the floor and you’re operating the pedals with your ankles rather than your legs,” Orchin told the Mid Sussex Times.


Fok Hing Gin, a Hong Kong brand, has been ordered to change its name in Britain because it might cause “serious or widespread offence”. The owners insist that it was named after Fuk Hing Lane, a street in their home city, and that they had already tweaked the first word to make it less rude.


Quoted 16-11

“There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”

American sci-fi author Octavia Butler