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17 November

In the headlines

“You cannot borrow your way to growth,” said Jeremy Hunt as he unveiled his Autumn Statement this morning. The Chancellor’s plan to reduce the deficit by £55bn includes lowering the 45p tax threshold from £150,000 to £125,000, and increasing the windfall tax on energy firms from 25% to 35%. The Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the US Congress. They will have a razor-thin majority of just a few seats, says The New York Times, but that will still be enough to “frustrate President Biden’s agenda” for the next two years. Snowdonia National Park will now call Mount Snowdon by its Welsh name, Yr Wyddfa (pronounced er with-va). For those worried they won’t be able to find Wales’s highest peak on a map, have no fear, says one Twitter user: “It’s a massive f***ing mountain.”


Is austerity really necessary?

The media has blindly accepted Jeremy Hunt’s line that austerity is a “bitter-tasting but necessary medicine”, says Owen Jones in The Guardian. When Rishi Sunak took office, for example, a BBC correspondent declared the new PM had no alternative but “to agree to spending cuts”. That’s simply not true. The Chancellor’s “slash-and-burn” approach is not inevitable; it’s a political choice. It was the same after 2008, when George Osborne’s cuts were accepted as the “necessary antidote to a deficit crisis”. There was no mention of the fact that the low cost of borrowing could have allowed for “extensive public spending”, just as there’s no mention today of the fact that the “supposed £50bn fiscal black hole” is really a made up figure based on the government’s own targets. We mustn’t fall for this nonsense again.


Thank goodness for the Black Death

The Black Death was, proportionally speaking, “the most lethal catastrophe in human history”, says Peter Frankopan in Prospect. After appearing in 1345, the deadly plague killed millions as it spread across Europe, Africa and Asia, with a mortality rate as high as 60%. But as James Belich argues in The World the Plague Made, the virus also sparked “a series of innovations, changes and development” that led to a “golden age” lasting more than 150 years. The main reason was, simply, that so many people died. When a population halves, the amount of resources the survivors are left with, per head, doubles. Suddenly people had a bountiful supply of “carts, wagons, horses, oxen, mules, boats, ships, barns and granaries”.

Love etc

I hope someone out there is writing a PhD thesis on “Pete Davidson and his staggeringly long list of famous, extremely beautiful girlfriends”, says Kasia Delgado in the I newspaper. It’s a “confounding mystery” worthy of years of academic research. The “very average-looking” 28-year-old comedian is now dating supermodel Emily Ratajkowski, after previous relationships with Kim Kardashian, Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale and Kaia Gerber. I know good jokes can be seductive, but “how funny can one man be”? My theory is he’s climbing the “Date Ladder” – each time he’s seen with one gorgeous celeb, his stock goes up, prompting another A-lister to see what all the fuss is about.

Inside politics

New York Post readers hoping to find out about Donald Trump’s election campaign, which kicked off in Florida on Tuesday, will have been disappointed. At the very bottom of its front page, the Post wrote: “Florida man makes announcement. Page 26.” Those who made it to the tabloid’s short report learned that a “Florida retiree” had announced he was running for president: “Avid golfer Donald J Trump kicked things off at Mar-a-Lago, his resort and classified-documents library.” His cholesterol levels are “unknown”, the paper reported, “but his favourite food is a charred steak with ketchup”.


World Cup fans travelling to Qatar were promised a state-of-the-art fan zone, says The Sun, but the reality is a “giant concrete car park with awful food”. The only alcohol you can get is a plastic cup of Budweiser costing £12, with each fan strictly limited to four per evening. Food options include a single slice of pizza (£8) and a questionable-looking Greek Salad in a cardboard bowl (£9). “Congratulations to Qatar for hosting the sequel to Fyre Festival,” says one person on Twitter. “This tournament is going to be an absolute bin fire.”

Gone viral

This clip of a Kenyan news reporter trying to keep a straight face as a baby elephant plays with his hair and tickles his nose has racked up more than 12 million views on Twitter. “He kept it together so well,” commented one user, “but in the end, getting hoovered was too much.” Watch the full video here.


It’s part of an underwater sculpture garden designed to ensnare illegal trawlers. Tired of industrial fishing operations scraping the seabed bare off the coast of his village in Tuscany, local fisherman Paolo Fanciulli commissioned artists to create 39 marble sculptures that would snag and ruin their chain-weighted nets. “If you want to eat well, you have to defend the environment,” he tells Wired. “It’s like a war.”


quoted 17.11.22

“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.”

Oscar Wilde