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19 August

In the headlines

Water company bosses are “feeling flush”, says Metro: their bonuses have risen by 20% over the past year to an average of £100,000. That’s despite the three billion litres their leaky pipes waste a day, and the seaside sewage dumps which have blighted 60 beaches this week. The “post-Covid grades crackdown” means 43,000 students are scrambling for a university place after not meeting their offers, says the Daily Mail. The coming days will see “frantic” competition for the remaining spots available through the Clearing process. The price of a London pint, already as high as £8 in some places, could hit £14 within three years, says The Sun, thanks to soaring energy, brewing and wage costs. “Drink up up up!”


It’s not enough just to cut taxes

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, promising to fix the rampant inflation and “economic dislocation” of the Carter era, he hired a radical budget director called David Stockman, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. Stockman was part of a burgeoning intellectual movement that argued the way to unleash growth in the economy was for the government to slash taxes and stop meddling. Freed from state interference, the theory went, businesses and individuals would naturally get prices to the right level, resulting in “stronger growth and greater prosperity”.


The rise of middle-aged music festivals

“A new type of festival has started to rear its head,” says Clive Martin in The Fence: the “lifestyle festival”, which brings the Glastonbury experience “towards the world of Sunday supplements”. You’ll have seen their wacky, incongruous line-ups on posters pasted on the Tube – Oxford’s Kite Festival, for example, had a “really-quite-deranged programme” this year, which brought together Grace Jones, Richard Dawkins, Delia Smith, indie band Black Country, New Road, and “David Miliband on Crisis Leadership”. And while a traditional festival requires a week of recovery, this new breed is all about wellness, “from run clubs to wild swimming, Finnish saunas to cooking classes, hip hop karaoke and ‘paddleboard yoga’”.


Japanese authorities are trying to convince the country’s youth to drink more. Declining sales of alcoholic beverages like saké have hurt tax receipts – booze made up 5% of total revenue in 1980, says the Japan Times, but in 2020 amounted to just 1.7%. So officials have come up with the “Saké Viva!” campaign, inviting entrepreneurial young soaks to dream up “promotions, branding, and even cutting-edge plans involving artificial intelligence” to get their friends back on the sauce. Kanpai!

Inside politics

If – or when – Liz Truss sweeps into power, she’ll bring a new club with her, says Katy Balls in The Spectator: “the Greenwich mafia”. Truss lives in the southeast London borough near Lord Frost, a strong supporter speculated to become a top No 10 aide, and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, an old friend expected to be her chancellor. “It could be the most amicable PM-chancellor partnership since David Cameron and George Osborne” – helped, as one Tory says, by the fact that Kwarteng “doesn’t actually want to be prime minister”.

On the way back

Researchers have launched a £5m project to bring the Tasmanian tiger back from extinction. Populations of the striped marsupial were decimated by hunting, says the BBC, with the last known tiger dying back in 1936. But by tweaking and growing stem cells, scientists at the University of Melbourne hope the big cat, otherwise known as the thylacine, could be reintroduced into the wild within a decade.


Swedish triple jumper Jesper Hellstrom “did his best salmon impression” during a final at the European Championships on Wednesday, says The Sun. The 27-year-old lost his balance on the second jump and ended up diving headfirst into the sand – though he laughed off the mishap unhurt. “That’s not what the coach was looking for,” observed the BBC commentator.


The New York Times review of “odious lickspittle” Jared Kushner’s memoir about the Trump White House isn’t exactly gushing, says LitHub. Among Dwight Garner’s most punishing lines: “Reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo”; “What a queasy-making book to have in your hands”; and “This book is like a tour of a once majestic 18th-century wooden house, now burned to its foundations, that focuses solely on, and rejoices in, what’s left amid the ashes.”


They’re Chinese meteorologists firing missiles into the sky to try and make it rain. A severe drought and record-breaking heatwave mean the Yangtze River – Asia’s longest waterway – is the lowest it’s ever been, in some stretches receiving less than half the normal rainfall. That’s not just hurting water supplies, it’s also cutting output at the region’s vast hydropower plants, leading to rolling blackouts and forcing factories to close. So nearby provinces like Hubei have begun launching rockets full of mysterious chemicals into the clouds, to try and kick start a downpour.


Quoted 19.8.22

“When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.”

André Gide