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19 August

In the headlines

President Biden says US troops could stay in Afghanistan beyond 31 August to evacuate Americans. “We’re going to stay until we get them all out,” he told ABC News. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says seven to 10 RAF planes are departing Kabul every day, and none has left empty. “The Taliban are letting our people through,” he told BBC Breakfast, but “every hour counts”. Vaccinated people who catch the Delta variant could be as infectious as an unvaccinated person with Covid, a scientist tells The Times. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-delayed Cinderella has finally opened to rave reviews. The musical is “a blast”, says The Guardian. 

Comment of the day

Gone viral

A Twitter account called Love Island Art History is doing its best to counter the reality TV show’s lowbrow reputation by presenting cast members alongside artistic masterpieces. This week thousands of people liked a side-by-side image of Chloe Burrows, a 25-year-old marketing executive from Bicester, and Picasso’s portrait of Dora Maar. Even the National Portrait Gallery approved, tweeting: “An iconic portrait for an iconic Islander.”


Airbnb will soon start to shoulder responsibility for violent crimes, including rape, that occur at its properties. There’s currently a clause buried in the company’s terms and conditions under which users sign away the right to sue it, says Olivia Carville in The Seattle Times. It has also spent millions of dollars on payouts to keep crimes out of the public eye. Airbnb says the change will take place when it updates its terms of service in the autumn. 


When Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections was chosen for Oprah Winfrey’s book club in 2001, the author balked. It would “put off” male readers, he told a radio interviewer: book clubs are for girls. Winfrey promptly dropped his book and axed his appearance on her show, saying: “Jonathan Franzen will not be on the Oprah Winfrey show because he is seemingly uncomfortable and conflicted about being chosen as a book club selection. It is never my intention to make anyone uncomfortable or cause anyone conflict.” Extraordinary, says Emily Gould in Vanity Fair. “No one has ever been told to f*** off and die more politely.”  


The moment I met Sean Lock “I wanted to be his friend”, says the comedian Harry Hill in The Guardian. Lock, who died this week from cancer aged 58, was a comedian’s comedian. The last time Hill was on a stand-up bill with Lock, he stayed to watch his act. “I looked round and all the comics on the bill had come out to watch him. We don’t do that for just anyone.” Perhaps they liked his honesty. On panel shows he would howl with laughter if he liked a joke. If he didn’t, he’d sit stony-faced. “Why don’t you just fake a laugh?” asked Hill. “‘I don’t want to encourage them,’ he replied with a grin.” 


Quoted 19-08

“If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts.”

W Somerset Maugham

Tomorrow’s world

Boston Dynamics’s bipedal Atlas robots can jump, flip, perform parkour tricks and probably destroy all humans. But they also fall over, a lot. They get their jumps right “about half the time”, their engineers admit in new behind-the-scenes footage. A few well-placed staircases may yet save us.