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19 May

In the headlines

Volodymyr Zelensky will fly to the G7 summit in Hiroshima this weekend to try to secure fighter jets for Ukraine. Touching down in Japan yesterday, Rishi Sunak announced a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia banning diamond, aluminium and nickel imports from the country. “Is this the start of the great AI jobs bloodbath?” asks the Daily Mail, after BT announced it will replace 10,000 of its employees with artificial intelligence. It’s part of wider plans for the telecoms giant to offload more than 40% of its global workforce by 2030 due to rising labour costs. Cambridge University is hosting hide-and-seek and Lego-building sessions to help stressed-out students switch off during exam season. Other “wellbeing support” includes origami classes, free spider plants and “cuddly study buddies” – in the form of soft knitted animals – that can be borrowed from libraries.


The mini skirt has become so mini that it has disappeared, says Madeleine Rothery in i-D magazine. Miu Miu’s latest show featured models parading down the runway wearing boy-cut briefs over sheer leggings, with actor Emma Corrin stepping out in a pair of “bejewelled gold panties” for the finale. Kendall Jenner recently tried out a similarly “bare-bottomed look” of sheer tights over black knickers, posting a snap on Instagram that spawned a TikTok craze tagged #TightsAsPants. It’s easy to see the appeal: it looks great, and “without the need to put on trousers” each morning you gain “a couple of extra minutes to have fun”.

Inside politics

One of the only times I saw Boris Johnson lose his temper, says his former communications director Guto Harri on the Unprecedented podcast, was when Emmanuel Macron publicly criticised him over the refugee crisis. At our morning meeting, the PM launched a “violent attack” on the French president, saying: “He’s just a four-letter word that begins with C, he’s a weirdo, he’s Putin’s lickspittle.” He added that we needed to go “studs up on this one” – a rugby term that essentially means “gloves off” – and called for an “orgy of frog-bashing”. It was “pretty strong stuff”.

Quirk of history

During World War II, the US Treasury issued Disney-themed war bonds so that patriotic parents could give youngsters a stake in the good fight. Yes, they might have been used to finance death on a massive scale, says author Maximilian Hess on Twitter, but “I think they’re pretty sweet”.

Staying young

Marine biologist Wallace Nichols has coined the term “blue-mind theory” to describe the transformative health effects of spending time around clear water. His research found that the places with the highest concentration of centenarians are all along coastlines, that communities near the sea have a 17% lower mortality rate, and that the sound of waves is a “wonderful tonic” for reducing stress levels. Those who don’t have a coastal abode will reap exactly the same benefits from lakes and creeks, which trigger a similar release of “feel-good” hormones and aid relaxation by decreasing heart rate.


Last year, after discovering that Olivia Colman was on her flight, comedian Kathy Burke had a rather morbid concern. “If we go down, that’s it,” the 58-year-old recalls thinking on her podcast Where There’s A Will, There’s A Wake. “It’s all going to be about Dame Olivia and no one is going to give a s*** about me. The Daily Mail page eight will probably say: ‘That horrible woman has perished: good.’” But there are fates worse than page eight, says Patrick Kidd in The Times. This newspaper didn’t report the deaths of CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley until three days after they occurred on 22 November 1963. Editors had been somewhat distracted by “events near a book depository in Texas”.


It’s Keiko Kawano, a “smile coach” in Tokyo. After three years of Covid restrictions, the Japanese are finally starting to unmask, says The New York Times – and some are finding their facial expressions “a bit rusty”. Kawano, 49, helps people get back into the habit, under the motto, “More smile, more happiness”. Her one-hour sessions involve strengthening the zygomatic muscles – which pull the corners of the mouth – and those just below the eyes. “People train their body muscles,” she says, “but not their faces.”


quoted 19.5.23

“The world’s most effective form of contraception is the London housing market.”

Historian Ed West