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19 October

In the headlines

Rishi Sunak has met Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel as part of a two-day visit to the region, telling him “we will stand with you in solidarity” and “want you to win”. Egypt has agreed to reopen its border crossing with Gaza, while the Israelis say they “will not thwart” deliveries of food, water and medicine. A rare “risk to life” alert has been issued in Scotland, where Storm Babet is expected to bring more than a month’s worth of rain today. Angus and Aberdeenshire have been given a red weather warning for rainfall, the first in the UK for three years. A new ancient British king has been discovered after an amateur detectorist found a coin bearing his name in a field in Hampshire. Dating from around 50BC and smaller than a fingernail, the gold coin is stamped with the name Esunertos – a previously unrecorded Iron Age ruler who has now been added to the list of British monarchs.

Quirk of history

Around 11,000 years ago, says Brian Klaas on Substack, cheetahs almost became extinct. Scientists think that at one point, there were as few as seven of the spotty species alive across the whole world. As a result of this so-called “population bottleneck”, their descendants today are extraordinarily similar genetically – so much so that you can graft skin from one cheetah on to another, and the recipient’s body will accept the new cells as if they are their own.

On the way up

Europe’s cocaine market is exploding in size, says The Guardian. In 2021, the EU seized 306 tonnes of the white stuff, five times more than a decade ago. Antwerp, Rotterdam and Le Havre, the continent’s key north-western ports, are now a hive of organised crime as South American traffickers link up with European gangs. Dockers are being bribed and their families intimidated to make them comply with the trade; in one incident “reminiscent of Mexico or Colombia”, heavily armed criminals stormed a high-security warehouse in Le Havre “to liberate their stash”.

Staying young

Celebrities and billionaires are battling to join New York’s “most Instagrammed gym”, says The Daily Telegraph. Membership of Dogpound – established by the trainer who bulked Hugh Jackman up for Wolverine – costs up to £30,000 a year, and has been granted to fewer than 100 people, including Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. But thanks to a seven-year hold-up with building regulations, there are no showers and only two loos. The owner says he wanted “chic but rough”, but admits “I don’t know if that means not showering”.

Gone viral

The latest TikTok craze is the “giant woman” trend, says Bustle. Just as the name implies, it involves using tricks of photography and perspective to make people look huge without any photoshopping. To achieve the warped effect for yourself, use tiny props and a wide-angle lens, available by selecting the “0.5x option” on an iPhone camera.

Tomorrow’s world

ChatGPT could be better at treating depression than human GPs. A study published in the British Medical Journal compared treatment plans prescribed by 1,249 French médecins généralistes with those cooked up by the AI chatbot. The computer prescribed therapy to 97.5% of hypothetical patients with symptoms of mild depression – in line with clinical guidance – while GPs offered the treatment to just 4.3% of the same patients, often dosing them with unnecessary pills instead. And whereas human quacks prescribed significantly fewer antidepressants to women than to men, and were more likely to suggest therapy to white-collar workers than blue-collar workers, the rule-abiding platform showed no biases at all.


It’s a bale of straw dangling from London’s Millennium Bridge, part of an ancient tradition to warn river traffic that repair work is going on. The 900-year-old City Bridge Foundation, the charity responsible for looking after London’s river crossings, explained on X (formerly Twitter) that the longstanding practice was demanded by Port of London Thames Byelaws, adding, “we’re not making this up, honest”. And they’re not. Clause 36.2 requires that during maintenance work, the person responsible must suspend “by day a bundle of straw large enough to be conspicuous and by night a white light”.


Quoted 19-10-23

“If you have to tell people you are powerful, it means you aren’t.”

Margaret Thatcher