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2 May

In the headlines

France’s largest May Day marches in decades descended into violence yesterday. With around a million people across the country demonstrating against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, more than 100 police officers were injured and one protester reportedly had his hand blown off by a grenade. A British computer scientist known as the “godfather of artificial intelligence” has quit his job at Google to warn about the dangers of the technology. Geoffrey Hinton, 75, says AI may soon be more intelligent than humans, and that he can’t see how to prevent “bad actors from using it for bad things”. Last night’s Met Gala in New York was held in honour of the late Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld. Stars like Dua Lipa and Nicole Kidman wore vintage designs by the label; Doja Cat and Jared Leto dressed as Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette; and actor Jeremy Pope turned up in a 30ft cape bearing the fashion icon’s likeness.


The winners of Nasa’s 2023 Photographer of the Year awards include snaps of the Artemis I shuttle preparing to launch; astronaut Bob “Farmer” Hines in his spacesuit; a lab which conducts research into how to make rocket engines quieter; and a SpaceX pod parachuting back to Earth with four astronauts aboard. See the rest here.

The great escape

Europe’s most-wanted gangsters have found a new way of avoiding capture, says Vice: “becoming Turkish”. Anyone who invests more than £320,000 in the country is eligible for citizenship via its “Golden Passport” scheme, and authorities in Ankara typically refuse to extradite “newly minted citizens”. Despite arrest warrants issued by Sweden and Interpol, suspected Iraqi drug runner Rawa Majid lives freely in Turkey thanks to this scheme. Portly Dutchman Jos Leijdekkers – an alleged cocaine smuggler known as “Bolle Jos” (chunky Jos) – does the same, despite being “one of Europe’s top fugitives”.

Quirk of history

In the 19th century, says the travel blog Messy Nessy, “barbershops were a central hub” for the working man. Big beards were out of fashion, but neither safety razors nor antibiotics had been invented, so few wanted to risk shaving at home with a dirty blade. Some time in the 1850s, customers began being offered their own “personalised shaving mugs” to be kept at the barbershop, to house a client’s soap and brush. Most featured charming illustrations depicting the owner’s trade. See more here.

From the archives

During his 1994 Labour leadership campaign, John Prescott showed a camera crew just how quickly he could sink a pint. “Commendable not just for the speed but the professionalism,” says The Economist’s Mike Bird on Twitter. “Full seal between the cheek and the side of the glass, no spillage… We used to be a real country.”


Every 26 seconds, the Earth pulsates very faintly. It’s been turning up like clockwork on seismometers on several continents since at least the 1960s, and seems to emanate from somewhere off the coast of Nigeria. Nobody can agree what causes it.


It’s a dodgy Dutchman’s fake driving licence, featuring the personal details of Boris Johnson. Police in the city of Groningen accosted the motorist on suspicion of drink driving, at which point he whipped out the phony ID and claimed to be the tousle-haired Tory. There were “a few giveaways” he might not be telling the whole truth, says The Times: the permit featured a Ukrainian flag, was supposedly issued on 24 July 2019 – the same day Johnson became PM – and was set to expire in December 3000. According to one Ukrainian broadcaster, the bogus licenses are easy to pick up in the country’s tourist shops. “I have them for Merkel and Zelensky,” she says, “among others.”


quote 2.5.23

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Kurt Vonnegut