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20-21 May

Tomorrow’s world

Our world is on the brink, says Kissinger

Henry Kissinger turns 100 next weekend, says The Economist, and though the former US Secretary of State is “stooped and walks with difficulty”, his mind remains “needle-sharp”. His greatest worry, unsurprisingly, is the growing US-China rivalry. “Both sides have convinced themselves that the other represents a strategic danger,” he says, and that usually ends in one thing: “great-power confrontation”. Taiwan is the obvious flashpoint. But Kissinger is equally concerned by another factor: artificial intelligence. “We are at the very beginning of a capability where machines could impose global pestilence or other pandemics,” he says. “Not just nuclear but any field of human destruction.”


The fact that the protagonist of Netflix’s new docudrama Queen Cleopatra is played by a black actress, Adele James, has annoyed “everyone from scholars of Egyptian antiquity to modern-day Greeks and Egyptians”, says Tomiwa Owolade in The Sunday Times. But I was struck by a column in The New York Times arguing that Cleopatra was “culturally black”, because she had been “part of a culture and history that has known oppression and triumph, exploitation and survival”. What a bizarre view. If “blackness” is a synonym for the experience of oppression, that must surely mean that “Irish people are black, Jewish people are black, countless Asian ethnic groups are black, Armenians are black, women are black, gay people are black”. Welcome to the club, I guess.

The great escape

Outside magazine’s list of the world’s most beautiful hikes includes a three-day, 20-mile trek in New Zealand, winding through forests and along isolated beaches; a 61-mile trail through Florida’s swamps, that may involve “negotiation with alligators”; a 33-mile path in arctic Alaska; and a track through the Himalayas in Bhutan – historically trodden by royal couriers, soldiers and religious pilgrims – that takes about 35 days to walk. See more here.


quoted 20.5.23 Truman

“It’s amazing what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Harry Truman

Eating in

The microwave was “invented by accident”, says Atlas Obscura. During World War II, an engineer called Percy LeBaron Spencer was “fiddling with an active radar” when he noticed it had melted his chocolate bar. LeBaron Spencer’s employer, the defence firm Raytheon, filed for a patent in 1945, and a year later it had built the first microwave oven: “a refrigerator-sized behemoth called the Radarange”.


Eurovision was mercifully apolitical this year, says Rod Liddle in The Spectator. The Irish “gave our lamentable entry a couple of points”, and majority-Muslim Azerbaijan “proudly handed over its top score to… Israel”. The Germans are apparently in a fury because they came bottom again, and think “this is because Europe hates them for being arrogant and powerful”. Britain made similar complaints before coming second in last year’s contest. “All it takes, you Germans, is for you to find a decent singer and a decent song, rather than foisting upon us a bellowing halfwit dressed as an orc churning out a piece of tuneless, histrionic heavy metal.”


Book blurb writers are getting very het up about the possibility of ChatGPT taking their jobs, says Ella Creamer in The Guardian. So I decided to try out the AI chatbot’s credentials by asking it to write summaries for well-known titles. When prompted to provide a “juicy blurb” of Middlemarch, it said the George Eliot classic was “the ultimate Real Housewives of 19th-century England… With scandalous affairs, juicy secrets and backstabbing, this book has more drama than a season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” To sell Beowulf to Gen Z, it suggested: “This dude’s a total savage… and the romance is totally on point too. Trust me, this story is lit AF.” My personal favourite was its suggestion for the Bible, emphasising its potential as a self-help read: “The ultimate guide to life, love and eternal salvation! With enough drama and plot twists to rival Game of Thrones, it’s sure to keep you entertained for thousands of years to come.”

Inside politics

Donald Trump isn’t the only billionaire running in a “hugely consequential presidential election” next year, says Rishi Iyengar in Foreign Policy. Meet Taiwan’s Terry Gou, founder of the tech conglomerate Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of iPhones. Gou, who styles himself as the Taiwanese Trump, is betting that his deep ties to Beijing – he employs more than a million Chinese workers at his sprawling factories on the mainland – will “catapult” him to the top. Part of his pitch is that Taipei’s insistence on “complete independence” makes war more likely; he argues that the best way to avoid conflict is friendlier relations with the Chinese government. People in Taiwan, like those in the Pentagon, are seriously worried about a Chinese invasion. “A Gou run might defuse those fears.”



Le Sivadal is a six-bedroom stone farmhouse near the award-winning medieval village of Cordes-sur-Ciel in the southwest of France. The kitchen and living space in the main house boast beams and high ceilings, along with a huge wood-burning stove for cold winters. Outside there is a swimming pool and around 2.5 acres of grounds, with open views around the surrounding countryside. The property has income potential via lettings. Toulouse airport is a one-hour drive. €575,000. Click here for more details.

The townhouse

This spacious maisonette sits on a tree-lined street in Holland Park, west London. The 2,100-sq ft interior is set across two floors, with three large bedrooms and a generous open plan kitchen-and-living area. It also has huge bay windows, underfloor heating and original cornicing. Holland Park Tube station is a seven-minute walk. £3.25m.



Quoted 21.5.23 Auden

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.”

WH Auden