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21 September

In the headlines

Vladimir Putin has called up 300,000 Russian military reservists and threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in the war against Ukraine, says The Times. In his first national address since the invasion, the Russian president vowed to “use all the means at our disposal” to guard occupied territory. Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg says the government will cut the wholesale price of energy for businesses by more than half this winter. The new price cap, also extended to hospitals, schools and charities, will begin in October and last for six months. A top executive at vegan food giant Beyond Meat has been arrested for a very non-vegan misdemeanour: biting a man’s nose outside an American football game. “I guess not so Beyond Meat after all,” says one Twitter user.


It’s time to restock the “arsenal of democracy”

Modern war is “prodigiously costly”, says Hal Brands in Bloomberg. It consumes “epic quantities” of bombs and wrecks kit like planes and tanks, which are punishingly expensive to replace. Washington was right to send Ukraine a mountain of Javelin antitank missiles in the first weeks of the Russian invasion – perhaps a third of the total US stockpile – but it now needs to get serious about rearming. If America ends up in a war with China over Taiwan, it would quickly burn through its weapons. One recent war game forecasts America losing 900 combat aircraft in such a scenario – nearly half its fleet – and that’s if “things go relatively well”.


Brad Pitt has exhibited his debut sculpture collection at a museum in Tampere, Finland. The nine pieces include a moulded plaster panel depicting a gunfight, a series of house-shaped silicone sculptures riddled with bullets, and a bronze coffin-like box covered with body parts. “Shockingly”, the Hollywood hunk has turned out to be an “extremely impressive artist”, says Jonathan Jones in The Guardian. His intelligent, well-crafted work deals with pain and violence without succumbing to “pedantic realism”. It’s certainly better than the usual “embarrassment of celebrity art”.

Love etc

Religious people tend to be more satisfied with their sex lives than atheists and agnostics, according to a new study. It’s not that the devout are having romps “that would make Hugh Hefner blush”, says the I newspaper: the pious tend to have less sex than average, especially outside marriage. The key is that they have more realistic expectations of sex, particularly the casual kind. Ultimately, “it’s quality not quantity that matters most”.


The Queen was on the throne for “every possible iteration of James Bond”, says The Daily Telegraph’s Madeline Grant on Twitter. Not just every film, but every single one of Ian Fleming’s novels too. “For some reason I find that even more bonkers than the number of prime ministers who’ve served during her reign.”


Despite its pluvious reputation, London gets less rain than Rome, Venice or Nice, says The Oldie, and southeast England has lower annual rainfall than Jerusalem or Beirut. The rainiest time of day in the UK is 7am, and the driest is 3am. Many animals have unusual ways of responding to wet weather: bees can tell when a shower is coming, so work longer hours the day before; Burmese monkeys sneeze uncontrollably whenever there’s a downpour; and owls are 70 times less likely to hoot when it’s raining.

Quirk of history

Coronation chicken was invented in 1953 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, says Sophie Morris in the I newspaper – and it arose from a set of very specific culinary demands. As Buckingham Palace officials in charge of the coronation failed to anticipate how many people would flock to London for the event, the “typical establishment locations” were booked up and unavailable for the royals’ own celebratory lunch. So the great hall of Westminster School was commandeered to entertain 350 foreign dignitaries. The food had to be served cold as the venue had no kitchen, while rationing rules meant fancy French dishes were off the table. The lunch’s organisers concocted a curry-flavoured chicken dish that was described on the menu as Poulet Reine Elizabeth. The rest is sandwich history.


It’s a map of places in the Atlantic Ocean visited by a great white shark named Breton over several years, recorded by a satellite tracker attached to its back. Marine boffins following its progress noticed the journey was forming a familiar pattern. “Can we talk about how Breton looks like he’s doodling a shark?” says one person on Twitter. “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” adds another. “Draws.”


quoted 21-09-2022

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet