Skip to main content
The Knowledge logo

21 September

In the headlines

Boris Johnson meets Joe Biden at the White House today. He says the pair are already friends. “It hasn’t been a relationship that’s been very long in gestation, but it’s terrific,” he told journalists. Apparently the pair have bonded over trains. “He’s a bit of a train nut, as am I.” Although Britain is facing a gas shortage and gas prices are soaring, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told parliament, “there’s absolutely no question of the lights going out”. Happy pandas don’t mate, say scientists in the journal Conservation Biology. If they’re too content with their habitats, the lazy bears don’t roam far enough to find a partner.

Comment of the day

UK politics

We should have given Boris time to grieve

Boris Johnson’s mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, to whom he was very close, died last week aged 79. “If my mum passed away, I wouldn’t be able to speak,” says Sarah Vine in the Mail on Sunday, let alone stand up and answer PMQs, as Johnson had to last Wednesday. Public figures expressed condolences. I’m sure friends wrote letters. Otherwise, nothing changed. “That such an emotional earthquake should result in no visible impact on the pace of politics is, for me, really weird. She was his mother, for heaven’s sake.”


Forget America. We French must go our own way

America has “brutally” insulted France, says the latter’s former ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud in Le Point. The pact between the US, Britain and Australia torpedoed all bonhomie between us. Obama was indifferent to our continent. Trump was hostile to us. And now Biden has tried to show us our place. By putting paid to France’s $55bn deal to build 12 Australian submarines, the US has “trampled on a major ally’s interest without even trying to soften the blow”. In keeping with its “good versus evil” world view, Uncle Sam has picked a new villain: China. The message is clear – America first.

Inside politics

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, in New York for the UN General Assembly, has been pictured munching pizza on the street with some of his ministers and advisers. Because the vaccine-sceptic leader still hasn’t had the jab himself, he’s not able to eat in the city’s restaurants, says Reuters.


At Sunday’s Emmys, Gillian Anderson won the award for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Crown. American reporters were intrigued by her preparation. “Just to kind of continue with the whole Margaret Thatcher thing,” said one, “have you talked to her about this role at all?” No, replied Anderson with a straight face, “I have not spoken to Margaret.” Thatcher died in 2013.

Gone viral

Some of the Taliban are kicking back and relaxing after their conquest of Afghanistan last month. Fighters have been pictured on pedalos in the Band-e Amir lakes in the central Bamyan province, says The Sun. Not that the Taliban have always been fans of Bamyan’s attractions – they infamously blew up two huge 1,500-year-old Buddha statues there in spring 2001, before the US invasion.


China’s Covid numbers are “literally and utterly undeniably unbelievable”, says The Australian’s Terry McCrann. Australia, population 26 million, is about to overtake China, population 1.4 billion, on total Covid cases since the start of the pandemic – 87,134 against China’s claim of 95,738. The lesson, of course, is that you cannot trust “a single figure – on anything – that comes out of China”.

Snapshot answer

They’re disused Bangkok taxis that have been turned into miniature allotments. Abandoned by their drivers during the downturn caused by the pandemic, the cars have been put to new use by staff at the Ratchapruk and Bovorn taxi co-operatives. Growing the produce, which includes tomatoes, cucumbers and string beans, both feeds the staff and serves as an act of protest. “Business was never this terrible,” says co-operative executive Thapakorn Assawalertkul.


quoted 21.9

“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”

Oscar Wilde