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22 September

In the headlines

Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of Fox and News Corp, handing the reins to his eldest son Lachlan. But it’s not quite a retirement – in a memo to staff, the 92-year-old media mogul promises to continue “reaching out to you with thoughts, ideas, and advice”. A beautician specialising in eyelash extensions is one of five Bulgarians living in Britain who have been charged with spying for Russia, says the Daily Mirror. Vanya Gaberova, 29, who owns a beauty salon in Acton, west London, will appear in court along with four others on Tuesday. This year’s Booker Prize shortlist includes more men called Paul than it does women. In a change from the usual dominance of female writers, the literary prize committee has nominated three Pauls, one other man and two women. “It could have been more Pauls,” says Robert Webb, one of the judges. “These Pauls should count themselves very lucky.”

Property

Robb Report has scoured property listings to find the most expensive home on sale in every US state. There’s quite a range. At the bottom end is Nebraska, with a sprawling $3.89m McMansion, while New York and California are tied for the priciest pad at $195m – a 12,500 sq ft Manhattan penthouse and an oceanfront Malibu estate respectively. Other highlights include a modernist lakeside bungalow in Idaho, $24.5m, and a Gilded Age mansion in Washington DC, $29.95m (though it isn’t technically a state). See the full list here.

Letters

To The Times:

Sadly, as an author I was never offered a book signing. I approached my nearest bookshop in Muswell Hill to ask if they’d be interested in hosting a launch, stressing that I was a local author. The manager wearily replied: “Sir, everyone in north London is a local author.”

David Staples, London N10

On the money

South Korea is fast becoming one of the largest arms dealers in the world, says The Economist. It sold $17bn worth last year, more than double the sum in 2021, and wants to be the fourth-largest exporter in the world by 2027. Its biggest customer is Poland, to which it is selling 1,000 tanks – more than are operating “in the armies of Britain, France, Germany and Italy combined”. South Korea’s success in the industry is based on several factors: its experience working with top-drawer American kit; its high-tech civil sector; and the fact that, because of the threat across its northern border, it has “hot production lines” that can “ramp up quickly”.

Eating

Forget Naples: the world’s best pizza is officially made in Chiswick, west London. Michele Pascarella, owner of the pizzeria Napoli on the Road, was recently crowned “global pizza-maker of the year” at the prestigious 50 Top Pizza World 2023 awards. The 31-year-old Italian, who moved to London in 2011 and was commended for his innovative ingredients and puffed-up crust, says he has had to turn away more than 2,000 customers since the news broke. A member of the Qatari royal family even wanted to reserve two tables – one for him and one for his security team.

Life

A retired Boston University professor named Barbie Oppenheimer “has had a summer to remember”, says BU Today. The topically titled grandmother – whose father-in-law was a third cousin of the atomic bomb maker J Robert Oppenheimer – says any time she tries to book a hotel or a doctor’s appointment, they assume she’s pulling their leg or ask for selfies. The newsy-named nana says the person most impressed by it all has been her seven-year-old granddaughter. “She’s offered to be my publicist.”

Snapshot

It’s Honda’s Motocompacto – a new electric scooter based on a much-loved design from the 1980s. Weighing just 18 kilograms, it can be folded up into a suitcase shape and lugged around to where it’s needed. Three and a half hours of charging time gets you a range of up to 12 miles; it will go on sale in the US for $995 later this year.

Quoted

quoted 22.9.23

“Doing what you do well is death. Your duty is to keep trying to do things that you don’t do well, in the hope of learning.”

Irish novelist John Banville