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23 November

In the headlines

The Scottish government cannot hold a second independence referendum without Westminster’s consent, the Supreme Court has ruled. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says the landmark decision “exposes as myth” the idea that the UK is a voluntary partnership. “It’s Mick Grinch,” says Metro, after rail union boss Mick Lynch announced another eight days of strikes over the Christmas period. “I’m not the Grinch,” the RMT leader retorted. “I’m a trade union official.” Neanderthal cooking was much more sophisticated than previously thought, says The Times. New research has found that our “evolutionary cousins” created “artisanal” bread 70,000 years ago using mustard seeds and crushed pistachio nuts. Very impressive, says one reader, but were they smart enough to “spread avocado on it and charge £6.50”?

US politics

Give “Sleepy Joe” a break

Joe Biden must be the “most underestimated man of American politics”, says Stephen Collins in The Irish Times. The supposedly doddery old codger led his party to a “stunning performance” in the recent midterm elections, doing better than any Democratic president since John F Kennedy. And he has a “remarkably successful record” at getting big pieces of legislation through Congress, arguably achieving more in two short years than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama managed in two full terms. Yet there is “widespread reluctance to give him the credit he deserves”.

British politics

The selfish professionals holding us back

Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement outlined cuts to almost all public services, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Rightly so. Underfunding isn’t the problem: the last two health secretaries both agreed their department “could live within its budget”, after “embarrassing” IFS figures showed that extra funding wasn’t resulting in more treatment. The real issue is the professionals themselves: the doctors, barristers and teachers who push back against efficiency-boosting reforms in order to protect their roles. Take the NHS. Changes that would slash waiting times, like letting nurses carry out simple operations and pharmacists prescribe a wider range of drugs, are met with determined resistance. “The fundamental structure of the medical profession remains archaic.”


“Hot girls don’t just eat their veggies,” says Sydney Gore in Architectural Digest, “they decorate with them too.” The vogue for produce-inspired porcelain began back in the 18th century: because the intricately designed ornaments were expensive and time-consuming to craft, they became a status symbol for elites. Vegetable décor has been a cult favourite ever since. When a lettuce-inspired, 307-piece dinnerware set previously owned by Frank Sinatra went up for auction in 2018, it fetched $37,500. Designers say 2021 was the “year of the mushroom”; now it’s all about the tomato.

Inside politics

On the day much of Boris Johnson’s government resigned in July, there was one “moment of levity”, says Sebastian Payne in the FT. When Dominic Raab arrived at No 10 to speak to the PM, he “awkwardly” told staffers he had to attend a white-tie dinner that evening and needed some help putting on his bow tie. Once dressed, he went in to see Johnson – who found the whole thing hilarious. “Are you actually going to walk out of the front door to the world’s media in white tie?” he asked. Raab, after chiding his boss for finding the situation “far too funny”, left by a side door.

Quirk of history

Queen Elizabeth secretly incorporated her beloved corgi Susan (pictured) into her wedding day celebrations. According to Caroline Perry’s new book The Corgi and the Queen, the then Princess stashed Susan away under her seat in the royal carriage with a rug and a hot water bottle to keep her happy. “She wanted to have her best friend by her side on the biggest day of her life,” Perry tells People magazine.

Staying young

Tom Ford, the fashion world’s newest billionaire after his eponymous brand sold to Estée Lauder for $2.8bn, used to have at least four baths a day, says the Evening Standard. One at 4.30am, when he woke up; one at 9.15am, after his workout; one at 6pm (“no clear reasoning for this one”); and one at 10.30pm, “once his social obligations are complete and he’s ready for bed”. Since having children he’s down to a single daily soak – the 4.30am one – which he takes with a huge iced coffee drunk through a bendy straw by candlelight.


At some point in history, Britain has invaded all 30 other countries competing in the World Cup (31 if you count England conquering Wales). There are only 22 countries in the whole world that the British haven’t got round to invading, including Sweden, Guatemala and Mongolia. See the full list here.


It’s a herd of sheep in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia that walked around in a circle for at least 12 days – and no one knows why. Some have speculated that they may have listeriosis, known as “circling disease”, but this usually causes death within 48 hours. More likely, agriculture professor Matt Bell tells Newsweek, it is just typical herd mentality: one sheep began doing it, and then the others joined in to “bond or join their friends”.


quoted 23.1122

“Moral indignation in most cases is 2% moral, 48% indignation and 50% envy.”

Italian film director Vittorio De Sica