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26 June

In the headlines

Britain must prepare for the sudden collapse of Russia after the coup attempt this weekend, Whitehall officials have warned. The world’s largest nuclear power narrowly avoided civil war when Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered his mercenaries to halt their march on Moscow, after a last-minute deal with the Kremlin. Prince William has pledged £3m to kick-start a new scheme to eradicate homelessness. The Homewards initiative will be piloted in six areas, aiming to get the UK’s 300,000 homeless off the streets within five years. Warmer temperatures mean record numbers of pet snakes are escaping, says the Daily Star. According to the RSPCA, more than 1,200 of the country’s 700,000 slippery reptile pets break free annually – mostly in the summer, because the hot weather makes them more active. “Sssome like it hot.”


Winners of this year’s Audubon Bird Photography Awards include snaps of a yellow Baltimore oriole gathering a clump of horsehair to build a nest; a northern hawk owl perched on top of a frost-covered tree in Canada; a pair of rock pigeons grooming each other under a pier; and thousands of tree swallows hunting for insects and perching on bare bald-cypress trees. See more of the shortlisted shots here.

The great escape

Disney is about to start selling an exclusive, 24-day trip touring all of its global parks, says The Washington Post, priced at a cool $115,000 per person. The six-country, 12-park adventure includes pit-stops in California, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Paris and, of course, Florida, with guests being shuttled between cities in a private jet. “If you add it up, I’m not going to say it’s a bargain,” says one agent peddling the pricy package. “But it’s not that outrageous.” If that’s enough to convince you, book here.

Global update

In a fit of Islamic piousness in 2001, says The Washington Post, the Taliban destroyed two giant, sixth-century Buddha statues carved into an Afghan cliff, blasting them to pieces with anti-aircraft guns. Now the theocratic regime is back in power and strapped for cash, they’ve opened up the site to tourists, who can pay $3.45 to see the shattered remnants of the “Bamian Buddhas”.

Quirk of history

Labour statesman Ernest Bevin gave a speech in 1947 articulating what he saw as the English view of free speech, says historian Richard Johnson on Twitter. An American friend visiting Britain had gone to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park and left his engine running while he got out to listen. The nearest speaker was “denouncing the King, parliament and all the institutions that existed in Great Britain”, so naturally the American thought: “This fellow will be arrested any minute.” Suddenly a policeman tapped him on the shoulder and said: “Sir, is this your motor car?” He said it was. “Well, would you mind stopping the engine, because they can’t hear the speaker.”

From the archives

One day in 1973, says Diaries of Note on Twitter, Elton John’s journal simply reads: “Woke up, watched Grandstand. Wrote Candle in the Wind. Went to London, bought Rolls-Royce. Ringo Starr came for dinner.”


It’s Casa Encantada, set to become America’s most expensive home for a third time after going on the market for $250m. The 40,000 sq ft pad – located in Bel Air, one of LA’s glitziest neighbourhoods – first set the record when it fetched $12.4m in 1980, and became the priciest property again when billionaire Gary Winnick coughed up $94m for it in 2000. To take the title, the spacious abode will have to beat the $238m paid for a New York penthouse in 2019.


quoted 26.6.23

“The longer I live, the more convinced am I that this planet is used by other planets as a lunatic asylum.”

George Bernard Shaw