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26 September

In the headlines

The pound tumbled to a record low against the dollar this morning, amid continuing market unease over the government’s radical tax-cutting agenda. With the currency briefly sliding below $1.04 before stabilising at around $1.07, says the FT, traders have “ramped up bets” that the Bank of England will intervene with an emergency interest rate rise. Far-right politician Giorgia Meloni is on course to become Italy’s first female prime minister, after her right-wing coalition triumphed in yesterday’s elections. Meloni’s party, Brothers of Italy, has its roots in Benito Mussolini’s fascist movement. Nasa is planning to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid tonight, to see how difficult it would be to knock a hypothetical lump of space rock off a collision course with Earth. “This one is for the dinosaurs!” tweeted the Perth Observatory in Australia.

What Nasa is practising for? An asteroid getting wiped out in Armageddon (1998)



Is Starmer missing a trick?

“Huge opportunities rarely come dressed as huge opportunities,” says Matthew Parris in The Times. More often, they look like risks, and the danger is that when the moment arrives, risk is all we see. For Labour’s Keir Starmer, the new chancellor’s “fiscal event” was such a moment. If he is brave enough, Starmer has the chance to rid the British imagination of its most persistent fears about his party – namely that they are “prodigal debtors, high taxers and trade union poodles”. Never have the gods of politics offered Labour such a chance to “shame the Tories as fiscal bed-wetters”.


Ukraine is losing the economic war

“The Ukrainian army may be winning,” says Niall Ferguson in Bloomberg, but the Ukrainian economy is losing. The country’s GDP is expected to have shrunk by 33% by the end of the year; inflation is at 24% and rising; “unemployment is at Great Depression levels”. Fighting has caused nearly $100bn in damage to housing and infrastructure, according to the World Bank, with “total losses from the shuttering of business at $252bn”. Tax revenue now covers just 40% of government spending, with Kyiv in need of about $5bn a month in foreign aid just to cover non-military costs. What it’s receiving from allies falls far short of that. “The Europeans are the main culprits”: the EU has delivered only €1bn of the €9bn it promised in May.


Deep inside the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia is the “world’s most top secret museum”, says the BBC. Visitors – with the appropriate clearance, of course – can view the gun found with Osama bin Laden when he was killed, Saddam Hussein’s leather jacket, a covert camera hidden in a cigarette packet, and an exploding martini glass. Also on display are scale models of the sites of some of the agency’s most historic missions, including bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, and a sunken Soviet submarine mined for secret tech with the help of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.


Inside politics

Joe Biden has never been a fan of us Brits, says Rory Stewart on The Rest is Politics podcast. Back in 2005 or 2006, a friend of mine was in a meeting with the then vice president and began explaining the fractious relationship between Sunni and Shia Muslims. “I get it, I get it – they don’t like each other,” said Biden. “It’s like me and the Brits.” By way of explanation, he added: “I’m Irish.”



A 2006 book interpreting the predictions of Nostradamus has topped the bestseller list after appearing to prophesise the Queen’s death. Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies for the Future sold just five copies in the week before the monarch died, but almost 8,000 the week after, when an extract went viral that reads: “Queen Elizabeth II will die, circa 2022, at the age of around 96.” Other predictions parsed from the 16th-century French astrologer’s poetic quatrains – which he dictated to his secretary while high on nutmeg – include the Great Fire of London, the rise of Napoleon, the Apollo moon landings and 9/11.



Earth is home to nearly 20 quadrillion ants, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s 20,000 trillion, or 2.5 million for every human. Together, the insects weigh more than all the wild birds and mammals on the planet.



There are more Catholics than Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time in its history. According to the 2021 census, Catholics make up 45.7% of residents, says Politico, “marginally higher than in the 2011 census”, whereas the proportion of Protestants has fallen five points to 43.5%. This “demographic milestone” is likely to intensify demands for a referendum on uniting Ireland – though with polls showing some Catholics preferring to stay in the UK, the result of such a vote is far from certain.


The winners of this year’s iPhone Photography Awards have been unveiled. Antonio Denti won the top prize for his snap of a soldier comforting a child amid the rubble of war-torn Mosul in Iraq. Other selections include a solitary figure walking across a Bolivian beach, and a portrait of a man whose head is entirely obscured by face masks. See the full list of winners here.



quoted 26-09-2022

“When you say you agree to a thing in principle you mean that you have not the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice.”

Otto von Bismarck