Skip to main content
The Knowledge logo

20 July

In the headlines

Wildfires broke out yesterday across what the Daily Mirror calls “tinderbox Britain”, as temperatures reached a record 40.3C. Around 20 homes were destroyed in Wennington, east London by a blaze one firefighter described as “absolute hell”. With Tory MPs due to pick the final two leadership candidates today, Rishi Sunak is “almost certain” to be one of them, says The Guardian. The fight over the second spot will go down to the wire – Penny Mordaunt is just six votes ahead of Liz Truss, with 59 to play for after Kemi Badenoch was knocked out yesterday. Results are at 4pm. Marmite can help beat stress: it is packed with B vitamins which calm the brain, according to a new study. Of course, if you’re among the 50% who detest the divisive spread, says the Daily Star, it might have “the opposite effect”.

Liberal democracy

Democracy: you just can’t get the staff

It’s revealing of Western democracy’s “personnel problem” that our best hope for PM is Rishi Sunak, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. For all his rote-learnt soundbites and formulaic posturing, he still outshines a “dire Conservative field”. Competition elsewhere is hardly stiffer: America’s two most senior Democrats are “a pensioner and his maladroit vice-president”; Italy is led by a “globocrat called Mario” for the second time in a decade. Thirty years ago, the ruling Tory cohort included a lawyer who became a QC aged 40, Ken Clarke, and the “builder of a commercial fortune”, Michael Heseltine. In comparison, Britain could soon be run by Penny Mordaunt, who tried to get the word “cock” into a parliamentary speech as many times as possible.


What green activists can learn from the right

Never has a silence been “so loud or so resonant”, says George Monbiot in The Guardian, as the hush surrounding the one issue that truly matters: the survival of life on earth. All the other rubbish filling up the front pages is “dust” in comparison. And yet Tory leadership hopefuls awkwardly skirt around the subject, while Times editors somehow still publish articles doubting climate science. This isn’t a “passive silence”, but a fierce commitment by politicians and billionaire media barons to ignore the threat roaring around us. We shouldn’t be surprised. The demand to decarbonise isn’t just a threat to the fossil fuel industry; it challenges “the world order that permits powerful men to dominate us”. To give ground to climate campaigners would be to surrender that power.

Great escape

Time magazine has released its list of the world’s 50 best places to visit in 2022. Top picks include: the new Ilulissat Icefjord Centre in Greenland, which examines the history of the country’s ice sheet to explore the impacts of climate change; Salta in Argentina, known for its surreal scenery and “award-winning wines”; the historic Silk Roads of Uzbekistan; and for the most intrepid travellers (with large enough chequebooks), the International Space Station, which welcomed tourists for the first time this year.

Quirk of history

Except in cities, English planning law mandates a minimum distance of 70 feet between the windows of any two houses that face each other, to prevent “overlooking”. This rule was arrived at rather arbitrarily in 1902, says architect Annalie Riches on the AJ Climate Champions podcast. Urban planners Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin, in need of a rule to “protect the modesty of women” from peeping toms, went to a field and walked away from each other until they couldn’t see each other’s nipples through their shirts. They measured the distance – 70 feet – and the rule stuck.

Inside politics

Vladimir Putin was left awkwardly standing around in front of a pack of reporters for nearly a minute yesterday, while waiting to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran. It may have been payback for a 2020 meeting in Moscow, when Erdogan was made to wait for more than two minutes in a cramped antechamber.


Great white sharks are growing to “insane” sizes, say marine biologists, after gorging on prey in protected no-fishing zones. Female great whites are typically around 16ft from nose to tail, with males coming in at a daintier 13ft. But researchers have recently observed female “mega sharks” in US waters measuring up to 20ft. A similar phenomenon has seen tiger sharks – typically around 12ft long – growing to 16ft in French Polynesia, whose waters host one of the world’s biggest shark sanctuaries.


Eagle-eyed flight trackers spotted Kylie Jenner’s private jet travelling from Camarillo, California, to Van Nuys, California earlier this month – a three-minute jaunt that spared her the agony of a 40-minute drive. Jenner’s £60m plane, nicknamed Kylie Air, frequently pops on carbon-belching ten-minute trips. “Please keep recycling and reducing your waste so Kylie Jenner can use her private jet,” says radio presenter Shane Beatty on Twitter.


It’s a “nap box”, a vertical capsule to let Japanese workers grab some shuteye in the office. Furniture maker Itoki and plywood supplier Koyoju Gohan collaborated to create the pod, which aims to tackle the drowsiness and decreased productivity that comes from Japan’s notoriously brutal working hours. It “looks a bit like a coffin, or if you’re feeling generous, a pill”, says Ian Carlos Campbell in Input magazine. “I will not be taking my lunch breaks here.”


quoted 20.7.22

“I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.”

American lawyer Dudley Field Malone