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21 July

In the headlines

Prepare for “a summer of bitter infighting”, says Stephen Bush in the FT, as Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss battle to become the next PM. It’s already a weird race: Sunak, a committed Brexiter who “first wrote an essay railing against the European Union at the age of 16”, is being dogged by accusations of socialism. Truss, “a former protégé of George Osborne who campaigned to Remain”, is the strong favourite among true-blue party members. Given the pair’s “significant disagreements” over economics, it’s unlikely there will be a place in the Cabinet for the loser, “which means neither candidate has much reason to hold back”. As Boris Johnson departs, says the Daily Mirror, we’re “out of the lying man and into the dire”. Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has resigned after three parties in his coalition government refused to back him in a confidence vote. The president asked him to stay on as “caretaker leader” until elections this autumn, says the BBC. Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni is “already being tipped to win”.

International relations

Asia can’t afford to choose the West over Russia

Western sanctions were meant to “cripple Russia’s war effort”, says Anand Kumar in the South China Morning Post. Instead, they are causing financial and political chaos for poor countries in south Asia. At the heart of the trouble is the fact that Russia is a member of the UN Security Council, and would naturally veto any UN-wide sanctions directed at Moscow. So smaller nations are being forced to make their own choice: sticking with Russia to buy affordable fuel for their people or playing along with the US and Nato. For some countries, the question is fast becoming a “threat to their survival”.

US politics

Why are Democrats funding far-right Republicans?

The Democrats have started playing a “risky game”, says James Hohmann in The Washington Post: meddling in Republican elections to support the craziest candidates. In Maryland, they’ve poured $2m into Trump-endorsed Republican Dan Cox’s campaign for governor. Cox is blatantly “unfit to lead”: he dubbed Mike Pence “a traitor” for refusing to overturn the 2020 election and chartered three buses to ferry supporters to the Capitol insurrection. But the Democrats believe he’s easier to defeat than his rival Kelly Schulz, a “big-tent Republican” focused on key voter issues like crime and taxes. They pulled the same trick in Pennsylvania, pledging $1m to make sure Doug Mastriano, a far-right state senator, secured the Republican nomination for governor.


Brad Pitt sported a breezy linen skirt with combat boots at a recent film premiere in Berlin. He’s hardly the first male celebrity to make the sartorial move: Kanye West wore a leather Givenchy skirt – or kilt, rather – back in 2011. But Pitt saw the trend coming a mile off. In 2004, while promoting the skirt-filled ancient Greek epic Troy, he told British Vogue: “Men will be wearing skirts by next summer. That’s my prediction and proclamation.”

Quirk of history

A few months before the 1964 general election, left-wing students hatched a plan to kidnap the Tory Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home. But when they rang the bell at the house where he was staying, he answered the door himself, heard them out about their plot, then remarked: “I suppose you realise if you do, the Conservatives will win the election by 200 or 300.” He gave them some beer and they went on their way.


Aluminium fashion is “on a roll”, says Kyle MacNeill in The Face. It started when Nicole Kidman walked the Balenciaga runway in a coated taffeta dress which looked like “a massive sheet of very chic tin foil”. Other designers caught on: the Marc Jacobs show featured a hat crafted from the shiny stuff, and Moschino’s a “shiny tray-turned-top”. As trends go it’s “pretty democratic”, considering you can replicate it with some £5 Bacofoil. It can even help you tackle the cost-of-living crisis: no need to switch on the heating come winter if you’re wrapped in heat-trapping foil.


California’s Oakland Public Library scans all the paper scraps that people leave in borrowed library books. Top picks include: “what is grass grass is a green poke thing”; a “you are here” map pointing to a stick man among questionably drawn library shelves; and an ode to the hardworking “Borok Oboma”.

Global update

Leaked censorship guidelines for workers at a Chinese social media app list hundreds of banned nicknames for President Xi Jinping, says Vice, including “Winnie The Poo, CoronaXi and Adolf Xitler”. In a two-month period in 2020, content moderators at the Instagram-like Xiaohongshu identified, and banned, 564 separate rude monikers for the Chinese leader.


It’s Blanco, an ultra-rare white Risso’s dolphin, which was spotted off the coast of California last month. Blanco is known to local whale watchers but has never before been photographed. The normally grey sea mammal has a condition called leucism, distinct from albinism, which creates the unusual colouring.


quoted 21.7.22

“When choosing between two evils, I always pick the one I haven’t tried before.”

American actress Mae West