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27 July

In the headlines

“Roarsome!” says the Daily Mail, after England’s Lionesses demolished Sweden 4-0 in the Women’s Euros semi-final. They will play Germany or France in the final on Sunday. Rishi Sunak has pledged to scrap VAT on energy bills next year if he becomes PM, a significant U-turn after previously opposing tax cuts. “What was it about trailing Liz Truss by a double-digit margin that first attracted you to immediate tax cuts?” asks blogger Guido Fawkes on Twitter. A rosé marketed at men, appropriately called Brosé, has been launched at a pricey £20 a bottle, says the Daily Star. “You’ve got to be a real plonk-er to drink it!”

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The best way to fix the NHS

As everyone knows, says Melanie Phillips in The Times, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. By that standard, Britain’s “unchallengeable attachment” to the NHS is “certifiable”. Waiting lists are at a record 6.6 million. There are a whopping 105,000 staff vacancies. Ambulance waiting times are so high that the NHS “no longer functions even as an emergency service”. For all our lionisation of the institution, other comparable countries get much better health outcomes. We’re in the middle of the pack of 19 OECD nations in terms of healthcare spending, but second bottom for life expectancy and deaths from treatable diseases, and last for survival rates from strokes and heart attacks.


Asia is turning its back on Europe

For all its bravado about the need to “maintain influence” in Asia, says William Bratton in Nikkei Asia, Europe has become nothing more than a “bit player” in the region. In part, this “growing irrelevance” is self-inflicted: European leaders who promise a global outlook are invariably stymied by the “brutal suction of home priorities”, a fact that has not gone unnoticed among potential Asian partners. This is exacerbated by the view, popular on the European left, that “Europe has no right to assert itself globally” because of the “complications of history”.


Jennifer Lopez celebrated turning 53 on Sunday by “stripping down to her birthday suit” to launch her latest business venture, says Page Six. Firm + Flaunt Targeted Booty Balm is a bum-focused body lotion, available for £53 a bottle. “We give all this care and attention to the skin on our face,” says Lopez on Instagram, “but we sometimes neglect the body.” On a mission to correct this, “we started with the booty”.

Quirk of history

An obscure nook of English law allows Chinese witnesses to swear their oath of honesty by cracking a saucer in court, with a legal clerk declaring: “The saucer is cracked and if you do not tell the truth, your soul will be cracked like the saucer.” The practice arose in the 19th century, says the writer Ned Donovan on Twitter, by Chinese seamen in London who weren’t accustomed to the Western concept of judicial oaths. So “they came up with something theatrical but sincere” to keep lawyers happy.


This unfortunate humpback whale breached off the coast of Massachusetts, only to land right on top of a 19ft boat. There were no injuries, and the vessel somehow sustained only light damage. “It was insane,” witness Ryder Parkhurst tells NBC Boston. “I just saw the boat go freaking flying.”


Insect specialists in the US and Canada have renamed the Asian giant hornet because it might “unintentionally bolster anti-Asian sentiment”. Commonly known as murder hornets, the pesky pests will now be called the “northern giant hornet”. The Entomological Society of America says the change also reflects the fact that all wasps are native to Asia, so the word Asian doesn’t really add much.


It’s a Ferrari 458 Italia, worth about £150,000, which Czech police have seized from criminals and converted into a zippy patrol car. They say the supercar, which can reach speeds of 200mph, will only be driven by specially trained officers. Police in other countries have done similar, says The Guardian: Italian officers use Lamborghinis “to transport urgent blood supplies to accident sites”.


Homes in which people have died are severely stigmatised in Japan, says Insider. That means prospective buyers prepared to overlook ghoulish details can get very good deals. Koji Hanahara, founder of an estate agency which specialises in jiko bukken – meaning “accident properties” – estimates a 5-10% discount for properties where “lonely deaths” have occurred, 20-30% for suicides, and as much as 50% for murders.


Quoted 27.07.22

“Smile. Tomorrow will be worse.”

Woody Allen