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27 October

In the headlines

MI5 is to give newly reinstated Home Secretary Suella Braverman “lessons on what information she can and cannot share”, says The Times. Spooks are “concerned” about the conduct of so-called “leaky Sue”, who was forced to resign last week for emailing sensitive information to people outside government. Iran’s security forces have opened fire on protestors marking 40 days since the death of Mahsa Amini, the woman allegedly killed by morality police for wearing her hijab improperly. The rally, held in Amini’s hometown, Saqqez, attracted as many as 10,000 mourners chanting “death to the dictator” and “woman, life, freedom”. An airline is launching a prize draw for customers who get stuck with the dreaded middle seat, says CNN. Virgin Australia passengers have a chance to win $145,000-worth of rewards, including a “full-day helicopter pub crawl”.

British politics

Our political chaos didn’t start with Brexit

Many people see Brexit as the “starting gun” for Britain’s political chaos, says Aaron Bastani in Novara Media. They’re wrong: “things have been growing increasingly strange” since at least 2010, when we had our first peacetime coalition government in nearly a century. Riots broke out across England the following year. In the 2015 general election, the SNP reduced Labour to a single seat in Scotland and Ukip amassed almost four million votes. Labour then elected as its leader Jeremy Corbyn, “the party’s most radical figurehead since the 1930s”.

US politics

Celebrities have taken over the Republican Party

“Every once in a while,” says Matt Lewis in The Daily Beast, “it’s instructive to stop and remember how low Republicans have sunk.” Just 10 years ago, the GOP’s nominees for president and vice president were the eminently reasonable Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Today? The erstwhile “party of family values” has Donald Trump as its figurehead, a “thrice-married casino magnate” who once “raved about how hot his daughter is”. And Republican hopes of retaking the Senate in the midterm elections hang on their candidates in Georgia and Pennsylvania: Herschel Walker, a former American football star who “lied about fathering multiple children and allegedly paying for an abortion”; and Mehmet Oz, a “quack TV doctor”.

Gone viral

These edited photos of celebrities with their younger selves, created by the Dutch graphic designer Ard Gelinck, are a hit on Reddit. As one user observes of 84-year-old Anthony Hopkins: “He was an absolute smokeshow when he was younger DAMN 😍.” See more of Gelinck’s creations here.

Inside politics

Rishi Sunak is the 13th postwar British prime minister to have gone to Oxford University, out of a total of 17. Three PMs didn’t pursue higher education, one went to Edinburgh (Gordon Brown) – and none attended Cambridge. But as the Times journalist Hugo Rifkind observes of his alma mater: “Cambridge teaches you that it’s rather gauche to be PM.”

On the way out

New York will soon be no more, according to one famously gloomy economics professor. Nouriel Roubini was nicknamed “Dr Doom” in the early 2000s for (correctly) predicting the 2008 financial crisis, and his new book MegaThreats isn’t cheery either. Roubini forecasts that if nuclear war breaks out between Nato and Russia, Manhattan will be one of the first targets. And even if we swerve that catastrophe, he tells the New York Post, “most of downtown New York is gonna be underwater” in 20 years due to climate change. His best-case scenario for the world? “A return to the economic doldrums and Cold War anxiety of the 1970s.”


One reason Britain is struggling with low productivity levels is its reluctance to embrace automation, says The Atlantic. The UK has “barely 100 installed robots per 10,000 manufacturing workers”, trailing behind the likes of Slovenia and Slovakia. To take one extreme example, the number of automatic car washes in Britain decreased by 50% between 2003 and 2018, while the number of hand car washes (that is, people with buckets of water) increased by the same proportion.

Quirk of history

At the turn of the 20th century, William Phelps Eno, known as the “father of traffic safety”, invented the modern roundabout, the stop sign, the taxi rank, the one-way street and the pedestrian crossing. Despite all this, says the QI Twitter account, the American businessman never learned how to drive a car.


They’re the world’s worst science stock photos, according to a Twitter poll run by Falmouth University lecturer Kit Chapman. Finalists included images of “scientists” in lab coats staring at a hen, and a man donning full PPE to stick syringes into a raw chicken. But it was the snap of a woman working on a circuit board – holding the part of a soldering iron that heats to at least 200C, rather than the insulated handle – that prevailed.


quoted 27.10.22

“A government agency is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

Ronald Reagan