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27 September

In the headlines

“Spooked” lenders including Virgin Money have stopped offering mortgages to new customers, says The Daily Telegraph, amid fears the Bank of England will raise interest rates “to counter the turmoil facing the pound”. Traders predict rates will hit 6% next year, adding £800 to the typical monthly mortgage repayment. Labour has surged to its largest poll lead over the Tories since 2001. A new YouGov survey puts the opposition at 45%, 17 points ahead of the Conservatives on 28%. Nasa’s Dart spacecraft successfully struck the asteroid Dimorphos last night, in an experiment to see whether a space rock hurtling towards Earth could be knocked off course. As a Nasa commentator put it on the livestream of the impact (below), it’s “Humanity 1, Asteroid 0”.


Our new “bailouts for everyone” era

The “grim” winter of 1973-74 bore many similarities to this year, says The Economist. Geopolitical strife had sent energy prices through the roof, feeding an inflationary surge that cut real incomes. But rather than doling out money to cash-strapped citizens, governments focused on cutting fuel consumption. “Sweden and the Netherlands introduced petrol rationing; Italy imposed a curfew in bars and restaurants.” West German chancellor Willy Brandt warned citizens they’d “have to get dressed a little more warmly this winter”. Today’s leaders have done a bit of this, “but mainly they have turned on the fiscal taps”. Britain and others are spending tens of billions helping people and businesses pay their heating bills. Several European countries are “nationalising huge chunks of their energy sectors”.

Gone viral

A group of runners accidentally sparked mass panic in the Brazilian city of Recife, when their Saturday-night exercise routine was mistaken by restaurant diners as an escape from imminent danger. “New dine-and-dash strategy just dropped,” says one Twitter user.


On the money

Paper banknotes will no longer be legal tender in the UK after Friday, completing the transition to plastic-like polymer notes. There are still more than 360 million £20 and £50 paper notes in circulation, worth £11bn, which people can exchange this week at banks, post offices and the Bank of England. It may not be worth the hassle, says the Have I Got News For You Twitter account. With inflation soaring, the notes will soon be “worth less than the paper they’re printed on”.



Hundreds of Nigels from across the world gathered at a village pub in Worcestershire on Saturday night for “Nige-fest”, says The Guardian, an attempt to “drum up support for this dying name”. Nigel Smith, landlord of the Fleece Inn, set up the festival after the UK’s birth records showed that his name would soon go extinct – there wasn’t a single Nigel born in 2020. The 372 Nigels who turned up were entertained by “various Nigels” – comedians, musicians, buskers, DJs – and all signed the Book of Nigel, “essentially a book with the word ‘Nigel’ written in it 372 times”.



Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series, The Rings of Power, is ruined by “stupid and stereotyped accents”, says James Moore in The Independent. The harfoots, “child-like migratory fairy folk who yomp around in rags”, have cod-Irish accents; the surly dwarves sound Scottish; and the “hardscrabble, working-class humans” speak like northerners. Meanwhile, the elves – beautiful, immortal, “as uptight as a Tory delegation to Brussels” – have the crisp tones of posh southerners. “Can’t have an Elrond with a glottal stop or a Welsh-sounding Galadriel.”


Inside politics

This week’s plummeting pound isn’t the first time Kwasi Kwarteng has had to deal with “the debasement of currency in England”, says the FT’s Alan Beattie on Twitter. The Chancellor’s Cambridge PhD thesis was entitled: “Political thought of the recoinage crisis of 1695-7.”



It’s a staged meteorite crash, set up by a school in Australia, that proved too realistic for some social media users. The Corpus Christi Catholic School in Tasmania promoted the event with a Facebook post reading: “Breaking news. A meteorite has struck the front of our school. The authorities are here. Please stay clear of the area while they conduct their investigations.” One suspicious local pointed out that a meteor that large “would leave a longer skid mark and maybe bounce a bit before stopping”. The post was eventually updated with a disclaimer: “It’s not real.”



quoted 27-09-22

“If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it.”

Thomas Carlyle, 19th-century Scottish writer