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9 August

In the headlines

FBI agents have raided Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. The former president denounced the operation, reportedly part of an investigation into his handling of White House documents, as the “weaponisation” of America’s justice system. “They even broke into my safe!” The NHS has slashed the backlog of patients waiting longer than two years for routine operations in England, from 22,500 at the start of the year to fewer than 200 today. Despite this “milestone”, says the BBC, a record 6.6 million people are still waiting for hospital treatment. Grease star Olivia Newton-John died yesterday from cancer aged 73. Though she was 29 when the film was made, says The Times, her on-screen chemistry with John Travolta “came to epitomise adolescent fantasy”.

US politics

Why Trump won’t run again

Here’s a bold prediction, says Jeremy Stahl in Slate: Donald Trump won’t run for president in 2024. Not many pundits are willing to say that – out loud at least. We were so wildly wrong about his chances in 2016 that we’ve spent the past five years trying to make up for it. Whatever scandal befell him, we declared that “Teflon Don” would always survive. And that was true during his presidency: he did survive and his supporters stuck by him. But now I think we’re “overcompensating”.


What’s the point of economists?

When the Queen visited the London School of Economics during the financial crisis of 2008, she asked the professors the question “consuming the nation”, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian: “Why did no one see it coming?” They didn’t have a good answer, later acknowledging it had been a “failure of the collective imagination”. Fourteen years on and we’re facing a similar economic disaster – and once again, the economists are all over the place. Those favoured by Liz Truss want taxes slashed to encourage growth; Rishi Sunak’s lot think we should focus on fighting inflation. You really can take your pick: increase debt or curb debt; raise interest rates or lower them. Economists claim their profession is a social “science”. But currently they “stand round the ailing economy like medieval doctors, arguing over leeches versus potions”.


Taylor Swift appears to be extremely generous with her private jet. The pop star was recently named as the celebrity with the highest level of carbon emissions from her “PJ”: nearly 8,300 tonnes from 170 flights in one year, around 1,185 times more than what the average person contributes. But Swift’s representative hit back, saying: “Taylor’s jet is loaned out regularly to other individuals. To attribute most or all of these trips to her is blatantly incorrect.”

Inside politics

Historians often talk up the personal chemistry between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. But Thatcher herself thought there was more to it than bonhomie, says Jack Blackburn in The Times. When Gordon Brown was PM, Thatcher came to visit him at Chequers and they discussed her premiership. “My relationship with Ronald Reagan,” she said, “people always talk about this!” The key to it wasn’t friendship, Thatcher explained. It was much simpler: “He was more afraid of me than I was of him.”


More than 800 people are trudging through the Florida wetlands this week, says AP News, seeking out and killing Burmese pythons. The 10-day-long “python hunt” is organised by state officials to stop the invasive species preying on local birds, mammals and reptiles. Hunters are disqualified if they kill the serpents “inhumanely” or take out a native snake. Top slayers win a $2,500 prize, with additional awards for the longest pythons eliminated.


The online trend of watching people sleep has taken a dark turn, says Wired. Some users on the Twitch live-streaming platform have now rigged up their rooms so that every donation they receive wakes them up. Mikkel Nielsen, 26, does it every second Saturday. For $1, viewers can send a message that a bot will read out loud at high volume. “For $95, they can zap him via a shock bracelet wrapped around his wrist.” He estimates that he’s only ever had “around six minutes of uninterrupted rest” on each stream – but doing it twice a month is enough to pay his rent and bills.

On the money

We have entered the era of “pay-for-play podcasting”, says Bloomberg: people are forking out as much as $50,000 to be interviewed on the top shows. Appearance fees are generally paid to secure a whole-episode interview. The practice – which may be legally questionable – is “particularly popular among podcasts in the wellness, cryptocurrency and business arenas”.


It’s a slice of chorizo, which a famous French physicist pretended was a distant star photographed by the new James Webb Space Telescope. Étienne Klein posted the porky picture on Twitter, saying it was Proxima Centauri, “the closest star to the sun”. He later confessed he was joking and apologised for any confusion. “According to contemporary cosmology,” he said, “no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.”


quoted 9.8.22

“No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you’ll see why.”

Mignon McLaughlin, American journalist