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11 August

In the headlines

The police watchdog has slammed forces in England and Wales for their “unacceptable” record on burglaries, robberies and theft. Only about 4% of thefts and house burglaries result in a suspect being charged, a rate Chief Inspector Andy Cooke describes as “not what the public expect and deserve”. There is an “exceptional risk” that wildfires could sweep across Britain this weekend, says The Daily Telegraph. With up to 36C temperatures and strong winds forecast, the Met Office has raised the Fire Severity Index to its highest level across much of the country. A new chatbot developed by Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has told the BBC that Mark Zuckerberg “exploits people for money”. The AI-powered BlenderBot3 added that the Facebook founder’s testimony before Congress “makes me concerned for our country”.


“Every cardinal sin in the Gospel of Woke”

Olivia Newton-John will rightly be best remembered for her iconic role in Grease, says Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. Back then, cinema was all hard-edged and gritty – think The Godfather and A Clockwork Orange ­– but for us teenagers, Grease was a “Technicolour blast of nostalgia”. There’s “no doubt it spoke to my generation”. Yet today, “it would be cancelled at the first focus group”. To start with, there’s the “rapey” lyrics: “Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?” Then there’s the wolf-whistling at Sandy’s vampish look – soon to be a criminal offence if Liz Truss has her way. And Danny is guilty of “endless gaslighting”: after a misguided lunge, he sulks at Sandy that “I thought I meant something to you”.


Amnesty’s “Russian propaganda”

I can’t understand Amnesty International’s “moral myopia” on Ukraine, says Max Boot in The Washington Post. Last year, the human rights organisation announced that it no longer considered Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny a “prisoner of conscience”, because he had “once echoed some Russian nationalist views”. That decision was reversed after it prompted widespread outrage. But now Amnesty has issued a bizarre statement accusing Ukrainian forces of “violating the laws of war”, on the basis that they use weapons “in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals”. Yes, the same Ukrainian forces that are desperately fighting off an entirely unprovoked attack by “a merciless and bloodthirsty foe”.


Plucky pooches fought it out in the World Dog Surfing Championships in California this week. Entrants competed in categories based on their size, with a separate group for pups partaking as a pair. Judges marked their scores on length of ride, technique and confidence; the top “Overall Champ” prize went to Skyler, an Australian cattle dog (pictured above in the red lifejacket).


For an Oxford don, Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien was quite the party animal. An invitation to his son Christopher’s “coming of age” party ended: “Carriages at midnight. Ambulances at 2am. Wheelbarrows at 5am. Hearses at daybreak.”

Inside politics

Nicola Sturgeon says Liz Truss sought her advice when the pair met at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow last year. “I remember it quite well actually,” the SNP leader told the audience at an Edinburgh fringe event. “I’d just been interviewed by Vogue… that was the main thing she wanted to talk to me about, she wanted to know how she could get into Vogue.” When Sturgeon told Truss the interview was actually the second time she’d been featured in the magazine, the Foreign Secretary apparently “looked a little bit as if she’d swallowed a wasp”.

Gone viral

This video of an auto-targeting fire sprinkler system has racked up more than 85,000 views on Twitter. One user spotted a potential hazard of the tech: “Imagine being the person who lights a cigarette under one of those.”

On the way out

WhatsApp users will soon be able to leave groups much more gracefully – and silently. Currently, exiting a group on the messaging app notifies all remaining members, says The Guardian, “which can be embarrassing for smaller groups and irritating for larger ones”. An update due over the coming month, however, will include the option to mute this announcement of departure.


It’s a composite image of a vulture in flight over California. Photographer Doris Mitsch began creating “otherworldly” pictures like it during lockdown in 2020, says My Modern Met, combining anywhere from 500 to 5,000 individual photographs for each one. See more of her work here.


quoted 11.8.22

“The penalty of success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you.”

Nancy Astor