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28 July

In the headlines

The High Court has ruled that London Mayor Sadiq Khan can go ahead with his plans to extend the Ulez emission zone. Five Tory councils had argued that Khan was “going beyond his powers” in expanding the scheme to cover the whole capital. “You’ve got Mali,” says the BBC, after the Ministry of Defence accidentally emailed classified information to Russia’s West African ally because of a typo. The intended recipient was the US military, which uses the domain name “.mil”; the sender missed out the letter “i”. We’ve long considered the Germans our sun-lounger rivals, says The Times, but now Spaniards are adopting “radical tactics” to battle British tourists for space on the beach. “Territorial clashes” are taking place at Costa Blanca resorts, with locals waking up at 5:30am to stake their claim with red-and-yellow parasols.


Gone viral

This clip of an Instagram user testing out an array of historic pencil sharpener designs has racked up more than 25,000 likes. “They all seem to work sooo much better than the modern ones,” says one viewer. See the full video here.

Inside politics

“When your most enthusiastic donors are dead people,” says Andrew McDonald in Politico, “you might have a problem.” The Scottish National Party has seen such an exodus of subscription-paying members that the vast bulk of its donations now comes from bequests left by deceased supporters. New data shows that in the past five years, the party has received just one gift worth £50,000 or more from a living person. It’s not quite the image the SNP, always determined to show that it has “youth on its side”, wants to portray.


I thought it was only the “wimpish new left” that lost its rag over books and films it finds offensive, says Brendan O’Neill in The Spectator. But the new Barbie film has left many sworn enemies of wokery “flapping with fury”. American provocateur Ben Shapiro “felt so wounded” by the movie’s pot-shots at the patriarchy that he filmed himself burning Barbie and Ken dolls. Piers Morgan has furiously complained that the film’s central message is that “men are evil oppressors [and] women are unimpeachably perfect victims”. Come on, guys. You constantly bemoan the “fragility and intolerance” of modern culture. What could be more fragile than getting worked up over a “life-sized doll”?


The key to being an “excellent conversationalist”, says Upworthy, is keeping in mind the “43:57 rule”. According to communication experts who analysed data from marketing calls, interactions where the seller spoke 43% and listened for 57% of the time had the highest success rate. It’s the same in social contexts: tuning in to what someone else is saying for a little longer than you speak yourself makes someone come away with the impression “they are valued and you respect what they say”.


Elon Musk’s decision to rebrand Twitter as “X” is yet another example of his poor naming skills, says Andrew Lawrence in The Guardian. At Tesla, the billionaire wanted the car names to spell out the word “SEXY” – only Ford wouldn’t give up the copyright on its Model E, so he ended up with Model S, Model 3, Model X and Model Y. Then there’s his son with the singer Grimes: they wanted to call him XÆA-12, but that was rejected for flouting a California law prohibiting numbers on birth certificates. He is instead called XÆA–Xii.


It’s a series of criss-crossed white road lines at an intersection in a French village, designed to befuddle drivers and make them slow down. The mayor of Bauné says that making it “difficult to read the landscape” forces motorists to put on the brakes and get their bearings. He admits that the layout “can be disorienting”, particularly for older people.


quoted 28.07.23

“I’m sure wherever my Dad is, he’s looking down on us. He’s not dead, just very condescending.”

Jack Whitehall