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28 June

In the headlines

The government is preparing for the potential collapse of Thames Water amid concerns about its mounting debts. Measures could include the temporary nationalisation of Britain’s biggest water company, whose chief executive resigned yesterday over endemic leaks and sewage spills. Ukraine’s modest gains in its summer counter-offensive – about 300 sq km so far – are merely a “preview”, the country’s defence minister tells the FT. Oleksii Reznikov says that the “main event” is still to come, and “when it happens, you will all see it”. A 13-year-old skateboarder has become the first female athlete to land a 720, a trick which involves making two full rotations in the air. Arisa Trew is hoping to represent Australia at next year’s Paris Olympics.


Ahead of the release of the new Barbie movie, a pink Malibu mansion re-modelled to resemble the plastic icon’s “DreamHouse” is being rented out by Airbnb next month. The oceanfront property has an outdoor disco, infinity pool and Western-themed bedroom. And because Barbie’s boyfriend Ken “couldn’t figure out how to put a price” on it, say producers, the two one-night slots available will be free of charge. Book here on 17 July.


Shortly after the Taliban took control of opium-rich Afghanistan in 2021, their supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, banned all narcotics. Turns out “he meant it”, says The Economist. Satellite images show poppy cultivation in Helmand province, where most of the crop is grown, fell from more than 120,000 hectares in April 2022 to less than 1,000 hectares a year later. Afghanistan’s overall opium trade – worth up to $2.7bn in 2021, and responsible for 85% of the world’s supply – has dropped by 80% in a year.


A new event will encourage athletes to stuff themselves full of performance-enhancing drugs before competing, says Damian Reilly in The Spectator. President of the Enhanced Games, Aron D’Souza, says the aim is “to free science and sport from those who would rather it be shackled”. But what’s the point of that? When I go for a run and compare my time with that of professional runners I am humbled by their prowess. But if I know that they’re on drugs, then what relevance is their speed to me? “They may as well be on wheels.”

On the way out

South Korea is today abandoning its centuries-old way of measuring age. Traditionally, babies are considered to be one year old at birth and everyone gains a year on 1 January – meaning a baby born on New Year’s Eve would turn two the following day. From today, South Korea will follow the standard, birthday based system used by rest of the world, making all Koreans one or two years younger than they were yesterday.

The great escape

I’m an extremely light packer, says Harry Mount in the I newspaper: for a two-week summer holiday, I take a single change of clothes, then wash things every evening before I go to bed. The only time my “sublime system” broke down was when I flew home from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport a few years ago. “A Mossad agent interrogated me for three hours for fear I was a suicide bomber because of my near-empty bag.”


It’s Paris’s “boulevard of dreams”, says Tortoise. The heirs of the 19th-century planner Baron Haussmann are designing a “dramatic reinvention” of one of the city’s grandest thoroughfares: the eight-lane Avenue de la Grande Armée, which leads from the Arc de Triomphe to the financial district at La Défence. It will surrender two lanes on each side to “pedestrians, bicycles and green space”, leaving four in the middle for cars. It won’t be ready in time for the Olympics, but as long as the new pavement isn’t cobbled, it might make for a “more comfortable final approach to the Étoile for the Tour de France”.


quoted 28.6.23

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Lily Tomlin