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28 October

In the headlines

Elon Musk has completed his $44bn takeover of Twitter. The world’s richest man immediately fired chief executive Parag Agrawal, with whom he had clashed over the platform banning Donald Trump. State school pupils are now more likely to get into Cambridge University than their private school counterparts, says The Daily Telegraph. This year, 18.8% of privately educated applicants received offers ­– down from nearly 35% six years ago – compared to 20% of state pupils. Scientists have developed a wireless headband that stops nightmares, says the Daily Mail. University of Geneva boffins found that by playing people soothing piano chords during daytime therapy sessions, then short snippets of the same sounds at night, the frequency of bad dreams was reduced by more than 90%.


The election that will decide the planet’s fate

This Sunday is “the most important day for planet Earth, and your survival” on it, says The New York Times. It’s the day Brazilians elect their next president. And their choice couldn’t be starker: one candidate wants to save the Amazon, and one wants to burn it down. The incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, has become a favourite of agribusiness magnates by effectively legalising deforestation. He has introduced laws allowing criminals to keep land that they illegally clear, and scrapped funding for the country’s environmental agency. As a result, 98% of unlawful deforestation isn’t even investigated. Last year, 18 trees were hacked down every second, laying waste to an area larger than Northern Ireland.


Why are footballers ignoring Qatar’s crimes?

I’m currently plagued by a pop-up advert featuring David Beckham in Qatar, says Rod Liddle in The Spectator, in which the “smirking tattooed oaf” enjoys a spot of desert falconry and buys spices in a Doha market. This and other “loathsome” pieces of propaganda, which attempt to distract us from the thousands who died building infrastructure for next month’s World Cup, reportedly netted Beckham £150m. But he’s not the only supposed progressive ignoring the Gulf state’s crimes. The “ineffably liberal Danes” have, in order to show their support for human rights, made their kit a little darker and plainer than usual. “Well, that’ll do the trick.”


A surprisingly popular pastime in France is tyrosemiophilia: collecting Camembert labels. Artwork on the round wooden cheese boxes usually celebrates elements of traditional rural life, like flowers, animals, and milkmaids in local dress. One collectors’ group, Club Tyrosémiophile de France, produces a quarterly magazine and holds annual conferences where members can trade labels. Serge Schéhadé, the current president, has a 35,000-strong collection. “I can’t stop,” he tells Atlas Obscura. “It’s more than a hobby, it’s a passion.”


Ambulance crews may end up working more hours if they go on strike, says The Daily Telegraph. During industrial action, the NHS demands a minimum level of staffing to make sure services remain sufficient. But staff numbers are already below that threshold – so a vote to strike could mean a vote to “take on extra shifts”.

Tomorrow’s world

When a 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit San Francisco on Tuesday, residents with the MyShake app received an alert on their phone warning them to “drop, cover, hold on” 18 seconds before the tremors began. Developed by boffins at the University of California, Berkeley, the system uses the sophisticated sensors in modern mobiles to detect earthquake-like vibrations and give users vital extra moments to reach a sheltered spot.

Gone viral

This video of a crimson river in Cusco, Peru has racked up 1.7 million views on Twitter. Its colour comes from iron oxide, which runs down from the local mountains in the rainy season.

On the money

The price of cocaine varies wildly around the world, says The Economist. At wholesale prices, a kilo of the drug in Britain is $89,000. The white stuff is considerably cheaper across the Atlantic: $1,491 in Colombia, $12,433 in Mexico and $69,000 in the US. But it can be much pricier elsewhere: $152,207 in Australia, and a whopping $214,000 in Kuwait.


It’s (part of) the front cover of Prince Harry’s forthcoming memoir, Spare. The much-anticipated autobiography will be released on 10 January, a date the royal family is presumably regarding with “the dread that most people might reserve for major invasive surgery”, says Alexander Larman in The Spectator. Harry has so far donated £1.6m of the proceeds from his book deal – worth a reported £18.4m in total – to charity.


quoted 28.10.22

“Be nice to your British friends – you never know which of them will be prime minister soon.”

Libyan comedian Mohanad Elshieky