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29 July

In the headlines

“Britain’s back in business,” says the Daily Mail, as quarantine restrictions end for fully vaccinated travellers from the US and EU. A few weeks ago Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College was warning it was “almost inevitable” coronavirus cases would hit 100,000 a day. Now he says that by autumn “the bulk of the pandemic will be behind us”. European leaders who trashed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have “blood on their hands”, says a UK official after a study of more than a million people found the AZ jab was no more likely to cause blood clots than the Pfizer one. Merkel, Macron and others, says the official, are “responsible for the deaths of thousands in developing countries who won’t take AZ because of their anti-vaxx scare stories”. Charlotte Dujardin became Britain’s most decorated female Olympian after taking bronze in the individual dressage on her horse Gio.

Comment of the day

Film

The Afghan general exiled in London

Like countless other political exiles in London, says Colin Freeman in The Daily Telegraph, “Sami Sadat dreams of freeing his country from tyranny”. A dream is all it may ever be: his homeland is Afghanistan, where he was a top general until America “abandoned it to the Taliban” last year. Forced to flee, he has vowed to “raise a new army and return to end Taliban rule”. Sadat is the star of Retrograde, a new documentary that offers an “uncomfortable ring-side seat” on his losing battle with the theocratic warlords. His attempts to rally the troops put him in the “top three” on the Taliban’s kill list, and he had to dodge 17 suicide bombers sent to kill him. One got close enough for the blast to burst his right eardrum.

Sport

Tom Pidcock, who won Olympic gold for Britain in the cross-country mountain-biking on Monday, was hit by a car in May. The crash broke his bike in two and left his collarbone in five pieces. The 21-year-old Yorkshireman was told to wait six weeks before getting back in the saddle. He was riding again after just a few days.

Noted

A new app allows cat owners to assess their pets’ moods, say its developers. Sylvester.ai maps smartphone images of the cat’s face on the “feline grimace scale” (FGS), which was developed by Canadian researchers as a tool for assessing when cats feel pain. The app tells you if your cat is happy or unhappy by checking subtle cues: a taut muzzle, squinted eyes, ears rotating outwards or tightly stretched whiskers indicate distress. 

Love etc

Kitty Spencer, the 30-year-old niece of Diana, Princess of Wales, wore five dresses for her wedding to 62-year-old fashion tycoon Michael Lewis over the weekend. “Yes, five,” says The Cut. It must have been a “party consumed by costume changes”. Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and Princess Eugenie made do with two; Hailey Bieber, wife of Justin, opted for three; and the singer Ellie Goulding also wore five. As for the groom, it’s not known whether he changed outfits, but he did sport velvet slippers for the big day. “Comfort is king.”

Quirk of history

The first mobile phone call was made by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper in April 1973. The person he chose to ring was Joel Engel at AT&T, who had also been racing to create the first mobile. “I called and told him, ‘Joel, I’m calling you from a cellular phone, a real cellular phone, a handheld, portable, real cellular phone’,” Cooper recalled. Engel didn’t have a lot to add to the historic conversation: “My assumption was that he was grinding his teeth.”

Quoted

Quoted 29-07

“Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” 

John Updike

Snapshot answer

It’s the world’s largest star sapphire cluster, which was found in the garden of a house in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka. Workmen discovered the pale-blue 510kg cluster a year ago while digging a well for a local gem dealer, and experts have spent months cleaning, analysing and certifying the “Serendipity Sapphire”.