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29 September

In the headlines

Britain’s economy has performed better than that of France or Germany since the pandemic, according to revised official figures. UK GDP is now thought to be 1.8% higher than it was at the end of 2019, compared to 1.7% for France and just 0.2% for Germany. The head of GB News, Angelos Frangopoulos, has said comments made on air by Laurence Fox about a female journalist were “way past the limits of acceptance”. Fox, who questioned what “self-respecting man” would “climb into bed” with Ava Evans, has been suspended from the right-wing channel, along with host Dan Wootton. The 300-year-old tree at Northumberland’s Sycamore Gap, which was felled by a suspected vandal yesterday morning, could potentially grow back. Andrew Poad, the National Trust’s general manager, told BBC Breakfast that the stump of the arboreal icon, made famous after featuring in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, looks “healthy” enough for new shoots to emerge.

Photography

Winners of the 2023 International Photography Awards include a drone shot of a polar bear lying in a field of purple flowers; Canadian Olympic freestyle skier Mikaël Kingsbury leaping through red smoke; a staged tableau of 1950s pleasure-seekers bathing on the banks of the Thames; a giraffe bonding with her baby; and a fisherman returning to shore in Mexico, surrounded by egrets. See more here.

Inside politics

It was strange to see Keir Starmer suggest last week that the UK is “drifting off the international stage”, says Dominic Lawson in the Daily Mail. Has he forgotten about the AUKUS deal, signed earlier this year, uniting the UK, US and Australia in a pact to use nuclear-powered submarines as a counterweight to China in the Indo-Pacific? Or the new UK-Japan Hiroshima Accord, which includes plans to collaborate on a next-generation fighter jet? Or indeed that Britain has become the first European member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement? The Labour leader has always been “intensely Eurocentric”, so he’s probably thinking about the EU. But even the Europeans acknowledge that, as the German magazine Internationale Politik Quarterly puts it, “Britain is Back”. Why can’t Starmer see it too?

Gone viral

These pictures of a Chinese “rock banquet” – consisting entirely of stones that resemble food – have racked up more than 200,000 views on X (formerly Twitter). A user noted that one of Taiwan’s best-known pieces of art is a 200-year-old sculpture, less than 6cm tall, that looks just like braised pork belly. Have a look for yourself here.

Life

Michael Gambon, who died on Wednesday aged 82, was once invited as a guest of honour alongside Princess Margaret for dinner at “some fancy toff’s house”, says Popbitch. The meal was a “gargantuan” affair, with 13 courses and a different wine pairing for each one. At the end of all this, Gambon realised he was going to be sick, and, figuring he wouldn’t make it to the loo, “staggered towards the fireplace”. His host, desperate to avoid any mess on his “very valuable antique hearth rug”, dashed over to intercept, and “effectively rugby-tackled” the actor – who proceeded to throw up right there, “resulting in the pair of them landing on the floor in a heap of vomit and tuxedo”. Princess Margaret “didn’t bat an eyelid”.

Snapshot

It’s a “mesmerising” electric blue tarantula, says CNN, a new species that has just been discovered in Thailand. Bug boffins found the colourful critter while trekking through a mangrove forest, and managed to capture two specimens to bring back and study. The secretive spiders are not actually blue – they just appear so because of special hairs on their legs and carapace that “absorb very small amounts of energy while reflecting high-energy blue light”.

Quoted

quoted 29-9-23

“I may be a living legend, but that sure don’t help when I’ve got to change a flat tyre.”

American musician Roy Orbison