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30 May

In the headlines

Six million British households face blackouts this winter because of gas shortages caused by the Ukraine war, Whitehall officials have warned. Plans to alleviate the shortage include delaying the closure of three coal-fired power stations and the almost 50-year-old nuclear plant Hinkley Point B. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has demanded an investigation into the brutal tactics of French police after they teargassed Liverpool fans, including a nine-year-old boy, before Saturday’s Champions League final in Paris. Top gendarme Didier Lallement said he “regrets that several attendees may have been inconvenienced”. The Ukrainian winners of this year’s Eurovision have sold their trophy for £712,000 to buy drones for the war effort. Frontman Oleh Psiuk raised another £293,000 auctioning off his signature pink bucket hat.



Will America ever learn?

After last week’s school shooting in Texas, it took a British journalist, Mark Stone of Sky News, “to ask a question the world is thinking”, says Janice Turner in The Times. Cornering Republican bigwig Ted Cruz, Stone said: “Why does this only happen in your country? Why is this American exceptionalism so awful?” Cruz “feigned affront at British impertinence, then scuttled away”. Will America ever learn? After similar tragedies – Australia’s Port Arthur massacre, Britain’s Dunblane shooting – fellow Anglophone democracies declared “never again” and meant it. But the US sees itself “not as part of the world, but alone, above it”. An idea which was once “the root of its pre-eminence” is now its tragedy.

UK politics

We’re all social democrats now

“Rishi Sunak has discovered the power of social democracy,” says Will Hutton in The Observer. His ambitious package to address the cost-of-living crisis is a perfect example of social democracy’s best traditions: taxing windfall profits that resulted from “unearned and unexpected good luck”, and directing the proceeds to alleviate an equally undeserved fall in living standards among the poorest and most vulnerable. Sunak may protest that he remains a “tax-cutting chancellor committed to Thatcherite small-state principles”, but he’s no fool. All his government’s successes come from doing the opposite – the furlough scheme, state-boosted vaccine development, and now taking on the cost-of-living crisis. Conservative reactions to any of these would only have led to “political dead ends”.


Sebastian Steudtner has been awarded the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed, an 86ft monster off the renowned Praia do Norte in Nazare, Portugal. “I’ll never forget what I saw when I started to drop behind the peak and saw the entire wave,” the 37-year-old German told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I had tears from the wind speed and was just holding on with everything I had. Not doing anything funny, just hanging on.”


An Instagram account dedicated to Depop, the Gen Z-favourite clothes selling app, has racked up more than 600,000 followers. @depopdrama charts the best exchanges between buyers and sellers. One post from a recently heartbroken fashionista reads: “Hi lovely followers! Selling all my boyfriend’s clothes as he cheated on me 🥺 Dior, Gucci, Prada all £20 each.”

The great escape

Monkey Island off the coast of Puerto Rico does what it says on the tin, says Smithsonian Magazine. The 38-acre outcrop is home to 1,500 monkeys and zero humans. It started in the late 1930s, when the primatologist Clarence Carpenter shipped 450 of the creatures from India to the island – technically called Cayo Santiago. The monkeys destroyed pretty much all the natural vegetation, so now a group of humans arrive by boat once a day, toss them some food, then leave.


Jackdaws decide when to leave their roosts through a neatly democratic process, says New Scientist. When one of the birds wants to set off, it calls out to the others, who chime in with their votes. The quicker the sound builds, the sooner the flock leaves: if there’s broad popular support, all the birds can be out of the nest in as little as four seconds. But if they fail to reach a consensus, they fly away in “dribs and drabs”. Researchers think the jackdaws do all this in a bid to achieve safety in numbers, and so that they can point each other to the best food sources.


These were all created by Google’s new text-to-image tool Imagen, which turns written descriptions into hyper-realistic images. The company claims its artistic AI is a step ahead of rivals, and produced the wacky pictures of a shiba inu – playing guitar, riding a bike, on a skateboard – to prove it.


Quoted 30.05.22

“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.”

Steve Martin