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30 November

In the headlines

Boris Johnson says he wants to see “needles going into arms like a sewing machine stitching a quilt of protection”, after slashing the interval for Covid booster jabs from six months to three. “If we boost and make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, we will be okay,” former vaccine taskforce chief Clive Dix told the BBC. In the first day of her trial in New York, Ghislaine Maxwell was accused of devising a “pyramid scheme of abuse” with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. MI6 boss Richard Moore told Radio 4’s Today that he only ever writes in green ink. His predecessors did the same: it’s a naval tradition that dates back to Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the first “C”. “The same is true of my typescript on my computer,” Moore says.

Culture

The rise of middle-aged music festivals

“A new type of festival has started to rear its head,” says Clive Martin in The Fence: the “lifestyle festival”, which brings the Glastonbury experience “towards the world of Sunday supplements”. You’ll have seen their wacky, incongruous line-ups on posters pasted on the Tube – Oxford’s Kite Festival, for example, had a “really-quite-deranged programme” this year, which brought together Grace Jones, Richard Dawkins, Delia Smith, indie band Black Country, New Road, and “David Miliband on Crisis Leadership”. And while a traditional festival requires a week of recovery, this new breed is all about wellness, “from run clubs to wild swimming, Finnish saunas to cooking classes, hip hop karaoke and ‘paddleboard yoga’”.

Economy

It’s not enough just to cut taxes

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, promising to fix the rampant inflation and “economic dislocation” of the Carter era, he hired a radical budget director called David Stockman, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. Stockman was part of a burgeoning intellectual movement that argued the way to unleash growth in the economy was for the government to slash taxes and stop meddling. Freed from state interference, the theory went, businesses and individuals would naturally get prices to the right level, resulting in “stronger growth and greater prosperity”.

Comment of the day

Climate change

Buy a coal mine to save the planet

Here’s a thought, says Tim Harford in The Financial Times: environmentalists should buy more coal mines. A colliery in West Virginia has reserves that could belch out about 20 million tons of carbon dioxide – and it’s on the market for just $8m. Snapping that up and keeping the coal in the ground is “an insanely good deal” for anyone serious about fighting climate change. Likewise, if you drive, but only a little, there’s much to be said for buying an ageing gas-guzzler. “Better for a thirsty old car to do 1,000 miles a year in your hands than 10,000 miles a year in someone else’s.”

Covid-19

Pandemics can topple governments 

Pandemics tend to make politics more “turbulent”, says Robert Guest in The Economist. When the Black Death wiped out a third of Europeans in the 14th century, the surviving labourers were able to negotiate higher pay. When influenza killed millions of Indians in 1918-19, the resulting misery helped kick-start Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign to end British colonial rule. A study of 133 countries between 2001 and 2018 found that political unrest tends to peak two years after an epidemic starts. “If so, 2022 will be a bumpy year.”

Snapshot

 

Gone viral

These are the dying moments of Eggborough power station, which once powered two million homes in North Yorkshire. Its final four smokestacks were reduced to rubble in a series of controlled explosions last month. These demolitions are so common, they’ve become a viral sensation on the website Gizmodo. “I’m absolutely addicted”, says Brian Kahn on the site. “There’s something soothing about the dull thud of explosions followed by a cloud of dust as fossil-fuel infrastructure comes tumbling down.” 

Inside politics

Why did the usually left-leaning Independent suddenly swing behind David Cameron’s Tories two days before the 2015 election? The answer, one “senior political source” tells The Mail on Sunday, was that its then editor, Amol Rajan, wanted Cameron to attend the 35th birthday party of the newspaper’s owner, Russian businessman Evgeny Lebedev. Rajan is now embroiled in another controversy – the royal family is threatening to boycott the BBC over his new documentary, The Princes and the Press.

Tomorrow’s world

Researchers at Harvard have invented a “living ink” that can be used in 3D printers. They used E. coli bacteria to create fibres that self-replicate, meaning they effectively grow when left to their own devices. One potential application is to print buildings that would not just expand but “heal” themselves if damaged – a possible approach to building homes on Mars. 

Noted

The WHO has been using Greek letters in alphabetical order to refer to Covid variants (including several you probably haven’t heard about). But in naming the omicron variant, the medical wonks skipped “nu” and “xi”, says The Wall Street Journal. “Nu” sounded too much like new and “xi” risked winding up the Chinese president.

Quoted

Quoted 30-11

“The nicest feeling in the world is to do a good deed anonymously – and have somebody find out.”

Oscar Wilde

Shopping

Billionaire pop star Rihanna is flogging “open bottom” pyjamas on her lingerie website, Savage x Fenty. The tartan trousers, which are only available in the US, cost $50; a matching top is available too. Judging by the comments on Twitter, they’re not going to sell out any time soon. “No offence to Rihanna, who has never once missed before,” wrote one fan. “But this is insane.” 

Snapshot answer

It’s the footpath at the Mopan Mountain Forest Park in Nanchang, China. The £24m “AI park” tracks citizens as they wander about, says local news website INF, sending data about their steps, speed and distance covered to their mobile phones – and keeping plenty for the state. Still, it looks fun.