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31 August

In the headlines

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who opened up the USSR and helped end the Cold War, has died aged 91. Joe Biden praised the Nobel Peace Prize winner as a “rare leader” who had the “imagination to see that a different future was possible”. NHS patients will soon be allowed to “shop around” for hospitals with the shortest waiting lists, says The Times. The 6.7 million people needing non-urgent operations will be able to use the NHS app to decide whether to travel further for faster treatment. Nelson Mandela’s grandson has ridiculed Meghan Markle for comparing herself to the anti-apartheid hero. Zwelivelile Mandela pointed out that overcoming 60 years of oppression in South Africa wasn’t really comparable to marrying a “white prince”.

Immigration

America’s immigration rebellion

Pious liberals pushing for lax US border controls are finally getting their comeuppance, says Douglas Murray in The Daily Telegraph. For years, Democrats in coastal cities have practically encouraged illegal immigrants to cross the Mexican border, safe in the knowledge that southern states like Texas and Arizona would have to deal with the influx. New York, Washington DC and others have even declared themselves “sanctuary cities”, where police do not help deport illegal immigrants. But now the southern states are calling their bluff. In recent months, Texas and Arizona have been bussing illegal immigrants to northern cities: around 5,000 to New York, for example, and 9,000 to DC.

Russia

Why Russia’s economy is surviving

Six months after Russia invaded Ukraine, there is “furious debate” about how the Russian economy is performing, says The Economist. Many claim it is being crippled by Western sanctions and the exodus of international firms. But Moscow is actually “doing better than even the most upbeat forecasts predicted”. Goldman Sachs data shows that the economy is recovering from its initial dip. Other analyses suggest that although the country is in recession, it is “not a deep one” by Russia’s unenviable standards. Inflation is easing. The labour market is holding up. Imports are “bouncing back fast”.

Inside politics

When FBI agents raided Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this month, one of the documents they recovered was listed as “info re: President of France”. It’s not yet clear what that means, says Rolling Stone, but Trump has been bragging to his close associates for years that he knows “illicit details” about Emmanuel Macron’s love life. He “even claimed that he learned about some of this dirt through ‘intelligence’ he had seen or been briefed on”.

Zeitgeist

More people in the US now smoke marijuana than tobacco. In the latest Gallup poll on the issue, just 11% of Americans said they were regular cigarette smokers compared to 16% who said they liked to spark up a doobie. In the 1950s and 1960s, about 45% smoked cigarettes and just 4% were getting stoned.

Sport

The Marathon du Médoc, which takes place every September in southwest France, is probably the most laid-back running race in the world. Features along the course include 23 wine tasting stations at local vineyards, musical accompaniment courtesy of 50 orchestras, an oyster bar at kilometre 38 and steak served at kilometre 39. An estimated 90% of the 8,500 participants run in a silly costume.

Gone viral

This video shows a bizarre training exercise at a Thai zoo in which an employee dressed as an eight-foot-tall ostrich is chased down with a giant fishing net. Chiang Mai Zoo, in northern Thailand, has a history of zany animal escape drills, says CNN: in 2019, an escaped “kangaroo” was really a staff member in a onesie and red boxing gloves. Watch the full chase here.

Noted

John Major tells a good joke about the Gorbachev era. Two friends in Moscow are standing in the freezing cold in a long queue for bread. After a couple of hours of the line not moving, one says: “That’s it, I’m going to kill Gorbachev.” He storms off, and returns a few hours later. “Did you kill him?” his friend asks. “No,” he replies. “The queue was too long.”

Snapshot

It’s an aerial view of the so-called Black Rock City campsite at Burning Man festival, which has returned after a two-year hiatus. Started by a group of San Franciscan artists in 1986, the weeklong counterculture party in the Nevada desert is a celebration of all things bohemian. Aside from the parties, art installations and burning of a 75-foot-tall wooden effigy, the festival also houses an air-conditioned “Orgy Dome”, where, organisers say, “all couples and moresomes can escape the dust and heat”.

Quoted

quoted 31.8.22

“Husbands are like fires. They go out if unattended.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor