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31 October

In the headlines

Left-wing leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has clinched a nail-biting victory in Brazil’s presidential election, defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro by less than two percentage points. The win caps a dramatic comeback for the 77-year-old, who was jailed for corruption in 2018 after serving two terms as president, only to have his convictions annulled. A massive wave of Russian missile strikes has cut off power and water in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. The bombardment comes after Moscow said it was pulling out of the deal that allows Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports. Tickets to see Adele perform in Las Vegas are on sale for nearly £40,000 on the secondary market. “Blimey,” says one Twitter user. “Which oligarchs and tinpot dictators are THAT keen to see her do Rolling in the Deep?”

Western democracy

Here’s an unfashionable thought: we live in a great nation

“We are living through a period of collapsing faith in liberal democracy,” says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times. A “shocking” 61% of young people in the UK say they would prefer a dictator to a democratic leader, with surveys revealing similar figures in Europe and the US. The charge is that liberalism “lacks a value system” and is only concerned with material wealth – but this is “dangerous nonsense”. Think of all the “blessings” that Britain’s own liberal democracy has provided: universal suffrage in 1928; the Equal Pay Act of 1970; the legalisation of gay marriage in 2013.

US politics

America’s self-harming immigration system

America faces an “existential struggle” to stay ahead of China in “the industries of the future”, says Edward Alden in Foreign Policy – from artificial intelligence to green energy. To win, it needs the world’s best engineering and science talent. But while the US doesn’t struggle to attract whizz kids – international students dominate in many tech-related university courses – it makes them go through all kinds of “Kafkaesque horrors” to stay in the country afterwards.


Celebrities went all-out at Halloween fancy dress parties over the weekend, says Variety. Top efforts included Lizzo as Marge Simpson, the rapper Tyga as ET, Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly as Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, and Rebel Wilson and chums as Barbie and Ken dolls. Kim Kardashian’s full-body paint job as Mystique from X-Men was also impressive, but may have been a step too far: the party she wore it to turned out not to be fancy dress.

On the money

Americans entering tonight’s Powerball lottery draw could be in for quite the treat: the jackpot has reached $1bn, which would be the fifth-largest pay-out in US lottery history. Since early August, there have been 37 consecutive Powerball drawings without a jackpot winner – hence the 10-figure prize.

Inside politics

When she was travelling the world as international trade secretary and foreign secretary, Liz Truss was obsessive about her social media output, say Harry Cole and James Heale in their upcoming biography Out of the Blue. On arriving in New Zealand, she kept the British High Commissioner waiting 20 minutes so she could get the perfect “landing photograph”. In Tokyo, she spent more than an hour creating the right shot of her at Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. Truss also established a kind of “rider” – the highly specific list of instructions sent ahead of travelling rock stars. Stipulations included no big-brand coffee, a bottle of chilled sauvignon blanc in any overnight accommodation, and “absolutely no mayonnaise on anything, ever”.


You might think of moths as those “pesky creatures” that gnaw through your knitwear, says Aeon magazine. But as this video shows, “they can also be quite majestic”. Shot using “fancy science cameras” that capture a whopping 6,000 frames per second – compared to 24fps for standard film and TV – it shows a pink and yellow rosy maple moth taking flight in super-slow motion. See the full clip, and more slow-mo moth action, here.


The EU’s efforts to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels are well publicised, says Vladimir Slivyak in The Moscow Times, but Europe is also massively dependent on the country’s uranium: around 20% of supplies used in its nuclear plants come from Russia, and another 20% from the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan, where production “remains effectively under Moscow’s control”. There are also 18 Russian-built nuclear reactors operating in the EU, which get all their fuel from Moscow. Europe’s leaders appear unbothered by all this, which seems “foolhardy in the extreme”.


It’s hanging upside down, and has been for 75 years. The 1941 picture by Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian, called New York City, was first put up at New York’s MoMA in 1945, but has hung at the art collection of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Düsseldorf since 1980. An art historian recently discovered that the thickening thatch of lines should be at the top, representing a dark sky, rather than the bottom. Curators have decided to keep it as-is, however, for fear that righting it could cause the adhesive tapes the work is made of to fall off.


quoted 31.10.22

“When everyone is thinking alike then someone isn’t thinking.”

US general George Patton