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4 October

In the headlines

Rishi Sunak finally confirmed that he was scrapping the Birmingham-Manchester leg of HS2 in his conference speech today, saying the £36bn saved would be spent on other transport projects. The PM also proposed raising the legal age for buying cigarettes and tobacco in England every year, so that eventually no one can buy them. The Speaker of the US House of Representatives has been ousted from office for the first time in history. Eight right-wing Republicans forced the vote of no confidence in Kevin McCarthy after he struck a bipartisan deal on Saturday to avoid a government shutdown. A 104-year-old from Chicago has become the world’s oldest skydiver. Dorothy Hoffner said she wasn’t nervous before the 10,000ft descent, and had “no idea” she would be breaking the record. Her main thought, she said, was: “What are we having for dinner?”


Today marks the start of Fat Bear Week in Alaska, says CNN. The annual competition – a public vote to crown the state’s tubbiest bear – features 12 ursine competitors from the Katmai National Park. Favourites include four-time winner Otis, an older bear who “moves less to catch more” when fishing; current title holder 747, a “skilled and efficient angler” named after the jumbo jet; and Holly, a “remarkable mum” who raised one injured cub and adopted another years later. Cast your vote here.

Inside politics

As Liz Truss attempted a “triumphant return” at the Tory party conference this week, says Matt Chorley in The Times, pollsters YouGov asked voters whether they wanted to hear from the former PM. One in 25 said they were “very interested” – roughly the same proportion who think the moon landings were faked.


Google Arts and Culture has released an online game to teach people about great works. In The Art Handler, players have to steer a one-wheeled robot carrying a priceless painting through a gallery without falling over. The idea, says designer Carol Mertz, is to help people develop a “feeling of familiarity” with the artworks through exposure, rather than “force-feeding them trivia”. It’s also pretty good fun. Try it for yourself here.


The Sphere, the newly opened $2.3bn arena in Las Vegas, was supposed to have a sister venue in east London, says The Daily Telegraph. An identical project in Stratford was proposed in the same month as the one for Sin City, back in 2018, but has been languishing in the capital’s planning system. Rivalling Big Ben in height (96m), and the same width as the London Eye (120m), the giant orb would have a capacity of 21,500 visitors. But locals say the blackout blinds they have been offered by developers won’t make up for the nuisance of having a giant glowing ball outside their windows.

Love etc

If you think speed dating isn’t speedy enough, says The New York Times, courtship entrepreneurs in Brooklyn have launched a group night that “fast-tracks intimacy”. Attendees at The Feels meditate together, silently stare into each other’s eyes for minutes on end, and even feel each other’s heartbeats. Host and founder Allie Hoffman says the event, held inside a “candlelit loft” in Williamsburg, is “designed to get past that first layer of ‘What do you do? Where do you live? What do you like to do for fun?’ and into ‘Where are you at this moment in this wild human ride that is your life?’”


It’s a “dust devil” – a type of mini-tornado that whips up a vortex of loose dirt – which was spotted on Mars by Nasa’s Perseverance rover at the end of August. The six-wheeled robo-geologist inadvertently captured an image of the twister during its mission to investigate the western rim of the red planet’s Jezero Crater. Earth-based boffins estimate that the swirling column of red sand was probably 200 feet wide and more than a mile high.


“The trouble with setting goals is that you’re constantly working toward what you used to want.”

American writer Sarah Manguso