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5 December

In the headlines

Keir Starmer has formally unveiled proposals to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber, describing the centuries-old institution as “indefensible”. The Labour leader was speaking ahead of the launch of a constitutional review written by former PM Gordon Brown, which recommends transferring power away from Westminster. An “Arctic chill” is set to hit Britain, says Sky News, with temperatures predicted to fall as low as -8C in parts of Scotland and Wales by Wednesday. The cold snap is expected to last a week. This year’s top cracker joke has been revealed. In a poll by the TV channel Gold, the winner was: “What type of peas ruin Christmas dinner? MPs.” Also shortlisted: “Why are Will Smith and Chris Rock not having turkey this Christmas? Because they’ve got beef.” Read the full selection here.


Don’t blame America for Europe’s problems

Faced with a cold winter and a tanking economy, Europe is taking its usual approach, says Matthew Karnitschnig in Politico: “Blame America.” First in the firing line are Joe Biden’s “Made in the USA” green energy subsidies, which European officials say will undermine their own industries. The “inconvenient truth” is that Europe could have created a similar, industry-boosting programme to address the energy crisis. Instead, we funnelled all our money into subsidising household bills – a much less effective, short-sighted strategy. Incredibly, European officials have also been (anonymously) accusing the US of profiteering from the Ukraine war, by selling more gas, at higher prices, and more weapons. That, too, is total rubbish.

British politics

The “silent ruthlessness” of Keir Starmer

My advice to “Labour Kremlinologists” is simple, says Helen Lewis in The Bluestocking: treat Keir Starmer like a stage magician. “Don’t listen to the patter, watch his hands.” Because while everything that comes out of his mouth is “soothing blah about unity and common purpose”, his actions are ruthless and pragmatic. Despite having a Jewish wife and kids, Starmer sat in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet through countless anti-semitism scandals – giving him enough of a loyalist sheen to succeed Corbyn as Labour leader. Yet within two months of securing the job, he sacked Corbyn’s favoured successor, Rebecca Long-Bailey. A few months after that, he suspended Corbyn from the Labour Party on a mere “technicality”.


Winners of this year’s Nature inFocus Photography Awards include Fernando Martinez for his close-ups of jaguars, Lakshitha Karunarathna for her tranquil shot of swans, and Alankritha Kalingarayar for his endearing snap of a curled-up red panda. See the full list here.


Under Gareth Southgate, England’s footballers have won six knock-out games at major tournaments in four years. That’s the same as the team managed in the previous 48 years.


Shop theft in Manhattan pharmacies is so bad that pretty much everything – deodorant, laundry detergent, baby formula – is locked away in glass boxes, says The Economist. One chain, Rite Aid, closed an outlet in Hell’s Kitchen after $200,000 worth of products were stolen last winter. Police say this uptick in “shrink” – as theft is known in the industry – is the result of organised retail crime: groups stealing “large amounts of swag” in carefully planned operations, then selling it online.


The Pantone Colour Institute has selected its colour of the year for 2023: Viva Magenta. Each annual shade is picked through a fusion of “methodological research and gut instinct”, says Vogue, with director Laurie Pressman taking inspiration from its use by fashion brands including Gucci and Loewe, and in cosmetics and concept car designs. The paint company says its chosen mauvish-crimson shade is “fearless” and “pulsating”, adding that it “promotes optimism and joy”.

Gone viral

This video of a water jet cutter slicing through items including a padlock, a camera and a bowling ball has racked up more than three million views on Twitter. The machine blasts out an extremely high-pressure jet (up to 90,000 PSI, or pound-force per square inch) of water and grit, making short work of most materials. Watch the full clip here.


It’s the label for Atomik, a schnapps-like spirit made with apples harvested from abandoned orchards around Chernobyl. The British-registered Chernobyl Spirit Company teamed up with a Ukrainian distillery to produce 1,700 bottles of the tipple, despite the logistical problems of operating in a war zone. They say it’s totally safe to drink: levels of radioactivity in the fruit are so low that eating one would do you no harm, and the distillation process removes radioactive elements like caesium and strontium. A half-litre costs £45, with profits going to support regions affected by the 1986 meltdown, and now by the Russian invasion. Buy yours here.


quoted 5.12.22

“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.”

Aneurin Bevan