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5 July

In the headlines

Home Secretary Priti Patel has urged police to get “tough” with fuel protesters, says the Daily Mail, after demonstrations yesterday jammed up several motorways. Under new laws, “go-slow” drivers can be imprisoned for up to six months and handed “unlimited fines”. Boris Johnson knew about specific accusations of sexual misconduct against Chris Pincher as early as 2019, says the BBC. Downing Street’s previous line was that the PM was “not aware of any allegations” about the former deputy chief whip, before correcting that to “specific” ones, before correcting that to admit he was aware of media reports and “some allegations”. A new hangover pill has gone on sale in the UK, says the Evening Standard. Intended to be taken two hours before you drink, Myrkl contains special bacteria that break down 70% of alcohol 60 minutes after the booze is consumed. “It’s a Myrkl!”


A bit of hardship will do us good

The middle of 2017 might just have been “the zenith of civilisation”, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. An Uber would arrive in a minute; service in a bar or restaurant was “lightspeed”. But the age of abundant labour, and companies flush with investment offering their products at bargain prices, is over. “Why, then, am I taking it so well? Why do I chuckle so serenely as driver number three or four cancels on me?” For one, “frictionless living” was never a good deal for the workers who powered it. “A tilt of bargaining power in their favour is worth some minor gumming-up of a night out.”


Shoving women to one side

The far right and the far left have found the one thing they can agree on, says Pamela Paul in The New York Times: “Women don’t count.” The right’s position is better-known – it has “aggressively dedicated itself to stripping women of fundamental rights” for decades, with the overturning of Roe v Wade its latest victory. Far more bewildering is the fringe left’s “misogynist agenda”. Campus groups and civil rights organisations used to fight hard for women. Today academics, uber-progressives, transgender activists and many others are working towards the opposite end: “to deny women their humanity, reducing them to a mix of body parts and gender stereotypes”.


Finalists at the inaugural Picfair Urban Wildlife Photography Awards include a chipmunk being chased along a fence by a bird, monkeys enjoying slices of bread on a rooftop, a white flamingo drinking from a reservoir, and a rat sniffing the air by a manhole. See the full list here.


A letter to The Times:

Sir, Frank McCourt gave perhaps the most robust defence of English literature courses when asked by his students why they should read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. “You will read it for the same reasons why your parents waste their money on your piano lessons,” he replied. “So you won’t be a boring little shite the rest of your life.”

Andrew Copeman, London

Tomorrow’s world

A new method of harvesting solar energy called “agrivoltaics” overcomes one of the main problems with solar panels – the fact they take up so much space. By keeping the panels as high as 14 feet off the ground, and leaving gaps between them to accommodate crops and grazing animals, they can be built on ordinary farms without losing valuable food-producing land. It has the added benefit of shielding crops from extreme heat.



Inside politics

The selection of parliamentary candidates is “conducted with great secrecy”, says Michael Crick in UnHerd – but it can change the course of history. Margaret Thatcher only became the Tory candidate for Finchley because the local party chairman fraudulently gave her two of her opponent’s votes. John Major spent months fruitlessly applying for safe Tory seats, only to discover his file had been mixed up with another party member of the same name. I once tracked the “other” Major down to a guesthouse he ended up running in Bournemouth. “At least someone called John Major became prime minister,” he told me cheerfully.


It’s a nifty device from the 18th century that enabled scholars to spin quickly between up to eight open books at one time. As one Twitter user pointed out, it’s the old-fashioned version of “I’ve got a lot of tabs open”.


quoted 5.7.22

“Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow internet to see who they really are.”

Will Ferrell