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5 July

In the headlines

Xi Jinping personally warned Vladimir Putin against using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, says the FT. The Chinese leader delivered the message during a state visit to Moscow in March, a move that suggests his “tacit backing” of Russia’s war masks private concerns. Almost all UK railway ticket offices are to be closed, says The Times, to get staff away from desks and on to station platforms. Only 12% of tickets are now sold at a counter, though campaigners say the service is still relied upon by the elderly and disabled. A €500,000 lump of so-called “floating gold” has been found in a sperm whale washed up on a beach in the Canary Islands. The 9.5kg block of ambergris, which is secreted by whales and used in pricey perfumes, will be sold off, with proceeds donated to victims of a volcano that erupted on La Palma in 2021.


As you’d expect, the Australian papers don’t share the feeling that their national team went against the “spirit of cricket” with their controversial dismissal of Jonny Bairstow in the second Ashes Test match. The West Australian mocked up an image of England captain Ben Stokes as a nappy-clad toddler with a dummy, above the headline “Crybabies”. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph declared that “protesting poms can have a two-finger salute – which could also double as the series score. That’s right, it’s two-nil.” Melbourne’s tabloid The Herald Sun summed up England’s approach in simple terms: “Defeat, Bleat and Repeat.”

Inside politics

Here’s a statistic Ron DeSantis won’t want to dwell on, says Politico: “No Florida politician has ever been elected president.” The Sunshine State is the only one of America’s 10 most populous states not to have sent someone to the White House. Of the half-dozen Florida pols who have run in the past 50 years, “most never even made it past New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary”.


Hollywood is enjoying an “old man summer”, says The Wall Street Journal. Many of this year’s biggest releases star older actors, including the 80-year-old Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny; Tom Cruise, 61, in another Mission: Impossible; and 68-year-old Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 3. Back in 2005, the average age of a leading man was 39. So far in 2023, it’s 55. 🎬👴🏻

Tomorrow’s world

It’s easy to forget how much hype surrounded the launch of the Metaverse in 2021, says Kate Wagner in The Nation. Mark Zuckerberg claimed his virtual reality world would be the “successor to the mobile internet”; the investment bank Citi said it could be worth $13trn. What few people realise is just how much of a flop it all was. Decentraland, the largest Metaverse platform, had just 38 active daily users. Horizon Worlds, another flagship product, generated less than $470 in revenue – across the whole world. “To say that the Metaverse is dead is an understatement. It was never alive.”


It’s an artist’s rendering of what would be the world’s tallest flagpole, which eccentric American businessman Morrill Worcester wants to erect in Maine to honour US veterans. At 1,461 ft, the Flagpole of Freedom would be taller than the Shard (1,020 ft) and, just, the Empire State Building (1,454 ft). Opponents say the giant spire, which would carry a flag the size of one and a half football pitches, would despoil the pristine landscape and become a “dead veterans’ Disneyland”.


Quoted 05-07-23

“Fellowship in joy, not sympathy in sorrow, is what makes friends.”