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6 September

In the headlines

The government has published a list of the 147 schools still affected by unsafe concrete, 19 of which have delayed the start of term. The cost of fixing the buildings constructed with now-crumbling Raac (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) is “approaching £150m and could rise much further”, says The Guardian. Birmingham city council has effectively declared bankruptcy, announcing it cannot fund an £87m gap in its budget. The local authority, Europe’s largest, is on the hook to pay up to £760m to female employees after a legal ruling over equal pay in 2012. Britain will bake in 32C temperatures today, says The Sun, in what’s expected to be the hottest day of the year. That’s “even hotter than Hell” – a town in Michigan, which will only reach 28C.


Scientists have finally solved the “wild boar paradox”, says The Washington Post. After the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, wildlife across Europe was contaminated with radiation. But while radiation levels have decreased in most animals in recent years, in wild boar they have stayed the same. The explanation, researchers think, is that most of the radiation in the boars actually dates back to nuclear weapons tests in the 1960s. The isotope in question, cesium-137, “seeps very slowly through the soil”. And because boars eat truffles buried up to 40cm beneath the surface, the radiation showing up now is probably the “older” stuff from six decades ago. When the “younger” cesium from Chernobyl eventually reaches that depth, “radioactivity levels could go up higher”.

Inside politics

This week’s Labour reshuffle has set a clear political tone, says John Oxley in UnHerd. As one Labour MP put it: “Even Tony Blair didn’t have this many Blairites in his cabinet.” But Keir Starmer may come to regret his demotion of Lisa Nandy. The 44-year-old is “obviously ambitious” – she came third in the 2020 contest to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. And she’s a “favoured figure” in the increasingly marginalised soft left of the party. If Starmer becomes PM, “he will face the same politicking from the backbenches that others have”. A “dispossessed Nandy” could be a key player in deciding who might eventually succeed him in No 10.


If you feel a bit less focused this week, says NPR, you might not be wrong to blame it on the heat. Researchers in Boston conducted an experiment on young adults that proves sleeping in warmer temperatures causes your reaction time and mental accuracy to decrease by around 10%. A separate study has shown that when it hits 26C, activity in the body’s parasympathetic nervous system – tasked with keeping you calm – lowers, meaning you’re more likely to feel agitated and distracted.

Love etc

Hollywood teaches us “that for every impetuous Harry there is a fastidious Sally”, says The Times – but it’s rubbish. Opposites do not attract, according to a study that examined 133 traits, from politics to weight at birth, in 80,000 British couples. Instead, partners were likely to share characteristics like political attitudes, IQ, and even hair colour and overall happiness levels. Some people may be attracted to those who are similar to them, “while others may grow more similar the longer they are together”.

On the way out

Airbnb has effectively been banned in New York City, says Wired. Under new rules that came into force yesterday, all short-stay hosts will have to register with the city, be staying in the property when it is rented out, and accept only two guests at a time. Officials say the rentals are a “public nuisance”, citing complaints about crime, noise and late-night partying. Other cities have taken different approaches to the problem: San Francisco, Paris and Amsterdam have caps on how often properties can be rented out; Dallas limits short-term rentals to specific (presumably ghastly) neighbourhoods.


It’s a “swikini”, a swimsuit with a skin-coloured midriff section to make it look like you’re wearing a bikini. The singular swimwear is the subject of one of 6,416 patent applications in the UK last year, says The Guardian. Others include a garden path with sensors and sprayers to automatically detect and clear up dog mess; a pair of tongs specifically designed to pierce shisha foil; and a duvet with less insulation over the genital area “to encourage male fertility”. One invention, a watch-style device that lets parents know when children are ready for sleep by monitoring their “temperature cycle”, has already secured a £150,000 investment on Dragon’s Den.


quoted 6.9.23

“The greatest way to live with honour in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”