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8-9 April

Global update

Africa’s powerhouse on the brink

South Africa is falling apart, say Ben Farmer and Peta Thornycroft in The Sunday Telegraph. In recent months, the country has been enduring power cuts of up to 10 hours a day. Big businesses are having to shell out tens of millions on diesel generators; small firms unable to afford back-up power are going bust. Ordinary South Africans often cannot cook their dinner, or have to “do their homework by lamplight”. Unemployment is at around 33%. This crisis is the culmination of decades of mismanagement and corruption at state-owned energy giant Eskom. When the company’s most recent chief executive, André de Ruyter, tried to clean things up, he was allegedly “poisoned with cyanide in an unsuccessful assassination”. He has fled the country.

Inside politics

There’s a lot of “well-informed commentary” in the US about the Trump indictments, says Rory Stewart on The Rest is Politics. But there’s one aspect The New York Times and others haven’t covered well: Stormy Daniels herself. “Her story is unbelievable.” The 44-year-old porn star “took the name Stormy because the bassist in Mötley Crüe had a daughter called Storm, and the name Daniels because she loved Jack Daniel’s whisky”. Having started out as a stripper in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she has made no fewer than 275 films, with big hits including Revenge of the Dildos and Da Vagina Code. In 2009, she briefly considered running for the US Senate with the unimprovable slogan “Screwing People Honestly”. And after the Trump story broke, she went on a nationwide tour called, inevitably, Make America Horny Again.

Note to readers

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In the post-pandemic world of germophobia, says James McConnachie in The Sunday Times, it can feel as if “touch is under threat”. That’s a worrying trend. As neuroscientist Michael Banissy explains in his new book, skin-on-skin contact is now widely accepted as essential to newborns – but research shows that grown-ups need it too. Patients who hold hands before surgery, even with a total stranger, have lower levels of adrenaline. “Sports teams who touch each other more seem to get better results.” Waitresses who touch customers on the shoulder get bigger tips – even more so when it’s on the hand. Frequent huggers get ill less often. And perhaps one to look out for in the coming AI apocalypse: “People patted on the hand by a humanoid robot, according to one study, were much more likely to comply with its requests.”

When We Touch by Michael Banissy is available here.


Quoted 8.4.23

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”



Martijn Doolaard is not like the “frenetic, teeth-whitened influencers” who dominate social media, says Tom Vanderbilt in Outside magazine. The 38-year-old Dutchman is a “serene old soul” who, over the past 18 months, has been renovating a set of primitive shepherd’s cabins in the Italian Alps – and the YouTube channel documenting his efforts has accumulated half a million “feverishly devoted” subscribers. Tall, bearded, and generally wearing a dark, wide-brimmed hat, Doolaard “looks plucked from the world of 17th-century Dutch portrait painting”, an impression he supports with an old-timey uniform of waistcoats and suspenders. The slow-paced, therapeutic videos, in which he calmly carries out tasks like sawing wood and polishing his boots, are an “antidote to modern life”. Watch here.


Travel and Leisure magazine has compiled a list of the most beautiful libraries in the world, including the white and gold frescoes of the Admont Abbey Library in Austria; the “austere” George Peabody Library in Baltimore; the dark wood of Trinity College Dublin’s Old Library; the bright, cube-like Stuttgart City Library; the ornate stucco ceiling of the Strahov Monastery Library in Prague; and the Royal Library of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain. See the others here.

On the money

Celebrities on the move sometimes prefer to stay at a private house rather than a hotel, says The Wall Street Journal. These properties often aren’t on the rental market, but the money flying around is usually enough to convince the owners. A former financier rented out his house in upstate New York to Mariah Carey one summer for $125,000 a month (the only damage was pock marks on the wooden floors from the singer’s high heels). In February, cybersecurity expert Spyro Malaspinas took $500,000 to lend his Arizona home (above) for a week to Rihanna, who was performing at the Super Bowl nearby. He says the rental income will “cover his mortgage payments for two years”.

The beach house

This five-bedroom Georgian townhouse is perched right on the waterfront in the seaside town of Deal, in Kent. The four-storey, Grade II listed property retains oak floorboards and classical sash windows, while the large rear garden is within earshot of the waves lapping the shore. It’s situated in the heart of Deal’s old town, within walking distance of an independent butcher’s shop and fishmonger. The train station is a 12-minute walk, offering direct routes to London Charing Cross and St Pancras. £1.75m.

The pied-a-terre

This one-bedroom flat is set on the first floor of a red-brick Victorian mansion block in the middle of Bethnal Green, east London. Generous, south-facing windows mean the rooms – a kitchen, bathroom, sitting room and bedroom – are bathed in light throughout the day. The building has a communal courtyard where barbecues are hosted in summer, and is close to numerous green spaces and amenities, including Columbia Road Flower Market and the traditional café E Pellicci. Bethnal Green tube station is a five-minute walk. £465,000.


quoted 8.4.23

“Government is like a baby: an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

Ronald Reagan