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8 December

In the headlines

Britain will build its first new coal mine in 30 years, after the government overruled the objections of climate campaigners. The vast majority of the coal from the Cumbria site will be used for steelmaking, but most of it will be exported because it is too high in sulphur for domestic producers. German police have arrested 25 people in connection with an “armed far-right terror plot”, says Metro. The group planned to storm parliament in Berlin and install Heinrich XIII, an aristocrat descended from east German princes, as head of state. They’re “bang to reichs”. The first currency bearing a portrait of King Charles entered circulation this morning. Nearly five million Carolean 50p coins will be given out as change via Post Office branches this month.


The “Brexomertà” holding Britain back

It’s truly bemusing, says Alastair Campbell in The New European, that at a time when the public is growing “more and more convinced that Brexit was a mistake”, our politicians are moving in the opposite direction. Rishi Sunak pretends the whole thing is going swimmingly. Keir Starmer, despite having vigorously campaigned for Remain, wants Labour to come across as “more Catholic than the Pope” over Brexit’s “sacrosanct status”. The former Labour leader Neil Kinnock has a good name for this “code of silence” on the economic damage of leaving the EU: “Brexomertà”.


What Lady Chatterley is really about

When DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published in Britain 60 years ago, it “unleashed our grandparents’ libidos”, says Nicholas Harris in UnHerd. The creators of Netflix’s new adaptation are urging us to watch it for the same reason: the film’s lead, Emma Corrin, claims the novel is about finding “power in your sexuality” and “knowing that it’s okay to want pleasure”. It’s a common misconception. Sexual liberation has “constituted the Lady Chatterley myth” ever since it was written. But to read Lawrence’s novel as glorified erotica is to overlook its “raging, intrusive” philosophy, which stems from the author’s reactionary politics and “snarling hostility to modernity”.


Netflix’s new series Wednesday, based on the deadpan daughter from The Addams Family, has stormed to the top of the streaming giant’s charts. And the lead character’s goth-girl aesthetic “is right on trend”, says Vogue. Wednesday’s buttoned-up blouses, kohl-lined eyes and penchant for black tulle are reminiscent of the “fabulously funereal” ensembles of designers Rick Owens and Alessandra Rich – so much so you’d be forgiven for thinking the costumes “had been lifted directly from the catwalks”. To integrate some Wednesday into your own winter wardrobe, try patent leather boots, a deep-berry lipstick, and a “vampish, floor-skimming black gown” instead of the usual sequins for your Christmas party.

On the money

If you want to make money on the stock market, says The New York Times, don’t even think about giving it to professional investors. Of 2,132 American investment funds, “not one” has managed to regularly beat the US stock or bond market over the past five years. You’re far better putting your money in an index fund, which tracks the market as whole, and forgetting about it for a few years.

Quirk of history

When electricians were installing TV cables at Buckingham Palace for Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981, the usual method didn’t work, says Mark Mason in The Spectator. So they used a ferret: the manoeuvrable mustelid was fitted with a harness and placed at one end of a “very narrow underground duct”, with a tasty piece of bacon at the other end. Lured by the smell, the animal “scuttled through”, dragging along with it some wire that was used to pull the cables through.

Gone viral

Programmer Neal Agarwal has created Asteroid Launcher, a website that models the impact an asteroid strike would have on Earth. You pick where the cosmic collider would land, along with things like its speed and diameter. You then see the size of the ensuing crater, fireball, shock wave, wind blast and earthquake – with death tolls for each. See how much of your area would be vapourised here.

Inside politics

Having sat in the House of Lords for a few years, I know full well that it needs reforming, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. But replacing the upper chamber with an elected body, as Keir Starmer wants to do, is “a very bad idea”. The beauty of it being unelected is that while peers use their expertise to tweak legislation, they never actually stop the government from passing laws. They have the power to, but know that “it would be inappropriate to go too far” – precisely because they aren’t voted into office. A fully elected upper chamber “wouldn’t feel such restraint”: it would stymie legislation, resulting in Washington-style gridlock. This is exactly why “only about a third of the world’s democracies have wholly and directly elected second chambers”.


A much-hyped new AI programme called ChatGPT, which generates a text response to a prompt – in this case: “Write a biblical verse in the style of the King James Bible explaining how to remove a peanut butter sandwich from a VCR”. “I simply cannot be cynical about a technology that can accomplish this,” says one Twitter user. Try it out for yourself here.

quoted 8.12.22

“Several excuses are always less convincing than one.”

Aldous Huxley