Is America on course for civil war?

🗽 Underwater sculptures | 🇩🇪 Dodgy Deutschen | 😱 Bird flu

In the headlines

The Tories are in “full-blown panic” today, says Politico, after Nigel Farage announced he would stand in the general election as leader of Reform UK, and a major new YouGov poll put Labour on course to win the biggest majority of any party in a century. Farage will contest the seat of Clacton in Essex, one of only two constituencies to have ever voted for a Ukip MP. Demand for private healthcare has hit a record high in the UK. There were 898,000 admissions to private hospitals last year, up 7% from 2022, amid growing frustration with unprecedented waiting times for NHS treatment. “Our tits are getting bigger and bigger,” says the Daily Star. Great tits in the UK are outgrowing their continental cousins, in part because Britons appear to be feeding them more – we spend twice as much as Europeans on bird feeders.



Kirsten Dunst in Civil War (2024)

Is America on course for civil war?

When news of Donald Trump’s criminal convictions came through last week, says Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph, “it felt like the no-turning-back, first shot fired in an inevitable civil war”. For all Trump’s failures in the White House – and his reluctance to leave it – he does appear to have been “the target of a conspiracy” to deny him re-election. Having chosen the “zombie” Joe Biden as their own candidate, the Democrats are now unsure if they can win at the ballot box – so they’ve taken their war on Trump to the courts, “attacking every conceivable aspect of his career” across several states. It’s the kind of strategy “usually reserved for gangsters like Al Capone”. And it has effectively turned the November election into “a referendum on whether or not Trump should be in prison”.

If Trump does lose, there may well be violence from his supporters. After all, the current of “mindless anger” in American life has to go somewhere. In the 1850s, America witnessed “prophetic” eruptions of localised violence in the years before the Civil War. Four presidents have been assassinated; “white supremacists have blown up buildings and shot school kids”; and the Red Summer of 1919 saw murderous race riots across the country. Comparing 2024 to the Civil War of 1861-65 itself might seem like “hyperbole”, but it’s clear that America’s current factions – “rural vs urban, blue-collar vs educated, Christian vs secular” – hate each other. Persecuting Trump in the courts will only fuel this hatred.

Gone viral

These photos of underwater sculptures from around the world have racked up 46 million views on X. They include the 60-ton Ocean Atlas in the Bahamas, which depicts a girl carrying the weight of the ocean on her shoulders; Christ of the Abyss, an eight-foot-tall bronze statue near Portofino on the Italian Riviera; Nest, featuring a circle of 48 life-size figures embracing off the coast of Gili Meno in Indonesia; and the Guardian of the Reef, a 13-foot-tall god-like figure submerged in the Cayman Islands. See more here.

Election watch

🗳️ 30 days to go…
Not only might Nigel Farage finally enter parliament at this election, on his eighth attempt, says Tom McTague in UnHerd. There is also a “non-negligible chance” he’ll lead a new, Reformed Conservative Party into the following general election. If the Tories are reduced to about 100 MPs, and Reform UK gets one or two seats, then Farage could “immediately enter negotiations to fold his party into the Conservatives”. And even if that merger didn’t happen, the next Tory leadership race would surely be dominated by whether the Reform leader should be admitted into the party. From that point, “the only story in Westminster would be the eventual leadership of Farage himself”.


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In the online game Travle, players must navigate from one country to another by naming the states in between. Keen cartophiles can also try their luck at more local options, including UK counties, US states, and the cantons of Switzerland. Try it here.

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Emmanuel Macron with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin last week. Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty

The froideur at the heart of Europe

Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to Germany last week was not short on symbolism, says Jacques-Pierre Gougeon in Le Monde. There was a tour of the Holocaust Memorial; a meeting with the youth of Dresden; and a visit to Münster, where the treaties of Westphalia were signed in 1648, marking the end of the Thirty Years’ War. But beyond that, the whole thing seems to have been a waste of time. In a troubled era, close ties between France and Germany are “indispensable”. So it’s worrisome that the best French and German ministers could produce after key meetings was “a mix of generalities and European clichés”.

At heart, the Franco-German froideur is about two things: who is closer to America, and who is the boss of Europe. Germany is closer to the US primarily because its entire defence strategy is dependent on American cover, “particularly nuclear cover”. And it was the Americans who broke with Allied policy after 1945 to offer Germans an “honourable place among the free and peaceful nations of the world” – an act Germany hasn’t forgotten. Berlin is also “irritated by the French president’s portrayal of himself as Europe’s leader”. As the continent’s largest economy, and the second largest donor of military aid to Ukraine, Germany rejects the “unspoken French assumption” that France, as the only nuclear power in the EU now that the UK has left, would be its “natural” leader. Last week’s state visit did nothing to change the impression that Europe’s two most important players are in “head-on opposition”.

Global update

A video recently went viral showing a group of posh young Germans at a chichi bar on the exclusive North Sea island of Sylt, says Teresa Stiens in Handelsblatt. To the tune of a cheesy dance hit, they chant: “Deutschland den Deutschen, Ausländer raus!” – “Germany for the Germans, foreigners out!” One of the partygoers even raises his right arm in a Nazi salute and appears to mime a Hitler moustache. (Watch the full video here.) The nationwide outrage that has resulted is not just about what they’re singing, but who they are. The conventional wisdom that it is “primarily the disadvantaged and marginalised who are susceptible to right-wing extremist ideas” clearly isn’t true. “Men in cashmere sweaters and women in gold earrings can also be racists.”


The discovery of the third human case of bird flu in the US, in a Michigan farmworker, suggests we’re at a “dangerous inflection point”, says The New York Times. Sure, there’s still no evidence H5N1 can spread from person to person like Covid – not yet, at least. But whereas the first two human cases involved mild symptoms, like conjunctivitis, the third involved respiratory symptoms such as coughing. This is disconcerting: not only because it suggests the virus is adapting, but also because “coughing can spread viruses more easily than eye irritation can”.


Snapshot answer

They’re M&S clothes, part of a new collaboration with Sienna Miller set to go on sale on Thursday. It’s a “huge coup” for the retailer, says The Daily Telegraph, which has already performed an astonishing turnaround in recent years, going from being notable “only for its depressing sales and drab designs” to becoming the “new darling of British fashion”. Executives are clearly hoping to replicate the success of the Kate Moss x Topshop campaign, which launched in 2007 and “remains a high point in the history of the British high street”.


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Kingsley Amis

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