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- Why Europe is up in arms
Why Europe is up in arms
🧀 Cheese war | 🐜 > 🦁 | 🏝️ Luxury garlic
The Democratic Unionist Party has agreed a deal with Westminster to return to power-sharing at Stormont, paving the way for an end to two years of political deadlock. The party has boycotted the devolved parliament since February 2022 in protest over post-Brexit trade arrangements, leaving Northern Ireland to be run by civil servants. Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for leaking state secrets, in what his supporters have called a “sham case”. Khan, who is already serving a three-year sentence for corruption, was accused of sharing the contents of a diplomatic cable sent by the country’s ambassador in Washington. Elon Musk says his company Neuralink has successfully implanted a wireless chip into a human patient’s brain for the first time. The billionaire says the aim of the technology is to allow people with complex neurological conditions to control external computers “just by thinking”. 🧠🤖
Tractors blocking a motorway outside Paris. Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty
Why Europe is up in arms
French farmers have blockaded Paris with tractors, says Virginie Malingre in Le Monde, because they are fed up with climate policies “coming from Brussels”. But this is just the most visible sign of discontent. “Rebellion has been stirring in every corner of Europe” against the European Green Deal, which imposes new taxes and regulations on EU states as part of the race towards Net Zero by 2050. Farmers have taken to the streets not just in France, but also in Germany, Romania, Poland and the Netherlands. Big industry – everything from steelmaking and cement production to car manufacturing and construction – is complaining about the onerous bureaucracy of the Green Deal. They fear the legislation will see them eclipsed by their “massively subsidised American and Chinese competitors”.
All this is having a massive impact on the continent’s politics. In the European Parliament, the right-wing European People’s Party – the largest bloc of MEPs – has won several victories against climate policy by teaming up with everyone from the hard right to socialists and liberals. The nationalist and populist movements promising to scupper the Green Deal look set to do well in this summer’s European elections, while the green parties are plummeting in opinion polls, particularly in Germany and France. Emmanuel Macron has called on the EU “not to further burden the French people with new regulations”, with similar pleas made by others, from the Swedes to the Greeks. “If we had discussed the Green Deal today,” says one European diplomat, “there would be no Green Deal.”
When a new species invades a habitat, says Walt Hickey on Substack, the effects can be felt right the way up the food chain. A new study has found that invasive ants in the grasslands of Kenya have driven out the native ant species that used to protect the whistling thorn tree. With those “insect defenders” gone, elephants have been “stripping and toppling the trees for fun” – which in turn has destroyed the foliage lions use to hide. This is massively hampering the lions’ ability to hunt: in places where the invasive ants have taken over, they are killing zebras almost three times less often.
Joe Biden’s low approval rating of just 37% gets “a lot of attention”, says Ruchir Sharma in the FT, but he’s doing better than most of his peers. The leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Japan all have ratings below 30%. Just one developed country – Italy – has seen its premier become more popular in the 2020s. It’s different in the developing world, where most leaders in the 10 largest countries “still have a rating above 50%”.
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Liz Truss sticking up for British cheese
The government has suspended trade deal talks with Canada, “all because of a row over cheese”, says The Daily Telegraph. Britain started post-Brexit negotiations with Ottawa two years ago, but conversations came to a sharp halt this month when the Land of Maple Syrup slapped a 245% tariff on imports of British cheeses including cheddar and stilton. In response, trade secretary Kemi Badenoch told her Canadian counterpart that she could see no point in the talks, which seek to expand a trading relationship already worth some £26bn. Quelle fromage!
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in Barbie: “badly plotted and messy”
Give it a rest, you “spoilt, painted clowns”
In case you missed it, says Camilla Long in The Sunday Times, there has been “howling, helium anger” that the “frothing pink juggernaut” Barbie has not received more Oscar nominations. Ryan Gosling, who has been nominated for his role as Ken, said he was particularly “disappointed” that his co-star Margot Robbie and their director Greta Gerwig were overlooked. Even the “terminally bescarfed harbinger of absolute wrongness”, Hillary Clinton, couldn’t resist contacting the pair publicly to say she understands how much it can “sting to win the box office but not take home the gold”. What?
I can’t help looking at all the “wailing statements” from these “spoilt, painted clowns”, whose collective wealth is “probably five times that of the female workforce of Venezuela”, and thinking: “Who are these women?” How can we be told in one moment how “fearless and strong” they are – Gerwig is apparently an “icon”, Clinton a “feminist legend” – only to watch them “crater into bawling, hissy, tantruming messes” the minute they don’t get exactly what they want? Barbie was “badly plotted and messy”. What makes Ryan Gosling – an intelligent person who was the best thing in the film – believe Gerwig deserves an Oscar? Or is he just saying it to promote himself and secure his gong? The film is also “incredible in its dishonesty”. None of the women in it really thinks that Barbie, who looks like a sex toy, can be radical or progressive, so why pretend otherwise? Oh, because the toy company that makes Barbies, Mattel, paid them to. It doesn’t get much more “kickass and feminist” than that.
There are “all sorts of rumours” about why South Africa is pursuing its genocide case against Israel, says Ivan Fallon in The Sunday Times. The “most prevalent” is that Iran is behind it, having given the country’s ruling ANC party a “large cash contribution” last year. No one has produced any actual evidence for this. But it’s certainly true that the ANC’s “acute financial problems” seem to have disappeared since senior ministers paid a visit to the Islamic Republic.
It’s the “sleepy girl mocktail”, says The New York Times, a homemade night-time drink that’s taking over TikTok. The recipe is simple: “Swirl a spoonful of magnesium into a fizzing glass of seltzer and tart cherry juice, take a big sip and get the best sleep of your life.” But bedtime boffins remain sceptical. Tart cherries are a source of melatonin, but contain only a fraction of a percent of the amount that has been shown to induce drowsiness. And magnesium has been repeatedly shown to have no effect at all, except possibly to cause diarrhoea.
“Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.”