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Goofy and earnest: the secret of Taylor Swift’s success

🛒 Supermarket tourism | 🍳 Pongy planet | ⚽️ Yamal’s worldie

In the headlines

Keir Starmer has arrived in Washington for Nato’s 75th anniversary summit – his first foreign trip as prime minister – where he will call on member states to boost defence spending in response to rising global threats. Starmer has pledged to set out a “road map” to get British military spending to 2.5% of GDP, up from around 2.3% today, ensuring the UK remains Europe’s top military spender alongside Germany. The amount of sugar consumed by British children from soft drinks halved within a year of the sugar tax being introduced in 2018, a new study shows. British Dental Association head Eddie Crouch says extending the levy to cereals is a “no-brainer”. Drones are being deployed to crack down on sunbed hoggers on beaches in Greece. Authorities are using the flying gadgets to spot tourists taking up too much space on the sand after locals complained about visitors bogarting prime spots with towels and loungers. ⛱️🤖


An absolute dork. Jo Hale/Getty

Goofy and earnest: the secret of Taylor Swift’s success

What makes Taylor Swift so special, says Helen Lewis in The Atlantic, is that she can absorb painful breakups, tabloid headlines and hipster sneers, and turn these knock-backs into hit singles. This “superpower of reversal” is never more apparent than when someone tries to argue that Swift is uncool. “Of course she is. She has written a lot of songs about it.” When she first broke into the mainstream, “people criticised her for being cringe”, a 25-year-old PhD student told me at the Tay Day academic conference, held to mark the arrival of the Eras tour in Britain. “And I think fans including myself were like, that’s the point.

In the early days of social media, millennials affected a “cynical, ironic, snarky style” as a defence mechanism. Counterculturally, Swift stayed “goofy and earnest”, on one famous occasion blogging that she was a “basic autumn lover” who endorsed cinnamon, pumpkins and dressing up dogs for Halloween. This image of wide-eyed naivety made her an irresistible target for “internet bullies, cool girls and hipsters alike”. When it all became too much, she disappeared for almost three years, then reappeared with Reputation, an album about finding love and joy despite being hated. That led to her great insight: “being uncool makes you relatable, even when you are a multimillionaire”. Most teenagers feel uncool – “a sentiment that adults never forget”. The paradox, and genius, of Taylor Swift, is that no one is better at capturing the sense of unpopularity felt by most youngsters than the most popular person in the entire world. And she has offered millions of teenagers, and their parents, the purest freedom of all: “the freedom to be an absolute dork”.


Every so often in football, says Gary Rose on BBC Sport, a goal is scored that will be “remembered, replayed, and talked about for decades”. Lamine Yamal’s top-corner stunner for Spain in yesterday’s Euros semi-final with France was one such goal. At 16 years and 362 days, Yamal is the youngest player ever to score at the competition. The goal was a crucial one – his side were trailing 1-0 at the time, and went on to win 2-1. And the player he outfoxed before unleashing his shot, Adrien Rabiot, had pointedly criticised him before the game, saying the youngster would need to “do more” to impress at the tournament. Yamal turns 17 on Saturday, the day before the final, and says the only present he wants is to “win, win, win and win”. To see the goal in all its glory, click here.

Tomorrow’s world

Tesla owners will soon be able to limit the speed their cars are driven when their children are behind the wheel, says Business Insider. The company is testing a new set of parental controls that will let “Tesla parents” restrict their vehicle’s acceleration and speed, and ensure a host of safety features can’t be turned off by reckless youths. The “night curfew” feature will also send an alert to owners if the car is being driven after a certain time, making it easier for them to catch troublesome teens sneaking out after bedtime.


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Gone viral


When you’re travelling abroad, says Thrillist, touring a local grocery store can be far more culturally enlightening than a visit to the country’s top-rated attractions. What does the Eiffel Tower teach you about French culture and traditions? “Not much, if you ask me.” But a visit to the hypermarché will “educate you on a whole country’s flavour profile” through its prominent scents, foods and spices. And I’m not the only one – TikTok is suddenly awash with travellers picking through Malaysian snack aisles, for example, as though they were at a Moroccan souk.

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Xi with Putin last year. Pavel Byrkin/AFP/Getty

Xi Jinping could end the war in Ukraine

As Nato celebrates its 75th birthday, its aging leadership doesn’t exactly look fresh, says Michael Sauga in Der Spiegel. In contrast, the alliance’s main opponent appears to be “brimming with strength”. Western sanctions have barely affected Russia’s ability to wage war: its economy is expected to grow by 3.2% this year, more than any major Nato state. This is largely thanks to China, on which Russia has become “almost completely economically dependent”. With Europe cutting itself off from Russian gas and oil, Vladimir Putin has been forced to sell to Beijing on less favourable terms. Moscow’s war chest is also heavily reliant on its neighbour, with around 90% of essential high-tech war goods like microchips, sensors and machine parts coming from China.

All of this means that if Xi Jinping were to declare tomorrow “that his friendship with the Kremlin is not as ‘limitless’ as previously claimed”, Putin would have a serious problem. While Beijing can get oil and gas from other sources, Moscow desperately needs the People’s Republic as a buyer. Equally, if the supply of those high-tech war goods dried up, the Kremlin armoury would quickly empty. And while China is happy to accept cheap fuel from Putin, Beijing sees trade relations with Europe as much more important. As other countries seal off their markets against the flood of cheap Chinese exports, the EU could become an increasingly important means of “exerting pressure” on Xi, who in turn could be persuaded to twist Putin’s arm. “In trying to punish the West, Putin has become Beijing’s prisoner.” If anyone holds the key to ending the war in Ukraine, it’s Xi Jinping.

Food and drink

Madrileños enjoying a cerveza. UCG/Getty

Europe’s “best beer city” is Madrid, says The Manual. A new analysis of 8,000 pubs in 70 cities found that the Spanish capital vastly outperformed more famous drinking destinations like Dublin, Munich and London on the four measures of “pub quality”, “social media buzz”, “beer quality” and “price”. Salud!


During this year’s climbing season in the Himalayas, the Nepalese government sent a team of soldiers and Sherpas to collect rubbish from Mount Everest. In total, they removed 11 tons of general waste from near the peak – old tents, food packaging, oxygen bottles, ropes, and so on – along with four dead bodies and a skeleton. The oldest items were some rechargeable batteries from a torch used on an expedition in 1957.


Snapshot answer

It’s HD 189733 b, says BBC News: a faraway planet with brutal weather and a powerful whiff. Scientists who studied the distant gas giant using the James Webb Telescope found it had scorching temperatures and “precipitation akin to raining glass”. Hydrogen sulphide – a gas emitted during farts – makes up most of the atmosphere. “So, if your nose could work at 1000C,” says astrophysicist Guangwei Fu, “the atmosphere would smell like rotten eggs.”


“Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.”
Crime writer Ethel Lina White

That’s it. You’re done.