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- Time to embrace the nanny state
Time to embrace the nanny state
🍇 Whacky wineries | 📚 Iceland’s book nuts | 📈 Meta shares
The King’s cancer was “caught early”, Rishi Sunak revealed this morning, after the monarch began treatment yesterday for an undisclosed form of the disease. Buckingham Palace has said King Charles will pause his public engagements but continue to undertake state duties. Prince Harry is on his way back to the UK from California to visit his father. Volodymyr Zelensky is set to dismiss Ukraine’s “immensely popular” army chief as part of a wider shake-up of government officials, says The Times. Polls suggest that just 2% of Ukrainians would back the removal of General Valery Zaluzhny, who is by some margin the country’s most trusted public figure. Parts of the UK could get a whole day of snow this week. The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for Thursday and Friday, covering a swathe of northern and central England and Wales.
Nanny knows best: Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins (1964)
Time to embrace the nanny state
The so-called “nanny state” is losing its political toxicity, says Adrian Wooldridge in Bloomberg. Keir Starmer says he won’t let “accusations of nannyism” stop his plan for children’s health, which includes “supervised tooth brushing at school”. Rishi Sunak is banning the sale of disposable vapes and wants to phase out smoking by 2050. Good thing, too: it’s time to embrace, “nay celebrate”, the nanny state. Demonising it has only ever been used to “crush common sense and block social progress”. The phrase was coined by a Tory MP protesting the imposition of a 70mph speed limit in 1965 – a speed limit that has “saved thousands of people from horrific death in a ball of fire and metal”.
The idea that the nanny state is a bad thing rests on the belief that people are “rational entities” who should be free to make their own choices. But that’s nonsense: human beings are “social creatures who can be deceived about their own interests”. And if we have a state that provides (or tries to provide) benefits like education and healthcare, then “it’s only reasonable” that the state takes an active interest in its citizens’ welfare. Someone who overeats, becomes obese and requires treatment on the NHS imposes a cost on the rest of us. Big corporations, with their huge advertising budgets and access to all our data, are a far greater threat to our freedom than a government “elected by the people and subject to all sorts of oversight”. Done right, the nanny state gives us more freedom, not less.
Dezeen has gathered a list of striking wineries that alternately “stand out from and seamlessly blend into” their surrounding landscapes, including the multi-coloured Vertical Panorama Pavilion in California; the grim, austere Pacherhof wine cellar in Italy; the grass-topped Gurdau Winery in the Czech Republic; the stone-terraced Liknon in Greece; and a surreal assemblage of shipping containers at the Brown Brothers winery in Tasmania. See the rest here.
Keir Starmer has “a Palestinian problem”, says Jason Cowley in The Sunday Times. Many Labour MPs think their leader should be more “even-handed” in his response to the Gaza war, specifically by calling for an immediate ceasefire. And they think he is being “outflanked” on the issue by Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who has said the government is considering formally recognising a Palestinian state. Starmer’s rationale for standing firm is understandable: he is “traumatised” by the anti-Semitism of Corbynism, and wants to make Labour a “safe space again for Jewish members”. But while these tensions are “submerged for now”, if the polls narrow they “may yet erupt”.
Iceland has “one of the largest per capita publishing industries in the world”, says Jonathan Margolis in Air Mail. About one in 10 Icelanders publishes a book in their lifetime, compared to one in 5,000 Americans, and the average Icelander reads more than two books a month. A blockbuster title can sell as many as 14,000 hardback copies, equivalent to nearly 4% of the 375,000-strong population buying it. One explanation is the country’s “ancient storytelling tradition”, which goes back some 800 years to the Icelandic sagas. Another is needing something to do during those long 21-hour winter nights.
E Jean Carroll arriving at court for the defamation trial. Michael M Santiago/Getty
A ludicrous judgement against Trump
I’m an unlikely defender of Donald Trump, says Lionel Shriver in The Spectator. “Politically, he’s not my boy.” But last week I couldn’t help agreeing with the former president that a jury awarding $83.3m of his assets to E Jean Carroll was “absolutely ridiculous”. The former Elle magazine advice columnist said in 2019 that Trump had raped her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. A civil jury didn’t buy the rape claim but did find Trump liable for sexual assault, which led her lawyers to demand a minimum of $10m in damages in a separate defamation case. After deliberating for less than three hours, a jury awarded her $83.3m.
What most people don’t realise is how shaky this case is. Trump claims he has never met her. The alleged incident was so long ago it couldn’t be pursued in a criminal court, where the burden of proof for a conviction is much higher. Carroll presented no corroborating evidence, couldn’t pinpoint the year the assault was supposed to have happened, and had to “rejig her timeline” when it was pointed out that the designer coat she remembered wearing hadn’t yet been manufactured. The only reason the case could be heard at all is because of new laws hastily passed after the #MeToo movement. And the size of the payout – awarded by jurors in “drastically Democratic” New York – “reeks of politics”. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Love him or hate him, it’s “doubtful that Donald J Trump can get a genuinely fair trial anywhere in the country”.
Perfect with a café au lait. Getty
Camembert might be “facing extinction” in France, says Emma Beddington in The Guardian. Industrial production means that the fungus required to make the cheese – Penicillium camemberti – is “dangerously lacking in genetic diversity” and losing the ability to reproduce. The news “landed hard” with my husband, who’s from Normandy. “Camembert is a religion there: his grandparents ate it for breakfast, dipped in their morning coffee.”
The 20% jump in the stock price of Meta, Facebook’s parent company, on Friday added $197bn to the value of the firm, says Axios. That’s “the biggest single-day gain in market history”. The tech giant also holds the record for the biggest single-day decline: just two years ago, its stock plummeted 26% in one trading session, “erasing $251bn”.
They’re The Last Dinner Party, the indie rock band hailed as “the heirs to everyone from Kate Bush to Sparks and Roxy Music”, says The Daily Telegraph. For a group that released its first single only 10 months ago, the London quintet has already done astonishingly well: they are signed to the world’s biggest record label (Island), they have supported The Rolling Stones, and they recently won the Brits Rising Star Award. Last week saw the release of their highly anticipated debut album, Prelude to Ecstasy, and – “phew” – it’s a “remarkably polished” effort that shows they’re the “real deal”. Listen on Spotify here.
“Government is just a form of bullying for weaklings. Politics is the art of achieving power and prestige without merit.”