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- The West is torching its “moral authority”
The West is torching its “moral authority”
💋 “Mob wife aesthetic” | 🦏 Returning rhino | 👴🏻 942-year-old director
The UK’s military chief says Britain must train and equip a “citizen army”, because current forces wouldn’t be big enough to fight an all-out war. In a speech yesterday, General Sir Patrick Sanders called on the government to lay the foundations for “national mobilisation”. No 10 has denied any plans to introduce conscription. Saudi Arabia will open a shop selling alcohol for the first time in more than 70 years. The outlet in Riyadh will cater exclusively to non-Muslim diplomats, who for years have imported booze in sealed official packages known as diplomatic pouches. British museums are sending some of Ghana’s most prized artefacts back home, says BBC News, 150 years after they were looted from the Asante region. Among the 32 items returning under long-term loans are a ceremonial peace pipe, a gold ring, and badges worn by officials “charged with cleansing the king’s soul”.
Terrified children after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty
The West is torching its “moral authority”
I’ve long been “resigned to Western indifference towards Palestinian life”, says Owen Jones in The Guardian. But even I’m surprised that after more than 100 days of “murderous carnage”, the dam still hasn’t broken. Surely our politicians and columnists could get worked up by 10,000 children being killed, and by “the 10 kids having one or both legs amputated each day, often without anaesthetic”? Or how about the 5,500 women giving birth in the war zone each month, “many having caesareans without anaesthetic”, and the newborns dying of hypothermia and diarrhoea? Or the projections that Israel’s destruction of the healthcare system could result in a quarter of Gaza’s population dying within a year? Surely – surely – some of this would be enough to make the West’s Israel boosters call for a stop to the “despicable madness”?
Sadly not. And the knock-on effects of this “will be severe”. For a start, you can forget about “any future Western claims about human rights and international law”. Much of the world saw through this “self-righteousness” decades ago; after Gaza, only the “terminally gullible” will give it any credence. Just as important will be the impact on younger generations. They are seeing this conflict through the “seemingly endless atrocities” they watch on social media. What do you think they make of their politicians and media outlets appearing to treat Palestinian life as meaningless? The sad truth is that Western elites have “torched their moral authority”.
A fertility breakthrough could stop the northern white rhino from going extinct, says BBC News. There are only two of the animals left in the world: Najin and her daughter Fatu (pictured), both of whom live under tight security in Kenya. Researchers have successfully used IVF to impregnate a southern white rhino, “a closely related sub-species”, raising the possibility that a similar procedure could work with a northern white embryo, 30 of which are stored in liquid nitrogen in Europe.
The widespread use of shell companies around the world throws up some dubious figures, says Bloomberg. One Chinese manufacturer reported over $2bn in revenue in 2019, despite having only one employee, and there are 22,000 corporate entities with a registered address at Egypt’s pyramids. Thousands of companies have directors under the age of five, and more than 2,200 have directors aged 123 years and above, “despite the fact that the oldest known human lived to 122”. One listed director, at 942 years old, “would have been born in the 11th century”.
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The latest fashion trend taking over TikTok is the “mob-wife aesthetic”, says Cosmopolitan. Exactly 25 years after The Sopranos first aired, the fur coats, red lipstick, gold jewellery and big sunglasses loved by the show’s leading ladies are in. A recognisable designer bag is a must, as are black clothes – particularly leather. As one video explains, “if you look like you’re going to a funeral, you know you’re doing it right”. Bada bing.
Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty
The Lords is an absurdity, but a necessary one
“It’s impossible to justify the existence of the House of Lords,” says Sean O’Grady in The Independent, except for the fact that it “evidently works”. Yes, as the upper house’s critics never tire of pointing out, the Lords lacks a direct democratic mandate. And, of course, there is always going to be a certain “whiff of corruption” about a group of people who owe their political power to doing favours for prime ministers. But for all that, they represent an “essential element of the constitution” – a bunch of independent-minded, experienced counsellors with the power to “constrain an over-mighty government of any party”.
Take the much-debated Rwanda bill. Now that Rishi Sunak and co have muscled the legislation through the Commons, it falls to the Lords to point out the plan’s various “practical and legal shortcomings”. Of course, the Tory right are furious with the upper chamber. But so were Labour when they were in power, and the Lords resisted efforts to nationalise various industries and ban fox hunting. So was the coalition government when its austerity plans were questioned. And so were Brexit supporters when some of their zanier proposals were shot down. The fact that the House of Lords is “routinely loathed by whatever party happens to be in government” is how you know it’s working. So it’s sad to see that Keir Starmer is sticking with his aim – shared by Nigel Farage – to scrap it. Yes, the Lords is an absurdity, but it’s “a useful one”.
The new year has barely begun and it looks like we already have “2024’s biggest game”, says The Guardian. Dubbed “Pokémon with guns”, Palworld sold five million copies in the first three days after its release on 18 January. The action is set in a lush landscape known as the Palpagos Islands, where players must survive by farming, cooking, building shelters and fighting various enemy factions. There are also more than 100 different types of cute creatures called “Pals”, which players must capture and put to work. “It’s funny, it’s silly, and it’s weirdly engrossing.”
Engineers are trying to “refreeze” the Arctic to combat shrinking sea ice, says The Times. A team is heading to Cambridge Bay in Canada’s northernmost territory next week to pump seawater on top of existing ice to make it “thicker and longer-lasting”. Overall, it’s hoped the intervention will make the frosty layer a whole metre deeper. The low-temperature boffins will also test other protection techniques, including sprinkling ice with a layer of glass powder to reflect the sun.
It’s an alligator in frozen-over water, or a “gator-cicle”, as one North Carolina wildlife park calls it, says The Washington Post. As temperatures plunge across the American South, the reptiles have been spotted motionless under the ice, with only their snouts poking out. This is to make sure they can still breathe when they go into “brumation”, the reptilian version of hibernation. “Think of it,” says one employee at Swamp Park, “as a cute little danger snorkel.”
“One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.”
American historian Will Durant