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29 June

In the headlines

Ghislaine Maxwell has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for sex trafficking minors. The 60-year-old British socialite said meeting paedophile Jeffrey Epstein was “the greatest regret of my life”. Scotland Yard has been put into special measures by the police watchdog. The country’s largest force will be subject to more inspections and could be asked to meet special crime-fighting targets. Sweden and Finland are joining Nato, after Turkey dropped its objections to the historically neutral countries becoming members. Donald Trump had to be physically restrained by Secret Service agents because he was so desperate to join his supporters ahead of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. A former White House aide told a Congressional committee that Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of his presidential limo, shouting: “I’m the f***ing president – take me up to the Capitol now.”

Comment

Tomorrow’s world (or not)

Animator Hashem Al-Ghaili has created a CGI mock-up of a floating “hotel of the future” – a huge, cruise ship-esque plane that could carry 5,000 passengers and stay airborne for years at a time, thanks to 20 nuclear-powered engines. Attractive as the concept is, there are some potential obstacles to it becoming a reality. “If physics and aerodynamics didn’t exist,” one person commented on YouTube, “then this vessel might actually be able to take off.”

Inside politics

British politicians aren’t taken seriously by Americans, says Rory Stewart on The Rest is Politics podcast – at least not by American security guards. When I travelled to Washington with some fellow MPs, it was a real struggle to convince them that we were actually politicians. Whereas American senators are usually over six foot tall with brilliant white teeth and swanky suits, our lot were all “five foot six or eight, a bit tubby, a bit dishevelled”. The Americans couldn’t see how such pathetic men could possibly be important.

Noted

In Britain, when politicians go on their summer holidays and news slows down, we call it the “silly season”. But in Czech, Danish, Dutch, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish and Slovak it’s known as “cucumber time”. This is because historically, cities would empty while the refreshing green vegetables were in season. Germans, Estonians and Croatians go one step further – they call it “pickled cucumber season”.

Gone viral

This video of a yoga-loving pooch has received thousands of approving “upvotes” on Reddit. “Seriously,” commented one user, “if there was a gym that had dogs on hand to be yoga partners then I would actually go.”

Staying young

Paul McCartney’s energetic Glastonbury set had people “marvelling at his stamina”, says The Times. Apparently the 80-year-old’s secret is daily eye yoga. McCartney says “some yogi” taught him the technique in India in the early 2000s, and he’s been doing it ever since. You keep your head still, look up as far as you can for the count of three, eyes back to the middle, then look down as far as you can for three. Repeat this sideways and on a diagonal, “like the Union Jack”. “I don’t know if it’s why I don’t need glasses when reading a newspaper,” says the laser-eyed Liverpudlian, “but it makes sense.”

Snapshot

It’s a single open-air hotel room next to a petrol station in Switzerland. The zero-star hospitality isn’t meant to help you get a good night’s sleep – the concept artists behind the spartan lodgings, the Riklin brothers, want guests to stay up pondering the horrors of life. “What’s important is reflecting about the current world situation,” says Frank Riklin. “Staying here is a statement about the need for urgent changes in society.” Book your miserable night here.

Quoted

quoted 29.6

“Take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope.”

Cancer campaigner Deborah James, who died yesterday aged 40


28 June

In the headlines

A Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping mall in central Ukraine, hundreds of miles from the country’s main battlegrounds, has killed at least 18 people and wounded 59. More than 1,000 shoppers were inside the building in Kremenchuk at the time of the attack, which G7 leaders have branded a “war crime”. British doctors are threatening to go on strike unless they get a pay rise of up to 30% over five years, says The Guardian. “Years of pay freezes” mean they now earn 30% less, in real terms, than in 2008. A “mystery rocket” has crashed into the Moon, says The Daily Telegraph. Nasa spotted a “large double crater” on the lunar surface, but “no one on Earth” is claiming responsibility.

Comment

Roe v Wade

Trump’s abortion problem

In public, Donald Trump has heralded the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade as a personal victory, say Maggie Haberman and Michael Bender in The New York Times. But behind closed doors, the former president is much less thrilled. His concern is that the landmark ruling will lead to a backlash against Republicans in the midterm elections in November. Banning abortions, Trump reckons, will anger suburban women, a key voting demographic “who helped tilt the 2020 race” in Joe Biden’s favour. Texas tightened its abortion laws last year, a move Trump privately labelled as “so stupid” for this very reason.

Inflation

Soaring food prices could trigger mass unrest

Man does not live by bread alone. Nonetheless, says The Economist, “its scarcity makes people furious”. The last time food prices spiked as badly as they have today, back in late 2010, it kicked off the Arab Spring uprisings that ousted four presidents and sparked horrific civil wars in Syria and Libya. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has upended the global markets for both grain and energy, creating “the most excruciating form of inflation”. Historically, soaring food and fuel prices have been strong indicators of “mass protests, riots and political violence”.

Sport

However Rafael Nadal performs at Wimbledon, one thing’s for sure, says Pilita Clark in the FT: he’ll do his usual “baffling series of tics and quirks”. Lining up his drink bottles so the labels face the court. Not walking on certain lines between points. “Best of all” is his service routine: “a flurry of face-taps, nose-pulls and shoulder-touches – and a solid tug at the back of his shorts”. Watching Nadal “dealing with stress” may help explain why he is so popular. Recent research has found that the more we show mild stress, “the more likeable we seem to be”.

Noted

Olfactory boffins in Israel have found that friends smell alike, says The Economist. Using an “electronic nose” and specially recruited human “smellers”, they showed that this is because people pick pals at least partly on the basis of smell, “rather than the body odours of people who become friends subsequently converging”. One of the researchers speculates that there may be “an evolutionary advantage in having friends that are genetically similar to us”, although he wasn’t quite able to say what it was.

On the money

Microsoft Excel spreadsheets have become an unlikely TikTok trend, says Air Mail – and the undisputed star is Kat Norton, known as “Miss Excel” to her 840,000 followers. The 28-year-old American fell in love with the deadly dull software while finishing an MBA in 2016, and makes irreverent tutorials featuring dances to rap music alongside explanations of keyboard shortcuts. Norton says she now rakes in $250,000 to $300,000 a month by giving private courses in Excel. “Her record is making $105,000 in just 24 hours.”

Life

Brad Pitt is on the front cover of GQ this month, to accompany a bonkers 3,000-word interview with the novelist Ottessa Moshfegh. Topics include Pitt’s haunted house, how all his friends have switched to drinking “room temp” water, and his constant “quest for meaning”. At one point, the 58-year-old actor declares: “I am a murderer. I’m a lover.” Other interviewers might have been tempted to press Pitt on this confession. Moshfegh deems it “profound”. Equally mad is the cover photo itself, says journalist Ben Machell on Twitter. Pitt “looks like a salon owner from Harrogate who works his way into the wills of his elderly clientele”.

Inside politics

Say what you like about Boris Johnson trying to secure his wife Carrie a plum government job, says Catherine Bennett in The Observer – he’s not the only one. More than 80 MPs employ family members on the taxpayer’s dime. These so-called “connected parties” include “a son convicted of supplying drugs and a wife penalised for drink driving”. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who has “spoken passionately” about stamping out nepotism, used to have two of her daughters on the payroll, and still employs one.

Snapshot

It’s a tiny, 15mm-long “robot fish”, says The Independent. Eco engineers in China have designed the light-activated contraptions to help clean up the world’s waterways – the robots, made from a substance modelled on mother-of-pearl, absorb polystyrene microplastics harmful to marine life.

Quoted

quoted 28.6

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison


27 June


In the headlines

Boris Johnson is urging world leaders at the G7 summit in Germany to “hold firm” in support of Ukraine, says The Guardian. In a string of bilateral meetings, the PM stood as a “bulwark” against potential backsliding by the US and other top nations. Johnson’s rapprochement with Emmanuel Macron went so well, says Politico, the PM came out joking about “le bromance”. Unorthodox donations to Prince Charles’s charitable fund are to be investigated by the charity watchdog, says The Sun. The heir to the throne reportedly accepted €3m in cash from a Qatari sheikh, stuffed into a “holdall, a suitcase, and Fortnum & Mason carrier bags”. The real hero of Glastonbury wasn’t 80-year-old Paul McCartney knocking out bangers for three hours straight, says the BBC – it was whoever brought the flag with the slogan “this is a work event”.

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Comment

Noted

The world’s languages vary hugely in the way they spell out laughter, says the Big Think website. Instead of “haha” or “lol” there’s jajaja in Spanish, høhøhø in Norwegian and kkkkk (pronounced “kah kah kah”) in Portuguese. In China, Mandarin speakers have several options if they want to stick to onomatopoeia: there’s the familiar “haha” (哈哈), but also “hehe” (呵呵), and “hihi” (嘻嘻). More common online is a series of numbers: 23333. This refers to #233 in an old lineup of emojis (above).

Life

Being Anna Wintour’s personal hairdresser is tough work, says The New York Times. Every weekday, Andreas Anastasis visits the Vogue editor’s home for routine bob maintenance – “cutting, colouring, spraying, blow-drying or styling”. He even went throughout Covid, dressed in a full hazmat suit.

Gone viral

Britney Spears recently married the Iranian-American model Sam Asghari – and Iranians all over the world are delighted about it. The bride and groom even made the cover of Tehran, a Persian-language magazine published in California, with the caption: “Once you go Persian there’s no other version.”

Love etc

Psychology boffins have found that people are more attracted to rounder faces and bodies when they’re hungry, says Tatiana Tenreyro in Mel Magazine. Weirdly, they prefer rounder objects as well. “So, if you’re still starving waiting for your toast to pop, maybe satiate yourself in the meantime by looking at that big, thicc refrigerator.”

Snapshot

It’s the Queen, at least as far as mashed Glasto-goers can make out. The hooded woman was filmed watching Robert Plant on the Pyramid Stage, and viewers speculated that Her Majesty was taking a break from royal life to indulge in some classic rock. “That disguise is fooling nobody,” wrote one Twitter user.

Quoted

quoted 27.6.22

“Diplomacy is the art of letting somebody else have your way.”

British TV host Sir David Frost