Boris Johnson held “crunch” talks with energy bosses to address soaring prices yesterday, says the Daily Mirror, “and came up with nothing”. The outgoing PM, who has “barely been seen” in recent weeks, said the decision on how to help struggling households was up to his successor. Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been struck by shelling five times, amid continued fighting in the area between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Both sides blame each other for hitting the Zaporizhzhia facility in southeastern Ukraine; the UN says a demilitarised zone is needed to avoid “catastrophic consequences”. A “pint-sized fugitive” in Rochdale was caught after trying to hide from police in a giant teddy bear, says the Daily Mail. Officers found car thief Joshua Dobson, 18, when they noticed that the stuffed toy appeared to be breathing. “UnBEARlievable.”
Sunny times for the President. Drew Angerer/Getty
Joe Biden has been stuck in a bad news cycle, says Charles Blow in The New York Times. Media outlets drone on about voters losing confidence in him, with every disappointing poll providing a “patina of proof”. But this doom-laden narrative is out of date: the President has enjoyed a “stellar” few weeks. Fuel prices have fallen for 58 consecutive days. Job growth has “far outpaced expectations”. Biden has signed the “most significant federal gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years”, and last week the Senate passed his epic climate, tax and healthcare bill.
He is also racking up foreign policy wins. The CIA finally killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri after two decades of hunting him down. The Senate voted overwhelmingly to stand up to Russia by letting Finland and Sweden join Nato; the Russians themselves have suggested a potential prisoner swap that would free American basketball player Brittney Griner. The repeal of Roe v Wade, while a “gutting disappointment”, has galvanised liberal voters ahead of the midterm elections in November. Kansas, a state that voted strongly for Trump in 2020, last week “voted even more strongly” to protect abortion rights. Biden’s administration “must seize this moment” and make sure voters know about these wins. If Trump could “crow about all he did” as the country fell apart around him, Biden’s remarkable summer surely entitles him to “a little crowing of his own”.
I was lucky enough to try out the upcoming I Am Jesus Christ video game, says Matteo Lupetti in Vice. As the title suggests, you play the messiah Himself. In one level, I had to fast in the desert while surrounded by angels teaching me how to fight – “quite a departure from the source material”. Other tasks included catching fish to persuade fisherman to follow me, turning water into wine to save a marriage, and, somewhat bizarrely, shrinking down to enter a little boy’s body and destroy viruses. I even battled it out with Satan against the backdrop of a magma-filled crater – “a natural feature obviously very common in Palestinian deserts”.
The “théâtrophone” was the world’s first live stream, says History Today. In 1881, inventor Clément Ader unveiled the device, which used early telephone technology to transmit opera and theatre performances into the homes of customers. Théâtrophone services “sprang up in several European cities”, with fans including writer Marcel Proust and King Luís I of Portugal. “The technology did not survive the advent of radio,” but one provider “lingered on in Bournemouth until the death of its last two subscribers in 1937”.
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I’m “deeply sceptical” of most reading apps, says Jonny Diamond in LitHub, but “Serial Reader might be on to something”. It provides access to more than 800 classic books in the public domain, but only sends you 20-minute chunks of your chosen tome each day. I can see the appeal: rather than “groggy and glazed page-skimming” just before bed, you can do a more efficient burst of reading when you’re more alert. Download it here.
Give Africa its history back
Take a stroll through the British Museum, and you’ll find over 900 of the “marvellous plaques and sculptures” known as the “Benin bronzes”, says Tomiwa Owolade in The New Statesman. Many other institutions that hold Benin bronzes have started returning them to Nigeria, where in 1897 British colonists stole more than 10,000 artefacts during a raid on the Kingdom of Benin. But the British Museum is mandated by a 1963 act of parliament to keep hold of its stash – and a Tory government obsessed with culture wars isn’t likely to change that law any time soon.
Many say the bronzes should be returned “for the sake of decolonisation”, but I think there’s a more profound, conservative case for their repatriation. Civilisation cannot be divorced from geographical context without losing some of its “fundamental value”. And the bronzes have been ripped from the very place which gives them their value: “Not the abstract value of artistic excellence, but the value of one father teaching his son how to cast a bronze, of a people recognising their ancestors in objects of vivid beauty.” In 1962, the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper claimed that Africa had no history and was a “darkness” until Europeans arrived. The Benin bronzes, “a powerful symbol of a civilisation that lasted for over 700 years”, show this to be a “pernicious myth”. Africa must be allowed to take ownership of its history.
A resin chicken with a lightbulb poking out of its bottom has become the internet’s favourite piece of home lighting. The ludicrous lamp keeps selling out on Amazon, where it is the subject of glowing reviews: “I ordered this as a kind of gag gift,” reads one. “What we got was a lot cuter than it appears in the advertising!” Order yours for £12.50 here (while stocks last).
Dining rooms, which are being killed off by open-plan living. On the property website Rightmove, the number of UK listings that come with a separate dining room has fallen by 28% since 2012, says The Times. Another cause for their demise is home working, as more and more people convert rooms into dedicated offices.
It’s “splooting” – when animals stretch themselves out on cold surfaces to cool down. “If you see a squirrel lying down like this,” tweeted New York’s Parks and Recreation department this week, “don’t worry; it’s just fine.” Other animals also like to sploot, says Slate, including dogs, pandas and bears. Alternative names for the practice include “frogging”, “frog dogging”, “pancaking” and “superman”.
“Somebody’s boring me. I think it’s me.”
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