Twelve European countries are ready to supply Ukraine with a total of around 100 Leopard 2 tanks, a senior Kyiv official tells ABC News. The commitment increases pressure on Germany, which as manufacturer of the vehicles has the final say on any deal. Rishi Sunak has ordered an ethics inquiry into Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, saying “there are questions that need answering”. Several Conservative MPs now think the party chairman’s position is untenable. “Forget Fido,” says The Times: pigs show just as much affection for their owners as dogs do, according to new research. Pooches, however, “still have the edge” in communicating effectively with humans.
An exhibition visitor admiring an 18th-century painting of Karim Khan Zan. Sean Gallup/Getty
An embarrassing failure to understand Islam
It is a sign of the “strange contemporary culture” of American universities, says Hisham Melhem in Foreign Policy, that a college in Minnesota just sacked a professor for showing a picture of the prophet Mohammed. It didn’t matter, apparently, that art historian Erika López Prater had repeatedly warned students she was going to show them the image, nor that it came from a 14th-century Persian manuscript, painted “by a Muslim scholar for a Muslim ruler and celebrating the birth of Islam”. No: to the admin bods at Hamline University, and the “outside professional Muslim activists” who swooped in to cry Islamophobia, this was a cruel violation of a core tenet of Islam that forbids images of holy types.
This is not just an “outrageous assault on academic freedom” – it’s also plain wrong. “There is absolutely no such injunction in the Quran.” The Persian and Ottoman empires, as well as various Muslim realms in India, left a “stunningly rich inheritance” of drawings and paintings. The problem is the misconception by Western scholars – “and, unfortunately, by the overwhelming majority of Muslims themselves” – that Islam is one coherent entity. In reality, Persian-influenced Mughal Islam in South Asia, say, is “totally alien” to the “austere, rigid ways” of the Arab Sunnis. It’s hard to know what’s more embarrassing for the US academics: that they chose the imagined sensitivities of Muslims over intellectual freedom, or that they were too ignorant to realise intellectual freedom “doesn’t contradict the spirit” of the religion they claim to be defending.
Mitch Rouse takes aerial photos that elevate agricultural landscapes into high art, says My Modern Met. “I hope people see these images and realise there is hidden beauty inside everything,” says the American photographer. “It sometimes just takes a different perspective to see it.” See the rest of his collection here.
Apple is famously exacting about setting up its overseas production lines, says the FT. In China, for example, an engineer will meet the CEO of a parts supplier and “pepper them with questions until their technical ability has been exhausted”. The engineer will then meet the next manager, and then the next, continuing until they end up in “some windowless conference room in the basement where the person who actually wrote the line of code necessary to answer Apple’s questions is located”.
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HBO’s new hit show The Last of Us is set in the aftermath of a deadly outbreak of “mutant fungus” that turns humans into zombies. Far-fetched as that sounds, says Ars Technica, it’s actually based on some “very real” science. As documented in the BBC’s Planet Earth, there really is a family of “zombifying parasitic fungi” called Cordyceps. Each one targets a specific insect – a type of ant, say, or beetle – and gets into its brain via spores scattered in the air. Once inside, the Cordyceps releases chemicals that make the insect their “zombie slave”, then compels the host to move to the best possible location for the fungus to thrive and grow. Watch the clip here.
Life as a ministerial aide, as depicted in The Thick of It
If you want better politicians, pay them more
British politics has a problem with money, says Bagehot in The Economist: “there is not enough of it”. Most ministerial aides get paid only £40,000 to £80,000 a year, even though they “help run departments with budgets that can stretch to over £100bn”. Things are even worse for the opposition. Labour recently put out a job ad for a new “head of economic policy”. The pay, for a role that will probably help shape “the direction of a £2trn economy”? A measly £50,000. It’s the same at think tanks, where wonks are “expected to be able to crunch numbers as well as any banker”, on a tiny fraction of a banker’s salary.
This stuff matters, because “good government requires a healthy stream of good ideas”. Germany provides its think tanks with “generous state funding”; in the US, they are paid for by “plutocrats from across the political spectrum”. Here, our under-funded think tankers focus on chasing headlines rather than “solving deep problems”. Low pay also dilutes the quality of our elected representatives. When MPs first received a salary, in 1911, it was six times the average wage; today, at £84,000, it’s just over double – and well below what lawyers, bankers and even accountants are making. The sad truth is that politics has become “the preserve of those who are rich, mad, thick or saintly” – and “the saints are outnumbered”. If voters want a better standard of politician, as they always say they do, then “someone has to pay for it”.
Camping inside a church, known as “champing”, is soaring in popularity, says The Times. Some 573 parties stayed at one of 22 registered sites during the last financial year, raising £86,000 for building repairs and maintenance. Guests get basic bedding, along with access to water and a loo, and some churches “team up with farmers to provide breakfast and pubs to offer dinner”. Prices for a basic “room with a pew” start at £49 a night for adults and £25 for children. Book your godly stay here.
TikTok is awash with videos explaining the “shoe theory”, says Slate, which posits that giving your partner shoes will cause them to abruptly dump you. According to one user, the superstition has its roots in Chinese culture: the Mandarin for “shoes” has the same pronunciation as the word for “evil”, so gifting footwear is synonymous with gifting bad luck. Another TikToker has a more practical explanation: “You give someone a pair of shoes, and you’re inviting them to walk out of your life. You’re paving the way for them to decide.”
It’s American rapper Doja Cat, covered in 30,000 crimson Swarovski crystals to attend yesterday’s Schiaparelli show at Paris Fashion Week. Make-up artist Pat McGrath says the star’s patience was “truly inspiring”, after she sat still for four hours and 58 minutes while each gem was painstakingly hand-applied to create the Dante-inspired demonic look. Inevitably, not everyone was convinced. One Instagram user said she looked like “my fingers after I eat hot Cheetos”.
“Telling lies is a bit like tiling bathrooms – if you don’t know how to do it properly, it’s best not to try.”
English novelist Tom Holt
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