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7 News Stories You Might Have Missed This Week
The end of streaky bacon?
Our favourite breakfast ingredient, streaky bacon, is facing a two-pronged attack. Abattoirs and packing plants have cut output because of Covid outbreaks among staff, while post-Brexit red tape means 100,000 porkers are stuck on farms. And the hungry pigs are getting bigger and bigger. “We can’t stop them growing,” Anna Longthorp, a desperate farmer, told The Daily Mirror. Fatter pigs are harder to package, so supermarkets don’t buy them.
It’s selfish to complain about vaccine passports
I’m glad my nine-year-old isn’t listening to the ridiculous row over vaccine passports, says Celia Walden in The Daily Telegraph. All this talk about “not stamping on individual rights in the name of group rights” is nonsense – we teach kids to think of others and not always put themselves first. Only with “public spirit” can they hope to enjoy life in the democracy they were “lucky enough to be born into”. But when Maajid Nawaz discussed vaccine passports on his LBC radio show, there was an “onslaught” of callers accusing the government of medical tyranny. “Might as well be living in communist China,” raged one. These “vaccine dissenters” forget that we make such trade-offs all the time. “We stop at red lights”, even though it slows us down. We no longer smoke in the offices, pubs and restaurants vaccine passports will let us return to. Nobody’s making you get a vaccine, but they don’t have to let you into their restaurants and pubs if you choose not to have the jab. One caller even asked: “Why should it be mandatory to have something that you don’t want?” If my nine-year-old tried that, it would plunge me “into the depths of despair”. Read the full article here.
Brexit trade rules are stifling small businesses
Post-Brexit complications have created “the mother of all headaches” for small businesses, says John Harris in The Guardian. Being hit by the pandemic was bad enough but exporting to Europe has now become almost impossible. Take ethical knitwear company Country of Origin, part of a fashion industry worth £35bn a year to Britain. Since December 31, when the new trade rules came into effect, it has seen every single one of several hundred orders from the Continent fall through. That’s a third of its revenue gone – no one wants to buy a sweater with £88 in “government fees” (including import VAT and courier charges) on the tag. Faced with this, some firms have hired “Brexit advisers” or hiked prices by up to 30%. No wonder overall exports to Europe are down 68%. If we’re going to buy and sell our way out of the Covid slump, we need “agile, inventive” companies to help us do so. It’s small firms and start-ups that reinvigorate flagging economies. Instead, we now have Amazon and “essential” big supermarkets “gleefully” taking customers from small businesses shuttered by lockdown. Conservatives used to understand what such businesses needed “as a matter of instinct”. Brexit’s “introverted populism” has left them out of touch. Read the full article here.
A justified expense?
Last week’s snowy photoshoot of Boris Johnson’s dog, Dilyn, was justified by No 10 on the grounds that government photographers “document the work not just of the Prime Minister but of the whole cabinet”. This seemed to imply, says John Elledge in the New Statesman, that despite being two years old and a dog, Dilyn is a member of the cabinet. This may seem ridiculous. But his record in government is no worse than that of many of his colleagues. Still, his adventures should be paid for by his owner, not the taxpayer.
Quote of the day
What about weddings?
The half a million people like me waiting to tie the knot won’t be top of anyone’s post-lockdown priority list, says Olivia Utley in The Daily Telegraph. But what about the 400,000 working in the wedding industry, not to mention our crumbling “architectural treasures”, which rely on receptions for income? From next month, New York with allow 150 guests at weddings, providing they’re all tested beforehand. For the sake of the industry – and “the millions of people just dying for a whopping great party” – let’s hope we follow suit sharpish.
To understand just how nervous Nasa was about landing its $2.7bn rover on Mars, fire up Houston We Have a Podcast, then skip to 18 minutes in. Systems engineer Chloe Sackier describes “seven minutes of terror” as Perseverance slows from 12,000mph to 0.75 metres per second using a parachute, jetpack and heat shield. Its signals take 11 minutes to travel 293m miles back to Earth, so they’ll wait for a “heartbeat tone” from 11 minutes earlier to say: “Thumbs up, I’m still alive.”
What made Donald Trump turn on Mike Pence?
A TV advert, says political correspondent Jonathan Swan in Axios’s How It Happened podcast. “On 6 January, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin when he presides over the Senate vote to prove Joe Biden won,” said the ad, which was created by an anti-Trump Republican group, the Lincoln Project. There’s a tradition in US politics that the vice president certifies the election results, but until the advert Trump had no idea. “It was only shown in the DC market on Fox News,” says Swan, and it had one clear goal: “To get inside Donald Trump’s head and to poison his relationship with Mike Pence.” It worked.
As soon as he watched it, Trump began to bully Pence to swing the vote. “[Pence] has walked this tightrope with Trump for four years. He’s endured any number of catastrophes” – but this was the final straw. He knew Trump’s demands were “untethered from the law and his constitutional responsibilities”. As for the team behind the ad? There was “zero chance” Trump knew about that constitutional process, says Lincoln Project member Steve Schmidt: “I’d bet my legs on it.” So there was no risk involved in running the ad, it was simply “a beautiful moment of political f***ery”. Listen to the full podcast here.
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…& You Should Know
The laughing crying emoji is seen as a marker of old age by Gen Z, says Kaya Yurieff in CNN Business. It’s the most popular emoji for millennials and baby-boomers on Twitter, but tears of laughter are too earnest for the gritty younger generation. They prefer the skull emoji to convey humour – a visual representation of “dying from laughter”.
Photo by Nijwam Swargiary
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