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The post-Easter chocolate comedown

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The Friday Speed Read

Every week The Friday Speed Read flicks through the UK media in search of nuggets of choice news and serves them up in an easily-digestible form for your entertainment. 

So then, did you have a nice Easter? We’re big fans of Christianity’s most significant festival here at The Friday Speed Read: a four-day weekend; swathes of daffodils and the gambolling of lambs; obscene amounts of cheap chocolate and abandoned Chinese space stations crashing Earthwards – and these joys without the pressure of last-minute trawls on Amazon to buy presents for people you really should have bought presents for but had forgotten to until your mother had reminded you.

Easter is not Christmas and for that we must be thankful.

Plummeting Chinese space hardware aside, we must admit to having taken our eye off the news ball almost completely over the bank holiday weekend. That’s not to say that stuff didn’t happen, that’s what stuff does, it happens, (as was famously observed by Donald Rumsfeld a silly number of years ago) but the details of what these Bank Holiday happenings may have been is sketchy at best. We suppose if something truly knock-out occurred we’d have heard about it but we didn’t so let’s assume Monday passed by without knocking anyone out of their chocolatey torpor.

When Tuesday arrived, the news on the front pages was mixed and was coloured in various shades of depressing. The Telegraph and The Guardian both carried stories about the “beleaguered” (one of those words you only really come across in the UK media) NHS; the Star quoting a “top Brit cop” saying that Madeline McCann may never be foundand the Daily Mail continued to foam at its Brexity mouth about the award of the contract to manufacture the new blue British passports to a French-Dutch firm. To be fair, The Mail is not sitting on its hands about this and has started a petition in order to force a U-turn. And petitions always work.

Tuesday also saw the 46th murder in London in 2018, with a 17-year-old girl shot dead in the street at half nine in the evening. By Friday morning, the murder total in London had reached 50 (and six more were hospitalised with stab wounds on Thursday night alone) with the majority of victims being under 25. The press reached an unsurprising consensus that something is going very wrong the streets of our capital: The Express’s Wednesday headline caught the mood with its rhetorical on question: “How many more innocents must die?” but there was little agreement about either cause or solution.

Social media was singled out by Met Police chief Cressida Dick as not the definitive cause but a contributing one, with fears that teenagers are whipping themselves into a frenzy of bravado, threat and the fake-glamour of pointless martyrdom via endless videos, provocative messages and snapchats. This observation was met with a mixed response with some suggesting that even though we definitely spend too long taking too many pictures of ourselves these days, it’s a very long way from a selfie to putting a knife into someone.

Elsewhere, in another story involving knives, many titles have been spitting feathers about the arrest of a 78-year-old man for stabbing to death a burglar that he found in his house. “Fury as OAP held for ‘killing’ burglar” said the Mirror on Thursday, joined by the Mail (“Held for murder, defending his wife and home”) as well as the front pages of The Sun, Express and Telegraph. The tone was very clear: that it was to the shame of our justice system that a man could be arrested for simply protecting his home. If you had any moral qualms about such a conclusion then the papers on Friday were there to reassure you with the revelation that the dead burglar was a “career villain” (Mirror) and a “vile . .  serial crook” (Mail) who “preyed on the elderly” (Express). So please don’t worry.

Other stories making it through the chocolate hangover this week included the Labour Party’s continuing struggle to distance itself from some deeply unpleasant anti-Semitic elements in its ranks; evil genius Mark Zuckerberg saying that Facebook had inadvertently facilitated 37 million more shares of personal data with Cambridge Analytica (bringing the total to the not at all small number of 87 million) and that this “was a mistake”.

Donald “still the President” Trump vented his frustration that for some reason Mexico STILL hasn’t paid for his border wall and so promised that in the meantime he will make lot of soldiers stand along the border and hold hands thus creating an impenetrable barrier, (one that’s been road-tested a million times over in primary school playgrounds across the world); the Sugar Tax comes into force today making products that contain unhealthy amounts of sugar more expensive – note here the timing, and the considerable power of the chocolate lobby to delay this law change until after Easter.

(Health and safety note: don’t put the heater on in your chocolate lobby, even when it’s chilly).

Finally, commemorative events were held across the US to mark the 50th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King.  Radio 4 played an eight-minute extract from the speech he made on the night before his murder; eight minutes is a lifetime in modern radio and the effect was profound. Just as King’s effect on history is profound, relevant and enduring.

Have a good weekend.

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