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The Friday Speed Read

Every week The Friday Speed Read cuts out every single newspaper story with a tiny pair of scissors, chooses the most interesting and then sticks them in its special News Scrapbook  the pages of which are published below for your pleasure. 

In the week that Google announced the release of technology that can make phone calls and write emails on your behalf (without the need for you to do anything apart from shake your head and wonder how we got here) here at the Friday Speed Read we’ve decided to put these new tools to the test. After a three-day bank holiday weekend of over-barbecued meats, craft beer and sunstroke its News Radar is a little less finely attuned than normal; therefore, this week’s edition is being written entirely by a computer, so please forward any complaints about paucity of humour or bias of political views to Larry Page, 600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043 United States. Thank you.

This week, the international stage hosted yet another part of The Donald Trump Story; the plot twists and character arcs of which continue to enthral and appal in something like equal measure. Trump celebrated his brushing away of revelations that he lied about paying off a porn star with a show of single-mindedness that had echoes of King Lear shouting defiantly, madly at the storm. Only in this production the storm was played by overwhelming international opinion that the deal brokered by Obama with Iran to restrict its nuclear ambitions in return for the lifting of trade sanctions was actually working pretty well. Trump’s reaction: “Trump ditches ‘rotten’ nuclear deal with Iran” (The Times); “Fears of new Gulf crisis as Trump pulls US out of Iran nuclear deal”.

The following morning on Radio 4’s Today programme, a Republican senator and SUPPORTER (caps for emphasis) of Lear / Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal was asked if the world was now a more dangerous place as a result. His answer? “Well, yes, I’d say that it is . . . .” {Error Code 76xt: does not compute}.

Back on home shores, The House of Lords has spent the week repeatedly poking the right-wing press with a long stick to the point that by Wednesday, the Express had a face like a blue thundercloud and by Thursday, The Daily Mail was practically spitting flaming feathers. What’s got all of their goats? The repeated defeats that the Lords has inflicted on the Brexit bill, 14 thus far, forcing the government to commit time to removing this series of new amendments when the bill returns to the Commons. “Lords take a wrecking ball to Brexit”, shouted the Express (missing a picture opportunity to replace Miley Cyrus with Jacob Rees-Mogg in a still from the famous video); “It’s time to pull the plug on the Lords” said Mail, just warming up before continuing: “These traitors in ermine, the Lords that loathe democracy”.

Two contrasting celebrity stories made tabloid front pages at either end of the week: ex-football man Alex Ferguson, who had an emergency brain operation following a collapse during the bank holiday weekend, was beginning to make a recovery. The Star quoted the players of Manchester United who promised “We’ll lift the FA Cup for Fergie” and The Sun reported Ferguson’s first words after coming around after his operation: “How did Doncaster get on?” (His son, Darren, is manager; they lost if you’re interested). Sadder news emerged on Thursday with the revelation that national treasure Barbara Windsor has Alzheimer’s: “My Babs forgets we’re married” – The Sun; “Carry on Babs” – The Star.

Time for “other news of the week” paragraph, deep breath, let’s go: Malaysia’s new Prime Minister is a sprightly 92 years old; someone has bothered to invent vegan foie gras which contains neither foie nor gras but does contain walnuts, mushrooms, shallots, beetroots and pointlessness; vanilla ice cream will soon be more expensive than a porn-star’s hush money as vanilla pods are in very short supply; but train tickets may become cheaper once a move to simplify ticket types becomes a thing; and an influential commission (the Resolution Foundation Intergenerational Commission should you  be checking) recommended that every 25 year old receives £10,000 in an attempt to redress the yawning (as in wide, not tired) disparity in wealth and means between the old and young in the UK. In short, older people have all the houses, money, cars, pensions pots, ceramic pots, neatly-stacking pots and cooking pots while all Millennials have is Paul Potts (he appeared on BGT in 2007 so this joke is slightly flawed but Google has decided that it’s funny).

With only eight sleeps until THE WEDDING the British press has been getting in the matrimonial mood by lovingly and respectfully combing through a list of MM’s ex-lovers and printing pictures of them for our edification. They have also been sending photographers to snap MM’s father being fitted for a suit, buying anti-bloating pills and looking up his daughter and Harry on Wikipedia. This stuff matters. Stand-by next week for a special Royal Wedding souvenir edition of the Speed Read next Friday.

Finally, it’s that time of year again when, via the medium of mediocre pop music, we’re served a reminder of just how much everyone in Europe hates us. Yes, it’s The Eurovision Song Contest, this year coming from the otherwise marvellous city of Lisbon. But stand aside you cynics, Filippos Filippidis, an epidemiologist in public health at Imperial College London, has led a study that reveals that there’s a 13% chance of higher “life satisfaction” among the populations of competing Eurovision countries, even when a country receives “null points”. Mais oui! C’est vrai! And definitely not just a nifty piece of PR the day before the event.

The video of the week is, without doubt, Donald Glover’s (as Childish Gambino) “This is America”; a provocative, darkly humorous and teeth-crunchingly angry critique of contemporary American culture and its relationship with black people (74 million views and counting). We’re not going to embed it but we urge to you to watch; it’s a proper piece of art.

But if it’s not for you, then there’s always Abba and Abba are for everyone. Happy Eurovision.

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