Saturday, the 4th of June

The Question

What's the most innocuous thing that can damage children's attention and memory development?

Talking Points

Celtics launched themselves into Game 2. PHOTO: AP
  1. Boston Celtics mauled the Golden State Warriors late in Game 1
  2. California restricted water use as the state runs dry
  3. The Supreme Court blocked a Texan social media bill
  4. Harvey Weinstein's rape conviction was upheld
  5. Colombia's historic presidential election went to a run-off
  6. UK's outbound international travel was hit by shocking delays
  7. France announced a probe into Champions League chaos
  8. Turkey formally requested a name change to Türkiye
  9. Shanghai emerged from its months-long lockdown
  10. Singapore faced an unprecedented chicken shortage

Deep Dive

POV: You are the queen. PHOTO: AP

It may sound like a sickeningly sweet lolly but that hasn't stopped "platinum jubilee" from rolling off a lot of tongues lately. As Britain marks 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, we ponder what maketh a monarch.

The Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II

It's a big weekend for corgi owners and doily enthusiasts. Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her 96th birthday, and 70 years on the throne. Across the United Kingdom, her subjects have gathered for a four-day extravaganza of cavalcades, Anglican ceremony, and supplication. Fans of the monarchy around the world, in vassal states and beyond, will tune in to watch the party. In the lead-up to these festivities, we've been keeping our attention on the royal reporters. A common refrain, from the queen's supporters and critics alike, has been that Queen Elizabeth II's reign has been a good one. That sentiment, in its least-discrete expression, also connotes a hint of apprehension about her successor. But whatever you think of Charles ( Editor's note: please do not reply to this email with your thoughts about Charles ), that's for later. The royale du jour is his mum.

So... has it been a good reign? If longevity is your yardstick of choice, then yes. It's been a fine innings. Right now, only Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and France's very late King Louis XIV are ahead in the monarch rankings. If Queen Elizabeth II survives another two revolutions around the Sun she'll become the world's undisputed GOAT longest-reigning monarch. And it's a podium finish no matter what.

A queen without her queendom

But here's another way to look at it. When Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of the House of Windsor ascended to the throne in 1952, the high-water mark of the British empire had already passed. Centuries of maps, each bearing a great pink swathe of Crown possessions, had become outdated. The empire's grip on Southeast Asia, smashed by Japan during the war, was being gently replaced by the Americans. India, the 'Jewel in the Crown', had been ripped asunder by Partition in 1947.

The decades to follow saw more colonies seized or relinquished, both in Africa and the Middle East. And so it might be said that by the time Prince Charles handed over the keys to Hong Kong in 1997, the British Empire had ceased to be.

Even the Commonwealth of Nations, a Mickey Mouse club of ex-colonies, is starting to unravel . A whole suite of Caribbean nations is in the process of removing Elizabeth II as the head of state. As descendants of slaves that the Crown shipped across the Atlantic and worked to death on sugar plantations, why wouldn't they? Not even the United Kingdom is safe. Scottish independence and Irish reunification are real possibilities in the coming years (we're not sure what the Welsh are up to).

How then might one judge Elizabeth II's reign by that traditional (and bloodthirsty) rubric - the expansion and control of territory? On this measure, it's been a flop.

And here's one final way to look upon the monarchy: Queen Elizabeth II deserves our utmost praise for the way in which she has managed her own family's decline - with great decorum. Hereditary monarchy is an idea whose time had past anyway. Loyal subjects may remain transfixed by the pomp and psychodrama of the royal family , but the rest of us moved on some time ago. But despite this, and all the scandals in her family, the world's perception of this remarkable woman is unchanged. No matter what has come her way these past 70 years, the queen has always seemed impervious, and able to rise above it all.

Now it's last drinks for the Queen of the United Kingdom. Let's give her a cheers, because tomorrow is a new day.


Coco Gauff celebrates her win over Martina Trevisan. PHOTO: AFP

French Open appeals and appalls

When 18-year-old Coco Gauff walks out onto Court Philippe Chartier today she'll be the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova in 2004. She faces World No. 1 and 2020 French Open champion Iga Światek who has won 10 out of her last 11 games . Światek herself is just 21. And yet, some tactless comments from a tournament director have cast a pall over what promises to be an electrifying contest. When challenged on the unequal distribution of marquee night matches (9 men's singles, 1 women's singles), Amélie Mauresmo said, "I admit it was tough. It was tough for more than one night to find, as you say, the match of the day... you have more attraction, appeal ... for the men's matches".

On the one hand, if a two-time Grand Slam champion and tournament director can't speak bluntly about their profession, nobody can. And, in fairness, both Gauff and Światek did obliterate their semi-finals opponents . But on the other hand... read the room!? First of all, that's a conversation that could have waited till after the tournament. And second, there is something circular in her reasoning: women are denied marquee time-slots because they 'lack appeal'. But having them play in those time-slots is surely also how you build appeal.

Perhaps it was the juice of Rafael Nadal's spectacular quarter-final win over Novak Djokovic that Mauresmo was referring to. A pair of ageing champions slugging it out over four hours. The king of clay saluting at the close. That it could be their final meeting at Roland Garros, 16 years after their first, is certainly attention-grabbing. Or did Mauresmo mean the appeal of testosterone-fuelled theatrics? The quarter-final between Casper Ruud and Holger Rune was marred by tantrums, and the latter even shouted at his mother to leave the box!

Sheryl Sandberg leaning in. PHOTO: Bloomberg

The adult in the room

This week Sheryl Sandberg announced that she would step down as Chief Operating Officer of Meta — a role she’s held for 14 years. The public face of a company that desperately needed one. Public scrutiny was never Mark Zuckerberg’s strong suit . But it was a role that Sandberg excelled at. Her memoir Lean In elevated her as an avatar of corporate feminism; a must-read among the professional-managerial class. A paragon of competency, standing between Facebook and its scrutineers.

On her watch, Facebook/Meta’s user base exploded from 500m to over 3bn. Sandberg, a former head of Google’s own advertising wing, was single-minded in her pursuit of an ever-larger audience to advertise to. It is no mean feat to build an ad-business which competes with the most-used browser in the world. When she walked in, Facebook's revenue was $200m. Today it is $117bn .

Let's not retread the controversies and scandals. Sandberg helped build, steer and defend one of the most belligerent corporations in modern history. That company also became a viper’s nest for extremism and hate. And there is only so much toxic muck you can handle before you yourself become radioactive. As she leaves, Sandberg faces accusations of pressuring journalists to reel in negative coverage of her boyfriend (Activision’s embattled chief Bobby Kotick).

When Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008 she promised to be “the adult in the room”. Everything, as they say, is relative.

The Best Of Times

The seagrass meadow in all its glory. PHOTO: Angela Rossen / AP

Posidonia australis

Australian researchers have discovered that a 170km long stretch of seagrass in Western Australia is genetically a single organism. It grew from a single seedling 4,500 years ago . That's right, we've snatched the title of 'world's largest plant' from Oregon's sprawling 'Humongous Fungus' honey mushroom and Utah's enormous 'Pando' quaking aspen.

Friends forever

Close study of an ancient marble slab has revealed it to be a graduate school yearbook. At some point during the reign of Claudius (41-54 CE) the names of graduates of the Athenian ephebeia (military and civic training for 18-year-olds) were inscribed in stone. See, you should keep your high school yearbook. Someone might learn something from it one day.

The Worst Of Times

Evacuees from the Natalie Medical Building. PHOTO: Ian Maule / AP

Another Tulsa massacre

At 2pm on Wednesday a man in Tulsa, Oklahoma bought an AR-15 . By 5 PM, he had shot dead four people at a medical clinic, and turned the gun on himself. It was the 233rd mass shooting of 2022 .

Burying children and gun control

This week the shattered town of Uvalde, Texas, began to bury its children. At the same time, Texan Governor Greg Abbott was drafting a letter instructing the state's legislature to look into school safety, social media, mental health, and police training - but not gun control . Congressional Republicans were similarly backpedaling on any talk of gun control.


The Image

Oleksii Novikov dead lifts a Jeep at the World's Strongest Man competition. Image supplied by The Guardian .

The Quote

"Everybody knows the rules of the game."

– Bill Hwang's lawyers, subscribing to the orthodox view on what constitutes the best defence, went straight at the banks . Having apparently exhausted every other possible simile they likened Archegos Capital Management and Wall Street to "Shaq and LeBron". It's now up to the courts to decide whether those "sharp elbows" constituted fair play or market manipulation.

The Numbers

A $250,000 annual salary

- A recent survey found that one-third of the respondents who earned over a quarter-million US dollars per year were living paycheck-to-paycheck. We presume the weekly shopping-list looks something like this famous meme .

1/5th of a country disappears

- This week Volodymyr Zelenskyy revealed that Russia was in control of 20% of Ukraine . The Donbas is being pounded into submission and Western support for the war is beginning to wane.

The Headlines

"'Tamagotchi generation': AI expert predicts virtual children will be common in 50 years" Irish Independent . Finally; seen and not heard.

"This crypto startup believes 'sex-to-earn' is the future of web3"

Input . It's not.

The Special Mention

Having claimed a string of lesser accolades (Academy Award for Best Picture, Palme d'Or, Cannes Best Director) Martin Scorcese has capped off his career with an inkl Special Mention. It's been a big week for him. First, the streaming giant Netflix announced a radical shift in funding projects because Scorcese spent so much of its money stacking The Irishman (2019) with his best pals. And in a throwback to his earlier work, this week John Hinckley Jr. was released from prison! Scorcese is the only director to have made a film so compelling that it prompted someone to shoot a sitting US president.

The Best Long Reads

The Answer...

Traffic noise . Everyone: buy a bike .