President Emmanuel Macron is still expected to win re-election next month, but his opponents are having a field day with reports that his government has spent some $2.6 billion on research and advice from private consultants in the last four years. “Macron has come under particular fire over government dealings with McKinsey, a US consultancy with which he has close links, which has been accused of failing to pay corporation tax in France for at least the past decade,” reported The Times of London. Among the specific expenses paid to various consulting firms: $2.6 million for a “National Agency for Territorial Cohesion” and $3.4 million to create a “barometer of public action results.” We personally know at least two barometer-of-public-action-results creators who would do it for a lot less.
For an average fee of nearly $1,700 per person per day, said the newspaper, consultants were “asked to convince civil servants to adopt new working methods. One is the so-called ‘pirate ship’ method, in which each civil servant has to play the role of a crew member, the report said. Another is the ‘serious play’ Lego method which involves using building bricks to enhance ‘reflection and dialogue’.” Ever get the feeling you’re in the wrong business?
The family division of the High Court in England and Wales has awarded sole responsibility for the schooling and medical care of the ruler of Dubai’s children—girls aged 14 and 10—to their mother, saying that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum “had inflicted ‘domestic abuse’ on an extraordinary scale against his ex-wife, which had emotionally and psychologically harmed their children,” according to The Guardian. Sheikh Mohammed had already said he would have no direct contact with the children and accepted that they would live in England with their mother. Last year Princess Haya was awarded a record-breaking divorce settlement of $650 million, “to protect her and their children from the sheikh.”
It’s been 60 years since Kenichi Horie made his first—in fact, the first—nonstop solo sail across the Pacific, so he felt it was time to do it again. (Yet again. There have been a few crossings in between.) But now “Japan’s most famous yachtsman” is reversing direction, having set sail for Osaka last Saturday from San Francisco. His 19-foot aluminum sailboat is an upgrade from previous vessels he’s used for the crossing, including, said The Guardian, “ones made from aluminum cans and powered by solar panels and another propelled by foot pedals.” There was also the beer-keg catamaran and the boat made out of recycled whiskey barrels. Horie is 83.
An exhibition called “The Duel: From Trial by Combat to a Noble Crime,” scheduled for the Kremlin Museums this month, was to have included three 17th-century swords from the Royal Collection, until the Queen decided to “postpone” the loan, according to the British press. Now the entire exhibition, which had been sponsored by the oligarch Alisher Usmanov, has been postponed because, according to a statement from the museum, “the core of the project consists of exhibits from European museums, which were forced to withdraw them before the time due to the geopolitical situation.”
Micro-plastics have been found in the blood of 80 percent of those tested in a new study conducted by eco-toxicologists at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and published in the journal Environment International. Precisely how alarming that should be isn’t clear. “The impact on health is as yet unknown. But researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year,” reported The Guardian. “Huge amounts of plastic waste are dumped in the environment and microplastics now contaminate the entire planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. People were already known to consume the tiny particles via food and water as well as breathing them in, and they have been found in the faeces of babies and adults.”
If that sounds worrisome, consider also that “plastic production is set to double by 2040,” according to the founder of the charity Common Seas, a kind of plastics watchdog, who also told the newspaper, “We have a right to know what all this plastic is doing to our bodies.”
Wang Pei, a 71-year-old grandmother who in retirement has turned to modeling-and-fashion blogging, now has 250,000 followers on social media, reported the South China Morning Post, with fans relying on her for beauty tips, workout routines, cooking tutorials, and (our favorite) posing ideas. Wang had her first showcase at Beijing Fashion Week 2019. “I think attitude is the best makeup you can wear,” she has said.
George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL