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Have you met the Stepford students? They’re everywhere. On campuses across the land.
Deflation terrifies economists because once it starts, they have no idea what to do about it. When demand in an economy shrinks, companies cut jobs, and with fewer employed demand shrinks even more. The deflationary spiral is self-reinforcing. Central banks can cut interest rates to near zero and slosh money around like drunken lottery winners, but once hope flickers and dies, there is nothing they can do to persuade anyone to invest in the economy.
Koumpounophobia is the fear of buttons. Steve Jobs had it — or at least a strong aversion, which explained his affinity for touch-screens and turtlenecks. So do an estimated one of every 75,000 people alive today.
Your correspondent was only recently made aware of the phenomenon when a friend, K of Cambridge, requested that I refrain from wearing buttoned shirts in his presence. ‘A minor quirkiness with buttons,’ he confessed over email, while we were planning a rendezvous.
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[/audioplayer]Amid all the commentary about the Republican party’s triumph in America’s midterm elections, a remarkable fact was ignored: in style and substance, the American right is rapidly becoming a lot more like Britain’s.
Watching the recent footage of Islamic State gang members haggling over the price of captured Christian women in a makeshift slave market — one of them wants a 15-year-old with green eyes, another wants to exchange a girl for a gun — I was reminded that Islamists are at least consistent in their hateful worldview and in a way uniquely honest. Even a terror gang as vile as the IRA tried to keep a lid on the rapes and paedophilia going on within its rancid ranks.
In 2006, on the day that the government’s estimated cost for the 2012 Olympics was jacked up from £2.75 billion to £4.25 billion, I promised to eat my hat on the steps of the Olympic stadium if the bill came to less than £10 billion. Although the official figure now stands at a mere £8.92 billion, it is a feast I am going to postpone, because we haven’t heard the last of Olympic overspending.
Two weeks ago, the London Legacy Development Corporation announced that the value of the contract with Balfour Beatty to convert the stadium for use by West Ham Football Club is to be increased from £154 million to £189.
The end of the year seems a good time to think about lasts. Not many of us ever do. Firsts are always landmarks: the first time you taste alcohol, drive a car, have sex. Then the first time your child talks, walks, goes to school. All are noted at the time, stored away in the mental file marked ‘life events’. But when do we ever notice, much less remember, a last? We’re doing them a disservice — in many cases they’re even more poignant than the firsts.
The first time I checked in to a French hotel with a golden retriever — his name was Gregory, predecessor of the incumbent Douglas — I left him, clearly unhappy, in the bedroom when I went to dinner. Then I realised that every other party already in the dining room included a dog, in some cases a lapdog enjoying morsels direct from its mistress’s plate. So I fetched Gregory, shoved him under the tablecloth and told him to keep quiet.