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1 March

In the headlines

More than 100,000 of Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages from his time as health secretary have been obtained by The Daily Telegraph. The first batch shows that in April 2020 he rejected the advice of chief medical officer Chris Whitty to test all new care home residents for Covid, telling his advisers it “muddies the waters”. FBI chief Christopher Wray says the bureau believes Covid “most likely” originated in an accidental leak from a “Chinese government-controlled lab”. The US Energy Department has come to the same conclusion, but four other American government agencies still think the outbreak was the result of natural transmission. For the first time in history, a majority of American couples now meet online. Romance boffins at Stanford have found that 53% of heterosexual pairings met virtually, considerably more than “in a bar or restaurant” (23%) and “through friends” (15%).


The finalists and shortlisted entries for this year’s Sony World Photography Awards include shots of a girls’ football team in Afghanistan, sun-dried red chillis being sorted in India, a crocodile grabbing a wildebeest in Kenya, and a boat race in Senegal. See the full list here.

Staying young

An inventor at the University of Texas has developed a straw-like device he claims can cure hiccups: the HiccAway, priced at $14. But there’s another “reliable method”, says The Atlantic – and it’s totally free. “First, exhale completely, then inhale a deep breath. Wait 10 seconds, then – without exhaling – inhale a little more. Wait another five seconds, then top up the breath again. Finally, exhale.” When a medical student at New York University tested the method on 19 patients two decades ago, it worked for 16 of them – the other three just weren’t able to hold their breath for that long.

Inside politics

The Telegraph’s release of Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages has exposed the former health secretary’s teacher-pupil relationship with George Osborne, for whom he worked before becoming an MP. When Hancock wrote in one exchange that mass testing was going well, his former boss replied, simply, “No one thinks testing is going well, Matt.” In another exchange, regarding his push to get 100,000 people tested, Hancock writes: “I WANT TO HIT MY TARGET!” Osborne’s deadpan reply, eight minutes later: “I gathered.”


Many Japanese loos have a small hand-washing sink as the lid for the cistern, so that you can reuse the soapy water for the next flush. This clever set-up saves the country millions of litres of water a year.

Quirk of history

When Queen Elizabeth II held a dinner in 1985 for her six surviving prime ministers, James Callaghan asked if anyone knew the collective noun for former PMs. Harold Macmillan had the best answer: “A lack of principals.”


It’s a peppercorn-sized synthetic diamond capsule, which holds the fuel for a nuclear fusion reactor. California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is trying to create reliable fusion energy by blasting this perfectly smooth sphere with the world’s most powerful laser. It takes around two months to create each batch of 20 to 40 capsules, says the BBC, which are made by painstakingly layering tiny diamond crystals around a silicon carbide core – and “polishing repeatedly”.



“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”

Mae West