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10 February

In the headlines

It’s “fab Feb”, says Metro: all Covid rules, including self-isolation, are likely to be scrapped by the end of the month. UCL epidemiologist Tim Colbourn says that given the widespread availability of rapid tests and current isolation laws being effectively unenforceable, “it might not actually make much difference”. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is in Moscow for talks with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a bid to resolve the Ukraine crisis. Britain has put an extra 1,000 troops on standby in case they’re needed for humanitarian operations in eastern Europe. Oxford boffins have made a huge breakthrough in nuclear fusion, a power source that could one day provide near-limitless clean energy. They generated enough power to boil 60 kettles, smashing the previous record. “Covid’s sorted PLUS we’ve cracked nuclear fusion,” says the Star. “Result!”

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What Putin and the Taliban have in common

There’s a “peculiar modern tendency” to describe things we don’t like as out-of-date, says Tom McTague in The Atlantic. The Taliban are medieval, Donald Trump supporters backward, Vladimir Putin a “Soviet throwback”. It’s nonsense. The Taliban is the product of “our globalised age of digital propaganda”; Trumpism is an expression of today’s America, not that of the 1950s. Similarly, Italy’s Cosa Nostra was dismissed for centuries as a feature of Sicily’s backwardness. Actually, the Mafia clan was a product of modernity, born from the enormous profits Sicily made exporting citrus fruits after the breakdown of the old feudal order. And when the EU arrived, the mobsters adapted, hijacking the bloc’s investment in the island.


Germany is still haunted by its past

There’s a simple reason why Germany is acting so meekly over Russia’s threats to Ukraine, says Marcel Dirsus on the US defence blog War on the Rocks: Germans “see the world differently” to the rest of the West. They think military force is both “evil” and “counterproductive”, responsible for the “greatest tragedies of the 20th century”. This is partly because they have no fear of being invaded themselves, as any foreign aggressor would first have to get through “another dozen countries”. But they also think “engagement” works much better than military deterrence. Ask Americans how the Cold War was won and they’ll mention nuclear weapons, money and troops. Ask Germans and they’ll cite Chancellor Willy Brandt’s strategy of “Ostpolitik”, which sought to achieve “change through rapprochement”. It’s no wonder nearly three-quarters of Germans oppose sending weapons to Ukraine.

Eating in

Forget oat milk or almond milk, says Danielle Cohen in The Cut. “It is my distinct displeasure to inform you that the next milk is potato milk.” This week, Waitrose started stocking the spud-based beverage in 220 stores across the UK for £1.80 a litre – more than double the price of bog-standard cow’s milk. Apparently, potato milk (which is a combination of strained potatoes, water and “a few other mysterious ingredients”) is eco-friendly, creamy, and foams nicely in coffee. It also sounds “revolting”.

Global update

A Chinese soldier managed to tangle himself up in the Olympic flag during a ceremony in Beijing. But he didn’t let it affect his military moves. If you own your mistake, says political scientist Ian Bremmer on Twitter, “they might not notice”.


Canadian photographer François Brunelle has spent decades scouring the globe for doppelgangers: pairs of unrelated people who look like identical twins. His resulting I’m not a look-alike! project is ongoing, and he’s always looking for more. Submissions welcome here.


It’s “Point Nemo”, an ultra-isolated patch in the Pacific Ocean, where the International Space Station will splash down after it is “de-orbited” in 2031. When it comes to rest in the unofficial “space cemetery”, 1,600 miles from the nearest land, the ISS will be further from humanity than it has been for much of its time in orbit – in space it hovered just 250 miles above Earth’s surface. The area is already home to nearly 300 pieces of space junk, including at least five old space stations.


For the first time since 1991, tickets for the Wimbledon women’s singles final will this year cost the same as the men’s. In 2021, seats at the women’s final started at £200, compared to £240 for the men’s. To make sure the female final is not seen as less important, it will now be £240 for both events. France still has some catching up to do, says The Times. At the French Open, tickets cost £220 for the men’s final but only £126 for the women’s.


Tampa International airport in Florida has a “hired assassin” to take care of any birds that might fly up and get sucked into jet engines, says the Tampa Bay Times: a Harris’s hawk called Cheddar. So-called “bird strikes” are usually harmless but can sometimes cause potentially catastrophic engine failure. Cheddar is set loose on cattle egrets, Muscovy ducks and whatever else she can get her talons on; her record tally for one day is six kills.


Quote 10.2.22

“Always live in the ugliest house on the street – then you don’t have to look at it.”

David Hockney