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11 January

In the headlines

Don’t call for an ambulance today unless your life is at risk, NHS bosses have warned, as 25,000 paramedics and call handlers go on strike. The government yesterday unveiled new legislation to force ambulance, fire and rail workers to maintain a minimum level of service during industrial action. Counter-terrorism police are investigating a package containing uranium that was seized at Heathrow Airport. The nuclear fuel arrived on a passenger jet from Oman on 29 December and was picked up by specialist scanners as it was being ferried to a freight shed. The Banshees of Inisherin was the big winner at last night’s Golden Globes, collecting awards for best comedy, best screenplay and best comedy actor for Colin Farrell. Also in the gongs were Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans and comedy-drama Everything Everywhere All at Once.


China is losing the tech race

Now that the Zero Covid debacle has punctured the “popular myth of Chinese inevitability and invincibility”, says Noah Smith in his Substack newsletter, it’s about time we considered Beijing’s “less-heralded” failures in another important area: industrial policy. Since 2015, when it launched its “Made in China 2025” initiative, the Chinese government has poured cash into several strategic sectors in a high-profile bid to “seize the technological lead” from the West. But things “haven’t worked out as planned”. Yes, China is doing well in two of its targeted industries: electric vehicles and railway equipment. But it still lags in aerospace, robot-making and tech. In AI, its best researchers “continue to go work in the US”.


Children know nothing, and that’s ok

“The traditional concept of ‘building character’ is out the window,” says Lionel Shriver in UnHerd. A “fully realised” person used to be something one became, through “education, observation, experimentation, and sometimes humiliation”. But these days the idea of “character” has been largely swapped out for “identity”: a “hollowed-out concept” reducing us to the groups in which we were involuntarily born. Forget about “character building” – we now inform children that “their selves emerge from the womb fully formed”. Their sole mission is “to tell us what those selves already are”.



On the way out

Gas stoves, which may be banned in the US over fears that they release harmful pollutants. The kitchen appliances, which are used in about 40% of American homes, have been found to emit nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and “fine particulate matter” at dangerous levels, says Bloomberg. One study found that “more than 12% of current childhood asthma cases in the US can be attributed to gas stove use”.

Gone viral

TikTok has an unlikely new It-girl, says Mia Mercado in The Cut: 14-year-old Shropshire lass Meesha Garbett, better known as Red Beret Girl, who stars as a backing dancer in the new Matilda remake. The hysteria started when Netflix posted a clip of the film’s cast performing the song Revolting Children, which has since been viewed more than 70 million times. It features “the legend, the icon, the queen herself” nailing the complex choreography with an infectious sassiness. She’s “captivating, fun, and, even amid children doing parkour off lockers, impossible to look away from”.

Inside politics

Business Secretary Grant Shapps has been busted seemingly airbrushing Boris Johnson out of a picture. The Tory minister tweeted the image, of him talking to two Virgin Orbit officials in 2021, ahead of the rocket’s failed launch from Cornwall on Monday night. It was hastily deleted when someone spotted the Soviet-style editing. “Excellent work, comrade Shapps,” wrote journalist Andrew Connelly on Twitter. “As we all know, discredited former leader Johnson never visited the cosmonauts in Cornwallstan.”


Because “the heir and the spare” is a uniquely English phase, the title of Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare, varies across different translations. The Brazilians, for example, went with What’s Left Over. The Spanish edition is titled In the Shadows; in French, The Substitute; in Dutch and German, Reserve; in Swedish, The Second; and in Polish, The Other One.


They’re “Shellmets”, hard hats made from a combination of crushed scallop shells and recycled plastic. The bivalve-based bonnets are ridged just like their mollusc muses, says Dezeen, and were created by a Japanese plastic manufacturer to draw attention to the hundreds of thousands of tons of scallop shells that go to waste every year in Japan. They’re due to go on sale this spring.


quoted 11.1.23

“Life would be so wonderful if we only knew what to do with it.”

Greta Garbo