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15 December

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In the headlines

Gasps of “Wow!” were heard in the Commons when 99 Tory MPs defied Boris Johnson to vote against Covid passes. Only support from Labour got the government’s measure passed. Don’t call the defiant Tories “rebels”, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph: “Those upstanding men and women are the true Conservatives.” But a rebellion on an issue as important as pandemic controls shows these backbenchers want to ditch the PM, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. If that’s what they think, “they should say so”. Daily omicron infections may reach a million within a week, according to Professor Graham Medley, a pandemic expert. “It’s a real possibility that hospitals could be overwhelmed next month, with up to 2,000 Covid patients a day,” he told Radio 4. Nike could soon be selling “virtual” shoes that cost as much as £30,000. The sportswear giant has bought a British company that creates digital-only clothing, says the Daily Mail.

Comment of the day

The pandemic

Are we blowing omicron out of proportion?

Boris Johnson’s reaction to what he calls the “tidal wave” of omicron cases is verging on “hysteria”, says Dr Angelique Coetzee in the Daily Mail, “and I should know… I’m the doctor who first raised the alarm” in South Africa. Downing Street is predicting a million cases by the end of the month and there are concerns about the NHS being “overwhelmed” by 10,000 hospitalisations a day. “I gather there is talk of Christmas again being cancelled and a possible New Year lockdown.”


Blame rich liberals for the crime wave 

“Smash-and-grab is fast becoming a way of life” in California, says Ayaan Hirsi Ali in UnHerd. Just the other day, two of my close friends were robbed near San Francisco: one in their own restaurant, the other in a rental car. Since November thousands of dollars have been stolen from stores such as Apple, Burberry and Louis Vuitton. Jamie McBride, of the Los Angeles Police Department, told tourists last week: “We can’t guarantee your safety. It is really, really out of control.”




Brian Cox once accidentally threw his crown into the audience while playing King Lear at the National Theatre, says Patrick Kidd in The Times. It hit a woman’s forehead, causing her to bleed over her husband. Years later, performing in Edinburgh, Cox received a note from the same man: “I’m coming tonight. I have a new wife. Is she safe?”


Salvador Dalí and Thomas Edison used to go to sleep with a spoon or some other object in their hand so that when they drifted off, it would fall out and wake them up. They claimed a few minutes on the brink of consciousness got their creative juices flowing – and a new study says they may have been right. The Paris Brain Institute found people were better at solving maths problems immediately after the “early sleep stage”, which lasts just a few minutes before deeper sleep sets in. 

Tomorrow’s world

A four-wheeled robot dog built by Swiss Mile can speed along at 14mph, whizz up and down stairs, and dance on its hind “legs”. The firm, a spin-off from ETH Zürich university, says the robot will deliver packages weighing up to 50kg, whatever the terrain. 

On the money

Ninety-four binmen in New York have earned more than $100,000 each in overtime during the past year, says the New York Post. Some supervisors with a base salary of $108,846 were able to almost treble their pay to $300,000. Staff shortages due to the pandemic, recruitment delays and heavy snowfall led to the windfalls, but critics also blame chronic absenteeism and union inefficiency. 


Quoted 15-12

“Whatever you do, always give 100%. Unless you’re donating blood.”

Bill Murray

Snapshot answer

It’s the world’s biggest Christmas tree, sort of. Erected every year on a hillside in Umbria, Italy, it’s a light display made up of 700 bulbs, strung out over real trees. When you include the large star on top, it’s a whopping 2,460ft tall – earning it a place in the Guinness Book of Records.