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21 December

In the headlines

“You’d better watch out,” says Metro, after ministers and health chiefs warned people to avoid getting drunk, making car journeys and partaking in “risky activities” like rugby during today’s ambulance strike. Eight of England’s ten major ambulance services have declared critical incidents, with NHS officials admitting they “cannot guarantee patient safety” during the walkout. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Joe Biden at the White House today in his first foreign trip since the Russian invasion. Ahead of the meeting, the US government confirmed a new $2bn military package for Kyiv, including a Patriot missile defence system. Bob Dylan has revealed that he unwinds by watching Coronation Street. The American musician, 81, claims the Manchester-set soap makes him “feel at home”, says the Daily Mail. “Like a Rolling (cobble) Stone.”

Eating in

TikTok’s latest holiday hosting trend is somewhere between a “warming snack” and a “hot mess”, says NBC’s Today show: butter candles. Made by shaping lumps of the dairy spread around hemp or beeswax wicks, it is typically flavoured with garlic so that you can “light it at the table and dip bread into it”. The best bit about this “delicious” festive centrepiece? “It makes your whole house smell amazing!”

Yesterday’s world

Despite being a nation “home to humanoid robots”, Japan has a “steadfastly analogue” bureaucracy, says The Washington Post. Many official documents are still sent via fax or floppy disk. Bank transactions and housing contracts “often require the use of hanko, a personal seal, in lieu of signatures”. In August, the government finally appointed a digital minister to oversee a massive shift of public services online.

Inside politics

The Conservative Party has given its members a handy list of stocking fillers, says Clemmie Moodie in The Sun. They include a stainless-steel Winston Churchill water bottle, a Tory-branded baby bib (“the poor, blameless young soul who’s shoehorned into this”), and a Margaret Thatcher apron with the slogan: “this food is NOT for burning”.


Finland has topped the list of the world’s happiest countries for several years, says Peter Zashev in The Helsinki Times. But you could have fooled me. We Finns guzzle down anti-depressants like they’re Smarties: we’re in the top 10 for consumption in Europe, along with our supposedly perky Nordic neighbours Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. “Are the pills the secret to our happiness, or did too much happiness drive us to depression?”



Argentina’s triumphant footballers had a helping hand from an unlikely source, says The New York Times: an “army of witches”. During the World Cup, hundreds, if not thousands of Argentine brujas took up arms “in the form of prayers, altars, candles, amulets and burning sage”. They used rituals to “absorb negative energy from Argentina’s players and exchange it with good energy”, and cast spells on opposing players, “particularly the goalkeepers”. The football-loving witches found France a particular challenge – “Their players are protected by dark entities and the energy can bounce back!!” warned one group on Twitter – but evidently found a way to prevail.


It’s the original mechatronic model for ET, the alien from Steven Spielberg’s ET the Extra-Terrestrial, which has just sold for $2.56m. The skin has mostly disintegrated, says CNN, revealing the skeleton’s intricate structure underneath. With 85 moving parts operated via a cable system, the model cost a whopping $1.5m to build – a hefty chunk of the 1982 film’s $10m budget. Now, of course, they’d just use CGI.


quoted 21.12.22

“How do you make a small fortune in social media? Start out with a large one.”

Elon Musk, who is stepping down as Twitter CEO