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1 February

In the headlines

“Now publish the whole damn thing,” says the Mail, following the release of Sue Gray’s preliminary findings on Partygate. The civil servant’s “flimsy” 12-page report withheld key details at the request of the Metropolitan Police, which is investigating 12 of the lockdown parties held in Downing Street. These reportedly include a “victory” event in the PM’s flat, where his wife Carrie celebrated the ousting of senior advisor Dominic Cummings by playing the Abba song The Winner Takes It All. Young children face an increased risk of catching measles in England, as MMR vaccine rates have fallen to their lowest level in a decade. More than one in 10 five-year-olds hasn’t been jabbed. The popular puzzle Wordle has been bought by The New York Times for a seven-figure sum. The word game, which has millions of daily players, will remain free to use – for now.

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UK politics

Partygate has “debased” Britain’s establishment

Partygate has “debased almost every part of the British establishment”, says Bagehot in The Economist. Take the civil service: it might think of itself as a “Rolls-Royce institution”, but its behaviour has been more “Morris Minor”. Martin Reynolds, Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, is supposed to be a “cunning bureaucrat”, but he managed to email 100 people about a “booze-up” during a national lockdown. Sue Gray, the official investigating the parties, is “a backroom fixer notorious among transparency campaigners for blocking freedom-of-information requests”. The Metropolitan Police, whose enforcement of Covid rules has always been “erratic”, trampled over yesterday’s report by saying that publishing the full details would hinder its own investigation into the events.

Cancel culture

It’s not just the left that’s banning books

Republicans always howl about intolerant left-wing “snowflakes” and “cancel culture”, says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. But the right is also guilty of censoring free speech. Last week, McMinn County in Tennessee banned Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its classrooms. The book, which portrays Jews as mice and Nazis as cats, contains swear words, nudity and vivid depictions of violence – all of which offended the conservative local school board.

On the way back

Vaseline, which Gen Zs are discovering for the first time. Videos of young TikTokers slathering their faces in the petroleum jelly before bed – a practice they call #slugging – have been viewed more than 114 million times. But they’re not the first to try it, says Bloomberg. Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph, swore by nightly slugging – according to an 1897 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, it was how she kept “her natural beauty always perfect”.

Gone viral

British snow artist Simon Beck has been walking football pitch-sized geometric designs into untouched powder snow for more than a decade. The former map maker plans out each ephemeral design on paper using one millimetre as the scale for each step on the ground. Then he grabs his snowshoes and a ski pole and spends up to 12 hours trudging through the snow to create the final piece.


Tomorrow’s world

Apple farmers struggling to find fruit pickers at harvest time will soon be able to use drones instead, says Gizmodo. The new bots, made by Israeli startup Tevel Aerobotics, use hi-tech sensors to “see” which apples are ripe, delicately plucking them from the trees using suction cups. Unlike farmhands, they can work 24 hours a day – and for a fraction of the cost.



It’s a frost formation resembling an eyeball. Photographer Leigh Pugh, 51, captured the unusual image during a walk in the Peak District.



Twitter hashtags don’t always work out as intended. When Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, the hashtag #nowthatcherisdead prompted outpourings of grief from fans of the singer Cher – they thought it read “now that Cher is dead”.


With temperatures unusually low in Florida, America’s National Weather Service has warned residents to watch out for chilly iguanas dropping from trees. “Because it gets so cold, they lose that ability to hang on,” zoologist Stacey Cohen tells The Guardian. “And then they do fall out of trees a lot.”


quoted 01.2

“Jonathan Miller told me that laughter is the best medicine. Unless you had syphilis, in which case it was penicillin.”

Dr Phil Hammond