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4 February

In the headlines

“Meltdown in Downing Street,” says the Mail, after five of Boris Johnson’s top aides quit in 24 hours. A post-Partygate clear-out of senior staff – including private secretary Martin “Party Marty” Reynolds – had been planned for next week. But that was brought forward after policy chief and longtime Boris confidante Munira Mirza resigned over Johnson’s attempt to link Keir Starmer to Jimmy Savile. “Boris will feel more sorrow than Mary did watching Christ on the cross,” a No 10 official tells Politico. “It feels like the end, it’s all falling apart,” a Cabinet minister tells the Times. In a risky predawn raid, US special forces helicoptered into Syria to assassinate the leader of Isis. Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi blew himself up rather than surrendering. Much of Britain will feel colder than Russia today, as windchill makes 7C highs feel as cold as -4C in the north. In Volgograd, it will be a comparatively balmy 1C.

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UK politics

A hammer blow for Johnson

“Matt Hancock did it. Allegra Stratton did it.” But Boris Johnson, “our bumptious schoolboy-on-the-make leader”, still can’t bring himself to resign, says Judith Woods in The Daily Telegraph. “Britain deserves better.” We are deep in a cost of living crisis, with food banks in the UK now outnumbering branches of McDonald’s. “Russia is pushing the West to the brink of war.” Yet here we are, having to deal with such dysfunction in Downing Street that on Monday Johnson even missed a phone call with Vladimir Putin – a vital opportunity to avoid conflict in Ukraine – because he was busy trying to console angry MPs. He should do the “decent thing” and leave before being pushed ­– it’s his last opportunity to “salvage something from the ruins of his personal reputation”.


China is turning its back on the world

After a brief period of “opening up”, China is once again withdrawing from the global economy, says Michael Schuman in The Atlantic. In the 1970s and 1980s, the then “paramount leader” Deng Xiaoping transformed his country’s insular economy by allowing in a “torrent” of foreign money and ideas. But now Xi Jinping is closing the gates. He wants to make the economy “self-sufficient” to protect it from US sanctions – by spending hundreds of billions of dollars on homegrown semiconductor companies, for example. And it’s not just the economy. Xi has also vowed to curtail foreign cultural influences in a bid to “infuse more ‘socialist’ values into Chinese society”.

Quirk of history

On the day Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as vice president in 1961, the former congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce asked him why he had given up a powerful position in the Senate for his relatively powerless new office. “Clare,” he replied, “I looked it up. One out of every four presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only chance I got.” Two years later, President Kennedy was assassinated and LBJ took over.


Kew Gardens will host the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition this month. It features pictures of striking landscapes in New Zealand, California and Namibia, as well as a garlic meadow in Gloucestershire and a lake in central Croatia. Book tickets here.



It’s a 186kg pure gold cube that was placed in New York’s Central Park for 24 hours this week, says Complex. The cube is worth $11.7m and was made by the German artist Niclas Castello to promote his – “you guessed it” – new cryptocurrency, Castello Coin. The 43-year-old sculptor wasn’t taking any chances with his flashy creation: he hired a security team to guard the block at all times.



Gwyneth Paltrow has revealed that her California home has its own spa, says Rebecca Alter in Vulture. “And when we say ‘spa’ we don’t mean a Jacuzzi jet tub. We mean a fully operational massive spa, complete with a cold-plunge pool, a hot tub, a steam room, a sauna room, at least six bathrobes waiting on individual hangers, handmade tiles, un-lacquered brass fixtures, and rain showers.” Or, as Paltrow rather modestly puts it: “A bit of a spa moment is happening.” Watch her full video tour here.



An American hacker who was targeted in a cyberattack by North Korea has retaliated by shutting down parts of the country’s internet. The computer whizz, identified only as P4x, overwhelmed many of the country’s official websites – including the state airline and a propaganda outlet – with so-called “distributed denial of service” attacks. He tells Wired he launched the FUNK Project (“FU North Korea”) after being ignored by the FBI. “If they don’t see we have teeth, it’s just going to keep coming.”


Facing an important World Cup qualifier against Honduras on Wednesday, the US football team came up with a cunning ruse: they staged the game in chilly Minnesota, where temperatures were –17C. The Hondurans – more used to tropical climes – lost 3-0, with two of their players requiring treatment for hypothermia. To show viewers how cold it was, says The Upshot, baffled Honduran broadcasters soaked a t-shirt in water and watched it freeze.


quoted 4.02

“Humour can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.”

G K Chesterton