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22 December

In the headlines

The Covid self-isolation period has been cut to seven days to “save Christmas for thousands”, says Andrew Gregory in The Guardian. Post-Christmas restrictions could be avoided if hospital admissions in London stay below 400 a day for the rest of this week, says Jane Merrick in the I newspaper. The latest figure, from Sunday, is 245. Dubai’s Princess Haya, 47, has won a record £554m divorce settlement from the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 72. The couple once spent £2m on strawberries in a single summer. After four years of silence, Big Ben will bong once again at midnight on New Year’s Eve. All four faces of the Palace of Westminster’s clock tower will be visible for the first time since restoration work began in 2017.

Comment of the day


The next PM will be a steward, not a star

It’s obvious what kind of politician will replace Boris Johnson in No 10, says Clare Foges in The Times: a safe pair of hands. Over the past four decades our leaders have alternated neatly between “stars and stewards”. The former are “box office” stuff, adored and loathed in equal measure; the latter are “sober characters” who err on the side of caution. Thatcher, “the quintessential political star”, was replaced by the stolid John Major.

The pandemic

Living in Covid-free China

Having not left China for two years, I effectively live in a “zero-Covid world”, says David Rennie in The Economist. Throughout the pandemic the country has all but sealed its borders and brought in extreme policies to prevent outbreaks. Residents in Beijing undergo several temperature checks a day, and must log in with a smartphone every time they enter a public building. Getting infected comes with severe social stigma – one positive test can result in entire housing compounds being locked down for 14 days. Officials in some provincial cities have even killed the pet cats and dogs of those with the virus.



On the way out

A currency crisis in Turkey is hitting the country’s hazelnut farmers, who produce 70% of the world’s supply. What does this mean for lovers of nutty breakfast spreads? “There’s a good chance there will be a Nutella shortage soon,” says The Hustle.  

Staying young

Mary McCartney has revealed one of her father Paul’s strange habits to The Sunday Times. The 79-year-old former Beatle finishes his morning exercise routine with a “faultless, unsupported five-minute headstand”.

On the money

Russian officials are paid £67bn in bribes every year, according to Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. That’s equivalent to a third of the government’s annual revenue. 

Love etc

Snapchat notifies users when someone is typing a message to them, even if the message is never sent. This has led some users to “type” but not send – just so you know they’re thinking about you. It’s a lot like “lo squillo”, an Italian trend during the 2000s, says The Stage’s Nick Clark on Twitter. People would phone, then hang up after one ring. “As an uninitiated Brit, I found out ringing back was not the done thing. No one actually wanted a chat.”


Quoted 22-12

“Always look for the fool in the deal. If you don’t find one, it’s you.”

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban 


This year’s MI6 Christmas card has put a festive twist on the James Bond films’ opening sequence, with Santa taking the place of the secret agent. The intelligence agency usually has a more standoff-ish relationship with 007: MI6 head Richard Moore told The Economist earlier this month that the character was misogynistic, violent and “not terribly appealing to many women”. 

Snapshot answer

It’s President Biden’s new puppy, Commander. The three-month-old German shepherd has replaced Biden’s other rescue dog, Major, who had to leave the White House after a series of “biting incidents”. According to Jill Biden’s spokesman, Major is now living in “a quieter environment with family friends”.