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24 January

In the headlines

Twelve European countries are ready to supply Ukraine with a total of around 100 Leopard 2 tanks, a senior Kyiv official tells ABC News. The commitment increases pressure on Germany, which as manufacturer of the vehicles has the final say on any deal. Rishi Sunak has ordered an ethics inquiry into Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, saying “there are questions that need answering”. Several Conservative MPs now think the party chairman’s position is untenable. “Forget Fido,” says The Times: pigs show just as much affection for their owners as dogs do, according to new research. Pooches, however, “still have the edge” in communicating effectively with humans.


Mitch Rouse takes aerial photos that elevate agricultural landscapes into high art, says My Modern Met. “I hope people see these images and realise there is hidden beauty inside everything,” says the American photographer. “It sometimes just takes a different perspective to see it.” See the rest of his collection here.

On the money

Apple is famously exacting about setting up its overseas production lines, says the FT. In China, for example, an engineer will meet the CEO of a parts supplier and “pepper them with questions until their technical ability has been exhausted”. The engineer will then meet the next manager, and then the next, continuing until they end up in “some windowless conference room in the basement where the person who actually wrote the line of code necessary to answer Apple’s questions is located”.


HBO’s new hit show The Last of Us is set in the aftermath of a deadly outbreak of “mutant fungus” that turns humans into zombies. Far-fetched as that sounds, says Ars Technica, it’s actually based on some “very real” science. As documented in the BBC’s Planet Earth, there really is a family of “zombifying parasitic fungi” called Cordyceps. Each one targets a specific insect – a type of ant, say, or beetle – and gets into its brain via spores scattered in the air. Once inside, the Cordyceps releases chemicals that make the insect their “zombie slave”, then compels the host to move to the best possible location for the fungus to thrive and grow. Watch the clip here.

The great escape

Camping inside a church, known as “champing”, is soaring in popularity, says The Times. Some 573 parties stayed at one of 22 registered sites during the last financial year, raising £86,000 for building repairs and maintenance. Guests get basic bedding, along with access to water and a loo, and some churches “team up with farmers to provide breakfast and pubs to offer dinner”. Prices for a basic “room with a pew” start at £49 a night for adults and £25 for children. Book your godly stay here.

Love etc

TikTok is awash with videos explaining the “shoe theory”, says Slate, which posits that giving your partner shoes will cause them to abruptly dump you. According to one user, the superstition has its roots in Chinese culture: the Mandarin for “shoes” has the same pronunciation as the word for “evil”, so gifting footwear is synonymous with gifting bad luck. Another TikToker has a more practical explanation: “You give someone a pair of shoes, and you’re inviting them to walk out of your life. You’re paving the way for them to decide.”


It’s American rapper Doja Cat, covered in 30,000 crimson Swarovski crystals to attend yesterday’s Schiaparelli show at Paris Fashion Week. Make-up artist Pat McGrath says the star’s patience was “truly inspiring”, after she sat still for four hours and 58 minutes while each gem was painstakingly hand-applied to create the Dante-inspired demonic look. Inevitably, not everyone was convinced. One Instagram user said she looked like “my fingers after I eat hot Cheetos”.


quoted 24.1.23

“Telling lies is a bit like tiling bathrooms – if you don’t know how to do it properly, it’s best not to try.”

English novelist Tom Holt