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26 January

In the headlines

Westminster remains on tenterhooks over the imminent publication of Sue Gray’s “Partygate” report, which is understood to have been completed but not yet handed to Downing Street. We’ve “lost all sense of proportion”, says the Mail. As Vladimir Putin taunts the West with “terrifying military displays”, we’re fussing over whether Boris Johnson’s birthday cake broke Covid rules. As many as two thirds of people in England recently infected with omicron say they’d already had the virus before, according to a study by Imperial College. A wayward rocket launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX is on a “collision course with the moon”, says the Guardian. The four-tonne lump of “space junk”, which ran out of fuel after ferrying a satellite out of Earth’s atmosphere, will smash into the lunar surface on 4 March.

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It’s hypocrisy that incenses us most

What finally swept away East Germany’s communist government wasn’t the lack of freedom or the low standard of living, says Ed West in his Substack newsletter. Citizens became truly incensed when the home of the regime’s long-time leader, Erich Honecker, was shown on TV: though it was far from a modern Palace of Versailles, the comfortable suburban pad revealed tremendous hypocrisy. “The East Germans felt less anger at 40 years of mismanagement, incompetence, economic failure and bureaucratic cruelty than they did at the simple fact that the man telling them to make sacrifices for socialism wasn’t making them himself.”


Scotland has lost its sense of humour

When I grew up in Scotland, “deference towards authority was in short supply”, says Daniel Kalder in UnHerd. “The loathing directed at those in power was visceral, the tone caustic and funny.” But now the country has lost its sense of humour – and the “finger-wagging” of its puritanical Calvinist roots is back. Everywhere you go, you are bombarded by some sort of “moral instruction” from the government: signs warning people against using bad language on trains; minimum unit pricing for alcohol to stop us drinking. Most worrying is the new hate crime bill passed by MSPs last year, which makes the vaguely worded act of “stirring up hatred” a criminal offence.


Hippos have a fairly unambiguous response to the sound of strangers, says The Times – a “dung whirlwind”. A new study has found that when they hear the “wheeze-honks” of an unknown hippo, they march towards the sound, turn their rear end towards the source and defecate – while spinning their tail to create a “spraying” effect.

Gone viral

This nail-biting video of a daredevil driver performing an extreme 26-point-turn on a narrow mountain road in Hong Kong has racked up more than 32 million views on YouTube. “I am impressed with his driving skills,” said one Twitter user, but “I am most impressed with his insanity”. Watch the full version here.

Global update

Greece has ground to a halt this week because of heavy snowfall. Storm Elpida triggered power outages in Athens and left more than 3,500 people stranded in their vehicles on a motorway for up to 24 hours. The government has ordered businesses and public services, including schools, to close for two days.


China’s censors have given David Fincher’s 1999 cult classic movie Fight Club a very different ending, says The Guardian. The original ends with Edward Norton’s character watching a series of skyscrapers explode, as his plan to bring down modern civilisation gets underway. To shield viewers from too much anarchist sentiment, China’s version instead shows a black screen and a coda reading: “The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.”


If Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr were still alive today, they would be in their early nineties – younger than the Queen.


Each dot represents a lighthouse – the colours are their real colours, the flashing patterns are their real flashing patterns, and the size of the dots indicate the distance at which each light is visible. The map is a hit with Twitter users – it has racked up more than 40,000 likes in two days. See the full map here.


quoted 26.1

“I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.”

Mae West