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27 February

In the headlines

Rishi Sunak is set to finalise a new Northern Ireland protocol deal with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Windsor today. The PM will then head to parliament to “begin his trickiest task yet”, says Politico: selling the agreement to Eurosceptic Tory MPs. As ever, “the devil will be in the detail”. The legal age of marriage has risen to 18 in England and Wales. People aged 16 or 17 were previously able to wed as long as they had “parental consent”, a rule campaigners said was being abused to facilitate forced marriages. The northern lights were visible as far south as Cornwall and Kent last night. The arctic aurora is usually seen only in northern Scandinavia and Canada, but a strong solar flare on the Sun’s surface meant more charged particles travelled farther from the Earth’s poles. Southern stargazers may catch another glimpse if the skies are clear tonight.


Roald Dahl isn’t the only one being posthumously edited by sensitivity readers, says The Sunday Telegraph – Ian Fleming is receiving the same treatment. In a new set of the author’s James Bond novels, unfavourable depictions of black people have been mostly reworked or removed. Dated references to other ethnicities remain, however, such as 007’s “disparaging views” of Goldfinger’s Korean henchman Oddjob, as well as references to the “sweet tang of rape”, “blithering women” and homosexuality being a “stubborn disability”.

Inside politics

If you were trying to identify “the worst politician in Britain”, says Robert Colvile in The Sunday Times, there’s one stand-out contender. He runs a city where both the police force and fire brigade are in special measures. The first four years of his term saw new residential building projects fall by 22% – compared to a 28% rise in the rest of England – and a rise in crime, in particular violent crime. His signature policy, expanding the city’s clean air zone, is hugely unpopular. “I am talking, of course, about Sadiq Khan.” And yet the mayor of London (“and ambulatory virtue signal”) is currently the “runaway favourite” to win re-election next year. Surely the capital deserves better?

Quirk of history

American presidents have had some curious culinary tastes, says LitHub. James Garfield and Dwight Eisenhower liked bowls of squirrel soup. William Howard Taft had a taste for possum. Theodore Roosevelt and his distant cousin Franklin D Roosevelt led the nation over bison steaks and terrapin soups respectively. JFK liked clam chowder, LBJ favored chilli and Richard Nixon ate cottage cheese almost every day. As for George W Bush? Ballpark hot dogs.

Eating in

After years of telling people not to store potatoes in the fridge, the Food Standards Agency has changed its mind. The original advice was based on tests showing that chilling spuds produced extra sugars which turned into a potentially dangerous chemical, but new research has shown that it’s no riskier than keeping them in the cupboard. If you need to make room in the fridge, take out your tomatoes, which lose flavour when cold, and cucumbers, which go mushy. And keep apples, kiwis and apricots away from cabbage, carrots and celery – the fruits produce ethylene gas as they ripen, which spoils the veg.


A letter to The Times:

I would like to advertise my services as an insensitivity reader. For a reasonable fee I will read books that have been neutralised and sanitised and edit them back to normal English.

Jan Watson, Uckfield, East Sussex


It’s a two-seater pod that will, with the aid of a giant helium balloon, take thrill-seeking tourists up into the stratosphere. Japanese start-up Iwaya Giken says almost no training will be required for its trips, which will cost around £150,000. Company president Keisuke Iwaya says it’s “safe, economical and gentle”. Just as long as Joe Biden doesn’t shoot you down.



“Happiness is a small house with a big kitchen.”

Alfred Hitchcock