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27 January

In the headlines

Jeremy Hunt has defended his decision not to lower taxes, arguing the “best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation”. The Chancellor also set out his ambition to make Britain the “world’s next Silicon Valley”, and outlined the “four Es” central to his economic plans: enterprise, education, employment and everywhere (i.e. levelling up). Data from shoppers’ loyalty cards can be used to spot cases of ovarian cancer eight months earlier than normal diagnoses, according to researchers at Imperial College London. Women unknowingly suffering from the deadly disease regularly buy over-the-counter painkillers and indigestion tablets to treat early symptoms. Jeff Bezos’s girlfriend Lauren Sánchez will lead the first all-female crew into space. The 53-year-old helicopter pilot will take to the skies early next year in one of the famously phallic rockets made by the Amazon founder’s space firm Blue Origin.

Gone viral

This video showing a cat boxing away an attacking snake has racked up more than four million views on Twitter. The average moggy’s reaction time is around 20 to 70 milliseconds, slightly quicker than the average snake (44 to 70 milliseconds). Humans typically manage no faster than 250 milliseconds.


Corporal punishment is still legal in 19 American states, says The Economist. In 2018, the last year for which data is available, 69,000 children were beaten by teachers, 30% of them in Mississippi. Unsurprisingly, the US is an outlier among developed nations: the practice, which has been banned in the UK since 1986, is illegal in all of Europe and most of South America and East Asia.


A carnivorous plant found only in the mountaintop cloud forests of Borneo, Nepenthes lowii, has evolved a disgusting but ingenious method for gathering nutrients, says Atlas Obscura. The climbing plant’s 30ft stems each produce a “pitcher”, which strongly resembles a loo. Tree shrews – “attracted to N. lowii’s tasty secretions” – frequently scamper along and defecate directly into the potty-shaped pitcher, winning the plant a sizable dose of nutritious nitrogen. “Snicker if you like,” but N. lowii has found its Happy Meal. “Or, perhaps, Crappy Meal.”


In the latest Art of Building photography competition, the judges’ favourite was a shot of the cosmos through the roof of a shopping centre, while the public went for a snap of the UAE pavilion in Dubai, where a “sphere-shaped void” serves as a 200-seat auditorium. Other winners include Spain’s Ysios winery, a crumbling 17th century Italian chapel, and a steamy man-made rainforest in a Singapore conservatory. See the full list of winners here.

Inside politics

My big takeaway from Davos last week, says Matthew Kaminski in Politico, is that America is back. For the past few years, there have been murmurings that the US has been in decline. When Joe Biden withdrew his troops from Kabul in 2021, one European diplomat in Washington dismissed the President’s brainy but inexperienced foreign policy team in memorably withering terms: “They’ve never had sex, but they’ve read all the books about it.” Now, with the US leading the way on Ukraine and Xi Jinping’s China no longer in the ascendancy, Washington is winning plaudits among previously sceptical allies. “Even the French.”


It’s an iceberg nearly the size of Greater London. The 600-square-mile frozen slab broke free from Antarctica’s 500ft-thick Brunt Ice Shelf on Sunday – though not because of climate change, researchers say. It will likely follow the same coast-hugging path as A74, another low-temperature leviathan that set sail in early 2021.


Quoted 27.1.23

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

GK Chesterton