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27 January

In the headlines

Prince Andrew has demanded a “trial by jury” to fight the sex abuse claims levelled against him in the US by Virginia Roberts. It puts him on a collision course with the rest of the Royal Family, who are keen to “avoid the spectacle” of a full-blown trial, says Rebecca English in the Mail. Leaked government emails appear to confirm that Boris Johnson personally authorised the evacuation of more than 160 stray cats and dogs from Afghanistan last August, despite the PM labelling the claim “complete nonsense” at the time. The operation was a “selfish charade” that distracted from saving human lives, according to a government source. Free bacon sandwiches, coffee and audiobooks are being offered to commuters to tempt them back on trains. Sign up to the scheme here.

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“God is dead.” Nonsense. He’s thriving

If the world’s great thinkers have agreed on anything, it is that religion and modernity are incompatible, says Adrian Wooldridge in Engelsberg Ideas. Voltaire gave religion 50 years to live, Marx reckoned the proletariat would topple the church, and Nietzsche pronounced that “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” Modern thinking is no different. “The Economist was so confident of the Almighty’s demise that it published His obituary in its millennium issue.”


The madness of “Zero Covid”

Early in the pandemic, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received lavish praise for her “Zero Covid” policy, says Matthew Lesh in The Daily Telegraph. The Atlantic called her “the most effective leader on the planet”; The Guardian hailed New Zealand, among other “female-led countries”, for keeping deaths low. “Now the magic trick is over.” Despite a 93% vaccination rate, Ardern has responded to the arrival of the relatively mild omicron variant by reimposing draconian restrictions. Household contacts of positive cases have to isolate for as long as 24 days. The lottery for quarantine hotel rooms – the only way expat Kiwis could return home – has been cancelled, and the border “entirely shut”. The PM has even postponed her own wedding, clearly “determined to martyr herself along with the rest of the country”.


An apology sent out by barbecue maker Weber last week: “In today’s email we highlighted a grilled meatloaf recipe. At the time we shared this recipe with you, we were not aware of the unfortunate passing of American singer and actor Mr Marvin Lee Aday, also known as Meat Loaf.”

Tomorrow’s world

A flying car capable of air speeds of over 100mph has been issued with a “certificate of airworthiness” by Slovakia’s Transport Authority. The very car-like plane, AirCar, has a BMW engine and runs on normal petrol-pump fuel. When you land, you simply fold up the wings and drive off.

On the way back

Young New Yorkers are taking up smoking again, says The New York Times. In 2020, cigarette sales rose in the US for the first time in two decades. Some think it’s down to lockdown boredom; others a sense of post-pandemic fatalism. But Kat Frey, a 25-year-old copywriter from Brooklyn, has a more straightforward reason: “It’s just a cool thing. It sounds lame to say that. I think of hot guys that I’m into, and they’re like, ‘I’m going to step out and have a cigarette.’ It’s kind of sophisticated. Grunge sophisticated.”


Ian McKellen’s new stage role as a detective has a twist: he doesn’t know the plot or any of his lines. To create a sense of mystery, the 82-year-old actor will have his words fed to him through an earpiece when he is on stage. McKellen told Radio 4’s Today programme that he played a victim in two Agatha Christie plays at the beginning of his career. “And I had no desire to learn the multitude of lines that Poirot, or whoever it was, had to use to solve the mystery. So here I am now, finally playing the detective, but with no lines to learn!”


Jamie Oliver says he has hired “teams of cultural appropriation specialists” on the payroll to vet his recipes. The chef, 46, tells The Sunday Times that his turmeric and cumin-seasoned “Empire roast chicken” from 2012 wouldn’t fly today. But he maintains it was a “bloody good recipe”.


It’s Grace Kelly’s granddaughter, Charlotte Casiraghi of Monaco, riding a horse down the Chanel runway at Paris Fashion Week. The 35-year-old is 11th in line to the Monegasque throne and, according to Chanel’s website, a “distinguished horsewoman”. Animal rights organisation PETA weren’t best pleased. “Horses are intelligent, complex, and easily frightened individuals,” PETA’s UK Director Elisa Allen told Insider. “Not fashion accessories.”


quoted 27.1

“I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.”

Katharine Hepburn