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28 December

In the headlines

China will drop quarantine requirements for international arrivals from 8 January, as it rapidly ditches its zero-Covid policy. With the country now seeing an estimated one million new cases a day, virologists are “watching nervously” for signs of a new variant, says The Guardian – Japan and India have already introduced stricter testing for travellers coming from China. At least 62 people have died in the winter storm raging across America. Looting has been reported in the city of Buffalo, where thousands are still without power and military police have been drafted in to enforce a driving ban. A gang of feral pigs is terrorising locals in the Cumbrian town of Silloth, says the Daily Star. The porcine renegades, which escaped from a nearby farm, have been dubbed the “Porky Blinders”.


How coffeehouses changed the world

The “original social network” – before Facebook or Twitter or any of the others – was the humble coffeehouse, says Jeremy Cliffe in The New Statesman. Introduced to Europe from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, these bustling institutions quickly became “centres of exchange, information and debate”. Some were industry hangouts: lawyers, printers, merchants and insurers each had their favourite haunt in 18th-century London. A few morphed into much bigger enterprises – the London Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s of London both began as coffeehouses. Later came the “magnificent kaffeehäuser of continental Europe” – Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Budapest. And all these places shared one key trait: they were “open and democratic”, welcoming anyone who could “pay the price of a coffee”.


Nature magazine’s top science pictures of the year include towering cosmic dust tendrils captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, an ultra close-up of a starfish skeleton, rose-shaped coral discovered off the coast of Tahiti, and tree-like gullies formed by rainwater erosion in Tibet. See the full list here.


Google has published its most searched-for terms of 2022, and they’re as random as ever. The five most frequently asked “How many” questions in the UK were:

1 How many cities are there in Wales? (seven)

2 How many countries end in “-stan”? (seven)

3 How many people watched the Queen’s funeral? (28 million in the UK)

4 How many doors are there in the world? (lots)

5 How many episodes are there in the fourth series of Stranger Things? (nine)

See the rest of Britain’s Google habits here.


Nobody could have guessed 11 months ago that Julia Fox would become “one of the all-time pop-culture greats”, says Emily Kirkpatrick in The Cut. The dominatrix-turned-actress was largely unknown before January, when she began a weeks-long relationship with Kanye West. Since then, she’s given us TikTok tutorials on making a bikini from resin-dipped autumnal leaves; casually shared juicy anecdotes most stars would hoard for chat show appearances; and worn so many pubis-baring outfits that every young famous person now dresses like “the star of a Matrix porno parody filmed inside a Levi’s warehouse”. Love her or hate her, “are you not entertained”?

Love etc

According to the matchmaking app Tinder, the biggest dating trend of 2022 is the “situationship”. It’s “more than a hookup”, says the company’s Year in Swipe report, “but not quite a traditional relationship”. Other trends include the death of “dinner and drinks”, and the rise of activity dates like picnics, mini-golf, hiking and bowling. In users’ bios, the “interests” most likely to attract a match were yoga, vintage fashion and concerts.

Gone viral

TikTok’s most-watched video of the year is a mesmerising clip of chocolatier Amaury Guichon crafting an eight-foot-tall giraffe out of chocolate, which racked up 309 million views. Other favourites include a chipmunk named Squishy waking up from hibernation to gnaw on peanuts, and Lizzo’s tutorial for the dance routine to her song About Damn Time. See the full list here.


quoted 28.12.22

“Never have children, only grandchildren.”

Gore Vidal