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3 December

In the headlines

More than 100 soldiers have been sent to Scotland and the northeast to deal with the fallout from Storm Arwen. About 16,000 homes are still without power after nearly a week – it isn’t “remotely conceivable” that a power cut in London would have gone unfixed this long, says James Kirkup in The Spectator. Germany has imposed a near-lockdown on the unvaccinated, and the incoming Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has repeated his belief that vaccination should be mandatory. Omicron could become Europe’s dominant variant within two months, the EU’s infectious disease agency has warned. Britain’s latest shortage is of Santas, and wages have gone up accordingly – “£100 an hour and no chance of the sack”, says the Daily Star. 

Comment of the day


Eric Zemmour’s grim vision of France

For a nationalist, the far-right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour takes a pretty dim view of his country, says Benjamin Haddad in Le Monde. In his 2014 book French Suicide, the 63-year-old says France has been on a downward slide since the year 843 – when the Treaty of Verdun divided the Carolingian empire, which covered much of western Europe, between three grandsons of Charlemagne. The centuries since have just been a frustrated attempt to recover this empire.


We Brits don’t share America’s view of freedom

Despite our common roots, the US is “not a clone of Britain but its antithesis”, says Melanie Phillips in The Times. The first big divergence is the endemic violence of America, and its “implacable refusal to abandon its culture of gun ownership”. The second, just as crucial, is Americans’ lack of trust in the justice system. When a jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse recently, those who disagreed wanted to replace their verdict with that of the mob.




Jill Biden has earnestly decorated the White House for Christmas, with a “Gifts from the Heart” theme. It makes one miss the “ice witch” Melania Trump, who was “a great seasonal villain”, says Heather Schwedel in Slate. In 2018 she installed a set of dystopian red trees that resembled Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and was recorded saying: “Who gives a f*** about Christmas stuff and decorations?”

Inside politics

At a Buckingham Palace state banquet in 2011, the Queen asked George Osborne to tell Barack Obama to leave. “Will you tell the president it’s late and I want to go to bed?” she said, according to a recent retelling by the former Chancellor. Obama, however, “was having a great time, kind of knocking back vodka martinis with his mates”. Two years later, says Henry Dyer in Insider, Obama repeatedly called Osborne “Jeffrey” at the G8 summit – mixing him up with R&B singer Jeffrey Osborne. 


A vault that was broken into during a notorious London heist is to become an exhibit at the Museum of London. The 2015 Hatton Garden raid was pulled off by a gang of elderly chaps nicknamed “Dad’s Army” – they drilled through 2ft-thick walls to steal jewellery, cash, gold and precious stones worth £14m. The crime scene, hole and all, will be displayed at the museum’s new site in Smithfield Market.


My invitation to the Society of Procrastinators Christmas party arrived in the post, says Craig Brown in the Daily Mail. “Attached was a little slip of paper: I WILL / WILL NOT / WILL / WILL NOT BE ATTENDING / ACTUALLY YES I WILL / NO I WON’T. Then the injunction: ‘Please tick no fewer than three of the above options.’ In the end, I ticked all the boxes, just to be on the safe side.”


Quoted 03-12

“With opera, you put money in and get music out. With musicals, you put music in and get money out.”

Writer Helen Lewis

Tomorrow’s world

Princeton engineers have invented an “ultracompact camera” the size of a grain of sea salt. Made from 1.6 million microscopic rods, the minuscule device produces a crisp image on a par with a camera lens 500,000 times its size. The boffins hope it can be used inside the human body for medical procedures, or to give tiny robots the ability to see.

Snapshot answer

It’s a group of weaver ants pinning down a katydid in a botanical garden in Yunnan province, China. The ferocious half-inch ants catch all sorts of insects and don’t always kill their quarry: they often “farm” larger insects that produce a sweet sap called honeydew. Minghui Yuan’s photograph is in contention for a Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.