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3 March

In the headlines

“Is this proof the Partygate probe was a Labour plot?” asks the Daily Mail, after Sue Gray quit her civil service job to become Keir Starmer’s chief of staff. Tory MPs say the appointment proves that Gray’s report into lockdown parties, which helped contribute to Boris Johnson’s downfall as PM, was biased against him. The head of MI5 has said he is “profoundly sorry” for failing to thwart the Manchester Arena bombing, which killed 22 people. An independent inquiry found that the agency missed a “significant opportunity” to stop Salman Abedi, by failing to act on intelligence about his links to Islamic extremist groups. Officials briefly considered culling all of Britain’s cats at the start of the pandemic amid fears they could spread Covid, says the Daily Star. It would have been “Apocalypse Miaow”.

Inside politics

On Easter Sunday 2021, says Rachel Johnson in The Daily Telegraph, the police turned up at my father’s house on Exmoor. It was lockdown, and someone in our local town had clearly tipped the plod off after seeing one of us queuing, masks on and socially distanced, outside the greengrocers. The snitch presumably thought Stanley had broken travel restrictions – which, given the rules had been set by his own son, would have been a “good gotcha”. So along came the officers, clearly hoping to catch us red-handed. “How long have you been here?” demanded one. To which the 80-year-old replied: “Since 1951.”

Tomorrow’s world

Ford has been granted a patent for a system allowing future autonomous cars to drive themselves back to the showroom if the owner fails to keep up with payments. Before that, says New Scientist, the vengeful vehicle will make life increasingly unpleasant by disabling features like GPS, speakers and aircon, before activating an “incessant and unpleasant sound” every time the driver gets in. As a final warning, the car could be remotely locked at certain times, or “geo-fenced” so it could only go to certain places – allowing the owner to get to work, say, but barring weekend jaunts.


Vladimir Putin has bought his mistress Alina Kabaeva the “most expensive apartment in all of Russia”, according to the Kremlin-banned opposition website Project. The 2,600 sq m penthouse in the black sea resort of Sochi boasts 20 rooms, a private cinema, a swimming pool, a rooftop helipad, a spa and a Japanese relaxation courtyard. “Proof,” says investigative journalist Eliot Higgins on Twitter, “that all the money in the world can’t buy you taste.”

From the archives

Over the past 100 years, the average human has grown by about three inches. But the South Koreans have really shot up, says Vox: the country’s men are around six inches taller than they were a century ago; the women, eight inches. Why? In short: they got richer. When South Korea “shifted from producing things like textiles to consumer electronics and cars”, its wealth “skyrocketed”. This enabled people to afford better nutrition and healthcare – which, over time, made the population taller. In impoverished North Korea, by contrast, average height barely changed at all between the 1930s and the 1970s.


It’s this season’s “it” coat, says The New York Times: a black puffer printed with golden images of bow-tie pasta. The $425 jacket has sold out three times since it went on sale in late 2021, with high-profile fans including The Office star Mindy Kaling and Teen Wolf actor Dylan O’Brien. “In a sea of drab, black winter coats, the pasta puffer stands alone.”


quoted 3.3.23

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Mark Twain