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4 January

In the headlines

The new year brings fresh “Covid chaos”, says the Daily Mail, with a million Britons currently stuck in self-isolation. Bin collections in many parts of the country have already been cancelled due to staff absences, and headteachers fear that up to a quarter of their staff could be “struck down” in the coming weeks. Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the “sham” blood-testing firm Theranos, has been convicted of fraud and faces decades in prison, says The Daily Telegraph. The “fallen tech star”, 37, lost a $4.5bn fortune after it emerged that her company’s much-hyped technology didn’t work. Apple has become the world’s first $3trn company, says Forbes. It’s now worth more than the entire UK economy.

Comment of the day

Cancel culture

Why sanity will prevail in the gender wars

Last year was when the “dangers of gender identity ideology” finally crashed into the mainstream, says Jess de Wahls in UnHerd. I was “cancelled” by the Royal Academy of Arts over some supposedly offensive embroidery. London mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted out the “ideological dogma” that “trans women are women, trans men are men… and all gender identities are valid”. Keir Starmer declared that it’s “not right to say that only women have a cervix”. Increasingly, anyone who questions the need for so-called “preferred pronouns” – he/him, they/them, and so on – is branded a bigot or a transphobe. Academics who “dare to acknowledge the biological reality of the sexes” are de-platformed and hounded out of their jobs.


Don’t underestimate the threat from Tehran

While most eyes are on Russia and China, we should really be watching Iran, says Robin Wright in The New Yorker. Efforts to revive the 2016 nuclear deal abandoned under President Trump – which lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme – have completely stalled. The reformist president who brokered the original deal, Hassan Rouhani, has been replaced by Ebrahim Raisi, a “rigid ideologue” and unashamed hawk. And Iran’s nuclear programme has advanced so much during the diplomatic impasse that soon any deal will be pointless. Its so-called “breakout” time to produce enough fuel for a bomb has plummeted from more than a year to “as little as three weeks”.

On the way back

Humpback whales are returning to Britain, says The Daily Telegraph. Between 1994 and 2010, sightings and seismic surveys identified just 48 of the giant mammals in and around UK waters; in the past three years, 75 have been spotted off the coast of Cornwall alone. Conservationists think their resurgence is mainly due to booming populations of sardines and other small fish – a favourite dish for humpbacks.


A letter to The Guardian from the end of last year:

“Up to and including 2020, you have published on average 8.5 letters of mine per year. Having got eight in so far this year, I wonder if you could find room for just a half-letter, so that I might maint-”

Fr Alec Mitchell

Holyhead, Anglesey


Nicolas Cage no longer identifies with the term “actor”. The 57-year-old now wants everyone to calls him a “thespian” instead. “I really don’t like the word actor because for me it always implies ‘oh, he’s a great actor, therefore he’s a great liar’,” Cage told Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast. “I like the word thespian because thespian means you’re going into your heart.” Cage does concede that asking people to call you a thespian makes you sound like “a pretentious a-hole”.

Love etc

With strict Covid restrictions limiting social interaction in China, officials in the city of Luanzhou have built a database of unmarried residents to help them find partners. Matchmaking parties are being held at state-run businesses, “with blind date sessions also in the works”, says Heather Chen in Vice.


quoted 04.02

“Ignoring a problem in the hope that it will go away is more effective, more often than anyone will admit.”

Janan Ganesh, in the Financial Times