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5 January

In the headlines

“No shutdown!” says the Daily Express, following Boris Johnson’s declaration that England can “ride out” the Omicron wave without further restrictions. Ending weeks of speculation, Novak Djokovic has been exempted from vaccination rules to play at the Australian Open. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the tennis player, a vocal vaccine sceptic, will be “on the next plane home” if his evidence for the exemption doesn’t pass muster. Good thing he’s not playing in France, where President Emmanuel Macron says his strategy is to “piss off” the unvaccinated with onerous restrictions. Proposed legislation will mean only the fully vaccinated will be allowed in cafes, restaurants and other indoor public spaces. A family trip to the Natural History Museum ice rink ended badly for Rishi Sunak when the Chancellor toppled over and flattened his daughter, says the Daily Mirror. “Squishy Rishi.”

Comment of the day


Of course Blair deserves his knighthood

“Sometimes the right, when outraged, can be as ridiculously narrow-minded as the left,” says Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph. And on the subject of Tony Blair’s recent knighthood, both sides of the political spectrum seem as angry – and as narrow-minded – as each other. More than 700,000 people have signed a petition calling for the former PM’s title to be removed because of his supposed war crimes. It’s absurd. “Of course Mr Blair should be made a Knight of the Garter.”


Ukrainians steel themselves for invasion

“Gallows humour is everywhere” in Ukraine, says Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic. With more than 100,000 Russian troops amassed on their border, along with armed vehicles, field hospitals and Black Sea battleships, the Ukrainians are preparing to be invaded. When the Ministry of Defence called on women to register with the army, it triggered “a plethora of jokes”. One popular meme depicts a man lying in bed beside his wife, wondering: “When will they get on with it and mobilise her?”

Global update

Two people remain missing in Boulder, Colorado after a wildfire that destroyed as many as 1,000 homes. The Marshall Fire was relatively small by recent standards, climate scientist and local resident Daniel Swain tells New York magazine. But whereas most wildfires hit forests, this was an “urban firestorm”. Fanned by 100mph winds, the blaze covered “football-field lengths of land in seconds”.

Quirks of history

In 1800 a law was passed in Paris banning women from wearing trousers. If they wanted to “dress like a man” and wear the garments, they had to get permission from local police. The legislation was modified in 1892 and 1909 – to make exceptions for women “holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse” – but technically remained in place until 2013.


Hamsters are the “heaviest drinkers in the animal kingdom”, says The Atlantic. Researchers have found that the rodents can guzzle the human equivalent of a litre and a half of 95% ABV vodka. They need this hardy tolerance to get through the winter, when their hoards of ryegrass seeds and fruit start to ferment. But they also seem to have a taste for it. “Given the choice between water and alcohol, they go for the booze.”

Love etc

The average British man has 9.8 sexual partners in his lifetime, according to a study of 35 countries by the mental health platform Manual. Turkey topped the list with 14.5 lovers. India came bottom, with just three.

Snapshot answer

Taliban officials are dumping 3,000 litres of alcohol into a canal in Kabul. The sale and consumption of booze was illegal in Afghanistan even under the old Western-backed regime, but the country’s new rulers have been much more enthusiastic about enforcing the ban.

Gone viral

A Muslim bachelor has hired advertising space on several billboards in Birmingham to help him find love, says The Times. Mohammad Malik, 29, filled the 20ft displays with a picture of him posing, a link to his website and the caption: “Save me from an arranged marriage.” So far, ten women have got in touch.


quoted 5.1

“Almost nobody dances sober, unless he is insane.”