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6 February

In the headlines

More than 1,200 people have died after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria early this morning, followed by a second 7.5-magnitude tremor that officials in Ankara say was “not an aftershock”. The US Geological Survey warns that the death toll could reach 10,000. Nurses and ambulance staff are staging the biggest strike in NHS history. Maria Caulfield, a health minister, says the government “just can’t afford inflation-busting pay rises” after union bosses confirmed they’d stop walkouts if nurses were given a further 3% wage boost on top of the 4% increase they’ve been offered. Beyoncé has become the most awarded artist in Grammys history, after her four gongs at last night’s ceremony took her total to 32. But the singer once again missed out on the biggest prize – album of the year – which went to Harry Styles for Harry’s House.


German photographer Tobias Friedrich specialises in capturing the undersides of icebergs. His work provides a “rarely seen peek” at the icy behemoths’ intricate textures, says Moss and Fog magazine, and illustrates just how large they really are. See more of his ethereal snaps here.


I’m surprised it hasn’t been more widely reported, says Charles Moore in The Spectator, but Pope Francis swears like a docker. During a recent “off-the-cuff” speech in Barcelona, his Holiness described priests who deny absolution to the unrepentant as “f***ing careerists who f*** up the lives of others”. It’s funny. Francis’s predecessor, the conservative Benedict XVI, had a reputation for being “harsh” but was in fact “an absolute sweetie-pie”. Francis himself is seen as the “peace-and-love advocate of toleration” – and turns out to be anything but.

Quirk of geography

Bir Tawil, an 800-square-mile patch of desert on the Egypt-Sudan border, is the only habitable place on Earth unclaimed by any recognised government. Its rare terra nullius status stems from a discrepancy between the straight political boundary between Egypt and Sudan drawn by the British in 1899, and a more wiggly “administrative boundary” established in 1902. Egypt observes the former, Sudan the latter, with the result that a nearby area called the Hala’ib Triangle is claimed by both and Bir Tawil by neither. In 2014, an American dad trekked to the unclaimed land and planted a flag, declaring himself king, so that his seven-year-old daughter could become a real-life princess. Today, says the Daily Mail, Princess Emily is a teenager and “mortified”.


WD-40 is known not just for its ability to loosen nuts and bolts, but for its distinctive smell – so the New York art collective MSCHF created a cologne based on the lubricating spray. Smells Like WD-40, as the “Eau de Industrie” was named, sold out almost instantly.

Love etc

Online card shop Moonpig is planning to integrate ChatGPT into its systems to help tongue-tied romantics write their sentimental messages. CEO Nickyl Raithatha says the AI software will make cards “more special than something you’d find in a petrol station”. I’m not convinced, says Katie Prescott in The Times. When I asked it to write a Valentine’s poem for my football-mad boyfriend, the best it could come up with was: “Soccer is love, and you’re the one / Who makes my heart beat as fast as a goal is won.”


It’s a James Bond-style rotating number plate, which a Belgian MP has fitted to his car so that the public don’t know he’s a politician. Members of Belgium’s federal parliament get special plates that allow them to avoid random police checks and park in certain reserved spaces. Michael Freilich, a Flemish nationalist MP, decided he wanted the perks but also to retain his anonymity, so he bought the Chinese-made gadget on eBay.


quote 6.2.23

“The wrong sort of people are always in power because they would not be in power if they were not the wrong sort of people.”

Publisher Jon Wynne-Tyson