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6 January

In the headlines

Prince Harry’s autobiography includes “the most devastating royal revelations for more than a generation”, says The Times. Among the “explosive” claims: that he and Prince William “begged” their father not to marry Camilla; that he killed 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan; and that he used cocaine as a teenager. Harry also reveals that he lost his virginity in a field behind a pub, aged 16 or 17, to an older woman who treated him “like a young stallion”. Kyiv has rejected Vladimir Putin’s 36-hour ceasefire coinciding with Russian Orthodox Christmas. President Volodymyr Zelensky said the truce was a “cynical trap” to delay Ukrainian advances in the eastern Donbas region. Skiers are rushing to the Scottish slopes as European resorts struggle with unseasonably warm weather. “I don’t want to gloat too much,” the boss of one Aberdeen resort tells BBC News, “but yes, it’s nice that we’ve got snow.”

British politics

Lucky us: a PM who’ll outdo Henry VII

Rishi Sunak might claim to be a “polite radical”, says Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph, but his big new year speech laying out his vision for the country was “vague and vacuous” at best. What did he promise? “Halving inflation” – which was predicted to happen “even under Liz Truss”. “Grow the economy”, even though the last time a peacetime economy failed to grow after more than two years was 1506-08. (Lucky us, a Prime Minister who “solemnly pledges that his record on economic growth will be better than that of Henry VII”.) “Cut debt”, even though official figures show he is planning “no such thing”. “NHS waiting lists fall” – also “long predicted” to happen this year. “No tricks,” Sunak promised. Alas, his pledges are “almost all tricks”.


TS Eliot and the death of poetry

One hundred years after the publication of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, it is time to admit something rather sad, says Matthew Walther in The New York Times. “Poetry is dead.” And it is dead, in part, because “Eliot helped to kill it”. For centuries, nature and poetry had a “basic and elemental” relationship: the natural world was “alive with intimations of the transcendent”. When Milton described the fallen bodies of rebel angels – “Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks / In Vallombrosa” – he was borrowing imagery from Dante, Virgil and Homer. But modern life, shaped so entirely by science and technology, has “demystified and alienated us” from nature. The natural world is no longer a “dwelling place of unseen forces” – it is a “mass of resources to be either exploited or preserved”.

The great escape

Private islands aren’t just for “billionaires and Bond villains”, says Lifehacker: many are available much cheaper than you’d expect. Brother Island in the Philippines, covered in white sand beaches and coconut trees, comes with a chef and caretaker, and sleeps four people for just £326 a night. For the more adventurous, an off-grid cabin on Båtholmen Island, Norway, with 26 acres of breath-taking scenery, is £216 a night. And the “stunningly beautiful”, 45-acre Strand Island on Minnesota’s Pelican Lake is only £784 a night for a party of 20 – although it only has two baths, so “start working on a bathroom schedule now”. Check out more islands here.

Tomorrows world

Artificial intelligence is being used in everything, says The Verge – including your oven. Samsung’s latest fitted machine can supposedly recognise 106 different dishes when you put them inside, and recommend a cooking time for each one. (You can also just turn a dial.) Other features include “burn detection”, which tells you if the dish is getting overcooked, and an internal camera so that you can watch your food cooking – or, if you’re that way inclined, livestream the footage straight to social media.

On the money

Just when the #MeToo movement seemed to be waning, says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, “a new frontier has opened up: history”. Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, the teenage stars of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 adaption of Romeo and Juliet, are suing Paramount for $500m, saying they were tricked into shooting a semi-nude scene. If they succeed, film studios face a “legal nightmare”. Think of Brooke Shields playing a sexually exploited child in 1978’s Pretty Baby, or 12-year-old Jodie Foster as a prostitute in Taxi Driver (1976). A studio’s back catalogue, currently a lucrative “income stream”, could quickly become “a stream of lawsuits”.

Eating in

American chocolate is famously disgusting, says Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian. A Hershey bar, for example, is like sawdust that’s been “drowned in sugar and soaked with baby vomit”. But it turns out the reason it tastes that way is because “that’s roughly what it is”. US confectionary contains much more sugar, and thus much less cocoa, than the European stuff. And some producers allegedly put it through a process that produces butyric acid – a chemical “found in vomit”. It’s baffling. “Why do Americans, who excel at many things, stand for this?”


Denmark didn’t record a single bank robbery last year. And to be fair to any would-be thieves, says AP News, “there wouldn’t have been much point”. Thanks to the Danish embrace of digital payments, cash transactions are now so rare that only around 20 bank branches in the whole country bother holding physical money at all.


It’s (probably) the world’s longest bar, which has been temporarily set up along a flyover in Sydney, Australia. Elevate, a street party installed on the Cahill Expressway from 4-7 January, includes the aptly named, 127-metre “Long Bar”.


Quoted 6.1.23

“Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.”

Jonathan Swift