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6 January

In the headlines

“No-vax” Djokovic, as Twitter has dubbed the Serbian tennis star, has had his Australian visa revoked because his medical exemption from the country’s strict vaccine rules didn’t pass muster with border guards. The 34-year-old has been sent to a government detention hotel in Melbourne while he appeals the decision. In England, travel rules are being loosened: pre-departure tests for fully vaccinated arrivals are being scrapped from Friday. From Sunday, people arriving in the country can use a lateral flow for their day two test rather than an expensive PCR. China has a PE teacher shortage, says The Guardian. The shortfall is the result of an “exercise drive” to ease academic pressures on exhausted students. One school has just two PE teachers for 2,600 pupils.

Comment of the day


Water could be China’s Achilles heel

China is running out of water, says Hal Brands in Bloomberg. The country has 20% of the world’s population but only 7% of its fresh water. Entire regions, especially in the arid north, “suffer from water scarcity worse than that found in a parched Middle East”. Existing supplies are being spoiled by industrialisation and pollution: as much as 90% of China’s groundwater is “too dirty to drink”; more than half is so filthy it “cannot even be used for industry or farming”. Energy shortages caused by a lack of water are increasingly common. The cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen (combined population: almost 30 million) have been warned they will “face severe drought” in the coming months.


Elizabeth Holmes’s downfall is a victory for feminism

When Elizabeth Holmes went on trial for fraud, the first thing I noticed was her makeover, says Lara Stemple in Slate. Before then, the 37-year-old founder of the fraudulent blood-testing firm Theranos had always looked ultra-masculine. At work, she adopted a gravelly speaking voice and “relentless eye contact”, and wore entirely black clothes. But the moment Holmes faced trial, “the leopard changed her spots”. In court, Holmes’s previously dead-straight hair was bouncy, her lipstick was pale pink, and she entered the building holding her mother’s hand or carrying a nappy bag. It was all tactical. Holmes’s defence peddled the idea that a sweet-looking woman couldn’t

Great escape

Thailand’s most famous bay, Maya Beach, has reopened to the public after three years, says Lucy Thackray in The Independent. After the cove featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach back in 2000, an influx of tourists caused it so much environmental damage that the authorities closed it off. But its spell without visitors has done wonders: its coral reefs are regrowing, black-tipped reef sharks have returned, and its water is clear again. There’s just one big catch for visitors: to keep the beach pristine, the authorities still aren’t allowing swimming.

Eating in

The French often claim sparkling wine was invented by Dom Pérignon, the 17th century Benedictine monk after whom the champagne is named. Not true, historian Amanda Foreman tells The Times. Virgil and Pliny both made references to fizz, and the method of making it was demonstrated by the English physicist Christopher Merret in 1662, 35 years before Pérignon came up with his own concoction.

On the money

Tracey Emin is a canny investor: the artist owns property in Margate, London’s Fitzroy Square and the south of France. “The reason I have been brilliant with money,” Emin, 58, tells the FT, “is that, in the 1990s, I never took cocaine. Ever. I think I saved the same amount of money to buy my first house as most people back then were putting up their noses.”

Staying young

At 84, Tom Stoppard is still smoking as much as ever. In a recent interview for the National Theatre, the playwright was asked if he would ever quit. “I should think so,” he replied. The problem, Stoppard added, is the issue identified by writer Kenneth Tynan: “If I can’t smoke, I can’t write. And if I can’t write, what’s the point of living?”

Quirk of history

So-called “broadside ballads” were the “tabloid press of the day”, says The Oldie. First distributed in the 16th century, they were large sheets of inexpensive paper printed with ballads describing a crime or scandal – along with the suggestion of a popular tune to which the ballad should be sung. They stayed popular until the 19th century, when newspapers took over.

Snapshot answer

It’s Rocco Ritchie, the son of Madonna and her ex-husband Guy Ritchie. The 21-year-old painter goes by the pseudonym “Rhed”, but he was unmasked last month by the New York Post. He’s had several shows at a gallery in London, where his paintings have sold for up to five figures. The Guardian’s art critic, Jonathan Jones, wasn’t impressed, describing the works as “clumsy adolescent efforts with no sign of originality or vigour”.


quoted 6.1

“Politicians know the right thing to do. They just don’t know how to get re-elected when they’ve done it.”

Martin Rees, the astronomer royal