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7 February


More than 5,000 people are now confirmed to have died in Turkey and Syria after yesterday’s earthquakes. There have been further tremors since, including a 5.6-magnitude quake this morning, with at least 5,775 collapsed buildings in Turkey alone. Rishi Sunak has carried out his first government reshuffle. Former Trade Minister Greg Hands has replaced Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative Party chairman, and Whitehall has been rejigged to create four new departments. Average energy bills will fall below £2,500 this summer, according to independent industry estimates. Just three months ago, they were forecast to rise to £3,500 a year.


The vogue for Instagrammable beverages means bars have taken to serving cocktails in “every imaginable vessel”, says Jaya Saxena in Punch. Even in the fanciest spots guests sip from conch shells, novelty milk bottles and flamingo-shaped glasses. In one of my favourite photos, I’m drinking from a glass pipe while my friends nurse cups shaped like a bathtub, a shopping trolley and a Lego block. As a fan of “whimsy and ridiculousness”, I can’t get enough. After all, we drink with our eyes first, and a bizarrely shaped beaker brings “just a little extra joy to the night”.


American universities’ obsession with policing language reached an absurd peak in December, when it emerged that officials at Stanford had assembled a list of 161 common words and phrases they wanted to ban: the terrifyingly titled Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative. Nobody should be described as “addicted” to cocaine, for example; they are “devoted” to it. People aren’t “crazy”, they are merely “surprising”. “Ladies” can just as easily be replaced with “everyone”. The dumb (sorry, “non-verbal”) project has thankfully been aborted (oops, “ended”), but the master list (forgive us, “canonical list”) can still be found here.

On the way out

A town in the far north of Sweden is on the move, “one building at a time”, says The Observer. Kiruna is right next to the world’s largest iron ore mine, which is causing severe subsidence: cracks have appeared in the hospital; a school has been deemed unsafe for pupils. So the plan is to load entire structures on to trailers and transport them to a new spot two miles east. The settlement’s iconic 600-tonne wooden church (pictured), once voted the most beautiful old building in the country, will be first to go, in 2026. Around 6,000 of the town’s 18,000 people are expected to be relocated.


Most people think the most profitable film of all time is Avatar (2009), says Information is Beautiful. But “it depends how you look at it”. Adjusted for inflation, James Cameron’s movie has indeed pulled in a record $4bn – but so has Titanic (1997) and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). And in terms of return on investment, which factors in things like production costs and marketing, it’s a different story. Top of the list is ET the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), which recovered 7,552% of its $10.5m budget. In second place, with takings of $369m against a budget of $5m – a 7,375% return – is none other than 2002 romcom My Big Fat Greek Wedding. See the full list here.

Tomorrow’s world

ChatGPT is the fastest-growing consumer application in history, according to analysts at the investment bank UBS. The AI bot reached 100 million active monthly users in January, just two months after launching. TikTok took nine months to reach that milestone; Instagram about two and a half years.


It’s Bobi, who has officially been recognised as the world’s oldest dog ever. The purebred Rafeiro do Alentejo is 30 years and 272 days old, smashing his breed’s normal life expectancy of just 12 to 14 years. Bobi’s owner, who aged eight helped to save and secretly rear the pup in his family’s shed, puts the pooch’s longevity down to a diet of unseasoned human food.


Quoted 7.2.23

“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

Gore Vidal