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9 February

In the headlines

“Is that all we get for £12bn?” asks the Mail, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that NHS waiting lists will grow for two more years despite April’s “huge” hike in national insurance. The backlog of people waiting for treatment is already at six million. Oil giant BP has dismissed calls for a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies, despite racking up profits of nearly £10bn in 2021 – its biggest haul in eight years. The company’s finance chief says it has “more cash than we know what to do with”. Adele celebrated winning Artist of the Year at the Brit Awards by taking a swipe at the new “gender neutral” categories, in which men and women compete against each other. “I understand why this has changed,” said the singer, who also won best song and best album. “But I really love being a woman.”

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It’s time we engaged with the Taliban

Having lost the war in Afghanistan, “Washington is now losing the peace”, says Larry Elliott in The Guardian. America’s “scorched-earth policy” response to humiliation at the hands of the Taliban is designed to cause maximum economic damage to some of the world’s poorest people. Joe Biden has frozen Afghan state assets held in US banks, halted payments from the World Bank’s Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund and blocked emergency Covid aid from the IMF. The result is that – apart from Taliban-controlled heroin exports – the economy has collapsed. That has left more than half of Afghans in dire need of humanitarian assistance and the poverty rate hovering around 90%.


Confiscate phones at the school gate

Years from now, says Celia Walden in The Daily Telegraph, we’ll talk about the period when we allowed mobile phones in schools “in the same amused, incredulous tones with which we remember people being allowed to smoke on planes”. It’s not just the vast amount of time young Britons spend looking at screens – 44 hours a week on average, the equivalent of “almost two whole days”. It’s also the bullying. The “manipulation and sharing of images”, most often for sexual harassment and fat shaming. The filming of organised fights for social media likes. Opponents of a ban insist that mobiles keep children safe on the walk to and from school. But the solution to that is easy: you hand over your device when you arrive and pick it up again when you leave.


A 190-year-old giant tortoise is the oldest living land animal in the world, says the New York Post. Jonathan hatched in the Seychelles around 1832, and 50 years later was sent to Saint Helena as a gift for the British governor. He has lived through the inaugurations of 40 US presidents and survived for four decades longer than the average giant tortoise. He loves pears and ripe guava, and still has a “good libido”.


London clothing company Vollebak has started selling an Apocalypse Jacket. The doomsday-appropriate, unisex coat is made from material designed by Nasa that can withstand black lava, flash fires and chemical erosion. The lining has 23 pockets, so you can “carry everything you need to survive anything” says Vollebak. “Zombies will hate it.” Yours for £995.



The winners of the 2021 International Landscape Photographer of the Year awards, selected from more than 4,500 entries, include photos of trees reflected in a Canadian lake, a pair of Icelandic volcanoes, a snow-covered forest in Lapland and salt ponds in Australia.



It’s the Aurora Borealis, spotted last week from the Norfolk coast. Photographer Gary Pearson, who captured the scene at Thornham Staithe, tells the BBC: “The vista is ever-changing, but when you get to see the Northern Lights pulsing over the coal barn it’s a real jump-up-and-down moment.”


Tomorrow’s world

An Apple Watch has saved its owner’s life after the device’s “Fall Detection” feature alerted authorities that he was out for the count. The watch detected that its user had taken a hard fall, prompting it to ask if he was ok. After he failed to respond, the watch contacted Hermosa Beach police, who found him unconscious and bleeding from the head beside his electric bike. He was patched up – and credited the gizmo with saving his life.

Quirk of history

When President Ronald Reagan was staying at his 688-acre California ranch, he liked to shake off the stresses of the White House by going horse riding. The former Hollywood star was so nifty in the saddle, says CNN, that the Secret Service team guarding him often couldn’t keep up. One hapless agent even fell off his horse and broke his arm.


quoted 9.2

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

Groucho Marx