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- The Gaza war could last for a decade
The Gaza war could last for a decade
😎 Headset dystopia | Gregg ❤️ Harvesters | 👑 George’s star
Dentists are to be given £20,000 bonuses if they set up practices in under-served areas, as part of new government plans to improve NHS dental care. The proposals, which also include higher payments for seeing new patients, have been criticised by the British Dental Association for not going far enough. Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson has interviewed Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin-sympathetic broadcaster, who hasn’t yet released the footage, said no other Western journalist had “bothered” to talk to the Russian president – a claim rubbished by the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, who says he has lodged “several requests” to do just that. France is suffering from an “unprecedented decline in sexual activity”, according to a new survey. Some 24% of respondents aged 18 to 69 say they haven’t had sex in the past year, says The Daily Telegraph, up from just 9% in 2006. “Ooh la nah.”
The Gaza war could last for a decade
You might have missed it in all the media “defeatism”, says The Wall Street Journal, but “Israel is winning its war in Gaza”. The IDF says it has killed, captured or otherwise “incapacitated” 20,000 of Hamas’s 30,000 members and dismantled 17 of its 24 combat battalions. The terrorist group’s rocket fire is down more than 95% from the start of the war, 110 hostages have been freed, and international support for the Israeli war effort has endured for far longer than expected. Once Hamas’s last brigades are defeated it will take some time to sweep for terror cells, but IDF fighters are clearing urban terrain and tunnels at a “historic pace”. Israel’s task for 2024 is to “finish the job”.
“Easier said than done,” says Colin Clarke in Foreign Affairs. What started as a relatively conventional urban war is morphing into a counter-insurgency campaign, which will centre on special ops, precision strikes and targeted raids. That won’t be easy: Hamas still has its enormous underground tunnel network, and the “vast mounds of rubble” from airstrikes provide plenty of places to “conceal its movements and explosive devices”. A Rand Corporation study of all 71 counter-insurgencies since World War Two found that the median length was 10 years, and often more when the insurgents enjoy the support of a state sponsor, as Hamas does with Iran. The group’s leaders would like nothing more than an opportunity to “prolong the fighting, continue killing Israeli soldiers, and highlight the death toll of Palestinian civilians in its propaganda”. If things continue as they are, they will get their wish.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award has gone to British amateur Nima Sarikhani, for his image of a young polar bear dozing off on an iceberg. Other commended finalists include pictures of a dragonfly perched on a pond turtle’s face in the Balkans; a murmuration of starlings in Rome in the shape of a giant bird; two lionesses grooming a cub in Kenya; and moon jellyfish floating in a Norwegian fjord. See more of the competition’s winners here.
Russia is in the grip of an “unusually cold winter”, says Business Insider, with Siberia reaching –56C in December. The country’s crumbling, Soviet-era infrastructure can’t cope: there have been a “spate of breakdowns in central heating systems” in recent months, with burst pipes and power cuts even in comparatively wealthy regions around St Petersburg and Moscow. But with the Kremlin pouring cash into the Ukraine war, there’s little chance of a proper overhaul – public utilities made up just 2.2% of Russia’s total expenditure last year, compared to 21% for military expenses.
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Gregg Wallace (left) and Alan Partridge
MasterChef’s Gregg Wallace provided the Telegraph with his typical Saturday routine, says Michael Hogan in The Guardian, and it’s straight out of Alan Partridge. The presenter goes to the gym half an hour before it opens – the staff let him in so he can have a swim and sauna alone – before meeting his PA for a fry-up at the local Harvester. (“I’ve regularly been disappointed in three-star Michelin restaurants,” he says, “but never in a Harvester.”) In the afternoons, he spends an hour and a half with his son, followed by two hours in his home office playing the computer game Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia.
Brianna Ghey was murdered in February last year
We must save our children from social media
Esther Ghey, mother of the murdered teen Brianna, wants to spare other parents “her eternal agony”, says Celia Walden in The Daily Telegraph. Her proposals are a “no-brainer”: banning under-16s from accessing social media on smartphones, and letting parents monitor, via special software, whether their children have been searching online for videos of violence and torture – just as one of her daughter’s teenage killers did. Tragically, Brianna is not the first victim of social media’s mind-warping effects. Molly Russell’s father, Ian, has been campaigning for child safety online since his daughter took her own life, aged 14, in 2017. Stuart Stephens, whose 13-year-old son Olly was fatally stabbed in 2021 after a social media dispute, has called for greater regulation of tech firms.
All these pleas seem to fall “on deaf ears”. The government is reluctant to get tough with big tech, as shown by its “long-awaited, watered-down and hard-to-implement Online Safety Bill”. There’s a parallel in all this to the debate in America around gun control, where bereaved, devastated parents “plead for basic law changes” after every mass shooting, to no avail. Over here, people argue that under-16s will always work around any social media ban, a rationale “that would have us handing out cigarettes and drugs to primary school children”. Parents also protest that they don’t want their kids being the only ones not on these apps – but that only proves “new norms are needed”. Social media turned two 15-year-olds into “sadistic killers”. It needs to be regulated.
Watching people use Apple’s new virtual reality headset is “a comedic train wreck”, says Digg. The Vision Pro has been available to the public for less than a week, but the internet is already awash with dystopian footage of tech-heads and influencers trying it out. Examples include a busy commuter tapping away in thin air; two YouTubers having a particularly antisocial dinner; and a man being pulled over by police after wearing his headset at the wheel of a self-driving Tesla. See them for yourself here.
British colonists had a strange habit of naming the places they discovered after “the places they had just left, or after British monarchs and aristocrats whom they had just escaped”, says Sathnam Sanghera in The Times. And on at least one occasion, “this tendency spread into space”. When the astronomer William Herschel discovered a new planet from his garden in Bath in 1781, he initially labelled it Georgium Sidus, or “George’s Star”, after King George III. The international stargazing community took a dim view of this, however, and they settled on a name from Greek mythology: Uranus.
It’s Karolina Shiino, says BBC News, who has given up her title of Miss Japan after it emerged that she had been having an affair with a married man. Shiino, 26, is a Ukrainian-born, naturalised Japanese citizen who has lived in the country since the age of five and uses her Japanese stepfather’s surname. But her victory in last month’s beauty pageant prompted complaints that she didn’t reflect “traditional Japanese beauty ideals”, and amid the furore a magazine published an exposé of her amorous exploits.
“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
George Bernard Shaw