The government and health unions have agreed on a pay deal expected to put an end to months of strikes. If all goes to plan, more than a million nurses, paramedics and other frontline workers will receive a 5% wage rise plus a one-off payment of at least £1,655. But it’s not all good news – more than 1,000 Passport Office workers have announced a five-week walkout starting next month. China’s President Xi Jinping has confirmed he will travel to Moscow next week for talks with Vladimir Putin. Announcing the visit, the Kremlin said the two would discuss a “comprehensive partnership and strategic co-operation”. A famously virile Exmoor pony has been selected by scientists to help save his breed from extinction. Elsinore Alan Partridge will donate semen to a gene bank as part of a campaign to boost numbers of the iconic small horses. “He is a brilliant, funny boy,” says breeder Madeline Haynes. “His name suits him.”
Elsinore Alan Partridge: top shagger. Michael Dewhurst/The Exmoor Pony Society
Let’s pay mums to stay at home
As every modern parent is “all too well aware”, says Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph, “nursery fees in this country are staggeringly steep”. So it will no doubt be hugely popular that Jeremy Hunt has promised 30 hours of free childcare a week for children over nine months old, enabling both parents to get back to work earlier. But is this really how we want to live? And more importantly, is this really “how we want our children to live”?
Bestselling childcare author Oliver James has repeatedly urged parents to keep their children at home until the age of three if they possibly can, citing studies that suggest nursery kids are “more aggressive and more insecure in relationships”. And in any case, “most mothers would rather be at home with their babies”. In a recent poll, 62% of mums said that if money were no object, they (or their husbands) would stay at home and look after the children. So why don’t we “cut out the middle man”? Instead of spending vast sums to help working parents pay exorbitant nursery fees, let’s just pay mums or dads to stay at home and do it themselves. I don’t just mean measly child benefit. I mean “a proper wage, just for raising children”, for at least the first two years. Of course, the government won’t do it because it believes a “mother’s most sacred duty” is nudging up the nation’s GDP. But one day, I suspect we’ll look back and decide we “got our priorities wrong”.
This year’s winners of the British Wildlife Photography Awards include shots of a fox walking through woodland that’s been hacked down to make way for pylons; a leafcutter bee peering out of its hole; a stag walking along the edge of a Scottish loch; and luminescent jellyfish feasting on tiny plankton. See the full list here.
More and more of China’s elite are getting educated in the West, says The Economist. Today, over 20% of Central Committee members – “the 370 most powerful party officials” – have had some foreign schooling, mostly at Western universities. That’s up from 6% two decades ago. “Eight of the 24 members of the Politburo have studied in Western countries, the most ever by far.”
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Kanaya Kolong Parkepu, son of the 95-year-old warrior chief of a Maasai tribe in northern Tanzania, is a huge hit on YouTube, says MailOnline. On their Maasaiboys channel, he and a friend have racked up millions of views with their insights into the lives of 21st-century tribesmen: hyenas circling the camp; youthful stories of fighting off lions. But their most popular videos are pranks. In one, Kanaya gives his buddy a burger for the first time – then mocks him for turning it on its side. Watch more here.
Tucker Carlson announcing DeSantis’s new stance on Ukraine
Why Putin is stoking the culture wars
Vladimir Putin’s best hopes of winning in Ukraine rest on one thing, says Ed Luce in the FT: the 2024 US presidential election. Both Republican front runners are now openly sceptical of providing more assistance to Kyiv: Donald Trump claims he’ll “end the war within 24 hours of becoming president”; Ron DeSantis said this week that further involvement in a distant “territorial dispute” was not in America’s interests. Those positions reflect the views of Republican voters, fewer than 40% of whom think the US should still be arming Ukraine. Tucker Carlson, the influential Fox News anchor, has described President Zelensky as a “despot”, a “corrupt strongman”, and Joe Biden’s “Ukrainian pimp”.
Increasingly, the war is turning into a cultural divide for Americans. “Much like wearing masks identified you as a liberal in the pandemic, the Ukrainian flag has become a symbol of woke culture.” And Putin is doing what he can to encourage this. That’s why, in what was surely this year’s “oddest moment”, he took time out from the war in Ukraine to have a pop at the Church of England – along with same-sex marriage in the US, the attempted cancelling of JK Rowling, and gender reassignment surgery. Clearly, he wants to cement the view on the Make America Great Again right that “Russia is the global champion of their anti-woke cause”. That would make it even easier for whoever wins the Republican nomination to abandon Kyiv for good.
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At the 1939 Academy Awards, Walt Disney received an honorary gong for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It consisted of one normal-sized Oscar statuette, and seven miniature ones.
A letter to The Guardian:
I have an additional rule for our fridge, and that is to store my eclectic collection of out-of-date worldwide condiments on the top shelf, where my shorter wife cannot reach to cull them.
It’s Sumplete, an online puzzle created by ChatGPT. Dundee-based software developer Daniel Tait asked the AI bot to “invent a logic puzzle similar to Sudoku that doesn’t currently exist”. After a bit of back and forth, the computer complied – and even wrote the code for him. The game, which had more than 50,000 plays in its first week, involves removing numbers from a grid until each row and column adds up to a given total. Give it a go here.
“Middle age is when you’ve met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else.”
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