Astronomers detected seven Earth-size planets orbiting a single star 40 light years away. They believe three of them are within the 'habitable' zone, meaning that life is a possibility, and that the next generation of telescopes, due to switch on in the next decade, will enable the search for alien life to begin. On Earth itself, human cruelty and absurdity remained boundless. The social media 'platform', Facebook, apologised for repeatedly restoring the account of a person who posted stolen photographs of children falsely claiming that they had cancer and appealing for money to help them. One of the children had nothing worse than chickenpox. A man called Ian Stewart was found guilty of drugging and suffocating the children's author Helen Bailey and throwing her body in a cesspit. The police in Malaysia said attempts were made to break into the mortuary where Kim Jong-nam, the murdered half brother of the North Korean dictator, is being held. Trump rescinded his predecessor's order to allow transgender students
at American public schools to use whichever bathroom corresponds to their gender identity. Tony Blair denied that a Labour government had paid compensation to a former detainee of Guantanamo Bay who blew himself up in Iraq earlier in the week. He said it had been the Conservative-led coalition government. Blair accused the Daily Mail of hypocrisy for first demanding the man’s release from the camp and now objecting to the compensation he had received. Iraqi security forces stormed Mosul airport in their push to repel IS from its last stronghold.

Britain's former ambassador to the UK, Sir Ivan Rogers, told the House of Commons select committee on Brexit that it would take until the summer 'even to agree on what the negotiations should be about' and that the terms of any new relationship between the UK and the EU may not be agreed until 2022. He said he expected 'quite ferocious' legal disputes about the size of the bill facing the UK for leaving the community. Leaving without an agreement would be 'catastrophic' because the UK would then be in a legal void. Cressida Dick, who was in charge of an operation in which an innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was mistaken for a terrorist suspect and shot dead, became commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the first woman to hold the post. The manufacturers of potentially lethal tumble dryers warned their owners not to use them, which seemed sensible advice. We were exhorted to eat even more fruit and vegetables – 10 such items a day – in order to stay alive. The late Davie Bowie won two awards at something called the Brits, further proof that death is often a good career move. The deputy leader of the Labour Party was observed performing a dance move, 'the dab', in the House of Commons.

Transport Scotland published figures showing that the number of bus journeys declined from 487 million in 2007-08 to 409 million last year, but that more people are travelling on trains. A passenger on an early evening train from Glasgow to Carstairs was so abusive to staff that the journey had to be terminated. A 19-year-old woman was raped in Edinburgh by a driver whose car she had entered after a night out. The BBC announced that it proposes to set up a new television channel called BBC Scotland. At the time of writing, it was unclear how much devastation Storm Doris would wreak, but heavy snow was being forecast for Falkirk, among other places.

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A Scottish dystopia
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