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12 April

In the headlines

Britain is investigating reports that Russia has used phosphorus chemical weapons in the besieged city of Mariupol. If confirmed, “all possible options are on the table” for a Western response, Armed Forces minister James Heappey tells Sky News. Police have issued at least 30 more fines in their ongoing investigation into Partygate lockdown breaches, on top of the 20 sent out last month. The Prime Minister is not thought to be among the latest recipients, says ITV’s Paul Brand. Travel chiefs have warned that the chaos ruining many people’s Easter plans could extend into the summer. It’s taking up to six months for short-staffed airlines and airports to do security checks on new recruits. French butchers have taken exception to politicians describing Vladimir Putin as a “butcher”, says Patrick Kidd in The Times. They say it is a (presumably meaty) stain on their “noble profession”.

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What a Le Pen victory would mean

If Marine Le Pen has anyone to thank for her impressive showing in the French presidential election, says Louis Hausalter in Marianne, it’s her rival right-winger Eric Zemmour. He helped soften Le Pen’s image by outflanking her on the far right – while he was babbling on about conspiracy theories, she talked about the financial struggles of the working class. And when Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, it was Zemmour who became the lightning rod for scrutiny about his pro-Russia stance. Le Pen’s own historical closeness to Putin barely got a mention. All this helped her secure second place in the first round of voting on Sunday; in the run-off, later this month, she is polling within a few points of Emmanuel Macron.


The joys of a literary spat

One of the sad side effects of cancel culture, says Rosemary Jenkinson in The Critic, is the demise of the literary spat. The critic Dorothy Parker used to brag that the first thing she did every morning was “brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue”. And what a good thing too. Without Parker’s sharp tongue we’d never have had her “delicious” barbs. She was, after all, the woman who quipped that the actress Katharine Hepburn “ran the gamut of human emotions all the way from A to B”.

Inside politics

When Imran Khan was ousted as Pakistan’s PM on Sunday it continued an inglorious tradition, says Al Jazeera: “No prime minister has completed a full five-year tenure in Pakistan’s 75-year history.” Over that period there have been 18 elected leaders and 11 caretakers. The longest tenure is four years and two months; the shortest just 13 days.

Gone viral

Earlier this month Reddit users banded together to create a “massive, collaborative piece of artwork”, says The Washington Post. In a repeat of an experiment in 2017, the message board r/Place temporarily became an “open canvas” on which each user could post a single, tiny, coloured pixel every five minutes. To create anything substantial, the six million users taking part had to work together: the r/starwars group, for example, created a giant movie poster. And because of the five-minute limit, the canvas was “constantly regenerating” for the four days it was live. Watch a full timelapse here.

On the way back

Firing squads. Several American states are reviving the technique as a foolproof, relatively humane way of executing prisoners on death row. Deaths by “lethal injection” are often botched and can be agonisingly painful, says The Guardian. It’s also hard to get hold of the fatal drugs needed from unwilling pharmaceutical companies. Another benefit of firing squads is that they emphasise the grim reality of capital punishment. As one American judge wrote in 2014: “If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all.”

On the money

MacKenzie Scott is “arguably the most consequential philanthropist in the world”, says The New York Times. In 2019, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos promised to give away her entire $35bn fortune. Since then, she has donated a whopping $12bn to various causes. That’s more money than Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has donated in his lifetime.

Eating in

The Pinkglow pineapple is an Instagram-famous fruit, says The Wall Street Journal. On the outside, the spiky snack looks like a normal pineapple, but on the inside it’s a vibrant shade of pink. Pinkglows can sell for $50 a pop, but some grocers charge a bargain $15. When Aura Kavadlo, a jeweler from Missouri, first bought one, she invited her son to dinner specifically to try it. The verdict? “It tasted like a pineapple.”


It’s an electric pleasure boat named Arc One, says Bloomberg. The pre-production model, which is priced at $300,000 and ships to customers in the summer, runs on a big battery three times the size of a Tesla’s. It can do up to five hours of cruising on a single charge. Keeping the power source cool isn’t a problem – it’s “perpetually surrounded” by water.


quoted 12.4.22

“War is 90% information.”