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15 February

In the headlines

Russia says it is pulling back some of its troops from the Ukraine border, in a possible de-escalation of tensions. “We’ll believe it when we see it,” says Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Boris Johnson told Joe Biden on a call last night that the UK would do everything it could to help ease the crisis, to which the president apparently replied: “We’re not going anywhere without you pal.” Novak Djokovic says he still hasn’t had a Covid vaccine and will refuse to play at Wimbledon or the French Open if they require him to have the jab. “Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” the 34-year-old tennis ace told the BBC. The Metropolitan Police chief who wrote the force’s drugs strategy is facing the sack after being accused of taking drugs. Commander Julian Bennett allegedly took cannabis, LSD and magic mushrooms while on holiday in France.

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A critical moment in our history

At the heart of the Ukraine crisis lies a “fundamental question” about the nature of humanity, says Yuval Noah Harari in The Economist. Mankind’s “greatest political and moral achievement” over recent generations has been the decline of war. Human violence has killed fewer people than car accidents or obesity this century, and not a single country has been wiped off the map by a foreign conqueror since 1945. Yet cynics maintain we’re still ruled by the age-old “law of the jungle” and that the “only thing preventing one country from wolfing down another is military force”.

Gen Z

Where are Gen Z’s rebels?

One of the many troubling trends exposed by the pandemic is the “curious lack of rebelliousness among young people”, says Allison Schrager in Bloomberg. School and university used to be all about testing boundaries and breaking rules. Yet when American classrooms reopened after lockdown with “fairly draconian Covid restrictions”, students meekly accepted the new rules rather than pushing back. And that was just the latest example of Gen Z – those aged between 10 and 25 – being less rebellious than previous generations. Compared to teens 40 years ago, they’re less likely to drink, have sex or get a driving licence.

Tomorrow’s world

Japanese freight companies have successfully tested the world’s first fully autonomous container ship, says Quartz. Mikage, a 313ft-long vessel owned by Mitsui Lines, travelled 161 nautical miles between two Japanese ports without a crew. The modern-day ghost ship used radar and other instruments to navigate, and drones to drop mooring ropes down to dock workers.


One of the surprise stars of the Beijing Winter Olympics has been the mascot, says Sha Hua in The Wall Street Journal. Bing Dwen Dwen, “a glassy-eyed, ever-smiling panda”, has won over athletes, coaches and journalists. That was, at least, until last week, when it did a live interview. “To the nation’s dismay,” the cute little panda’s voice was that of “a middle-aged man, sounding a lot like an earnest uncle” – with a regional accent from China’s “barren rust belt region bordering the Russian Far East”.


On the way out

Koalas are now an endangered species on the east coast of Australia. The once-thriving marsupials have suffered from land clearing, bush fires, drought and disease, says the BBC. The Black Summer bushfires of 2019 and 2020 are thought to have killed 5,000 in New South Wales alone, and there may now be as few as 50,000 left in the wild.



It’s hundreds of yellow-headed blackbirds mysteriously falling from the sky in the Mexican city of Cuauhtémoc. Local reports said the birds may have flown into a cloud of toxic fumes or been electrocuted by power lines. But British ecologist Richard Broughton tells The Guardian he is “99% sure” the avian deluge was caused by a larger, predatory bird chasing the blackbirds down to the ground.


Inside politics

When reporters from the Corbynista blog Skwawkbox saw New Labour banners going up in Westminster, they quickly published an angry piece entitled “Starmer removes any doubt he’s a Tony Blair tribute act”. A while later they published a rather sheepish correction. “It seems this is a set for a new series of The Crown,” it read, doggedly adding: “Starmer is of course still a Blair tribute act.”


China’s video platforms have re-released Friends for the first time in years, says Vice – with a few alterations from the censors. LGBTQ storylines, such as Ross’s ex-wife being a lesbian, have been “removed entirely”, and suggestive lines have been sneakily sanitised in the subtitles. When Joey talks about going to “strip joints”, for example, the subtitle now reads “go out to play”. When Ross says women can have “multiple orgasms”, the translation reads “women have endless gossip”.


quoted 15.2

“Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternising with the enemy.”

Henry Kissinger