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15 March

As Russia’s airstrikes on Kyiv intensify, the head of Russia’s National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, has admitted that “not everything is going as fast as we would like” in Ukraine. A senior US official says “almost all” of Russia’s advances have stalled. “The UK ❤️ Ukraine,” says the Daily Mirror, after almost 89,000 people signed up to take Ukrainian refugees into their homes. The flood of applications temporarily crashed the new Homes for Ukraine website. An editor at Russia’s state-owned TV station Channel One interrupted a live broadcast yesterday evening holding up an anti-war sign reading: “Don’t believe the propaganda, they’re lying to you here.” Marina Ovsyannikova, who is now in police custody, said in a pre-recorded message that “10 generations of our descendants won’t be able to wash away the shame of this fratricidal war”.



Russia’s African friends

In 2019 Vladimir Putin welcomed 43 African leaders to the first “Russia-Africa summit”, says The Economist, “a higher turnout than Britain or France attracted to similar shindigs”. The Russian president used the occasion to lambast the West for chiding African leaders about human rights, adding: “We have a lot to offer to our African friends.” The UN vote on 2 March to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suggests the feeling may be mutual. Of the 54 African countries, 17 abstained and eight were no-shows. Eritrea, “a gulag state”, joined Russia, Belarus and North Korea in voting against.


Time to bin the Baftas

I think it’s time for the BBC to “finally axe the snobfest that is the Baftas”, says Dan Wootton in Mail Online. Maybe it’s the pandemic, or the war in Ukraine, but at this year’s event the normal “orgy of self-congratulation” by “out of touch luvvies” was more vulgar than ever. There was actor Benedict Cumberbatch, wearing a blue and yellow badge and earnestly saying how he hopes to take Ukrainian refugees into his home (“hope being the operative word there”). Or host Rebel Wilson, who opened the show with the clanger: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen and gender fluid youth.” And Emma Watson – “one of the woke Harry Potter stars to so shamefully shun JK Rowling, the woman who made them famous” – incomprehensibly blathering on about actors being “brave enough to explore the past because they’re eager to face the future”.


As we enter the third year of the pandemic, a new phrase has entered the lexicon, says Kari Paul in The Guardian: going “goblin mode”. It essentially means embracing “the comforts of depravity”: spending the day in bed watching trashy TV and stuffing crisps into your mouth; leaving the house in your pyjamas to buy a single Diet Coke from the local store. Goblin mode is a direct departure from the “cottagecore” trend during lockdowns – all that wholesome, Instagram-ready baking and embroidery. “It’s about a complete lack of aesthetic,” says Dave McNamee, whose viral tweet about goblin mode helped kick off the trend. “Because why would a goblin care what they look like?”

Gone viral

Because the earth is a sphere, map makers have to stretch certain countries in order to have the world’s territories in roughly the right place on a flat map. That means Greenland, say, or Russia, are actually far smaller than they appear. Education website The True Size Of… lets budding geographers drag and drop any country to compare its real size to any other. Try for yourself here. ️


It’s the Chicago River, which has been dyed green in preparation for Thursday’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations. The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union has been using a secret formula to stain the river every year since 1962, perhaps no surprise in a city where 7.5% of the population – some 204,000 Chicagoans – claim Irish ancestry. Though the dye only lasts a day or two in the river itself, it’s still a messy business, says Time Out. “The folks who dye the river are usually washing dye out of their hair for a couple of weeks.”

Inside politics

Vladimir Putin has always loved playing “childish power games with visiting presidents and prime ministers”, says Fintan O’Toole in The New York Review of Books. During a 2007 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his palace in Sochi, the Russian president summoned in his big black labrador Konni. Why? Because Merkel was notoriously scared of dogs, having been bitten as a child. She was “visibly scared” – as Putin sat back and enjoyed the moment.

On the way out

Lower second degrees, or 2:2s, which are in danger of extinction because of grade inflation. Just 14% of degrees awarded last year were 2:2s, down from 29% in 2011, says The Times. Over the same period the proportion of firsts more than doubled from 15% to 36%, and the share of thirds more than halved, from 7% to 3%.


Elon Musk has offered to settle the conflict in Ukraine the old-fashioned way. “I hereby challenge Vladimir Putin to single combat,” tweeted the Tesla founder. “Stakes are Ukraine.” Twitter users weren’t convinced. Putin is “former KGB”, replied one. “He could probs take you tbh.”


quoted 15.3.22

“What is happiness? It depends on two assets, which fortunately I have. They are good health and a short memory.”

Ingrid Bergman