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17 February

In the headlines

US intelligence officials claim that, far from withdrawing from the Ukraine border, Russia has bolstered its forces “by as many as 7,000 troops”. The Kremlin has mocked Washington’s false prediction that it would invade yesterday. A spokeswoman asked Western media for a “schedule of our upcoming invasions” so she could plan her holidays. A new “royal scandal” is turning 2022 into a “Plutonium Jubilee”, says Metro: Scotland Yard has launched a “cash for honours” investigation into one of Prince Charles’s charities. Michael Fawcett, former head of the Prince’s Foundation, is alleged to have promised a knighthood and British citizenship to a Saudi donor. A British man has died in Sydney’s first fatal shark attack in almost 60 years. Simon Nellist, 35, was set upon by a great white – an eyewitness said the resulting splash “looked like a car had landed in the water”.



Technology is the new God

Russia is famous for its “kompromat”, or compromising material, says Clare Foges in The Times. Many a powerful Kremlin figure has been brought down by “murky photos or grainy video”. But it’s becoming ubiquitous here, too. Boris Johnson at his lockdown parties; the footballer Kurt Zouma kicking his cat; the police officers swapping misogynistic and racist WhatsApp messages; Matt Hancock in his extramarital clinch. It’s not just public figures, either. Think about Mary Bale, the woman who received death threats after a video showing her putting a cat in a wheelie bin went viral. Or the binman who was sacked when a security camera caught him kicking the head off a child’s snowman.

US politics

A plague on both your houses

I have never felt so “alienated” by American politics in my life, says Matt Bai in The Washington Post. The Democrats and Republicans now represent “extreme interpretations” of what it means to be American – “and I emphatically reject them both”. The Republicans want to reclaim a “mythical white heritage” that never existed. They champion the toxic notion that being American isn’t simply about having citizenship – it depends on your race, your identity, and the language you speak. Left to its own devices, the party would destroy the liberal foundations of the republic.

On the money

Two months into the making of Toy Story 2, someone at Pixar accidentally deleted 90% of the movie, says tech website TNW – “hundreds of man hours of work”. The company’s backups failed, but one staffer, working from home after having a baby, had a copy on her home computer. So she shoved the machine containing $90m worth of work in the back of her Volvo – after wrapping it in a few blankets – and drove it to the office. The film took around half a billion dollars at the box office, and the staffer in question is now the producer for the new Buzz Lightyear movie.

Eating in

L’Enclume in Cumbria has become the first restaurant outside London or Berkshire to win three Michelin stars. Opened 20 years ago, the fancy eatery is the eighth three-star establishment in the UK. Its dishes include dry-aged turbot with smoked pike perch roe and gooseberry; roasted scallop with dried roe powder; Lisse de Meaux carrot and nasturtium; and Fritter of Duroc pig and smoked eel, lovage and fermented sweetcorn.


Ouka, a three-year-old Samoyed dog, and his owner Shams have taken to the skies above the French Alps on a paraglider, says the BBC. Shams adopted Ouka after he was abandoned “full of fleas” during lockdown. The two spent six weeks training and Shams designed a special harness to dangle the fearless hound between his legs. Watch the full video here.


It’s a rollercoaster-esque sculpture in Pohang, South Korea named “SpaceWalk”, says Colossal magazine. Designed by the Hamburg-based artists Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, the structure towers 70 metres above ground at its highest point. Instead of rollercoaster tracks, it has a stairway that allows pedestrians to walk along it – apart from the loop in the middle.

Global update

Pfizer’s pill for treating Covid, Paxlovid, has been approved for use in China. It’s the first time the country has green-lit foreign-made Covid medicine, says Tortoise. It also hints that Beijing may finally be moving away from its draconian, unsustainable zero-Covid policy, in favour of living with the virus.

Quirk of history

The word “deadline” comes from the American Civil War, where prisons for captured soldiers would have a literal dead line around them, sometimes indicated by a ditch or a mark in the dirt. If you crossed this boundary, you risked getting shot. “After the war,” says Mental Floss, “the term took on less serious implications.”


Quoted 17.2.22

“A bore is a man who, when you ask him how he is, tells you.”

Bert Leston Taylor, American journalist