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19 April

In the headlines

Britain is providing Ukraine with hi-tech Stormer missile launchers “to unleash hell on Mad Vlad Putin’s army”, says The Sun. The weapons can “blitz jets and helicopters”, and experts say they’re “the best kit” sent by any Western power so far. A smartphone in Downing Street – possibly even the Prime Minister’s – was hacked by agents of the United Arab Emirates in 2020, says the New Yorker. Security wonks tell the Daily Mail that foreign spooks used Pegasus spying software that turns phones into listening devices, allowing for “24-hour snooping”. A Nasa plan to broadcast the Earth’s location into outer space is being opposed by cautious boffins at Oxford. They warn that if extra-terrestrials found us, it could prove disastrous, says the Daily Star. “This really isn’t a good time for an alien invasion.”

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Johnson’s Rwanda plan is canny politics

Boris Johnson’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is “canny on several fronts”, says Clare Foges in The Times. Not only is it a distraction from the PM’s Partygate fine, it has “roused the Tories’ usual culture war enemies to rage”. Jeremy Corbyn calls it “beyond cruel”, Caroline Lucas “vicious and grotesque”, Nicola Sturgeon “despicable”. The Archbishop of Canterbury also weighed in, calling the scheme “ungodly”. But what the critics “curiously” ignore is that those attempting to cross the Channel could choose to stay in France. They may be fleeing a country of “haughty Parisians and terrible pop music”, but it’s hardly a war zone. And the critics’ tacit acceptance of the status quo means we’re subcontracting our asylum policy to people smugglers.


The future of British Christianity

The voice of Christianity in England has been reduced to a “hoarse whisper”, says Tomiwa Owolade in UnHerd. Except in London, where “it is closer to a deafening roar”. Consider GQ’s latest cover star, Ealing-born footballer Bukayo Saka. When the magazine asked the 20-year-old to list his “ten most essential items”, alongside the usual iPad and PlayStation he included a Bible given to him by his father. “Religion is a big part of my life,” Saka says in the video. “Obviously I’m a strong believer in God.” For Saka, like so many black Africans living in England, “Christianity is everything”.


The winners of this year’s German Society for Nature Photography awards include a male kestrel perched among blossom in Greifswald, northern Germany; ring-necked parakeets over Düsseldorf; a green toad tadpole in a muddy puddle; and a hippo at sunrise in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.


The Russian army has been looting laptops, clothes and even fridges from the Ukrainian homes it’s been occupying. But one soldier, who pilfered a pair of AirPods from a house near Kyiv, is now having his movements tracked by the unhappy owner, says the Daily Beast. Using Apple’s find my AirPods feature, Vitaliy Semenets has been able to track the redeployment of the thief from Kyiv to Belarus and now to Belgorod, a Russian city where Vladimir Putin is massing troops for an assault on Donbas.

Gone viral

Harsh lockdowns in Shanghai have created mass food shortages and pushed people on to the streets in rare protests against the Chinese government. Some canny residents have taken matters into their own hands, using drones to fish carp out of ponds.

Inside politics

All world leaders have a fallback option when they’re desperately in need of votes, says Guy Kelly in The Daily Telegraph. Joe Biden puts on a pair of aviator sunglasses; Donald Trump puts on a red hat; Boris Johnson “drives a digger through a wall, or something”. Emmanuel Macron is no different. With the president narrowly ahead of Marine Le Pen in the polls, the Élysée has released photos showing him reclining, “presumably post-rally (post-something, anyway)”, on a mustard leather sofa with “at least four more shirt buttons undone than is ever acceptable, unless actively undressing”.

On the money

If you want to become a young billionaire, the best way to do it seems to be to go to Stanford University and then drop out. This was the path taken by no fewer than four of the seven self-made billionaires under 30 on this year’s Forbes billionaires list.


A new X-ray of a Vincent van Gogh painting, Poplars near Nuenen, has revealed it to be painted over an earlier study of the cemetery where Van Gogh’s father was buried. Scholars are speculating that it could be due to the painter’s strained relationship with his dad – but more likely, biographer Martin Bailey tells The Times, is that the perpetually hard-up artist was just trying to save cash by reusing an old canvas.


quoted 19.4.22

“The only thing that makes life possible is not knowing what comes next.”

American author Ursula K Le Guin