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20 May

In the headlines

Rishi Sunak has become the first “frontline politician” to join The Sunday Times Rich List, days after he warned the nation of a “tough” few months of spiralling prices. The Chancellor and his wife, Akshata Murty, appear 222nd on this year’s line-up with a combined fortune of £730m, mainly from Murty’s stake in her dad’s IT company Infosys. Boris Johnson has escaped any additional fines for Partygate, says Politico, and Sue Gray’s report on the scandal – expected next week – is unlikely to land a killer blow either. Once again, says one Tory rebel, the PM has been a “lucky f***er”. A couple from Gloucestershire have netted £184m in the EuroMillions lottery, says The Sun, the biggest ever British win. “It’ll almost cover next month’s gas bill.”



Invading armies rarely win

The explanation for Russia’s military woes in Ukraine is simple, says Gideon Rachman in the FT. “In modern times, when major powers invade smaller countries they usually end up losing.” America failed in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and also “beat humiliating retreats” after it intervened in Somalia and Lebanon. The Soviet Union failed in Afghanistan; Russia is now failing in Ukraine. China, which has wisely steered clear of war since it “got a bloody nose” in Vietnam in 1979, now seems to be “yearning” for a quick, glorious invasion of Taiwan. Russia’s recent experiences suggest it would be anything but.


Does Turkey belong in Nato?

Nato members are unanimous about welcoming Finland and Sweden into the security organisation, say Joe Lieberman and Mark Wallace in The Wall Street Journal. With one exception: Turkey, which is trying to veto the plan. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the two Nordic nations harbour Kurdish terrorist groups. But that shaky claim is “political, parochial and irrelevant to the decision”. We should really be asking if Turkey, which joined Nato back in 1952, still makes the grade for membership.


Want to know when a word or phrase was first used in print? Merriam-Webster’s “Time Traveller” tool provides a selection of new additions to the lexicon for each year going back to 1500. For 2009, for example, you’ll find the likes of “cryptocurrency”, “gig economy” and “alt-right”. Ten years earlier it was “blog”, “carbon footprint” and “clickbait”. Delving back a little further, 1985 marked the first appearances of “boy band”, “latte” and “elephant in the room”. Have a look for yourself here.


It’s the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, which has just opened in the Czech Republic. The 2,365ft-long Sky Bridge 721 stretches across the Dolní Morava mountains, 311ft above the valley floor.


Madonna’s 21-year-old son Rocco Ritchie hosted his latest art show last week, says Blanca Schofield in The Times. The party was in a grubby Notting Hill tower block set for demolition, and the celebrity offspring had expertly splattered paint across the walls. There were canapes (Ritz crackers topped with anchovies for carnivores, and a “dry, sad-looking courgette” for vegans) and Ralph Lauren-clad waiters with champagne. As for the art, “on the whole I would say he can paint in the way an A-level student predicted an A grade can paint”. The only difference being that Ritchie’s pieces cost up to £40,000.

The great escape

Flights in Florida are being delayed by space rockets. Blasting off creates so much debris that air traffic controllers stop planes flying within several hundred miles. This means a single cosmic voyage can disrupt hundreds of journeys: when SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket in 2018, it impacted 563 flights, creating more than 70 hours of delays.

Eating in

The Korean word 손맛 – son-mat, literally “hand taste” – refers to the unique flavour each person making a recipe adds to it. It is most often used “to describe how no one can make food quite like your mum”, says QI on Twitter.

On the way back

“Leave the sweatshirt at home,” says The New York Times: restaurant dress codes are making a comeback. Swanky eateries in the US are increasingly demanding high sartorial standards from their guests. Les Trois Chevaux in New York sends diners a clothing “manifesto” ruling out blue jeans, shorts and trainers; guests at Olivetta in Los Angeles are warned that there is an “upscale fashionable dress code strongly enforced”. Restaurateurs say that after the “epoch of record-level dowdiness” during the pandemic, diners are embracing the excuse to don their finery.


quoted 20.5

“There is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible and wrong.”

American writer HL Mencken