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22 February

In the headlines

Putin has sent tanks and troops into two breakaway regions of Ukraine. In a rambling speech last night the Russian leader recognised Donetsk and Luhansk, which are contested by Moscow-backed separatists, as independent. The Western response is in “disarray”, says Politico – some say the harshest sanctions should be withheld unless Russian forces enter the rest of the country. Germany has already announced it will block the opening of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. Fully-jabbed Brits will be allowed into the EU without pre-departure Covid tests from 1 March, under plans set to be announced today. “Happy Twosday,” says the Daily Mail: the date today reads 22.02.2022.



How to punish Putin

The conventional wisdom is that the West can’t do much to stop Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine, says Kevin Williamson in National Review. It’s false. In reality, there’s plenty we could do to give the Russian strongman pause for thought. We could start by kicking all non-resident Russians out of the US – in particular the children of the Russian elite who are studying at our universities. “Give them two weeks to pack, and then expel them.” Boris Johnson could “stop allowing Russian oligarchs to use high-end London real estate as a covert bank” – something even the neutral-minded Swiss have managed.


Liberalism was doomed from the start

After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, it seemed like liberalism had won, says Paul Kingsnorth in his Substack newsletter. But 30 years on, Russia is mustering the biggest army since Soviet times, and the West is “boiling in a stew of hate speech laws, vaccine mandates and ever-accelerating censorship and intolerance”. The last global empire is led by a confused 79-year-old; the world’s biggest economy will soon be China, a communist dictatorship. So much for the end of history. But liberalism always contained, even at its high point in the 20th-century West, the seeds of its own failure. It unmoored people from “networks of loyalty, locality, family and culture”, and unleashed “the vast destabilising engine of capitalism”.

Quirk of history

The Windsors are by no means the first royal family to find themselves bailing out an “errant prince”, says Juliet Samuel in The Daily Telegraph. In 2015, a group of Qatari royals got kidnapped while falconing in a lawless region of Iraq. To secure their release, the Gulf state reportedly coughed up close to $1bn. At one point during the 18-month negotiation, Qatari officials “were forced to abandon $360m in cash in the VIP lounge of Baghdad airport”, because they didn’t want to go through customs checks.

Global update

Taiwan makes a lot of computer chips – so many, in fact, that they’re well-known enough to have featured in a drone display for the Taiwan Lantern Festival earlier this month. The display depicted here is an “etched silicon wafer”, says The Economist’s Hal Hodson on Twitter.


It’s a doghouse from Costa Rica that was struck by a meteorite in 2019. Thankfully, it narrowly missed the inhabitant, a German shepherd named Roky. The structure is being sold at Christie’s with an eye-watering estimate of up to $300,000. The meteorite itself is listed separately, for up to $60,000.


Young people are obsessed with horoscopes, says Buzzfeed. So much so, that the 23-year-old actor (and Gen Z heartthrob) Angus Cloud refuses to tell journalists his exact birthday, “because he doesn’t want to be judged based on his Zodiac sign”.


Harold Pinter was a theatrical perfectionist, says The Guardian. In 1985 he directed Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London. After one performance, he wrote a letter to the theatre’s manager, complaining: “The usher with ice cream in the dress circle remained standing until the house lights went down. He then marched up the steps and closed the doors, thereby causing reflection of light on to the stage. Can he leave his post earlier, do you think?”


Ed Sheeran has received planning permission to build a burial chamber on his 16-acre, £3.7m Suffolk estate. The tomb, which will sit below a chapel already under construction, will measure about 9ft by 6ft – enough to fit two bodies. “Just in time for his 31st birthday,” says Gawker.


Quoted 22.2

“History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided.”

Former West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer