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23 February

In the headlines

“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion,” said Joe Biden last night, countering Moscow’s narrative that the troops and tanks it has sent into Ukraine are merely “peacekeepers”. In London, oligarchs have begun “intense lobbying” of the Foreign Office to avoid being hit with personal sanctions, says The Daily Telegraph. Boris Johnson has so far frozen the UK assets of three billionaire Kremlin acolytes, and officials say they have drawn up a much longer list of Putin allies for the next round of sanctions. To make the Russian president listen, says Metro, “we’ll grab him by the roubles”. A “make friends with sharks” diving trip off the Bahamas ended in tears yesterday, after one of the guests was bitten on the arm by a shark.


US democrats

Divided Democrats in turmoil

Last week saw the start of “a cultural rebellion within the Democratic Party”, says Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. In a special “recall” election, three members of San Francisco’s school board were unceremoniously ousted in “landslide” votes. Their crime, in one of the most liberal cities in one of America’s most liberal states? Being too woke. Instead of rushing to reopen classrooms after lockdown, they were busy looking into whether they should rename schools named after previously respectable figures like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Not only that, they then tried to force an academically elite public high school to admit students based on a lottery rather than testing or grades. Parents “exploded”, San Francisco “rose up” – and the progressive officials were booted out.

Global security

Europe’s security depends on Germany

America and Germany are both at a crossroads, says Elbridge Colby in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. America’s military can’t compete with China and Russia at the same time; it has to prioritise curbing Beijing’s “hegemonic ambitions” in Asia. But this shift “will inevitably create a void in Europe, which has relied on the US for its security for decades”. Europeans, then, will have to take responsibility for policing their own neighbourhood. And Germany is the “hinge” on which this future relies. “It is by far the largest economy and the most influential state on the continent” – and the only one that could feasibly develop enough military force to make up for the loss of American muscle.

Inside politics

The agonising over whether Russia’s actions constitute an invasion brings to mind an incident with former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon. On the morning after the bombing began in Baghdad in 2003, Hoon was about to be interviewed live on TV when he “frantically” turned to an aide and asked: “Are we at war?” The aide calmly replied: “Geoff, we’re in the initial stages.” “Yes,” said Hoon, “but are we at war?!” The aide repeated: “We’re in the initial stages.” This was the Defence Secretary, for crying out loud, says Marina Hyde in The Guardian. “Nobody knows anything, do they?”

Gone viral

Kim Kardashian recently showed Vogue some art that her eight-year-old daughter North produced when she had Covid, says Olivia Truffaut-Wong in The Cut. The piece – a charcoal drawing of a “floating head with dead, empty eyes, space buns, and a long, serpent-like tongue” – has done the rounds on social media for being, well, absolutely terrifying. But I don’t know. “To me this looks exactly how I imagine Covid feels.”

Staying young

Canadian doctors have a new prescription for patients needing to improve their health: free annual passes to national parks. The organisation responsible, PaRx, says spending time in nature can increase energy levels, improve heart health and mood, and reduce stress, pain, and anxiety. “There’s almost no medical condition,” director Melissa Lem tells The Washington Post, “that nature doesn’t make better.”


It’s a reef ball – a concrete dome that has been mixed with human ashes and plonked into the ocean. The balls, which can weigh as much as 1,800kg, have a rough surface that encourages plant growth. “My first impression was that they’re really ugly,” Janet Hock, a 77-year-old avid scuba diver, tells The Guardian. “Then I thought: ‘Oh, it would be so nice to be down there, with little orange fish darting through the holes in my ball.’”


Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, unsure of his piano skills, kept his keyboard switched off when he first started playing the instrument with the band. Months of rehearsals passed like this, he tells NPR’s Fresh Air podcast. The only comment that singer Thom Yorke made was: “I can’t quite hear what you’re doing, but I think you’re adding a really interesting texture.”


TikTokers have remarkably short attention spans. Internal data leaked to Wired showed that nearly half of users surveyed by the tech company said they found videos longer than a minute stressful – and that a third watched clips of any length at double speed.


Quoted 23.2

“When you are down and out, something always turns up – and it is usually the noses of your friends.”

Orson Welles