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22 March

In the headlines

Joe Biden says Vladimir Putin’s false claims that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons is a “clear sign” the Russian leader is considering deploying them himself. The Russian army has already used hypersonic missiles, which can cover a mile a second, to penetrate Ukraine’s air defences. The “jihadi fanatic” who killed Tory MP David Amess spent years plotting to murder politicians, says The Sun. Ali Harbi Ali made six visits to the home of cabinet minister Michael Gove and considered attacking him when he was out jogging. Pubs and bars can extend their closing times from 11pm to 1am for three days over the Queen’s platinum jubilee in June, says the Daily Mail. “Cheers, your majesty!”


Western hypocrisy

Double standards over Ukraine

Any “civilised person” is of course disgusted, as I am, by Vladimir Putin’s “lawless and barbaric invasion of Ukraine”, says Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday. But that doesn’t mean we should stop thinking and “cease to recognise any faults in ourselves” – in particular, our hypocrisy. Former PM Gordon Brown has called, “without embarrassment”, for a war crimes tribunal against Vladimir Putin. Brown, of course, was Chancellor when his government took part in the “brutal and lawless invasion” of Iraq.


Whitehall’s “sod-the-public” mantra

It turns out DVLA stands for “Doing Very Little, Actually”, says Clare Foges in The Times. An investigation last week found that the reason people are having to wait up to 12 months to get a new driving licence is because much of the DVLA’s workforce has been dossing about for the past two years. More than half the staff, some 3,400 people, were on so-called “special leave” during the first lockdown – no work on full pay. Even as recently as January, there were still more staff working from home than on site.

On the money

The price of nickel soared by 250% in just “24 chaotic hours” a fortnight ago, says The Atlantic, because sanctions-hit Russia accounts for more than a fifth of global supply. So shrewd Americans have begun stockpiling the five-cent coin – the nickel – which is 75% copper and 25% nickel. Though melting coins down is illegal, amateur investors have been buying up boxes of nickels. Others have been doing it for years: hedge fund manager Kyle Bass is said to own $1m worth that he stores in a vault in Texas.


A cheerleader from Indiana University saved the day in a college basketball game after the ball got stuck behind the net. The tallest players on the court had tried to get it down with a mop, to no avail. So the cheerleading team sprung into action, hoisting Cassidy Cerny into the air and carrying her over to the stricken ball – which she immediately retrieved, to rapturous applause from the crowd.

On the way back

Beavers have been reintroduced to London for the first time in more than 400 years. The dam-building rodents were hunted to extinction in Britain in the 16th century. Now, a pair of two-year-old female and male beavers – nicknamed Sigourney Beaver and Justin Beaver – have been moved to a farm in Enfield in the hope they’ll restore river habitats and reduce flood risks.


Vladimir Putin is thought to be the owner of the £500m, 460ft Scheherazade, according to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Associates of the imprisoned opposition leader have urged Italian authorities to confiscate the vessel – currently docked on the Tuscan coast – which has two helipads, a spa, and a swimming pool with a retractable cover that converts into a dancefloor. But the yacht-seizers may have their work cut out: the Scheherazade has a security system capable of shooting down drones, and is said to be staffed by Russian secret service officers.

Quirk of history

Cancelling Russian artists simply because they are Russian is pure virtue-signalling, says Jan Dalley in the FT. It reminds me of an urban myth from the First World War: that London society ladies would “stroll in the park each day and throw stones at dachshunds”. With that German name, and because the dogs were the preferred pets of the Kaiser, they were a perfect target – “and so conveniently positioned, almost at ground level”.


“Innovation is a lot harder than it looks,” says Vox. Just look at this 1882 design for a mouse trap, which would shoot mice with a pistol if they stepped on a contraption attached to the trigger. Amazingly, the model was patented. One advantage was that the machine told you – “through the sound of a gunshot” – when it needed to be reset.


quote 22.3

“To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous.”