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9 March

In the headlines

Arctic winds could cut temperatures in Ukraine to -20C, says The Times, imperilling refugees and turning Russian trucks and tanks into “40-tonne iron freezers”. Fuel shortages mean soldiers cannot run their engines to keep warm. The US and UK have joined forces to ban Russian oil imports, and McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Starbucks have suspended operations in Russia. With the country already cut off from Pornhub and Facebook, remarks one Twitter user, Russians will soon be “among the healthiest… best-informed people on the planet”. Marine archaeologists have found Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship, Endurance, 107 years after it sank to the bottom of the freezing Weddell Sea. Because wood-eating microbes can’t survive the icy waters, the wreck is perfectly preserved (see below).

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The corruption hobbling Russia’s advance

The Russian army’s unexpectedly poor performance in the first days of the invasion isn’t just down to Ukrainians fighting the good fight, says Polina Beliakova in Politico. It’s also due to “systemic corruption”. Take rations. Some Russian soldiers have reportedly been given food that went off in 2015; their tiny portions of bacteria-ridden chow are said to be worse than the slop served in prisons. Most of the companies responsible for these supplies are connected to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Putin who has been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of military contracts.


Putin is healing the wounds of Brexit

Vladimir Putin was probably pretty pleased with Brexit, says Alexander Mühlauer in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. It contributed to one of his biggest long-term aims – the division of Europe. “But now Putin, of all people, is ensuring that London is getting closer to Brussels again.” His war of aggression against Ukraine has reminded Britain how closely its security is linked with that of the EU. Since the invasion began, Britain and Europe have been exchanging secret intelligence nonstop, and their economic sanctions are “closely coordinated with each other”. The Brexit illusion of “Global Britain” – a plan to turn away from the continent and focus on the Indo-Pacific – has been replaced by geographic realities.

On the way out

About £8.7bn worth of unusable PPE that was stockpiled during the pandemic. The government is planning to start chipping away at the 5.5 billion pieces of useless equipment by burning more than 500 lorryloads of it a month to generate electricity.


An Italian art collector has won a court victory over the sculptor Jeff Koons, says Corriere della Sera. The anonymous art lover bought the statue at a lost property auction in Milan in 1991 for the equivalent of a few hundred pounds, and claimed it was a Koons. The sculptor denied it, then changed his story to argue it was a “defective prototype”, but this week a court ruled it is real. The 34in-long porcelain creation depicts two snakes wearing green bow ties – and is not to everyone’s taste. When the collector’s wife first saw it, she told him: “It’s them or me.”

On the money

People have found a novel way to get money to Ukraine, says NPR: booking immediate Airbnb stays in the country that they have no intention of using. The property rental platform has temporarily waived all host and guest fees in the country; last Wednesday and Thursday alone, more than 61,000 nights were booked for a total of nearly $2m.


The Ministry of Defence has scrapped plans to replace the bearskin hats of Buckingham Palace guards with hats made from fake fur. None of the four varieties of synthetic fur it tested could “meet the required standard” of comfort and appearance, it says. “Fur for the guardsmen’s hats is currently procured from Canada,” says The Independent, “where around 20,000 wild black bears are killed every year as part of a regular cull.”


The most common Google search term in relation to dreams is “snake” – it is top in 52 countries. Second on the list is “teeth falling out”, which is the most Googled in Britain and 16 other countries. Others include “hat” (Greece), “falling into water” (South Korea), and “stairs” (Benin).


It’s an embroidery made by the Queen when she was five. Princess Elizabeth made the 4in by 6in piece in 1932 as a thank you card for the royal physician Sir Frederick Still, who cared for her in her early years.


quoted 9.3

“A good upbringing means not that you won’t spill sauce on the tablecloth, but that you won’t notice it when someone else does.”

Anton Chekhov