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16 March

In the headlines

Volodymyr Zelensky says peace talks with Russia are starting to “sound more realistic”. The Ukrainian president has made the key concession that his country will not join Nato – the alliance’s refusal to rule out Ukrainian membership was one of Russia’s pretexts for invading. Boris Johnson is in the Middle East today asking the leaders of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia to ramp up oil production, in a bid to bring down global fuel prices. “Going cap in hand from dictator to dictator,” says Keir Starmer, “is not an energy strategy.” Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is on her way home from Iran after nearly six years in jail. It’s unclear why the 43-year-old British-Iranian has been freed now. She was arrested in 2016 on trumped-up charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

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Lehman Brothers

A cautionary tale on sanctions

To understand the dangers that go along with Western sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s Russia, says Patrick Jenkins in the Financial Times, it’s worth remembering the collapse of Lehman Brothers. When US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson decided to let Lehman go to the wall – while bailing out the rest of the Wall Street banks – he caused “the disorderly collapse of one of the most interconnected financial institutions in the world”. This made the 2008 crisis far worse and escalated the scale of interventions required by governments and central banks. Then, as now, the “moral imperative” to punish “perceived misdeeds” was nearly impossible to resist. But the ramifications of intervening in the ultra-complex and interconnected world of global finance were “dire”.


India won’t abandon Moscow

The UN has passed several major votes criticising Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And in each one, says Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan in The Atlantic, India has pointedly abstained. On the surface, this is a surprising stance. The world’s biggest democracy is a “growing ally” of the US, and has itself been suffering border incursions from “a more powerful and expansionist autocratic neighbour” – in its case, China. But while Indians are divided on most issues, there is a “rare consensus” on Ukraine: they’re not going to abandon Moscow. There have been no big pro-Ukraine protests. Newspaper columnists “compare the Russian invasion to the US war in Iraq”.

Gone viral

These lolloping doggos, on the way out to play at a doggy daycare, have racked up more than seven million views in the past six days. Watch the full video (with Wagner soundtrack) here.

Love etc

The star of Netflix’s bodice-ripping drama Bridgerton has revealed the secret to the show’s sex scenes: a deflated netball. The rule on set is that there must be three “barriers” separating actors during raunchy moments, actor Jonathan Bailey tells Radio Times. Little cushions are often used, but Bailey says the saggy sports equipment is best. “It’s amazing what you can do with a half-inflated netball.”

Inside politics

Emmanuel Macron has come in for an online ribbing after appearing to dress up as man of the moment, Volodymyr Zelensky, while making carefully stage-managed international phone calls. But honestly, says MSNBC’s Hayes Brown on Twitter, “I dig it. He’s giving Peak Handsome Dirtbag Parisian.”

Tomorrow’s world

British boffins want to build a massive solar power station in space, says The Times. The £16bn proposal would involve a satellite three miles long and weighing several thousand tonnes that would have to be assembled by robots in orbit. Solar panels would produce power that could be converted into high-frequency radio waves and beamed down to Earth.


The sky over Aguilas, in southeast Spain, turned a fiery shade of orange yesterday after a storm in north Africa blasted a cloud of Saharan dust across Europe. Spain’s weather agency warned of “extremely unfavourable” air quality, urging people with dodgy lungs not to exercise outside.


The Ministry of Defence has a new job opening: “Warhead Nuclear Threat Reduction Programme Manager”. The salary is £40,000, and the somewhat daunting responsibilities include “meeting the UK government’s need to reduce a range of threats”. The pay’s not great for preventing nuclear war, says political commentator Sam Freedman on Twitter, but at least you’ll always nail your performance reviews. “If you mess up no one will be around to notice.” The deadline is 28 March; apply here.


quoted 16.3.22

“Every country has its own mafia. Putin’s Russia is the first where the mafia has its own country.”

Garry Kasparov