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24 January

In the headlines

Nato is sending battleships and fighter jets to eastern Europe as tensions with Russia mount. President Biden is considering moving 5,000 US troops to the region – 50,000 if things deteriorate – though he has ruled out deploying them in Ukraine itself. Boris Johnson has ordered an inquiry into Tory MP Nusrat Ghani’s claim that she lost a ministerial job because she is a Muslim. Also of concern to the PM is the “extremely damning” evidence that Downing Street police have given to the lockdown party probe, says the Telegraph. “If Boris Johnson is still Prime Minister by the end of the week, I’d be very surprised,” says one source. A quarter of UFO sightings in the UK are made by people standing outside the pub, says the Star. They were clearly “close encounters of the blurred kind”.



Germany is playing into Putin’s hands

Germany’s stance on Russia is a “catastrophe”, says Mathieu von Rohr in Der Spiegel. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has threatened vague “consequences” should Vladimir Putin invade Ukraine, but he hasn’t confirmed that he’d shut down the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Opposition leader Friedrich Merz opposes banning Russian banks from the Swift global payments system. Ruling out these tough sanctions sends a clear message: “Russia can rely on Berlin’s inactivity.”

UK politics

The “crazy carousel” of Number 10

There is no more “precarious or unsatisfactory” job in the country than that of prime minister, says Anthony Seldon in The Times. The four PMs since Tony Blair have served an average of just three years and nine months. That’s simply “not long enough”. Looking back, all our “top tier” prime ministers were in power for at least five years – and so too almost all the “second tier” leaders. This is a real problem: our “crazy carousel” of revolving leaders denies us much-needed stability. Prime ministers can no longer abide by Churchill’s famous maxim: “Keep buggering on.”


Perhaps the most memorable Lunch with the FT, the paper’s long-established weekend interview, was with the poet Gavin Ewart in October 1995. The 79-year-old began the meal with several negronis, hardly an “amateur’s drink”, and carried on from there. The following day, the interviewer received a call from Mrs Ewart. “There are two things you need to know,” she said. “The first is that Gavin came home yesterday happier than I have seen him in a long time. The second – and you are not to feel bad about this – is that he died this morning.”

Gone viral

Forget Wordle – there’s a new addictive online game everyone’s playing. Wikitrivia randomly selects historical events from Wikipedia and presents them as cards for history buffs to lay out in chronological order. Get three wrong and you’re out. It’s “deceptively simple”, says Matthew Gault in Vice, but quickly “consumed my entire morning”. Have a go here.


It’s not an iceberg, but the peaks of the Cheam Range mountains in Canada. Simone Engels took the photo across the Strait of Georgia – the peaks, which are more than 110 miles away, appear to float on the horizon thanks to an optical illusion known as the “superior mirage”, says CBC. Warm air sitting on cooler air causes light to bend and reveal something usually hidden by the curvature of the earth.


A female macaque monkey at a nature reserve in Japan has violently overthrown the alpha male of her troop to become its first ever female leader, says The New York Times. To reach the top, nine-year-old Yakei (pictured) first beat up her own mother to become top female, then took down three senior males, before facing and defeating Nanchu, the troop’s 31-year-old patriarch. Yakei now reigns over 677 monkeys, though scientists fear she may be vulnerable to a usurper after finding herself in a “messy love triangle” during breeding season.

Quirk of history

Boris Johnson could learn a few things from George VI about taking personal responsibility during a crisis. When water was rationed during the Second World War, the king had all the baths marked with a line so that he never used more hot water than his subjects. “It was called leadership,” says Country Life.

Tomorrow’s world

An 88-year-old woman has become the first British patient to receive a bionic eye implant, says The Guardian. The anonymous grandmother from Dagenham, who suffered from partial blindness, had a microchip inserted behind her bad eye and was given hi-tech glasses with built-in video cameras. The specs capture the scene in front of her and relay the data to the chip, which then sends a signal into the brain. The result is just like natural vision.


quoted 24.1

“There are only two types of chancellors; those that fail and those who get out in time.”

Gordon Brown