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26-27 March

Behind the headlines

Is Ukraine winning the war?

The evidence that Ukraine is winning this war is “abundant”, says Eliot Cohen in The Atlantic. The failure of Russia’s airborne assaults, its inability to destroy the Ukrainian air force and air-defence system, and the “weeks-long paralysis” of its 40-mile supply column north of Kyiv paint a clear picture. Russian losses are staggering – between 7,000 and 14,000 soldiers dead, which implies around 30,000 “taken off the battlefield by wounds, capture or disappearance”. That’s something like 15% of the entire invading force, “enough to render most units combat ineffective”.


Cobalt is the new oil

Whoever controls cobalt – a key component in electric vehicle batteries, mobile phones and much else besides – will be a “leader in the new global economy”, says Dionne Searcey in The Daily. And the place to go for cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo. The central African country has two thirds of the world’s supply, with more in its tailing piles – the mountains of waste material from mines – “than most countries have in their entire land mass”. Which is why it is at the centre of a battle for influence between the world’s two superpowers: the US and China.


quoted wilde 26.3.22

“Hear no evil, speak no evil, and you won’t be invited to cocktail parties.”

Oscar Wilde

Long reads shortened

Moscow’s failed attempt to westernise

It seems unimaginable now, says Allan Little on the BBC website, but not long ago Russia was seeking to westernise. After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, President Boris Yeltsin tried to turn the country’s “sclerotic, state-owned command economy into a free-market system”. But the rush to do so resulted instead in “gangster capitalism” – a small elite becoming “fabulously rich” by plundering the assets of the major industries. When the wheels finally came off this “disastrous” experiment in 1998, “the economy collapsed, the rouble lost two-thirds of its value in a month and inflation hit 80%”.


quoted 27.3.22

“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”

Canadian writer Robin Sharma

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From tour buses to toy trains

Model railways don’t exactly scream rock’n’roll, says Dave Simpson in The Guardian. But the list of toy train-obsessed crooners is surprisingly lengthy. Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Ringo Starr all have “private passions for tiny engines”. Elton John is thought to have a track running through his garden, Neil Young had to build a huge barn to house his 750ft line, and Frank Sinatra was said to own $1m worth of model trains and replicas of his native Hoboken, New Jersey.


Shoji Morimoto, 38, has built a cult following in Japan by offering himself to paying customers as a “warm body”, says The Independent. Morimoto, nicknamed “Rental-san”, is part of a cottage industry in Japan and South Korea of “renting strangers to impersonate friends, family members or other acquaintances”, as a way of saving face at social functions where plus-ones are expected. Rental-san has waited at the finish line of a marathon to cheer on a client, sat with someone while they finished their thesis and been hired for a dramatic farewell as someone boarded a bullet train to move from Tokyo to Osaka. His services cost about £64 an hour.

Quirk of history

The clocks went forward an hour for British Summer Time last night – and for that, says The Daily Telegraph, you can thank the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay singer Chris Martin. In 1907, William Willett published a pamphlet called The Waste of Daylight, in which he proposed a (rather confusing) system in which the clocks would be incrementally changed by 20 minutes on each of the four Sundays in April, and then gradually changed back over September. In 1916, a year after Willett’s death, the British government adopted British Summer Time – albeit with the rather simpler system we have today.


The hideaway

Tucked away in the green Mallorcan mountains, the seven-bedroom Pedrissa has high ceilings and open living areas, as well as large windows to make the most of the sweeping sea views. There’s an infinity pool in the garden and numerous terraces for al fresco dining – though local restaurants in the village of Deià are only a 15-minute walk away. Palma airport is a 45-minute drive. €9.5m.

The country house

Set in rolling Lake District countryside, The Cragg is tucked away down a lane in Troutbeck village, just five minutes’ drive north of Windermere. The three-bedroom house benefits from dual aspect rooms, high ceilings, a garage and private gardens. £995,000.