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3 May

In the headlines

America’s Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 legal ruling that guarantees abortion rights in every state. The decision – a draft of which was leaked, and which could change before its publication – would be a legal “earthquake”, says The New York Times. About half of US states are expected to ban or severely restrict abortion rights if the ruling is confirmed. Boris Johnson will today become the first world leader to address Ukraine’s parliament since the Russian invasion. Speaking via video link, the PM will echo Churchill by hailing “Ukraine’s finest hour” – and pledge £300m more in military aid. Britain will hit 24C later this week, hotter than Crete, Ibiza and Saint-Tropez, says the Daily Star. “We’re Med for it.”

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The ancestral secret of Britain’s success

One of the forgotten secrets of Britain’s rise to power, says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times, is that our ancestors banned marriages between cousins. This Christian edict, which by the 11th century had extended to sixth cousins, “forced people to marry across tribal lines”, dissolving sectarian divisions and paving the way for a national identity. It’s that sense of solidarity that makes people willing to “fight and die for a nation”. Look at Afghanistan, where loyalties are to tribes rather than the country as a whole. When the Americans withdrew last year, the national army “melted away within minutes”. It’s the same story in war-torn Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.


Cool down the rhetoric, Mr Biden

America’s rhetoric on Russia has escalated recently, says Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. Last month Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin a war criminal; in March he called for “regime change”, a comment his aides then had to walk back. Last week, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree it can’t do the kinds of things it’s done in Ukraine.” This is dangerous talk. People seem to be downplaying “the real possibility of nuclear-weapon use by Russia in Ukraine”. That’s not to say it would use a huge “strategic” missile; rather, it could deploy a smaller, “tactical” nuclear weapon on the battlefield.

Quirk of history

In 1631, a thousand copies of the Bible were printed with a rather unfortunate typo: the seventh commandment reads “thou shalt commit adultery”, missing out the “not”. Most copies of the “Wicked Bible”, as it became known, were destroyed, and only about 20 remain in circulation today, says The Guardian. One has recently been unveiled by the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a digitised version will be put online in the coming months.

Inside politics

Of the 55 British prime ministers going back to 1721, 25 lost either one or both of their parents as a child, say Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson in The Times. Tony Blair – whose father had a crippling stroke when Blair was ten, and whose mother died when he was at university – says that most successful people have had a painful “spur” early in life that makes them “break into a gallop” and sharpen their ambition. Boris Johnson’s mother, Charlotte Wahl, was convinced that her son’s “desire to be world king” came from the trauma of her eight-month spell in a psychiatric hospital when he was 10.


A legal amendment buried in Canada’s 2022 federal budget extends the country’s criminal jurisdiction to space. Which presumably means, says the National Post, that until the budget is passed, Canadian astronauts can “murder and rob all they want, provided that they do it while in orbit”.


Romance author Colleen Hoover has a whopping five books in the top 10 of Waterstones’ fiction paperback charts, says The Sunday Times. The former social worker’s success is all down to TikTok: readers upload footage of themselves reading Hoover’s novels and crying at their endings. Her 2016 book It Ends With Us went viral last year – helped by an endorsement by Kylie Jenner – and sold nearly 770,000 copies.


Last night’s Met Gala – a VIP-filled, $35,000-a-ticket party in New York dubbed the “fashion Oscars” – was themed on “Gilded Glamour”. Cara Delevingne took it literally, wearing little more than gold body paint on her torso. Actor Riz Ahmed, poking fun at the theme’s opulence at a time of economic hardship, came as a “chic labourer”, says BBC News. Kim Kardashian donned the dress that Marilyn Monroe famously wore when she sung John F Kennedy happy birthday in 1962 – but changed into a new outfit “in minutes”, says Vogue, not even daring to sit down in it.


quoted 3.5.22

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”

Thomas Jefferson