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30 March

In the headlines

“Vladimir Putin has failed in his plan to capture Kyiv,” says The Daily Telegraph. The Russians have pledged to withdraw forces from the Ukrainian capital to, as they put it, “increase mutual trust” in ongoing peace talks. British officials say troops “have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganise and resupply” following heavy losses – though shelling in Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv is continuing. From Friday, people with Covid symptoms will be told to stay at home until they feel better rather than take a test, says The Times. Free tests for all will be scrapped unless any “dangerous new variants” come along. Donald Trump has hit a hole in one. “It is 100% true,” the former president announced in a statement. He said his shot “sailed magnificently into a rather strong wind”, before bouncing twice and going “clank, into the hole”.

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A scandal that shames the NHS

An investigation into “dreadful and unforgivable” goings on at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust between 2000 and 2019 has found that 300 newborn babies “died or were left brain damaged”, and 12 mothers died in labour, says Melanie Phillips in The Times. Mothers were denied caesarean sections “even when they pleaded for them”, and doctors used “excessive force” to deliver babies, leaving many with “fractured skulls and broken bones”. The reason for this shocking scandal? “An obsession with natural birth” – part of the wider movement that believes “everything natural or organic is good” and medical intervention is a “male, technological intrusion into a female rite of passage”.


The age of “global fragility”

The rise of globalisation has turned our world into a “giant, fragile train set”, says Simon Kuper in the FT. Over the past 30 years we have taken “almost every unused piece of track out of the box” – China, India, the former Soviet bloc – and “joined them all together”. This “new enlarged circuit” has turbocharged global trade. But it has also made us more vulnerable. When one bit of track malfunctions, it affects the whole world – “and that’s been happening ever more often”. Since 2001 we’ve had “four serious derailments”: 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic and now the Ukraine war. Previously, implosions in places like Russia and China wouldn’t affect the outside world: when Stalin and Mao killed millions of their own people, “hardly any foreigners even heard the screams”. Today, everything affects everyone.


Few lines in cinema are as famous as Gone with the Wind’s “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”, says Shaun Usher in the Lists of Note newsletter. “But it could have been so different.” Two months before the film’s release, American censors decided the word “damn” was offensive and asked for it to be removed. The decision was reversed a few weeks later, but in the interim the film’s producers scrabbled together a list of alternatives. Options included: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a whoop!”, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a straw”, and “Frankly, my dear, the whole thing is a stench in my nostrils”. See the full list here.


It is now official policy in some NHS trusts in England to ask men if they’re pregnant before X-rays and MRI scans. The precaution – to protect unborn babies from radiation – comes after the government replaced the world “female” in the law governing these medical procedures with “individuals” in 2017.

On the way out

Saturn’s rings are vanishing, says Marina Koren in The Atlantic. The “shimmering” hoops lose material every year because they’re being electrified by “micrometeorites” and the sun’s radiation. Still, scientists reckon it will be another 300 million years before the rings disappear entirely – we are, it turns out, seeing them in their prime. Lucky us.

On the way down

The size of a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar, which is being shrunk from 200g to 180g – but will still cost £2. It’s an example of “shrinkflation”, where companies hit by higher production costs reduce the size of their products but keep the prices the same. The sneaky ploy can backfire: in 2016, the makers of Toblerone caused uproar after quietly widening the gap between the distinctive triangular chunks.


It’s a ring with a “stone” made from breast milk. It turns out that when breast milk has been dehydrated, mixed with preservatives and resin, and shaped into a stone, it looks just like an opal. And unlike real gemstones, breast milk is straightforward to produce and affordable to buy. The only snag, says The Takeout, are the ridiculous company names. There’s Milkies (“bad”) and Mama’s Liquid Love (“worse”). The only good name is Precious Mammaries – “that one can stay”.

On the money

Alan Greenspan, former head of America’s Federal Reserve, has an unlikely gauge for whether the country is heading for a recession, says CNN: men’s underwear sales. His logic is that because few men care that much about their pants, sales are usually very stable. So on the few occasions when they dip, as they did ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, it means economic trouble is looming.


quoted 30.03.22

“He was gifted with the sly, sharp instinct for self-preservation that passes for wisdom among the rich.”

Evelyn Waugh in Scoop