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31 March

In the headlines

Vladimir Putin’s top aides are lying to him about how badly the invasion of Ukraine is going, according to GCHQ boss Jeremy Fleming. Britain’s top eavesdropper says the Russian president’s advisers are “afraid to tell him the truth”. Childbirth is not safe for women in England, says the leader of an investigation into failures at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. Senior midwife Donna Ockenden found that “systemic” problems led to the unnecessary deaths of 201 babies and nine mothers. An Indian man has hacked into an airline’s website to recover his lost luggage. Stonewalled by customer services, Nandan Kumar wormed his way into IndiGo’s system and found the contact details of the passenger who’d accidentally taken his bag.

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US politics

Why Trump’s star may be rising

Many liberals seem to think the Ukraine crisis will mark “the end of Donald Trump”, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. Their logic is that his “past flirtations with the Kremlin” will be electoral poison. But my suspicion is that the opposite is true. “Yes, Trump flattered foreign strongmen. But he also threatened them.” With North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, he “alternated between fatherly affection and impatience to nuke him off the planet”. Trump embodies the “madman theory” of international relations – if your enemies think you’re crazy, they’re less likely to do something that might make you lash out.


China’s stealthy move in the Pacific

Largely overlooked by the Ukraine-obsessed media, a new security deal between China and the Solomon Islands is a “disastrous development”, says Greg Sheridan in The Australian. It’s an unequivocal failure for Western diplomacy to let China expand its influence so deep into the Pacific, but it’s part of a pattern. President Xi Jinping promised Barack Obama he would not militarise the South China Sea – there are now “22 points of military presence” there. Even New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern has “for once got a strategic assessment right”, calling the new Chinese-Solomons deal “gravely concerning”.

Eating in

Residents of Granbury, Texas will soon be able to order a takeaway burger from an app and have it delivered to them by a drone within five minutes. The firm responsible, Flytrex, is already up and running in North Carolina: it delivered more than 12,000 items last year. A waiter clips your bag of food (up to 3kg) to the undercarriage of the drone, which can then be sent anywhere within a mile of the restaurant, hovering 80ft above your garden and winching your meal down to you.


The Queen never eats square sandwiches, according to former royal chef Graham Newbould. Tradition has it that anyone presenting the monarch with pointy-edged food “is trying to overthrow the throne of England”, he told the Channel 5 documentary Secrets of the Royals in 2018. For afternoon tea, he served up circular “jam penny” sandwiches instead.


The WildArt Photographer of the Year competition has announced the winners of its first monthly contest of 2022 – the WET Competition. Snappers were asked to send in their best photos of wildlife and water. Top entries included wildebeest splashing in a river, an arctic fox shaking itself dry, and a silky shark swimming under the sunset. See the list of winners here.


When Mick Jagger starred in the 2019 thriller The Burnt Orange Heresy, he needed some acting advice. “I was like: ‘Oh. Um. Yes. Acting. Let’s think now. How do we do this,’” the Rolling Stones singer tells The Guardian. Thankfully, Jack Nicholson once gave him a handy tip – when you build a character, always start at the same place: “His sex life.”


Hunter S Thompson’s daily routine sounds knackering, says LitHub. According to one of his biographers, the American journalist would wake up around 3pm, have a glass of whisky and a Dunhill cigarette with the morning papers, followed by cocaine at 3.45, more cocaine at 4.15, 4.30, 5.05 and 5.45, and then “grass to take the edge off” at 6pm. Lunch (at 7.05pm) was even more indulgent: “Heineken, two margaritas, two cheeseburgers, two orders of fries, a plate of tomatoes, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of onion rings, carrot cake, ice cream, bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, cocaine, and for the ride home, a snow cone.”


It’s a new Dyson gadget that combines noise-cancelling headphones with a visor that delivers a constant stream of purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth. “This is no April Fool’s joke,” the company has clarified on Twitter: it’s a way of combatting noise and smog, the two types of pollution that beset city-dwellers. The Zone, as it’s called, is expected to go on sale in autumn for between £500 and £1,000.


Quoted 31.3.22

“I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy.”

American comedian Steve Martin