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4 April

In the headlines

Ukraine has accused Moscow of genocide, after Russian troops killed hundreds of civilians as they retreated from the outskirts of Kyiv. Reporting from Bucha and nearby Hostomel, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen says he has personally seen more than 20 murdered civilians, some with hands tied behind their backs. There are also widespread reports of Russian soldiers raping Ukrainian women. Western leaders are preparing to “dramatically increase” sanctions as a result, says Politico. Nato may provide Ukraine with tanks for the first time. Among the first people to receive a police fine over the “partygate” scandal is the government’s former head of “propriety and ethics”, says The Daily Telegraph. Helen MacNamara was fined £50 for attending a “raucous” karaoke party during lockdown. She is said to have provided the karaoke machine herself.

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UK politics

Rishi is too rich to be PM

It’s the question that “fills politicians with cold horror”, says Clare Foges in The Times: “How much is a pint of milk?” David Cameron once fell foul of the “old grocery grilling”, getting the price of bread wrong. Rishi Sunak was 40p off on the price of beans. The best response was Boris Johnson’s when mayor of London: “I know the price of champagne, how about that?” The “out of touch” question has always irritated me. “I am pro-elite” – if people have been successful enough to “elevate their lives above humdrum grocery shopping”, isn’t that evidence of suitability for high office? In other countries, great wealth is no handicap. Before President Zelensky in Ukraine there was “chocolate king” Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionary tycoon. “Bunga-bunga Berlusconi was hardly reticent about his wealth, like his brother in gold-plated opulence Donald Trump.” But “in Britain there is such a thing as being too rich”. And Sunak is too rich.


Don’t let China seduce the Saudis

Joe Biden has “badly damaged” relations between America and Saudi Arabia, says Karen Elliott House in The Wall Street Journal. It’s no small matter, given the combination of Saudi oil and American muscle “underpins global economic security”. In the first year of his administration, Biden refused to speak with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. So when Russian oil became taboo in March, and Biden wanted Saudi Arabia to increase production, MBS refused his call. The Saudis say they won’t act without the rest of the OPEC+ oil cartel, which includes Russia. “There is no rational commercial or financial argument for increasing production,” one Saudi official says, “only a political one.”


Demand for panic rooms is soaring in Los Angeles amid concerns over rising crime, says The Hollywood Reporter. Previously the preserve of the ultra-wealthy or ultra-paranoid, the secret hideaways are now being installed in houses worth as little as $4m. The problem for estate agents is that they can’t show off the panic rooms during viewings, in case the prospective buyers are actually burglars. “You never know who’s potentially casing a house.”


Glossier’s eyeliner is certainly waterproof, says New York Magazine’s Claire Lampen on Twitter. On its website, one glowing review for the product reads: “Got broken up with in a skate park and this baby stayed on the entire time! All four hours of crying and one hour in the shower!” Another five-star write-up hails the eyeliner as being “a modern marvel. It stayed on for six hours as I sobbed when my best friend made out with the guy I was into!” Yours for £15.


Ukraine has notched up another victory in its war with Russia: the renaming of a Degas painting. The late-19th-century work, which shows dancers wearing hair ribbons in the yellow and blue of Ukraine’s national colours, was previously called Russian Dancers. After a social media campaign to rethink the “lazy” labelling of Ukrainian culture, it will now be called Ukrainian Dancers.


“Fader 13” is a music industry secret “known to audio engineers and producers across the globe”, says Popbitch. It comes into play when an artist has made a song that they love, but the suits from the record label turn up at the studio and insist something about the recording be changed. That’s when the technician reaches for “Fader 13”. It isn’t connected to anything, so it won’t alter the song, “but it’s right there in the middle of the desk”, so the record company can see you’re cooperating. “Seconds later they love it, sign off on the mix, everyone gets paid and everyone goes to the pub.”


It’s a “slime robot” that can be controlled by magnetic fields, says New Scientist – perfect for navigating narrow passages, grasping objects and fixing broken circuits. The material, which is made from neodymium, borax and polyvinyl alcohol, could even “be deployed inside the body to perform tasks such as retrieving objects swallowed by accident”.

Quirk of history

Tanks are called tanks because when they were first being built in World War One, the factories didn’t want anyone to know what they were creating, says Stephen Mihm in Bloomberg. The cover story was that the “behemoths” would serve as water carriers on desert battlefields. Someone started calling them water tanks, or just tanks, and “the name stuck”.


quoted 4.4.22

“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”

French philosopher Joseph Joubert