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4 May

In the headlines

The EU has proposed a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year. The measure will need to be approved by all member states, including Putin-friendly Hungary, which has previously opposed similar moves. BP announced bumper profits of £5bn in the first three months of the year, or around £639 a second, says the Daily Mirror. With millions of households struggling to pay soaring energy bills, the government is under growing pressure to enact a one-off windfall tax on “mega-rich” fuel firms benefiting from high oil prices. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been labelled a “huffy liver sausage” by Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin. Scholz has refused to travel to Kyiv because the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was disinvited from a previous trip over his links to Russia.

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Saudi Arabia

Biden and MBS are stuck with each other

If there’s one positive from the war in Ukraine, says Bobby Ghosh in Bloomberg, it’s that it might make Joe Biden and Mohammed bin Salman “get over themselves”. Biden came to office promising to make MBS a “pariah” because of his atrocious human rights record. He ended US military support for the Saudi-backed forces in the Yemeni civil war and pointedly refused to speak directly to the crown prince. Biden made out that this was a “principled position”. But really it was just a “political posture” to win praise in Washington. After all, he has been willing to pick up the phone to other bloodthirsty strongmen, including Egypt’s General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also wants to ease sanctions on Iran, a regime “several magnitudes more disruptive to peace in the Middle East” than Saudi Arabia.

Nuclear weapons

Thank goodness for Germany’s millennials

Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz is 63 years old, says Peter Huth in Die Welt. “He never walked through the rubble of his homeland like his elders did.” But his generation grew up with a fear “that darkly outshined all others: that of world annihilation in nuclear war”. Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats have reignited it, unleashing a flood of apocalyptic images “we have stored in our cerebral cortex since Hiroshima and Nagasaki”. You can see that fear in how reluctant Scholz was to send heavy weapons to Ukraine and risk escalating the conflict. Only 12% of supporters of Scholz’s SPD party, which is dominated by older voters, backed the move.

Gone viral

A sea lion in the Galapagos Islands decided to pay a visit to a luxury hotel. Climbing up a flight of stairs from the sea, it proceeded to take a dip in the swimming pool, before drying off on a guest’s sun lounger.


The first Roget’s Thesaurus, designed as a “reverse dictionary” to help writers avoid repetition, was published 170 years ago. To mark its anniversary, LitHub has given the opening lines of some famous novels the thesaurus treatment. In Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” becomes “It was the crème de la crème of times, it was the bush-league of times”. For Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” is turned into “All tickled families are alike; each droopy family is hangdog in its own way”.

Love etc

A groom in China was forced to watch a livestream of his own wedding, after a sudden change in Covid rules meant his test was invalid and he couldn’t enter the venue. The Xinjiang-based man had to wait outside for the results of a new test to come through while the banquet got going without him, says Insider. Nearly three hours later, he was finally allowed in to tie the knot.


It’s a golfing tradition for those who hit a hole-in-one to buy the entire clubhouse a round of drinks, says The Hustle. So back in the 1930s, American golfers started taking out “hole-in-one insurance” – paying, say, $1.50 a year to cover a bar bill of up to $25 (around $550 in today’s money). Though the practice faded in the US, it became “big business” in Japan, where golfers who landed an “ace” were expected to throw wedding-size parties with “live music, food, drinks and commemorative tree plantings”. By the 1990s, around a third of Japanese golfers were shelling out $50 to $70 a year to protect themselves against up to $3,500 in expenses.


Just under a million Americans have so far died from Covid. By comparison, a total of around 700,000 US citizens have been killed in all the country’s overseas wars since 1775.


It’s a tick which can make people allergic to red meat, and it’s spreading across the US. The lone star tick, named after the white spot on its back, carries a type of sugar that the human body cannot deal with – and just one bite can trigger an auto-immune response that results in a life-long allergy. Some 34,000 cases were reported between 2010 and 2018, mostly across southern states, says The Daily Telegraph. But scientists say rising temperatures mean the bug is now moving northwards, as far as Washington DC.


quoted 4.5.22

“The important thing in acting is to be able to laugh and cry. If I have to cry, I think of my sex life. If I have to laugh, I think of my sex life.”

British actress and politician Glenda Jackson