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5 April

In the headlines

Vladimir Putin should face a “wartime trial”, Joe Biden said yesterday, as the West prepares to intensify its sanctions in response to Russia’s massacre of Ukrainian civilians. Emmanuel Macron has come out in favour of sanctioning Russian oil and coal, from which Moscow earns “significantly more” than it does from gas, says Politico. The policy is “under consideration” in Germany. More horrors are being discovered as Ukrainian troops advance, says Catherine Philp in The Times: the body of the mayor of Hostomel, a recaptured town, was one of several found rigged with explosives. Easter “travel chaos” has escalated, says the Daily Mail, with hundreds of flights delayed and cancelled, and huge queues at airports and the Channel Tunnel. Covid-induced staff absences, on top of workforces being slashed over the pandemic, are largely to blame.



Putin’s friend in Europe

Viktor Orban’s landslide election victory in Hungary will cause “dismay” in Brussels and Kyiv, says Gideon Rachman in the FT. Orban has methodically rigged his country’s political system for more than a decade: “The courts have been packed, the civil service purged and the electoral system gerrymandered.” The opposition leader was given only five minutes airtime by state TV across the entire campaign. Orban has also sucked up to strongmen, blocking an EU statement criticising China over Hong Kong and frequently praising Vladimir Putin. In his victory speech, he boasted that his vanquished “opponents” included “Brussels bureaucrats” and Volodymyr Zelensky, who had the temerity to call him out for his love of Putin.

US politics

The scandal that could sink Biden

Joe Biden is “beyond beleaguered”, says Michael Goodwin in the New York Post. With inflation starting to bite, crime rising and his agenda stalling in Congress, the 46th president’s approval ratings are under 40%. And what many people don’t realise is that “another bombshell waits in the wings” – one that could “deliver a fatal blow to his presidency”. The issue is the questionable foreign business dealings of his son, Hunter – and whether Biden, when he was vice president, helped facilitate any of them. The Justice Department is investigating; given the flurry of witnesses being interviewed, it looks like the case is “coming to a head”.

On the way in

Not Elon Musk. Over the weekend, the billionaire suffered the “great humiliation” of failing to get into Berghain, Berlin’s famously exclusive nightclub, says Monique Rivalland in The Times. The techno venue – also home to “underground sex rooms” – is “openly discriminate” about who it lets in. If the “pierced, tattooed and leather-clad” bouncers don’t like the look of you, they just say “nein” – and you have to do the long “walk of shame” back down the queue. Some tips for Musk next time he tries his luck: “You must wear all black, no brands, don’t smile, come in a group no bigger than three, don’t appear drunk and don’t, whatever you do, speak English.”

Tomorrow’s world

Sweet-toothed boffins are training a robot to pick raspberries by making a silicon replica for practice. Harvesting the ultra-delicate fruit is a fiddly business which can only be done – very expensively – by hand. So a team at a Swiss university has made a rubbery mock berry and put a tiny “fluidic sensor” inside to measure the robot’s grip.

On the way back

Brown bears are thriving once again in the Pyrenees. The species was nearly extinct in the Franco-Spanish mountain range when a scheme to import them from Slovenia was introduced in 1996. It’s worked wonders, says The Guardian: the Pyrenees brown bear population reached 70 in 2021, the highest number for a century.

Snapshot answer

It’s a tiny book, smaller than a playing card, which Charlotte Brontë handmade when she was 13. Entitled A Book of Rhymes, the 15-page volume last sold in 1916 for $520. When it’s put back on the market at a book fair later this month, says The New York Times, the asking price will be “a cool $1.25m”. It contains 10 previously unpublished poems, along with a disclaimer: “The following are attempts at rhyming of an inferior nature it must be acknowledged but they are nevertheless my best.”


Rwanda has an innovative approach to keeping the streets clean, says Rory Stewart in the podcast The Rest is Politics. On one Saturday morning every month, shops, bars and restaurants all close, and people are only allowed to leave their homes to clear up litter. Those who don’t help can be stopped in the street by police and made to start cleaning on the spot.

Gone viral

Game about Squares is the new Wordle. Instead of guessing five-letter words, you get to use your brain to solve increasingly tricky – and highly addictive – geometry problems. Set aside the afternoon and play for yourself here.


Quoted 5.4.22

“To those of you who received honours, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.”

George W Bush