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18 February

In the headlines

“Brace, brace,” says The Sun, as millions of Brits are told to stay at home to avoid the 100mph winds of Storm Eunice. The Met Office has issued red weather warnings – signalling “danger to life” – to large parts of the south and east, including London. Forecasters say the conditions could rival those seen during the Great Storm of 1987. Westminster and Washington are now convinced Vladimir Putin has made up his mind to invade Ukraine, says The Times. Western leaders claim Moscow has already launched “false flag” operations to provide a fake pretext for an invasion. “He’s going to do it, and it’s going to be horrendous,” says one Whitehall source. London’s smallest flat is up for auction. The 75 sq ft abode in Clapton has a bed, a microwave, some storage space and a bathroom. Starting price: £50,000.

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Putin’s quieter war

With the world’s media distracted by military shenanigans on the Ukrainian border, says The Wall Street Journal, the Kremlin is taking the opportunity to wage a rather quieter war “on domestic critics”. On Tuesday a new criminal trial began in which opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing “phoney charges” of embezzling millions of dollars from his anti-corruption organisation. The 45-year-old could spend more than a decade behind bars if convicted by this “kangaroo court”. The trial is taking place in the modern-day gulag where he is already serving time for separate “bogus” charges. His real crime, of course, is “threatening Mr Putin’s grip on power”.


Sensitivity readers are corrupting literature

These days, scarcely a book gets published without first being pored over by so-called “sensitivity readers”, who check the text for supposed instances of racism or other insensitivities. Having had my Orwell Prize-winning memoir examined by several of these self-proclaimed experts, says author Kate Clanchy in UnHerd, I can tell you it’s a complete nonsense. Some of my infractions were graded on a scale from one to three. Sometimes these were single words: using “disfigure” to describe a landscape (infraction level three), presumably in case it triggered someone with acne. More serious (level two) was using “handicap” to mean “impede” – a clear-cut example of “ableism”, apparently.

Inside politics

Unlike the leaders of France and Germany, who had to face off with Vladimir Putin at the end of a comically long table, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro managed to shake the Russian president’s hand when he visited Moscow this week. But Bolsonaro had to take five Covid tests to be allowed that close, says the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. Emmanuel Macron had earlier refused a Russian PCR test, reportedly because he didn’t want the Kremlin getting its hands on his DNA.

Tomorrow’s world

Designer Maisie Schloss presented her latest New York Fashion Week collection via a series of seven-foot-tall holographic models beamed on to the wall of an art gallery. Inspired by the toy dolls of Mattel’s 2010s franchise Monster High, says CNN, some wore body paint or elf-like ears.


A tiny boat launched into the sea by schoolchildren in New Hampshire, on America’s east coast, was found 462 days later washed up on a Norwegian island. Despite picking up a few barnacles along the way, the boat’s contents – photos and letters from students at Rye Junior High School – survived the 8,300-mile journey intact.


It’s Tesla’s Cybertruck turned into a catamaran – or Cybercat, as inventor Anthony Diamond has it. Adding and detaching the pontoons “can be done easily by one person in less time than it takes to launch a boat”, says Hypebeast. It features five 50 kW outboard motors and is expected to reach speeds of over 25 mph – those interested can reserve their conversion kit here.

On the way up

The price of a pint. The chief executive of Heineken has said the brewer faces “crazy increases” in the cost of ingredients, energy and transport, leaving it no choice but to raise its prices. The cost of malting barley, the most important ingredient in lager, has more than doubled in the past year, says the Financial Times.


Business speak is famous for mangling well-known phrases. Former Google executive Theo Bertram recalls on Twitter that the tech firm once set up a strategy to tackle four big challenges – initially dubbed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. “Over a period of several years,” says Bertram, “it morphed into a marketing strategy based on ‘seven horsepeople’.”


quoted 18.2.22

“One is never as unhappy as one thinks, nor as happy as one hopes.”

François de La Rochefoucauld