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Don’t be fooled: France’s far right is here to stay

🏖️ Sand art | 🔫 Bullet ATM | 🦆 How many?

In the headlines

A wave of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine has killed at least 38 people and injured 190 – the worst attack in months. Two people died yesterday when a missile flattened part of Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv, the country’s biggest paediatrics facility. Joe Biden has insisted he is “firmly committed” to staying in the US presidential race. The president hit back at Democratic “elites” who are calling on him to step aside following his disastrous debate performance, and dared those who want him replaced to mount a challenge at next month’s party convention. Coastguards in Cornwall have rescued an ice cream van that was swept out to sea. The vehicle got stuck in the sand on Harlyn Bay on Sunday, and was caught by the tide. “I got 99 problems,” says the Daily Star, “but a beach ain’t one.”

X/Richard Higman


Emmanuel Macron with Jean-Luc Mélenchon in 2019. Michel Euler/AFP/Getty

Don’t be fooled: France’s far right is here to stay

Those celebrating the defeat of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally should not feel more than a “brief sense of relief”, says Jérôme Fenoglio in Le Monde. Nine million French citizens voted for RN, and the far-right party continues to have “strong support across large swathes of the country”. By gaining several dozen seats, it will bolster its finances and send its largest ever representation to parliament. And perhaps most importantly, it will remain in the comfortable position of being in opposition, in a chamber where securing a majority is likely to prove painful. What Emmanuel Macron and co still, somehow, fail to understand is that Le Pen is “monopolising the support of those who feel abandoned”. Until their concerns are taken seriously – dismantling the urban ghettos, say, or cracking down on drug trafficking – RN is not going anywhere.

In the meantime, the French president has handed an advantage to the “other form of the worst of politics”: the radical left. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the hastily assembled leftwing alliance that ended Sunday’s election with the most seats, wasted no time in asserting his primacy. Within five minutes of the results being announced, he was on TV without his new coalition partners, swearing his alliance’s whole radical programme, including a 90% income tax on those earning over €400,000, would be implemented, by decree if necessary. Not the easiest bunch to form a coalition with.


The 24th annual Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting Classic was won by David Ducharme’s detailed depiction of a woman with angel-like wings. Other top efforts included sculptures of a woman walking through the sand in a billowing dress; a tiny baby curled up in some sort of egg-like structure; a bear roaring upwards at the sky; and a smiling boy perched in a crown of leaves atop a bearded monarch.

Quirk of history

Nimbyism is nothing new, says Paul Johnson in The Times. When the 1945 Labour government designated the Hertfordshire village of Stevenage as the first of a new wave of towns, the locals – who hadn’t been properly consulted on the decision – were furious. During a visit by the town and country planning minister Lewis Silkin, half the 6,000 local residents attended a public meeting to stage a “noisy protest”. The tyres of Silkin’s car were let down, and sugar poured into its petrol tank. On another trip, a sign at the railway station was altered to the Soviet-style “Silkingrad”.


Peter Sommer fell in love with travel in 1994, when he walked 2,000 miles from Troy across Turkey, retracing the route of Alexander the Great. An archaeologist by training, he began organising and leading historical tours in 1996, and set up Peter Sommer Travels in 2002. Twenty-two years later, Peter, his wife Elin and their team continue to run cultural and archaeological tours – including gulet cruises – for small groups, escorted by top experts. They have won the prestigious Tour Operator of the Year Award in six of the seven years it has been running, and received 750 independent reviews in the past decade – four rated “good”, the other 746 “Excellent”. To find out more, click here.

Global update

American gun owners in three states can now buy bullets from vending machines, says The Daily Telegraph. Ammo-buyers in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas can simply walk up to the automatic kiosks, scan their ID and select their preferred rounds on a touchscreen. The firm that makes them says the machines are “as easy to use as an ATM”, and accessible “24/7, ensuring that you can buy ammunition on your own schedule”.

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Trump at the 2018 Nato summit. Sean Gallup/Getty

Trump’s the best bet for Nato

As Nato gathers for its 75th anniversary summit in Washington this week, Joe Biden is taking credit for the fact that America’s allies have increased defence spending by hundreds of billions of dollars, and warned that, if elected, Donald Trump would “eviscerate” the alliance. In fact, says Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post, “Trump, not Biden, is responsible for most of that spending increase”. In 2006, allies pledged to spend 2% of GDP on defence. But when Trump came to power a decade later, only three – the UK, US and Greece – were meeting their commitment. The situation was so bad that in Germany, Nato’s richest European member, 60% of Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets, 82% of Sea Lynx helicopters, 61% of battle tanks and all of its submarines and transport planes were unusable.

As president, Trump put Germany and the rest of Nato “on notice”, making it clear America would no longer tolerate their failure to contribute adequately to our common defence. And guess what? By the time he left office, allies were spending $130bn more on defence than they did in 2016, and had pledged to boost that figure to $400bn by the end of 2024. Today, thanks in part to defence spending hikes after Ukraine, the projected increase is up to $510bn. Whatever your feelings about the man himself, what’s crystal clear is that from Nato’s perspective, Trump is the better candidate to “reshape the alliance to meet the threats of this century”.

😡😳 Trump made his feelings about Nato clear at the alliance’s 2018 summit, says Henry Foy in the FT. When he opened the meeting with a 15-minute rant about other members not spending enough, Angela Merkel and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg broke with precedent to clear the room: only heads of states, plus one official each, were allowed to stay. Trump then called out each member by name – notably going softer on Slovenia, where his wife Melania was born – in what amounted to a “mass bollocking”.

Inside politics


Here is a simple puzzle “almost everyone gets wrong”, says Alex Bellos in The Guardian. There are two ducks in front of two ducks, two ducks behind two ducks and two ducks in between. What is the minimum number of ducks? Click here for the answer.


Snapshot answer

It’s a composite photo of the International Space Station “crossing the fiery surface of the Sun”, says Peta Pixel. Astrophotographer Miguel Claro captured the image – titled ISS Zippering the Sun – using a super-fast camera capable of taking 109 pictures every second. Good thing too: the ISS hurtles through space at 4.5 miles per second, roughly 274 miles from Earth. Claro had just 0.54 seconds during which the space station was in the sweet spot between the Earth and the Sun.


“Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.”
TS Eliot

That’s it. You’re done.