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- Are we risking too much for Ukraine?
Are we risking too much for Ukraine?
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Nicola Sturgeon is giving evidence to the Covid inquiry in Edinburgh today, amid continuing scrutiny of the Scottish government’s handling of the pandemic. The former first minister was among several Holyrood ministers to delete WhatsApp messages relating to government business, and also used a private email address to talk to a public health expert. Britain’s population will hit 70 million a decade earlier than previously estimated, according to the Office for National Statistics. The number-crunchers say the milestone will be reached in 2026 rather than 2036, as was predicted in 2022, because net migration will be much higher than they expected. Vladimir Putin has a secret lakeside estate less than 20 miles from Russia’s border with Finland, according to an opposition media outlet. The palatial pad (pictured) includes three properties, kitted out with £8,000 bidets, £3,500 shower heads, and £300,000 worth of Austrian beer brewing kit capable of producing 82 pints a day.
Are we risking too much for Ukraine?
As our generals and politicians talk of an “inevitable war against Russia”, says Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday, we must ask ourselves: what if supporting Ukraine is “just as stupid and wrong” as invading Iraq? The likes of Defence Secretary Grant Shapps seem to have forgotten that Britain became great by “staying out of continental conflicts” and letting others do the fighting. Even in the battle against Napoleon, we paid our European allies to do most of the hard work. But in 1914, “bombastic moralising” took over. We flung ourselves into a Russo-German war, sacrificing “the flower of our young manhood” and bankrupting ourselves – incredibly, Britain has still not paid off its World War One debts to America. Then “we had to do it all again in 1939”.
It was only at the end of the 20th century, as those who lived during war “retired and died”, that militarism returned. Dictators like Saddam Hussein and Serbia’s Slobodan Milošević were compared to Hitler; those opposing military action against them were accused of “appeasement”, in reference to British PM Neville Chamberlain going soft on the Nazis before World War Two. There is similar talk today with Ukraine. But what people ignore is that Ukraine is “a corrupt and ill-governed state, riven with incompetence and waste, with little political freedom, weak media and no real opposition”. Is supporting it really worth the risk of a “new Great War”?
🇺🇸🦅 Some of Ukraine’s most fervent American backers are “liberal hawks”, says Peter Beinart in The Guardian, who support US military intervention around the world to defend democracy and human rights. Yet though these commentators cite the likes of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International when condemning Russia’s crimes, they are conspicuously silent about Israel’s humanitarian offences in Gaza. Their worldview ignores a complicated truth: though America defends democracy in some cases, in others, it uses its power “not to defend freedom but to deny it”.
Japanese illustrator Takayo Kiyota recreates famous artworks using sushi, says The Guardian. Her “miniature masterpieces” include an uncanny rendering of Frida Kahlo; an orange reimagining of Edvard Munch’s The Scream; and versions of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Henri Matisse’s Icarus.
Bill Clinton was inaugurated as US president 31 years ago this month, says Popbitch. At 77, he’s still younger today than the two likely candidates for this year’s election: Donald Trump (a slightly older 77) and Joe Biden (81).
The most-watched TV show in the US last year was Suits, the law drama starring Meghan Markle (pictured) which ended in 2019, says Variety. Racking up 57.7 billion total minutes watched, it took the record for the most-viewed show of any year, previously set by The Office in 2020 with 57.1 billion. Old favourites are dominating Americans’ screens: not one of the top 10 programmes last year was an original series created by a streaming platform.
Of course we should ban vaping
“Some things you just know,” says Celia Walden in The Daily Telegraph. Take vaping. Sure, we’re still “waiting for proof” that it’s bad for you. But is anyone really in any doubt that inhaling some “sinister e-potion” – containing nicotine, and the stuff that goes in antifreeze, and the chemical they use for embalming fluid – is detrimental to your health? Future generations will look back and wonder what on earth we thought we were doing. Even worse is that we’re letting our children do it. Young vapers around the world are being affected by terrifying-sounding conditions including “lung injury” and “pulmonary oedema”. The World Health Organisation has warned that vaping will have “long-term consequences” on children’s brain development, and “potentially lead to learning and anxiety disorders”.
Rishi Sunak knows all this. He knows that an astonishing 9% of British children aged 11 to 15 now vape, and that young folk like their vapes fruit-flavoured (which account for 60% of sales) and sweet or soft drink-flavoured (25%). Yet his proposal to ban disposable vapes has, inevitably, been criticised by the “nanny state” brigade. As one anonymous Tory MP said: “I’m sure banning vapes goes down brilliantly among the Californian fasting community, but our voters want the boats stopping and their wage packets growing.” What an idiot. When “the truth about vaping comes out” – as it inevitably will – history will not be kind to those who were happy to let children fill their lungs with toxic, brain-altering chemicals. “Anyone with an ounce of common sense already knows that.”
Coffee snobbishness is reaching “new extremes”, says Harry Wallop in The Times. During the pandemic, the drink went from a mere obsession to a “ritualised act of self-care”. Some people, mostly men, invested huge amounts in “posh kit”, from a £4,160 La Marzocco espresso machine to a £190 set of digital scales. And when this “coffee cult” returned to work, they brought their paraphernalia with them. The actor Stanley Tucci now takes two coffee makers to set with him every day, one for the make-up department and the other for his trailer, to ensure he can have a top-quality espresso “at all times”.
Every year in Minnesota, thousands of people vote on what to call the state’s snowploughs, says AP News. The winners this year include “Beyonsleigh”, “Taylor Drift”, “Dolly Plowton” and “Fast and Flurrious”. Previous victors include “Blizzard of Oz”, “Scoop Dogg”, “Han Snolo”, and “F Salt Fitzgerald”.
It’s a dried-out, 285-year-old lemon, which has sold for a hefty £1,400. The desiccated citrus fruit, found at the back of a drawer in a 19th-century Chinese chest during a house clearance, bears an inscription saying it was “given by Mr P Lu Franchini Nov 4 1739 to Miss E Baxter”, possibly as a love token. At auction in Shropshire, the acidic artefact triggered a furious bidding war, while the chest went for a measly £32.
“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient.”
Canadian doctor William Osler