This week saw the controversial move by RBS to freeze the bank accounts of the broadcaster Russia Today. The decision has subsequently been reversed, but the relationship between NATO and Vladimir Putin remains tense. This is the subject that Paul Wood and Rod Liddle tackle in this week’s cover piece, and which is addressed on the podcast by Dmitri Linnik and Ben Judah. Linnik, a former BBC and Voice of Russia journalist, says:
"This is completely out of this world. This is completely irrational. Anybody with any indication of an idea of what's going on in Russia, any understanding of what Russia's about and what Russia's thinking is, cannot think that Russia is about to invade the Baltic states."
But Ben Judah doesn't quite agree, saying:
"I travel regularly to the Baltic states and I have the chance to speak to the leadership of those countries. And I can tell you that before Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, there was a real worry in Estonia and Latvia that something was being planned, that troops were being moved, and that a shock force might try something."
In Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s hometown of Sandwich, Kent, there are two schools: a rather shabby grammar and a shiny tech comprehensive. But behind the impressive veneer lies the fundamental issue of selective education: pupils who pass the so-called ‘Kent Test’, and get into an academically high achieving institution, do better than their counterparts who fail, at 11, and are left behind. Ysenda joins the podcast where she talks of the cut-throat world of selective education in The Garden of England, along with Toby Young who tells the podcast:
"Those in favour of more grammars would say 'well, it would be fantastic if all schools were as good as the best comprehensives' and if they were there probably wouldn't be a pressing need for any more grammar schools. But for those parents who live in areas that aren't served by good comprehensives, if you're a parent in an area like that you're kind of bereft. Your child is not going to realise his or her potential. So the argument is in those areas, rather than wait for all schools to become better, let's introduce some really good selective schools in those areas."
And finally, in the Irish traditions of Halloween, children would dress in their parents’ clothes, go begging for nuts, and eat a yeastbread that predicted your marriage prospects. Not so these days, says Melanie McDonagh, as the spooky season has been taken over both by killer clowns and crass consumerism. On the podcast she defends a simpler time, saying:
"It's pure horror. I've been looking at the Christmas merchandise for at least a fortnight now in Marks and Spencer. So you've got this very odd colour scheme: you've got the scarlet and gold for the Christmas shelves, and you've got the black and orange for the pumpkin Halloween shelves. And it's really discordant, really unsettling because you're going to be overcome with this visual imagery way ahead of the event, so, by the time it actually gets to Christmas week, all the flavours and smells of Christmas will be very familiar because you've been living with them since the end of October."
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