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James Forsyth

Theatre of war: Putin’s deadly dramatics over Ukraine

Vladimir Putin now knows that the West won’t fight for Ukraine. The past few weeks have shown that. All options are open to Moscow. Russian troops could march on Kiev or stay on the border destabilising Ukraine’s economy until its government gives way. If Putin wanted a fight, he would win — at least initially.

Russian roulette: is Moscow’s bluff backfiring?

A bluff only works if you can carry it off convincingly. The massing of some 130,000 Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s borders has led to London and Washington declaring that a full-scale invasion is imminent, but it could still be a feint. The Russians know everything they do can be seen by satellite. On the phone

The western press is giving Putin what he wants

Why does Vladimir Putin need Russia Today and Sputnik News when the western media are doing such a great job on his behalf? Throughout his two decades in power, Putin has yearned for international respect. Failing that, he’ll settle for fear. And what more satisfying outcome could there be for a serial sabre-rattler like Putin

What explains the rise in lesbian divorce?

At one stage, I had a special tray in my study into which to throw all my lesbian wedding invitations. This was around December 2005, when lesbian and gay couples could first sign a civil partnership agreement, providing legal protection including a basis for next-of-kin and inheritance rights. Although the law still did not allow

Sick jokes: why medics need gallows humour

Most jobs have their own joke books. If you’re outside the job, you don’t get the joke — and if you do get the joke, you’re on the inside; which is what the jokes are for. (It’s the same with all comedy: some, if not most, of the appeal of Stewart Lee is in being

The algorithm myth: why the bots won’t take over

Google once believed it could use algorithms to track pandemics. People with flu would search for flu-related information, it reasoned, giving the tech giant instant knowledge of the disease’s prevalence. Google Flu Trends (GFT) would merge this information with flu tracking data to create algorithms that could predict the disease’s trajectory weeks before governments’ own

China and Russia are an alliance of disruptors

Four years ago, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping made pancakes together in Vladivostok while thousands of their military forces conducted joint exercises in Siberia. This month, as China hosted the Olympics, Putin and Xi announced that a ‘new era’ in international relations had begun, one in which the two great authoritarian powers of the 21st

P.J. O’Rourke’s death marks the end of a great satirical era

There was something old school about P.J. O’Rourke, who died on Tuesday, something that felt like a leftover echo of the American Revolution. Visiting him in his ancient, low-ceilinged, clapboard farm-house in Sharon, New Hampshire, one half-expected Paul Revere to burst breathlessly into the kitchen warning that the British were coming. Though he was by

Notes on...

The rise and fall of whistling

There was, at least until recently, an old sign round the back of the Savoy banning whistling by staff or tradesmen. Whistling, it seems, can wind up some people. Winston Churchill hated the practice. Posters were put up in the War Rooms forbidding it. One day, on his way to Downing Street, he heard a