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An alternative history

On 20 July, Germany’s political elite recalls the day in 1944 when Colonel Claus Schenk Count von Stauffenberg exploded a bomb intended to kill Hitler, and ran an abortive coup which ended in his own death and that of other plotters. To mark the anniversary, a military band in Berlin will thump out ‘Prussia’s Glory’,

Last rights

My wife died earlier this month. We knew it was coming. A lump in the breast begat bone tumours, begat liver lesions. In the end, cancer in the brain carried her off quickly. A ‘good death’. I keep staring at my wedding ring and its redundant metallurgy. In one of our final lucid conversations my

The rehabilitation of Assad

Amid the confusion and the almost deafening cries of treachery and collusion over Donald Trump’s relations with Russia, few noticed the most tangible outcome of this week’s Helsinki summit. In the lead-up to his face-to-face talk with Vladimir Putin, senior US and Russian diplomats — in close coordination with leaders from mutual ally Israel —

Jean-Claude drunker

The atmosphere in Brussels has become, of late, reminiscent of the late Brezhnev era. We have a political system run by a bureaucratic apparatus which — just like the former USSR — serves to conceal important evidence. Especially when it comes to the health of its supreme leader, Jean-Claude Juncker. At the Nato summit gala

Losing streak

England didn’t just lose the World Cup. When it comes to male nudity, the country has also lost its sense of shame. Everywhere — on the Tube, in buses, on the streets, in the pub — men are striding around topless. On Sunday in north Oxford I saw a man skiing topless, on roller-skis, with

Unhappy returns

What to do about illegal migration from Africa into Europe? The EU’s repatriation programme seems at first like a great idea. Rather than just watching as desperate people risk their lives in the Med, we persuade them to go back home and help them to remake their lives there. The EU Emergency Trust Fund for

Notes on...

The Bank of England

‘Safe as the Bank of England.’ So goes the old phrase. And yes, with walls 8ft thick, the Old Lady is pretty impregnable. Even the keys to her vaults are more than a foot long (the locks also now incorporate voice-activated software). Until 1973 the building was guarded at night by soldiers from the Brigade