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The Unfinished Battles Of Waterloo

Discussion of recent books about the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815, where 150,000 soldiers fought and 12,000 died. The battle turned against Napoleon when 400 Germans fighting for Britain held off the French long enough for Blücher’s Prussians to arrive and reinforce Wellington. “The dividing line between victory and defeat is precariously fine: and on those 400 men would hinge the development of a whole continent” (1,580 words)

Edelweiss

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II added Edelweiss to the score of their stage musical The Sound Of Music after a try-out in Boston. They felt that Captain von Trapp’s love for the land of Austria needed to be communicated more clearly to the audience, and that a solo song would do the job. It was Hammerstein’s last lyric. He was dying of stomach cancer, unknown to himself, but known to Rodgers (1,840 words)

The Kremlin’s Kiev Connection

Impressive investigation shedding much light on Putinism, Gazprom and Ukraine. In brief: the Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom sold gas cheaply to a Ukrainian straw man called Dmitry Firtash, who sold the gas on to Ukraine at a $3bn profit. Russian banks lent Firtash a further $11bn to buy up Ukrainian petrochemical plants. Firtash then bankrolled the rise of a pro-Russian president for Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich (3,700 words)

Obituary: Frankie Fraser

“Frankie Fraser, who has died aged 90, was a notorious torturer and hitman for the Richardson gang of south London criminals in the 1960s; he spent 42 years behind bars. His nickname ‘Mad Frank’ derived from his violent temperament which caused him to attempt to hang the governor of Wandsworth prison (and the governor’s dog) from a tree, and to be certified insane on three separate occasions” (2,120 words)

The World In 2050 And Beyond

If we even get that far. The biggest dangers are the ones that we pose to ourselves. “Our Earth is 45 million centuries old. But this century is the first when one species – ours – can determine the biosphere’s fate.” We just missed nuclear Armageddon in the Cold War. Now we’re juggling geo-engineering, AI and biotech. “The bells that toll for mankind are like the bells of Alpine cattle. They are attached to our own necks” (6,860 words)

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