I love January. I accept it — I’m weird. But January is the month of low expectations and small wins: proven ways to boost happiness. There’s no pressure to make big plans in the post-Christmas lull. Winter sunlight is the most beautiful. Cold weather boosts endorphins during outdoor exercise and eating like a bear pre-hibernation is still socially acceptable. What’s not to like? Plus this year there is much to cheer. Covid-19 vaccination programmes are gathering pace. A grown-up is in charge of America again. And there is lots of amazing stuff to read this week.
I hope you enjoy my pick of the week’s stories, plus a few from elsewhere you shouldn’t miss. Click here if you’d like to receive Long Story Short by email every Friday.
Cometh the vaccinations, cometh the arguments. This week has been dominated by news of the bitter spat between the EU and AstraZeneca, with the former saying the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker must take Covid vaccines from UK factories to make up a shortfall in supplies to its member states, which are nearing crisis point after several regions suspended inoculations over the shortage of jabs. Astra chief executive Pascal Soriot said that the EU signed its vaccine supply contract three months later than the UK, in other words, giving it first dibs. But the EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides is not happy:
As co-founder of Apollo Global Management, a group that ranks among the most powerful on Wall Street, billionaire Leon Black is one of the most successful financiers of his generation. But this week he announced he would step aside as chief executive after it was revealed that he had made far larger payments than previously known to the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein over a five-year period ending in 2017; Epstein was convicted in 2008 of soliciting sex from a minor. As the US team writes, he served as Black’s own high-priced adviser on issues ranging from audits by the tax authorities to a dispute over the ownership of a sculpture by Pablo Picasso, and was paid $158m for his services over a five-year period. Black has said:
Is there anyone braver than Alexei Navalny? The Russian opposition activist is currently in jail, having returned to the country from Germany following an assassination attempt blamed on the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin has long faced opposition but the movement did not have a clear leader. Now it does, Gideon Rachman writes. Navalny and his organisation have stirred public anger with an extraordinary investigation into an opulent palace, apparently built for Putin by the Black Sea, which the Kremlin denies. Gideon writes:
Eliot Higgins, once an amateur online detective, is now the founder of an extraordinary non-profit, Bellingcat, which he describes as “an intelligence agency for the people”. For a decade, he and his collaborators have trail-blazed detective techniques that stitch together social media posts, satellite data and confidential databases with stunning results: they proved that Syria’s regime used chemical weapons against its citizens and have unmasked the Russian “kill teams” who poisoned defector Sergei Skripal and opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Over sushi, wraps and cake with Henry Mance he discusses truth in a post-truth world.
I enjoyed this article that compares running for beginners with investing. The two share many similarities: get your (money) off the couch, start with the right kit and focus on long-term goals. Last year was one of extreme saving for many better-off people who now feel the need to make their money grow faster or generate more income. But as with every major step, you need to have a plan, writes Moira O’Neill, who takes inspiration from the NHS Couch to 5k app. Feeling confident? Dive into the FT’s Runaway Markets series, which launched this week, to keep abreast of the latest trends. As Jesse Owens, four-time gold medallist in the 1936 Olympic Games, put it:
I developed a healthy respect for French etiquette during a stint working in Paris but missed self-deprecating British humour. “The French know how to live but they don’t know how to laugh,” was the line I liked to give friends back home. But hit TV series Call My Agent! (available on Netflix) proves me wrong. With guest appearances from the likes of Juliette Binoche (pictured, left) and Charlotte Gainsbourg, it’s great that so many French stars have relished sending themselves and the industry up.
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JenniferAssistant companies editor