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This week in Tortoise: Mariupol

This week in Tortoise: Mariupol

Andrew Neil launches his new podcast tomorrow. It’s a weekly interview for Tortoise called The Backstory and he begins by questioning the former head of the CIA, David Petraeus, about the battles within President Biden’s administration over the use of US military power. It’s an interview that, among other things, returns to America’s exit from Afghanistan – a humanitarian crisis that the media has largely abandoned, but General Petraeus has not forgotten: he is withering about the Biden administration’s withdrawal from the country and the price paid in Afghan lives and American power. It is the first in a series of interviews, which we hope will show what we learn about our times when some of the most influential and experienced people in the world take the time to talk, one on one, to the UK’s most formidable interviewer. 

For more than a month, we have been trying to piece together from first hand accounts, intelligence reports and aerial photography, what’s really happening at the scene of a war crime: Mariupol. Today, the city is on the brink of defeat and beneath the rubble lie countless civilian bodies and evidence of atrocities. This week’s Slow Newscast investigates one week of the siege of Mariupol from the bombing of a maternity hospital on 9 March to the attack on a theatre on 16 March. Before the evidence is destroyed or attention moves elsewhere, Basia Cummings – with reporter Xavier Greenwood and producer Matt Russell – do the essential reporting to identify who is responsible for the annihilation of a city. It’s accompanied by a collection of photography, put together by Jon Jones, our photo editor, that makes for indelible viewing. Do please look and listen to Mariupol

2022 was supposed to be a celebration of the BBC’s centenary. But there’s not much of a party atmosphere at Broadcasting House. Its budget’s been cut, its future funding is in doubt and, even more than usual, it’s a political punchbag. At tonight’s ThinkIn, Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary who speaks for Labour on the media, will be in our newsroom a few blocks from the BBC and I’ll be asking her views of its future. Please join us – we’d be really interested to hear what you think. 

It’s the first in a week of ThinkIns that lean into the politics of culture. 

  • Tomorrow night at 6.30pm in the newsroom, Matt d’Ancona goes after one of the more ticklish questions these days: how far is too far in comedy? He’s joined by some very funny people – Gráinne Maguire, Nathan D’Arcy Roberts, Susie McCabe – who’ll do their best to be serious and Susie Alegre, a human rights barrister, who may yet crack a gag. 
  • On Wednesday, it’s our Open News meeting
  • And on Thursday, Giles Whittell is talking to the LSE’s Steven Jarvis to understand vested interests, local politics and the climate emergency: is Nimbyism killing the planet?
  • As you may know, we are trying to develop some in-depth understanding of the industries driving change in our lives. One of these is AI: tomorrow, Tortoise’s AI Forum holds a digital meeting over lunch to ask how can we ensure AI is deployed responsibly. Luke Gbedemah is in the chair, working out how we build trust. Join us if you can. As ever, you’d be most welcome.

Have a good week.


James Harding
Editor & co-founder