This post has been migrated from our original Medium page and was first published on 01/11/19.
Welcome back to this week’s instalment of the all-new What Just Happened?!, a semi-comical weekly digest of the most important news from the UK, US and the World from Will Marshall, and Alistair Simmonds-Yoo. We’re giving Friday a go, let us know if you prefer this to Wednesday, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Even Boris doesn’t back Boris
Brexit came to a shuddering halt this week (deja vu much?) as an extension was granted by the EU once again. Operation Yellowhammer was halted, the cones were taken back up from Operation Brock and the process of melting down the 10 million commemorative coins began. It looks extremely likely that we will see a general election before Christmas, but the outcome is more than a little uncertain!
The Conservatives look set to get mauled in pro-Brexit areas as Boris’ do-or-die Brexit died, whilst Labour are so unsure of themselves they’re on the fence about whether they’re even a political party now. There’s a good chance that the SNP and Lib-Dems could hold all the cards in forming some sort of coalition down the line, and may force a second referendum.
Ironically, the People’s Vote campaign is set to have a referendum on it’s future as internal politics threatens to tear it apart.
A 40-tonne fatberg has been removed from a sewer under Greenwich in London. The colossal blockages are formed when oils, fats and things like wet-wipes are flushed down the loo. This one took three weeks for workers to remove by high-pressure hose and hand. (Having had a short-lived career as an engineer in wastewater I personally implore you not to flush wet-wipes, I have seen first-hand what they can do, and an actual human person has to deal with it, thankfully never myself! — Will)
Burn baby burn, California Inferno
A positively significant portion of California looks set to be swept up in flames this weekend (written Saturday October 26th) as I find myself in Berkeley. My host has kindly taken the initiative in ordering a box of pollution masks such that I can walk around the red skyed apocalyptic bay area without too much damage, should this year imminently come to resemble last (actual photo of the Bay Area last Fall fire season)… or even worse.
Chile’s Curfew takes restless respite
Following a march of a million people, >5% of Chile’s population, Pińera calls for government ministers to resign. Rather than taking personal responsibility the president has attempted to save face by purporting an end to the ~10 day state of emergency on Sunday 27th. The government has been forced to appear to budge following extreme protests leading to thousands of arrests and tens of deaths — while having their credibility (hopefully) irrevocably damaged by indiscriminately beating the populace. Curfews remain in 12 regions.
Donald Trump had some choice words to describe the death of al-Baghdadi, the IS leader this week. The fugitive “died like a dog…whimpering and crying and screaming”. It’s certainly a bigly win for the embattled president, but perhaps slightly tasteless given how the terrorist dragged three of his children with him into a tunnel and blew himself up as US commandos stormed his compound. To be sure they had the right man, an onsite DNA test was conducted, using a previously stolen pair of underwear for comparison.
I’m certain the irony was lost on Trump that the intelligence leading to this operation was largely gathered by the Kurdish forces he has so brazenly abandoned.
Not such a comedy of errors
The full report on the Lion Air Boeing 737 Max crash this week was a textbook example of why air is the safest form of travel. The report listed a multitude of crippling procedural errors by the airline, the maintenance staff and the pilots, that combined with a flawed aircraft design and poor regulatory oversight, led to the deaths of 189 people. It’s a testament to the importance of avoiding complacency, but does highlight how many things have to go wrong to lead to disasters of this scale in the aviation industry. Questions remain regarding the eerily similar Ethiopian airlines crash.
A less flaky grid
A team of scientists at QMU London have unveiled a new design of battery, inspired by pastry. Croissants are made by folding layers of pastry over themselves with butter in between, turns out doing this with capacitors creates something even tastier. The new batteries are 30x more energy dense than conventional designs, and can be manufactured at a similar price point. The innovation could provide grid storage, helping the world’s transition to renewable energy.