Welcome back to this week’s installment 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. Look out for us every Friday, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
The general election campaign has rumbled on this week at a hellish pace. It’s been literally impossible to keep up with all developments from all parties, which seems to be working strongly in the Conservatives favour: the news cycle is outpacing its own outrage. Don’t get me wrong, Labour keep getting caught lying too, but the tories have launched themselves headfirst into a full-frontal maelstrom of wilful misinformation.
There’s been the low level number ‘massaging’ (like saying NI cuts will leave people £500 a year better off rather than £85), but UKFactCheck-gate on Tuesday night left most of the nation aghast. Incase you somehow missed it, the Conservative Party Press Office official Twitter altered its verified account to impersonate an independent fact-checking service for the duration of the first leadership debate. They really weren’t too bothered about being caught out either, to quote Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
All this dystopian weirdness has left the Lib Dems the simple task of just not doing anything too stupid in order to seem the most reasonable of the three main parties. They released their eminently sensible manifesto this week, including revoking Article 50, heavy spending on education and healthcare, and legalising weed. Their environmental promises don’t quite match Labour or the Greens, but do look like they’ve actually been costed and may be achievable. Both of the former have basically just said “oh, we’ll just fix it now, sorted, that was easy”, the Conservatives have said “oh well, it’ll probably fix itself once we remove healthcare and all the pesky poor people die”, so the middle ground appeals to the reasonable engineer in me.
On a related note, ‘new hope for one of world’s most endangered reptiles’, perhaps there is hope for our ruling class yet…
A Royal Fuck-up
We’re so used to seeing Prince Philip crash cars that the scale of Prince Andrew’s mangled wreckage of a Newsnight interview took everybody by surprise. I mean… wow. Emily Maitlis’ face as the Prince described the behaviour of the convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein as ‘unbecoming’ will go down in history. Unsurprisingly, it was later announced that Andrew will ‘step back from public duties’ indefinitely (my favorite satirical headline of the week ‘Prince Andrew to step back from whatever the f*ck it is he does’).
An Apple a day keeps the women away
Apple’s new credit card has been plagued by so many issues that Apple had to issue a guide on how to ‘safely store and carry’ it, which includes keeping it away from leather (such as wallets) and other credit cards (such as you might find in wallets). Now though, it’s issuer, Goldman Sachs, is set for an investigation by the US financial regulator into massive discrepancies in how credit limits are issued to women. Many women have claimed they’ve been awarded up to 20 times less, despite having better credit scores than their male partners!
Obama Calls Out Call Out Culture
In a delicious moment, for your viewing pleasure, Obama reminds us lazy Gen-Whatever’s that just being judgmental isn’t actually the same thing as going out and doing something in the world. That said, talking about how messy the world is probably suits you greatly when you had the Surveillance-as-a-service toolkit of Google as a crucial instrument of your election (scroll down to check out the graphs, also I’m still working on a blog post summarizing the 700 page epic that is Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Suboff) and a mixed bag of results under your administration – to put it mildly. Also, Onion headline of the week: ‘Obama spends afternoon in garage restoring classic drone’.
Emails unearthed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) show Stephen Miller, who is currently impersonating a human being in this present Whitehouse administration (& has been with Trump since writing speeches for rallies),
“promoting explicit and virulent white nationalist propaganda”.
Hopefully his tenure will not have the longevity of this comparatively adorable little guy.
For a third and final reference to persistent lizards (for the week…) here’s an amazing article reminding us all of the utter insanity currently occurring in and around the impeachment hearings. It’s unsurprising to learn that Drumpf’s Dad was allegedly arrested at a KKK riot in 1927… but please, do tell us more about Hunter Biden.
Also, if the decline of professional journalism could be summarized in a tweet – here it is “Analysis: The first two witnesses called Wednesday testified to President Trump’s scheme, but lacked the pizzazz necessary to capture public attention.”
Your South-Dakota on Drugs
A poorly thought through and expensive advertising campaign yields the following message
which honestly I don’t think anyone is disagreeing with.
The World (and beyond)
NASA have confirmed for the first time the presence of water on Jupiter’s moon Europa. The vaporous spray pushes the frozen moon right up among the most interesting bodies in the solar system.
As Neil Young famously sang… ‘Keep on blacking up in the Free World’, oh wait… During the Dutch Sinterklaasavond (awesome word) celebration people have been participating in this roughly 150 year running tradition of blacking up. I mean come on people, saying ‘this shouldn’t be political, we should all just have a good time’ is hardly a defense. Everything Is a political act, you chicken-head. If you were in the ethnic minority, rather than representing an old-school caricature of them you might feel differently about this. In other news, the History/Origins portion of the Wikipedia page on this fabulously Dutch tradition is completely fascinating.
Musking it up
I’m generally pretty amused by Elon’s antics and bear most of the nonsense no ill-will. SpaceX’s Starlink project is guided by a pretty noble ambition, bring everyone internet access (3 billion are currently offline). The number of low-orbiting satellites required to form a global space-modem type situation could be in the tens of thousands. The current 3,000 or so satellites orbiting the Earth (not just SpaceX’s and perhaps counting the moon, who knows…) are already wreaking havoc for astronomers.
Side note: while in the desert of Eastern Oregon last May I noticed what seemed to be the longest shooting star imaginable, circumscribing the atmosphere and remaining in vision all the way across the night sky… it was pretty awe inspiring and a little terrifying. It turned out to be the first 60 Starlink satellites launched in a train formation; not the aliens, not the end of the world, just profit motivated space shenanigans.
Does Elon Dream of Electric Trucks?
Here’s some footage of Elon Musk’s ‘Cyber Truck’ having it’s ‘bulletproof’ windows smashed with a heavy object… The release of this assault-on-the-aesthetically-inclined in November 2019 aligns with the setting of the film based on Philip K. Dick’s phenomenal ‘Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?’. All weirdness aside, it’s perhaps worth bearing in mind just how obnoxious American Trucks are as is, with their blinding headlights at eye level and exhausts conveniently polluting entire blocks by the instance – bring on the Electric-Sheep-Jeep!
WeWork lay off thousands of employees as ex-CEO Adam Neumann apparently tries to slither off with billions in his pocket. A tip of the cap to the righteous bringing of a class-action lawsuit against WeWork’s directors, Neumann and Softbank (who bought WeWork out, for some reason…). The lawsuit is a result of allegedly “using their control of The We Company to benefit themselves to the detriment of the company’s minority shareholders.”
Meanwhile, scaling up the apparent corruption from the Kibbutz to the State – though perhaps not quite in respective proportion – the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three permutations.
Angel’s in White Helmets
A co-founder of the White Helmets has died after an apparent fall from his balcony in Istanbul. The group won peace prizes for their work rescuing civilians caught in the crossfire in Syria and the timing of this tragic demise coincides with some truly harrowing events occurring in Syria at the hands of Turkish agents.
The Mother of All Student Protests
As for another human tragedy which the U.S. is failing to express moral leadership on the topic of… The students dug-in to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University armed with swords, bows and arrows etc. have mostly managed to make good their escape via tunnels and sending-it down ropes onto mopeds. The kids are fighting as if their lives depend on it, because they very likely do – if the UK consulate staff are going to be tortured in China it hardly bears thinking about the fate of the arrested students should they be extradited.
Watch this clip from 35 seconds in to see a Mad Max like scene of a police vehicle being repelled from the protestors’ blockade with flaming projectiles.