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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.
Drop it like it’s hot(-miced)
Whenever Trump visits the UK, it gets pretty weird. We like it that way. When the US gave the world Trump we were the nation that gave the world the giant inflatable Trump baby. Fitting then that as Trump is in town for this week’s NATO things got weird.
Highlights include Princess Anne royally snubbing Trump (and the Queen’s magnificent side-eye), and a group of world leaders caught on camera roundly mocking Trump leaving Trudeau in particular rather red-faced (at least it’s red this time), whilst Trump flew off early in a sulk. Apparently the Princess Anne thing was just a misunderstanding but we’d prefer to think it was deliberate!
Another major UK political event has been marked by a terrorist attack, as has seemingly become so common. How an electronically-tagged terrorist wannabe was released early from jail has raised all manner of questions about the UK’s justice system, and the loss of two young graduates, who were dedicated to prisoner rehabilitation, is a tragedy.
But the story is one of diametrically opposed halves: one of the men who tackled the killer and saved the life of one of his victims was reformed murderer James Ford. Whilst Londoners, native and immigrant alike, took the attacker down and prevented further deaths, including a Polish chef, who grabbed a nearby narwhal tusk (as you do) to help subdue the killer.
Prime Minister Johnson has been criticised roundly, including from the father of one of the deceased, for attempting to politicise the attack.
Undermining the Foundations
Larry Page and Serger Brin, the founders of search engine and advertising colossus Google, stood down as parent company Alphabet’s presidents this week. The two will retain their 14% stake (worth roughly $127Bn) but leave day-to-day activity to CEO Sundar Pichai. The more cynical-minded have pointed out that the pair had little to do with running the company anyway but have neatly extricated themselves from any upcoming competition investigations or tax scandals.
Wading in too deep
Elon Musk has taken the stand this week to defend himself against a case of defamation after calling a diving expert who insulted him a “pedo-guy” on Twitter. It all harks back to the Chiang Rai cave rescue that captured the world’s attention last year. Musk didn’t seem to take kindly to being called out when he turned up uninvited (but with good intentions) to tell all the experts how they were doing it wrong… (What Just Happened?! never intended to have a weekly feature of Musk’s antics, it’s just transpired that way thus far.)
An intriguing aspect of this story, unfortunately overshadowed by the CEO of several of the world’s most prominent firms acting like a posh (and weird) school boy on Twitter, relates to the particular experts whom finally found the stranded soccer-team. Specialist Thai Navy divers coordinated the search and rescue operations, supported by an international assembly of technically expert divers. Who found the kids? A pair of British volunteers. Volunteers who’re super into cave diving (and rescues), but volunteers non the less. All that time searching for treasures in caves along the coast of an island in the North Atlantic has finally paid off!
Your new must-have gift is here: without a singular shred of irony, Nordstrom is selling cords to hold your wireless AirPods together. Remember when earphones just use to have a cable? And then we did away with cables so that we’d have to pay an additional $60 to buy a cord? The future is now people.
A 71-year-old in Tokyo has been arrested for ‘fraudulent obstruction of business’ after he called his telecom company 24,000 time to complain! I personally aspire to reach this level of corporate harassment in my retirement also.
While adopting a positively Trumpian posture (literally, I just mean he’s sitting weirdly) the Zuck-Bot-5000 succinctly states that Facebook shouldn’t have the power it does while removing any responsibility for remedying the current *coughs – monopoly – coughs* situation. The Zuck-Bot calls on regulators to sort the problem out (as in the past), rather than those who’ve profited in epic proportions by exploiting (and partly designing) an attention-based economy with no regard for facts, prudence or social impact broadly construed.
In fairness, censorship is a hard problem and one fraught with existential danger for pretty well every government that’s ever dabbled in ‘Ministry of Truth’ type activities. That said, I can’t help but feel the Zuck-Bot benefits from palming off a super hard problem (like content-moderation and fact-checking) to civil society, rather than having regulators focus on something that would be super easy to regulate (while presenting an existential risk for Facebook) such as the right of user’s to own their data.
Putting the Active in Activism
A video has resurfaced from 2011 of prominent vlogger Casey Neistat, who got a ticket, from a rather officious agent of the state’s monopoly on violence, for not cycling in a cycle lane – so then made a video of himself crashing into things while cycling in cycle lanes. Ten points to the man with little regard for his physical form, my capacity to protest is hardened in resolve, as is my capacity for pettiness. Bravo.
From the Arctic with Love
As a sleuth of polar bears mosey around a particularly Arctic Russian settlement, the BBC go in for a master class in stating the obvious: ‘Conservationists say climate change could be to blame’. Ryrkaypiy literally means ‘the place of the Walrus’ in the Siberian language Chuchee (spoken by ~10,000 folks actively redefining the word habitable) which sounds like something out of a Roald Dahl novel and I love it. The settlement has a population of ~700 humans, suggesting that the polar bears (who’ve been counted thus far) almost represent 10% of the occupants.