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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 weekend, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The World

Masking the Problem 

The Vietnamese have reported many less cases than their neighbours, they’ve also put tens of thousands of people in military operated camps… so, something about swings, roundabouts and authoritarianism? That said, there is evidence emerging that a significant number of the novel coronavirus transmissions are occuring from asymptomatic carriers. Which might well help to explain this handy graph:

Two Wrongs make a Right?

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro never wishes to be outdone by Trump, and as such has dismissed Covid-19 almost entirely, claiming it’s just the “sniffles”. In an about-turn that only 2020 could bring, Brazil’s drug gangs and paramilitaries have taken up the mantle of enforcing social distancing in favelas, as the government fails to take any action. Threatening WhatsApp messages warning citizens to stay inside have been circulating as the crime organisations take public health policies into their own hands.

The US

Land of the Free to Botch the everloving hell out of a Pandemic response

The Americans haven’t dealt with a crisis that wasn’t clearly of their own making in, arguably, the history of the U.S.:

Myriad needless gun violence? Brought it upon yourselves y’all. 

Too much lead in the water? I think the Romans had a similar problem… 

9/11? Form an alliance with the Saudies and a radical sect called Wahhabism while systematically invading or otherwise seriously fucking off various middle eastern nations… yeah, seems like a crisis of one’s own making. 

How about the southern border with Mexico and over 100,000 killed in the war on drugs? Folks will even use such events as motivating factors for a pointless multi-billion expenditure on a useless border wall… again, clearly a crisis of one’s own making? Right?

So when there is a global crisis which honest people in the U.S. do not recognize as clearly one of their own design, what is the appropriate response? 

Well, try and make the crisis one that is becoming of their own design. 

The following efforts to exacerbate the crisis can only really be sensibly understood as such, unless one abandons the notion of an U.S. ‘government’ and instead employs the frame of a simultaneously brutal and inept business administration: 

Trying and failing to defund the CDC (congress didn’t abide Trump’s ‘initiatives’); letting the epidemiologists go; Saying the ‘novel’ (hint in the name here) coronavirus is basically the Flu; Not producing anything like enough masks (or ventilators for that matter); Not testing or monitoring people extensively enough at a time where it really mattered; Not giving people sick leave (i.e. not an incentive/need to keep going into work, regardless of health); Not providing food deliveries (as Jordan is doing); Or any of the myriad humanitarian benefits of a Universal Healthcare System. 

The UK

Unanimous Sick Notes

The virus finally shuts down the courts. Officials have reluctantly acknowledged that the novel coronavirus poses an insurmountable challenge to the justice system insofar as it provides a ‘get out of jury’ free card for any prospective participants. I joke, it’s actually about social distancing… so they say. 

RAF London City

Adjacent to the behemoth ExCel convention centre among the former docklands of East London, lies the small and usually commercial London City Airport (LCY). As part of Operation Nightingale the ExCel centre’s 100km2exhibition space is being repurposed as a 4,000 bed hospital (a refreshing break from hosting trade shows for weapons manufacturers), the largest in the UK by more than a factor of 3 after St George’s in Tooting (if you aren’t brought a sense of calm by place names like Tooting then there is no hope for you). 

The adjacent airport is going to be exclusively serving military aircraft to support this mammoth effort to expand emergency hospital capacity. Here’s a pretty dramatic and amazing clip of an Hercules C-130 (weighing approximately ~35 tonnes when it isn’t loaded with supplies) landing on the ~1.5km runway. For those of you similarly nerdily inclined, here’s some footage  of similar epic-craft training in the Lake District via some remarkable maneuvers. 

What Just Happened?! consulted our staff engineer on the design principles behind this amazing machine; namely, how can such an humongous plane land on such a short runway? He had this to say: “Massive propellers, fully-feathered in reverse, air-brakes(/lift-spoilers) and very hot conventional brakes! Plus, the final approach speed is pretty low, the lift provided by those mighty fine wings with full flaps mean they’re coming in around 120mph”.

Hanging on by a Spaghetti

The Coronavirus pandemic has revealed how close the UKs food supply has been to more or less complete breakdown, as it has more or less completely broken down. What started as fuckwits bulk-buying 48 roll packs of toilet roll, and a shortage of pasta, has escalated into a full-on crisis (although admittedly nowhere close to India’s issues).

The executives of all the major supermarkets insist in vain that there is enough food to go around, but have spent the last two weeks telling everybody to order online… before realising they couldn’t cope and asking everybody to shop in-store. In-store, of course, means full-on social distancing: queuing outside, snaking around car parks, one-way systems down the aisles, and sneeze-guards in front of checkouts.

All very well for those of us who are fit and healthy, less so for the vulnerable, who are supposedly eligible for priority delivery slots. Depends on your definition of priority though; my 90-year-old, all-but-blind grandmother (who is isolating completely at the instruction of the government) is apparently ‘not vulnerable’ and can’t get a delivery slot.

I Told You So

Jeremy Corbyn has really doubled-down on abandoning his likeable, grandfatherly ways recently, in favour of a more ‘bastardly-old-man next door’ thing. He’s used the Covid-19 crisis to proclaim a loud, literal: “I told you so” when it comes to public spending. As others in his party establish effective cross-party working in the light of an unprecedented emergency, his response has boiled down to a petty (if correct) assertion that a lot of the measures introduced by the government in recent weeks are exactly what he was trying to do. Thanks JC, really helpful right now, cheers pal.

Small Blessings

The UK Home Office announced today they intend to take a pause in wantonly evicting asylum seekers from their accomodation. That this should even be something that warrants an announcement, and isn’t just taken for granted as the right fucking thing to do, is somewhat shocking.

The Internet

I Bid(en) you good-day, sir

Where the hell is the political opposition? In the states, uncle Joe has had the political-savvy (or rather, his advisors/carers have) to not criticise Trump’s ineptitude and crony capitalist bullshit at this moment. Unsurprisingly, in the midst of a pandemic where voters are bombarded with literally endless news coverage of the most frightening aspects of a global health crisis, people don’t exactly want to have their leadership undermined. Since, you know, they’re (supposedly) leading you through the shite-storm…

This is an insight Jeremy Corbyn has totally failed to comprehend – oh yeah, who is leading the labour party at the moment? 

Joe’s team have been studying the impact of the 1918 Influenza pandemic on voter behaviour, that is, when they aren’t taking uncle Joe for walkies or wiping the remnants of his blended sustenance from his dribbling mouth. 

What do now? 

Whilst many of us are pretty busy, working from home, and battling to maintain businesses without key components such as staff and customers… we all suddenly have to adjust to not going anywhere or doing anything. 

The world seems to be adapting pretty rapidly though, as a plethora of new forms of entertainment (virtual pub quiz anyone?) appear, and brilliant culture is being made available, online, for free! The Observer brings us a round up of some of the best out there.


Thanks for reading! We’ll be back next week, get in touch with the authors Will Marshall and Alistair Simmonds on Twitter and let us know what you did and didn’t like.

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