Touch a Nerve
In a move that firmly cemented him in the position of ‘Human with World’s Largest Testicles’, Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny made a semi-triumphant return to Moscow. He has spent the last 5 months recuperating in Germany after an attempt on his life with the nerve agent Novichok, of Salisbury fame. You know that one that Russia keeps denying using but are the only people that have it? Yeah, that one.
In a move that just screamed “we’re not scared of you, who even are you?!” Navalny’s flight was diverted by the authorities to a different Moscow airport, whilst some of his gathered supporters were arrested, and the man of the hour was immediately detained for allegedly missing parole hearings. One could argue that missing parole hearings because you’re in hospital recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning by the FSB is a reasonable excuse, but in Mother Russia parole hearing doesn’t come to you it would seem.
We should say that the Russian state denies any knowledge of the assasination attempt, and indeed that Novichok was used, whilst refusing to open an investigation into attempted murder. In a bizarre twist Navalny released a recording last month claiming to be of a conversation between himself posing as a senior FSB agent and another agent involved in the attack. In it he extracts information about the attempt including that the method of administering the nerve agent was via the inside of his underpants.
The botched assasination attempt has become a real thorn in the side for Putin’s Kremlin who it appears would much rather Navalny had stayed in exile in Germany. The visual impact of queues of riot vans parked up awaiting the arrest of a man the administration claims not to be scared of was striking and was enough on its own to revitalise hope for Russia’s opposition.
To notch up the tension further, Navalny’s aides released a 2 hour long video detailing an alleged palace Putin has constructed on a pleasant portion of Russia’s seaside; there have been allegations of the aforementioned palace being paid for with illegally diverted funds for the past 10 years. Navalyn’s team are reporting a level of detail on the alleged palace which hasn’t been widely circulated before; including floor plans and financial records. “No, that isn’t my billion dollar palace on the Black Sea” is hardly a decent defence, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s very existence was called into question.
Saturday saw the largest Russia-wide protests in years, from St Petersburg in the west to Yakutsk in the east, where demonstrators braved temperatures of -50C(-58F), with more than 2,500 people arrested as the demonstrations were ‘unsanctioned’ by the Kremlin. Reports seem to indicate an interesting change in the demographic of protestors compared to previous years in that they are no longer solely the domain of young, well-educated, metropolitan Russians, but seem to be spreading to old generations. In the midst of the usual photographs of state-sanctioned beatings, watch this amusing video of riot police getting pelted with snowballs.
Quebec’s Police force confirmed as part of a statement that exemptions to curfew that allow for exercising animals do in fact only apply to non-human pets. The response came to a couple fined more than $1500 (CAD) each for breaking local curfew after trying to convince officers it was okay because one of them was on a leash.
The Terminal, but Make it Less French
A man was discovered last weekend having been living in the secure, airside section of Chicago O’Hare Airport for 3 months. Californian Aditya Singh claimed he was too afraid of coronavirus to return home. Singh appears to have evaded terminal police having ‘acquired’ an employee’s ID badge which was reported missing.
This is far from the longest stretch anybody has spent in an airport: Iranian Mehran Karimi Nasseri spent 18 years airside in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport.
But where’s the ring?
Paul Davis, a Texas attorney made recently unemployed by virtue of having videoed himself attacking the Capitol, has filed a court case to have Trump reinstated as President. So far, so 2020. The case is somewhat unusual however, in that it seems to be based almost entirely on the fictional events in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.
Davis, and the groups backing him, feel very strongly that the new administration weren’t elected, and that: “Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as ‘Aragorn’.” Meaning that a council of stewards (from Trump’s cabinet) should be assembled to rule over the US until Trump can re-ascend to his throne.
Legal experts say that the case seems unlikely to succeed.
I’ll sign an Executive Order if it’ll get these kids off my lawn!
The U.S. vaccine rollout is starting to pick up momentum after it’s initial glacial pace due to a disjointed and massively inefficient healthcare apparatus. Some places are getting creative about managing the final step of the vaccination development and distribution process, such as Seattle enlisting firefighters to help poke the elderly.
The U.S. is averaging almost 1 million doses administered per day as of very recently, which is pretty freaking epic. Though it’s obviously worth bearing in mind that there are something like 328 million people in the states and each will need 2 shots, so even at 1 million doses per day it will still take almost 2 years to get everyone vaccinated (or ~656 days). So the yankydoodles are on the right track providing the acceleration carries on; the daily average between christmas and new years was in the hundreds of thousands, so there’s exponential progress here.
Perhaps this is why it seems less than reassuring to hear Biden bickering with the press; “Come on, give me a break, man.” he says alongside claiming the press rubbished 100,000 doses a day as impossible in a conversation which seems to completely overlook the changing circumstances of the rollout. Come on, Old man, keep up. Seriously, Biden is about 40 years older than the median American and the oldest president to ever take office at 78.
Biden’s already signed 30 executive orders in his first few days, such as those aimed at ramping up production of N95s and vaccines, including some which are almost exactly a year past their point of significant usefulness like requiring negative tests for those entering the country. Other highlights from the first few days of the Biden team’s presidency include:
- Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord
- Withdrawing permit for a great big pipeline (or rather, withdrawing a permit for finishing the final stretch of pipeline where thousands of miles have already been built at the cost of billions of dollars)
- Withdrawing funding for the border wall
- Joe not getting lost in the Whitehouse without an aide being able to promptly find him and maintain presidential-continuity from the perspective of the press; also we don’t want Kamala Harris to get a false start (although the Simpsons’ did predict a lady in a purple dress replacing Trump as president, we may have to wait some days yet)
Universal Basic Mittens
While universal access to healthcare should be considered more a basic requirement for a functioning democracy than some radical progressive Stalinist witchcraft, the Americans still insist on inventing some problems for themselves.
Bernie attended Biden’s inauguration wearing what appears to be the same jacket he wore during his fundraising campaign for the 2020 presidency and some handmade mittens of predictably wholesome origin.
Remembering Bernie’s various campaign fundraising initiatives and the impressive draw of millions of small donors stands in stark distinction to million dollar donations from major corporations and the entrenched elite such as Biden’s campaign relied on. Casual reminder that the word Oligarchy means “a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.”
Sanders has even put the photo on a sweatshirt which you can buy for $45 and the proceeds will be donated to Meals on Wheels in his home state of Vermont.
The crown for the single-largest outbreak of Covid at an employer has been handed to… drumroll please… the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA, the UK equivalent of DMV). More than 500 cases have been reported at the DVLA head office in Swansea, with workers reporting that they were instructed to turn off their Track & Trace apps to avoid being told to self-isolate.
Despite only 250 workers being needed onsite during the first lockdown, the DVLA claims that this time it needs 1,800, whilst employees claim most are actually unable to work from home because the IT systems are so antiquated that it would be impossible for them to work remotely.
The DVLA falls under the feckless eye of the Department for Transport, the same DfT that awarded a ferry contract in 2019 to a company that had no boats and a website with text copied and pasted from a pizza delivery company. Admittedly that was with Failin’ Grayling at the helm, who has since been replaced with Shitty Shapps, who is the Transport Secretary that last week said he was “the last person” that the public should listen to for transport advice.