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We’ll start this week with a little good news (as long you are not a timber/oil baron): a new study has calculated the monetary value of leaving nature the hell alone, and for 70% of the sites across 6 continents surveyed, the value was greater than that of the resources you could extract. They say “Cash is King”, well thankfully it now makes economic sense to conserve and preserve!

What’s more, a prominent energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency, has declared that we have passed ‘peak gasoline’ (petrol, to those of us in the civilised world). They believe that a combination of increasingly efficient combustion-engined vehicles and the rapidly accelerating switch to electric drivetrains means demand for petrol is now on an irreversible decline.

Also if you would like a rare glimpse into the Earth’s core, look no further than Iceland! Where a Peninsula has taken upon itself to become larger (the cheek of it all), the Fagradals Mountain volcano is spewing lava in the first eruption the Reykjanes Peninsula has seen in ~781 years (a blink of the eye in geological terms). A surreal hue was observed in the night sky from the capital city of Reykjavik as the molten rock appeared.    

The World

Nuclear Bickering

The first formal talks between senior state representatives for China and the US presented citizens of both countries with cause for concern, as they panned out from the relatively unsuspecting hinterland of Alaska. The dialogue was about as constructive as can reasonably be expected when getting together with an old frenemy to rattle off your lists of grievances. Blinken (U.S. Secretary of State) offered to discuss “deep concerns” around Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang. Remembering that China considers Taiwan to also be China and Hong Kong to, again, also be China, it’s unclear what mutually agreeable next steps might be. Yang Jiechi (director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office for the CCP, so essentially China’s most senior diplomat) reminded the Americans that cooperation benefited both sides and essentially said in so many words that they wouldn’t be bullied by the Americans, nor should they be and hinted that they couldn’t be (very much in keeping with other “diplomatic” efforts this week as Biden called Putin a killer, to which Putin responded “it takes one to know one”). 

Infused Success

The U.S. has achieved 100 million COVID vaccination doses administered (58 days into the Biden administration, ahead of the 100 days targeted) and is now at almost 119 million as we write this.  

Meanwhile, many European countries have been suspending use of the (relatively cheap and logistically straightforward) AstraZeneca shot due to a very small number of fatal blood clots. Yes, the hippocratic oath demands that you don’t give people medicine that kills them. It is, however, unclear if the shot is increasing the risk of blood clots. Which is not what you might garner if you read The Wall Street Dual Purpose Bullshit & Toilet Paper Rag Journal’s take on events. 

“The EMA’s review covered 20 million people given the AstraZeneca shot in the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA), which links 30 European countries.”

With a matter of 30 or so blood clots being recognized in this sample, we’re talking about an extremely rare event (it’s about half as many people as are killed by lightning in the U.S. annually) which it’s not clear is causally related to the shot. Remembering two facts also helps make sense of this: The contraceptive pill significantly increases the risk of blood clots for some people; many of the people to qualify for shots have underlying health conditions or are a bit older and generally more susceptible to such things (all else being equal).  

13 European countries suspended use of the shot, the EMA now admits “clear confusion” in the approach. It’s difficult to overstate the potential damage shitty reporting on this stuff does. As many European countries enter yet further lockdowns, the French (particularly) don’t exactly need any more reason to be skeptical of vaccines. 

For the love of Democracy

The military junta’s grip on power in Myanmar has been tenuous since the February coup and has steadily increased in violence. At least 230 people have been killed by the state as the protests gather momentum and the army’s grip on power becomes increasingly tenuous. In one remarkable local story, as protestors sought refuge in a religious institution, a nun prevented them from being taken away and very possibly killed by talking the soldiers down

The U.S. government almost unanimously voted to condemn the military’s action in Myanmar, though 14 republican representatives couldn’t quite bring themselves to do so. Perhaps because they saw the danger in crossing their wires with regards to which elections they believe to be legitimate, or perhaps because of something about the wording in the bill (as claimed). The various Qanon representatives in the Republican party offered typically indefensible motivations for their presumably deliberately contrarian vote, with reasoning such as “we can’t police the whole world”; to which the sane among us respond both: It’s a bit late for that, mate; and, nobody is suggesting you invade Myanmar you blithering simpletons, there are many other ways of discouraging would be military dictatorships.

If you find yourself doubting why U.S. sentiment on this might particularly relevant or interesting, we offer a reminder that the Three Finger Salute popularized by The Hunger Games has been adopted by some of the protestors in Myanmar (after being similarly utilized in Thailand); if that doesn’t invoke a strong sense of how important stories and symbols can be then I’m not really sure what could. 

The Internet

Doctored Footage

We’re seeing prima facie plausible videos of characters like Tom Cruise doing and saying things you probably believe they would. Here’s a clip from Matt Parker & Trey Stone’s “Sassy Justice” in which Mark Zuckerberg is presented as the Dialysis King, promoting “Cheyenne Dialysis” in various ridiculous costumes and settings; he’s being no more or less creepy than usual, so it’s generally a pretty horrifying experience. 

Zoom Out

At this point the authors of WJH would rather give ourselves amateur lobotomies with rusty spoons than face another week of ineffably exhausting Zoom meetings. So we won’t, thanks to the new app ‘Zoom Escaper’ created by the artist Sam Lavigne. The software reroutes your outgoing audio via a web page on which you can play with a variety of annoyances.

 “Oh, is that my baby crying you hear?! I must tend to it! You who say I had not a baby last week are either a knave or a fool!”

Other options include adding your own frustrating echo and bad connection effects, or, bizarrely, the sound of someone urinating.

The US

Land of Hope and Gory

In an uniquely American short-circuit between the ears, a republican congressional representative chose the wake of an ethnically motivated mass killing (as a lunatic in Atlanta, Georgia…) to go on a tirade about “free speech” before reminding everyone about the proud Texan tradition of lynching. The best case for Chip Roy (ridiculous name for a ridiculous man) is that he is just plain simply donkey-brained, or was kicked in the brain by a donkey as a child and has stumbled on through his political and congressional career propelled only by blind chance and disingenuously allocated lobbyist funds. Like a sort of racist, semi-animated, dollar powered zombie intent on dragging America’s more sane and progressive instincts into the mud for a good smelly roll about in the filth. 

The senseless murder of 8 human beings in Atlanta reminds us all of what separates America from a civilized country. The deranged individual killed 8 people in cold blood at 3 massage parlours around Atlanta before being caught by police 150 miles away after his parents notified the police that he was a suspect. It’s a bleak day for America and we wish more than anything that the response was more like that to the ‘War on Terror’. Instead, we’ve been offered opining about the killers ‘motivation’ (from Biden himself) and the quality of his day (from dipshit local law enforcement), as if that makes a blind bit of difference to an effective response, which would be something like: 

  • Take guns off the streets
  • Effectively enforce the law in the myriad hate crimes across the U.S. daily
  • Prop up support groups for victims
  • Root-cause educational and community integration initiatives, people are reliably less fearful of that which they have more experience of 
  • Support sex workers 
  • Treat Asian women with respect as you would anyone else
  • Don’t try to guess the ethnicity of Asian women you meet 

We could go on; any of the above would have a decent hope of being helpful. Leering for any insight into the twisted mind of a criminally insane person probably doesn’t help prevent this from happening again. Nor does sharing fake facebook posts the killer didn’t actually write. 

Waning Wax

This is a pleasantly simple story, so rare in these complex days, no nuance at all: a museum in San Antonio, known as Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks, has removed a wax likeness of Donald Trump because visitors wouldn’t stop punching it in the face.

The UK

Dark Days

Fair warning – the below doesn’t have a hint of humour, there’s nothing funny here (as with much of this week’s piece, tragically) although it’s certainly important to be aware.

As WJH went to press last week, vigils were being held for Sarah Everard across the UK (we didn’t cover that story because sometimes the voices of two middle-class, white men aren’t the voices that need projecting and discussing violence against women in the immediate aftermath of a horrifying murder is one of those times). The gatherings were peaceful, with those present reporting that most were wearing masks and socially-distancing where possible. Everywhere outside London people paid their respects and made a silent statement of solidarity with women unhampered.

London though, has the Met. The police force who counted amongst their number the officer charged with murder of Sarah Everard. They chose not to stand on the periphery, but to wade through the crowd, shoving people to the ground in order to arrest some of the women speaking at the vigil.

The move was met with outrage across the political spectrum. The Met is unrepentant, saying it “cannot apologise” as the officers were carrying out their duties in enforcing Covid regulations. Putting aside for a moment the wisdom of arresting speakers at a vigil for a woman murdered by a Met officer (that has in turn triggered a number of protests and arrests), there’s an interesting point here: the covid regulations pushed through parliament almost a year ago, with little scrutiny, do give the police the power to shut down any gatherings, including protests. The right to assembly is effectively suspended.

What auspicious timing that this week parliament debated the ‘Police, Crime and Sentencing’ bill. The bill would bring in a truly remarkable set of changes to the laws governing peaceful protest; for a start future protests will have to be at a peaceful volume, as police can now set noise limits. Attendees could be charged for breaking rules they ‘ought’ to have known about, even if they weren’t warned by a police officer. It would also become an offence to “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”. Meanwhile damaging or defacing statues would carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison (up from three months), considerably more than the maximum sentence for some violent crimes against women. The bill passed it’s second reading and will progress to the House of Lords.

Not content that the week was dystopian enough, the Justice Secretary announced changes to the Judicial Review process. This is the process that, in theory, allows anybody who has been affected by a decision or failure to act by a public body to apply for the right to challenge the government on whether it acted lawfully or not.

An ‘independent’ review body (chaired by Conservative peer Lord Faulks) found that it was necessary to ‘protect’ judges from being drawn into political decision making. The government is now considering a set of rules which will dictate what can be challenged in court and what can’t be. 

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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