Featured Image Source: Photo by Jem Sanchez from Pexels

The World

Make a U-turn at the Next Runway

Nothing fills you with confidence in an airline’s training regime like landing at the wrong airport… 13 miles away from your destination… that’s still under construction. An Ethiopian Airlines flight landed at a new airport in Ndola, Zambia a couple of weeks ago, having got disorientated. In fairness, 13 miles is not a long way in aviation terms, the runway faced exactly the same orientation, and the warnings (NOTAMs) that should have been issued to pilots of the construction hadn’t been published. Fortuitously, construction of the runway had already finished.

How very Christian (Democratic Union) of You…

Ze Germans have voiced opposition to an initiative to waive patents for Covid vaccines. Patents might hinder vaccination efforts to the extent that manufacturers, purchasers and distributors are concerned about being prosecuted for violating intellectual property norms. Even the Americans think we should waive the patents… albeit temporarily. Naturally the drug makers find themselves on the line of side of the fence that gives them unique commercial advantage. 

The imperative of mitigating the pandemic abroad, as in India where the virus is wreaking colossal havoc, shines an uncomfortable light on the prioritization of a few wealthy, predominantly western countries.  

Just weeks ago we legitimately fretted about India’s massively productive vaccine factories grinding to a halt without key American exports. In a quintessentially 21st century moment the world’s largest vaccine production facility The Serum Institute of India’s (SII) CEO, tweeted @POTUS a request to free up exports of raw materials. SII manufactures the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine (~100 million doses monthly), among others (such as Novavax ~60 million doses monthly). The Pfizer vaccine requires 280 components from 86 companies in almost 20 countries, so there’s an obvious high level sense in which international cooperation is required for such supply chains to remain functional. 

The US invocation of the Defence Act, a relic of the Korean War, has enabled the Americans to halt exports throughout the pandemic. Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla spoke regarding the DPA’s impact on rapidly scaling up production, saying it “significantly aided our effort”. 

Securing raw materials and equipment necessary to expand vaccine production is in every nation’s best interest. A tragedy of the commons might begin to seem predictable. The U.S. can free up the patents on it’s vaccines, it also needs to free up exports of raw materials. 

Moderna profited $1.22 billion in Q1 of 2021 compared to -$0.124 in 2020 

The IHME recently published research estimating the true Covid death toll to be, as of May 3rd 2021, approximately 7 million. 

Pfizer started exporting shots to Mexico. 

Sometime in mid-April the billionth Covid vaccine was produced. As the second billion might be produced in little over a month. 

Hungry Wolf at the Gate 

The Russian Army unwound a major military build up on the border with Ukraine as Alexander Navalny, the opposition leader, underwent a hunger strike in prison. 

The Internet

It’s not me, It’s you

See this story on our Youtube

Earlier in April, data from more than 500 million Facebook users was dumped on a hacking forum, including names, email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, employers and relationship statuses. 

Facebook claimed that the data was scraped from publicly visible information back in 2019, and for that reason it doesn’t need to report the hack. It also decided not to notify users whose data was hacked on the basis that it “couldn’t be certain” who would need to be notified. I’m sure it’s really tricky to work out whose details have been hacked from a giant list of contact details of those people…

Some journalists are pointing out that Facebook’s timeline doesn’t seem to make any sense: Facebook says the data was from a known previous hack in 2019, but when that hack happened, they claimed the data was from another previous hack sometime before 2019. Yet that hack affected a different number of users, and doesn’t appear to be the same dataset. 

In a blog post, Facebook’s Product Management Director seemed to shift the blame towards users, saying: “it’s always good for everyone to make sure that their settings align with what they want to be sharing publicly”.

Since you’re on the internet, it’s worth checking your emails and phone numbers at haveibeenpwned.com which will let you know if your details were involved in any known hacks. Sleep well.

First Doge in Space

Dogecoin, a joke cryptocurrency based on the popular meme ‘Doge’ now has a market cap greater than Ford and almost equal to Uber at $86Bn. You read that correctly, a joke currency has a total value of $86Bn. Eighty six billion dollars.

In percentage terms it has grown 25,000% in the last six months, thanks more than a little to our old friend Mr Musk, who took a shine to the coin and tweeted about it repeatedly. (Chances Musk knowingly bought a bunch six months ago and used his public profile to manipulate the valuable? Reasonable.)

Unlike other cryptocurrencies DOGE has no overarching mission or purpose, and has no cap on the amount that can be created (no scarcity), giving it runaway inflationary potential. It can almost be spent almost nowhere, and is not a reliable store of wealth. There doesn’t even seem to be a development team making any updates to it.

So why the value? Because 2020, because 2021, because memes, trolls, and retail markets just purely wanting to screw with ‘the man’, the finance system and wealthy elites… egged on by a billionaire with a space company.

The US

Don’t Make me Snitch on You to Trump!

Wait, you mean the Trump campaign scammed you?! No?! Quelle horreur! Who can you trust if you can’t trust a bunch of ex-President Trump’s cronies and yes-men?!

It has become apparent that the Trump campaign turned to a number of underhanded ways to increase their campaign finance donations (because apparently sending their mailing list an average of 15 emails a day wasn’t doing the trick). They used the age-old (and yet still super fraudulent) technique of pre-ticked boxes full of a bunch of sketchy guilt-tripping bullshit, followed by smaller text that authorised them to take recurring transactions:

In some cases, the boxes warned: “If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR.”

The use of pre-ticked boxes like this would be considered illegal in the civilised world (the European Consumer Rights Directive bans them), whereas in the US the campaign just has to provide a refund on request. It turns out the Democrats have actually been doing the same thing for years, although they claim they make the recurring charges much more explicit. The low refund rate would appear to bear this out. So far the Trump campaign has been forced to refund about $120 million.

The UK

Coming out of my cage, and I’ve been doing just fine

No, that’s not the morning mantra I chant to press down the anxiety of living through a pandemic (although not a bad idea, I’m both desperate to get out and lick things, but also fairly terrified I’m now a hermit and won’t want to change). The Killers’ Mr Brightside has in fact just broken the 5 year mark in the top 100 songs in the UK, having been there for 260 weeks

Astonishingly, the song was first released 18 years ago and only sold 500 copies, and even on it’s second release in 2004 it wasn’t exactly a massive hit. That said, anyone who’s ever been on a night out in a UK university town can attest to the fact that Mr Brightside is simply immortal. I for one, cannot count how many times I’ve caused grotesque damage to my vocal chords through over-enjoyment of that little ditty after a couple of beverages.

Like a Building, but Make it Worse!

A year into the pandemic, pubs and restaurants in England continue to be outraged at discovering that if you make a building out of things that aren’t bricks (wood, or tarpaulin for example), and you go inside the poorly made building, you are in fact, inside a building.

Local newspapers all over the nation will be dining out for months (well… not literally) on stories of landlords apoplectic at being told by the council that their buildings have insides. It comes ahead of the easing of lockdown restrictions that will allow the opening of outdoor venues.

See Jason Kalen (livid) in Wiltshire, who has built a large wooden chalet, which can’t be used (because it has an indoors), or Colin Curran (frustrated) in County Durham who has a series of garden sheds with tables inside (I guess we can’t all live in Wiltshire), which are you guessed it, inside. 

For once, government guidelines are actually pretty clear on what venues can open, you can have a roof, but only 50% walls. Which raises the question, why don’t these people just remove some of the walls from their shitty buildings?

Going Green

More good news?! Yup, the UK had its greenest day on record a couple of weeks ago, as 80% of electricity came from low-carbon sources. Considerable help came in the form of a sunny, windy day and bank holiday low demand. Roll forward to this last bank holiday Monday, and another record toppled as wind generation hit a new high of 17.6GW or 48.5% of the grids total demand! The trend in UK power generation is likely to lead to records continuing to smash over the coming years. 

Meanwhile, a couple in the Netherlands moved into Europe’s first 3D printed house, manufactured from layers of printed concrete. Whilst houses have been printed before, this marks the first time they will have permanent tenants, as part of a development of five houses, each progressively more complex.

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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