Issue #559 - 10th April 2020
|^ WORD OF THE WEEK
^ ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
Friday 10th April - King James V of Scotland born, 1512. Philosopher Jacopo Mazzoni died, 1598. The Virginia Company of London was founded to establish British colonies in North America, 1606. Singer-songwriter Sophie Ellis-Bextor born, 1979. Writer Sue Townsend died, 2014. Event Horizon Telescope scientists announced the first image of a black hole, 2019. Siblings Day. Saturday 11th April - Llewelyn the Great, King of Wales, died, 1240. Artist Bartholomeus Strobel born, 1591. The coronation of William III and Mary II as joint sovereigns of Greast Britain, 1689. Singer-songwriter Lisa Stansfield born, 1966. Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was deposed, 1979. Actress Edna Doré died, 2014. World Parkinson's Day. Sunday 12th April - Margaret of Bourbon, Queen of Navarre, died, 1256. The Union Flag was adopted as the flag for English and Scottish ships, 1606. Photographer Imogen Cunningham born, 1883. Canadian forces completed the taking of Vimy Ridge from the Germans, in World War I, 1917. Animator Oliver Postgate born, 1925. Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, died, 1945. International Day of Human Spaceflight. Easter. Monday 13th April - Krum, khan of the Bulgarian Khanate, died, 814. Catherine de' Medici, queen consort of Henry II of France, born, 1519. Handel's Messiah premiered in Dublin, 1742. Outlaw Butch Cassidy born, 1866. An oxygen tank aboard the Apollo 13 service module exploded en-route to the Moon, 1970. Writer Muriel Spark died, 2006. Tuesday 14th April - Lucia Visconti, Countess of Kent, died, 1424. A celestial phenomenon, described as an aerial battle, was seen over Nuremberg, 1561. Mathatician and astronomer Christiaan Huygens born, 1629. The RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, 1912. Artist John Singer Sargent died, 1925. Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar born, 1977. Wednesday 15th April - Godwin, Earl of Wessex, died, 1053. Polymath Leonardo da Vinci born, 1452. Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published, 1755. Singer Bessie Smith born, 1894. The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated by British troops, 1945. Actress Greta Garbo died, 1990. World Art Day. Thursday 16th April - The Jewish fortress of Masada fell to the Romans after several months under siege, 73. Mathematician John Hadley born, 1682. Astronomer Jacques Cassini died, 1756. The Rush-Bagot Treaty, establishing the United States' border with Canada, was ratified by the U.S. Senate, 1818. Singer Dusty Springfield born, 1939. Writer Edna Ferber died, 1968. World Voice Day.
^ THE WISDOM OF...
This week, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt:Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.
^ FILM QUIZ
Aselection of quotations from films with the same director. Answers next issue or from the regular address.
Last issue's quotations were from films directed by Lamont Johnson:
- I may be stoned on grass and Prozac, but... you've been walking through our life dead. And now I have to demean myself with Ralph just to get closure with you.
- Obey me! Or I will return you to the diseased state I found you in!... and then I will slay BOTH of you!
- Let's take it to the limit one more time.
- Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? It appears quite black.
- Most people - same job, same gig, doing the same thing 10 years from now. Us, we don't know what we are doing 10 minutes from now.
- Junior, you got the talent and I got the bankroll. Now how many loads of white lighting you think it's gonna take to get you back running?
-- The Last American Hero 
- Yes, gentlemen - I tap my own phone.
-- The Groundstar Conspiracy 
- Us loners got to stick together.
-- Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone 
- I can offer you instant poverty plus an employees' discount at Macy's.
-- Somebody Killed Her Husband 
- Hell, Number 2 must've blown up, there's a chunk this big torn out of the right side stabilizer.
-- Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232 
^ WEIRD WORLD NEWS
Strange stories from around the world, some of which might be true...
- In news reminiscent of the classic IT support worker's first solution to any reported problem it has been reported that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has ordered that all Boeing 787 operators should turn their aircraft off and on again every 51 days to prevent "several potentially catastrophic failure scenarios" including the failure of internal networks that could crash displays, controls and, well, the planes. It is not the first time advisories have been issued to power cycle planes - a previous bug in the 787's software required the planes' computer systems to be rebooted every 248 days and the Airbus A350 initially had a problem that caused its computers to have to be rebooted every 149 hours.
- Scientists analysing bubbles of gas trapped in rocks across the 4.2m square miles (10.9km2) of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province have calculated the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that volcanic eruptions at the end of the Triassic period released, causing sea levels to rise along with global temperatures and ocean acidity, wiping out around 76% of all animals both on land and in the water. They found that the eruptions occurred in worldwide "pulses", each lasting between a few centuries and several thousand years. Each pulse released the same amount of CO2 that human activity is forecast to pump into the atmosphere this century. ● One effect of climate change already visible is the migration of American Robins from Mexico to Canada, which is now starting 12 days earlier than in 1994. ● There has been much talk of planting billions of trees to capture atmospheric carbon, but a report from Britain's Natural Capital Committee has warned that trees will have to be planted with due consideration to their location. Planting trees in peat bogs will dry out the bogs causing more CO2 to be released than the trees will absorb, and transforming pastures to woods will impact meat production, leading to increased imports, possibly from countries that are cutting down forests to make pastures.
- A year ago this week the first direct image of a black hole (or rather of the gas surrounding it) was released by the Event Horizon Telescope, which pulled together data from telescopes around the world to create a massive virtual telescope. The team behind the project have now announced the imaging of a jet of plasma (electrically-charged gas) streaming away at the speed of light from another black hole, at the centre of quasar 3C 279. Oddly, the jet appears to be twisted and is offset from the centre of the black hole.
- Rail engineers repairing a line near Guildford in Surrey following a landslide have found that the rockfall revealed a small cave containing wall niches with evidence of carved initials and other decorations. It is thought that the cave might have been a medieval shrine linked to the Chapel of St Catherine, whose ruins lie on a nearby hill, the old name of which was Drakehull, "The Hill of the Dragon" suggesting that the area was ritually significant long before the chapel was built. Network Rail Wessex's route director Mark Killick told reporters that the cave had been archaologically recorded and every effort would be made to preserve it while the sandstone cutting it sits in is repaired.
- Whale sharks are the biggest sharks, indeed the biggest fish, in the oceans, reaching up to 60' (18m) in length but much about them remains unknown, including, until recently, how long they live. There are distinct rings in their vertebrae, which scientists thought might act like the rings in a tree trunk, but without knowing the rate at which the sharks' cartilage develops the ring count is meaningless. There was, however, one series of events that have allowed more precise ageing - the nuclear bomb tests carried out by various countries across different locations from the late 1940s. These doubled the amount of the Carbon-14 isotope in the atmosphere, which every living thing on the planet absorbs and anything alive in the late 1940s will display a spike in the isotope's level. Carbon-14 has a fixed and known rate of decay, so scientists were able to measure its presence in the cartilage of two long-dead specimens and determined that the sharks could have been up to 150 years old. Knowing their lifespan will enable better advise on conserving the species, which was recently upgraded from threatened to endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Coronavirus update: More videos of animals reclaiming the streets vacated by humans on lockdown has emerged. An alligator went for a quiet stroll through South Carolina beachside plazas, herds of deer were filmed on Wisconsin streets and hundreds of squirrels were relaxing in a Santa Monica, California, park. Meanwhile at the Ocean Park Zoo in Hong Kong, two Giant Pandas called Ying Ying and Le Le, which keepers have spent the last ten years hoping would breed appear to have taken advantage of the extra privacy from the zoo's closure since late January and Ying Ying is showing early signs of being pregnant. Sadly it is not all good news for animals - a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has become the known case of a non-domesticated animal showing COVID-19 symptoms, thought to have crossed species from a keeper. ● Numerous organisations and companies cancelled plans for April Fools' Day pranks in the light of the epidemic, although the Guido Fawkes political website ran a fake story about Richard Branson offering his Necker Island home as security on a bail-out loan for Virgin Atlantic which more readers apparently believed than a non-fake story about the BBC looking into the feasibility of replacing the TV license with a broadband tax. ● Brent Walker, mayor of Alton, Illinois, publically asked residents to obey a state-wide order to stay at home and said that he had directed the city's police to issue citations or arrest non-compliant citizens. Two days later police were called to a bar at 1 a.m. after reports of a gathering in violation of the order, and everyone there received a misdemeanour charge punishable by up to 364 days in jail or a $2,500 (£2,018) fine. Among those charged was Walker's wife. ● With business meetings moving online Lizet Ocampo, political director of advocacy organisation People for the American Way was chairing a virtual meeting using Microsoft Teams when she accidentally changed her avatar to a potato and was unable to change it back, becoming Potato Boss, much to her and her team's amusement - and, later on, the Twitterati's.
Last month the orthodox Israeli health minister Yaakov Litzman described the coronavirus as "a divine punishment against homosexuality"; both he and his wife have now tested positive, causing Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu and the heads of Mossad and the National Security Council to self-isolate for 15 days because they had been in contact with Litzman. ● Karen Kolb Sehlke, a Texas woman who ranted on Facebook that "You don't need sanitizer, you need faith and guns" has died of the COVID-19 virus. ● Pastor Landon Spradlin, who had reposted misleading comparisons of deaths due to COVID-19 and swine 'flu and suggesting COVID-19 was being used by the media to harm Trump went to Mardi Gras to play music and preach. This month he died of COVID-19 (Mardi Gras organisers are blaming the federal government for its inaction in not telling them to shut down the event). ● Both Scotland and New Zealand's Health Ministers have had to step down after flouting lockdown restrictions. ● Thomas Molly, acting secretary of the U.S. Navy has stepped down after the outcry over his firing the captain of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt for publicly asking for help from the Navy for COVID-19-infected crewmen. ● Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos appeared on a Facebook livestream to tell voters that "you are incredibly safe to go out" to vote in Tuesday's election. His message was probably not helped by his choice of costume - full personal protective equipment (PPE).
A woman stopped by police in Birkenhead, England, was found to have a large amount of cannabis in her car. She told them she was stockpiling enough "to last her for the next week" ● We do not know of she was related to the New York City resident stopped by police with a green rucksack strapped to his front that had "a large amount" of cannabis in it. His excuse? "I'm buying in bulk because you can't get out because of the lockdown.". ● In Cape Town, South Africa, meanwhile, notoriously violent street gangs have called a truce because of the pandemic and, instead of drugs, are helping distribute food and supplies around the poorer communities they come from. ● Also in South Africa, police in Kwazulu-Natal had a tip-off that a wedding celebration was going ahead despite a nationwide ban on public gatherings, and the bride, groom, pastor and all fifty wedding guests were arrested. ● New York City's police are being accused of helping the virus because anyone arrested for being outside without due reason is thrown in a cell with up to twenty-four others for hours, and not given any PPE. ● While China used mobile phone tracking to monitor the movements of people supposed to be self-isolating judges in Louisville, Kentucky, are having people who break quarantine orders fitted with ankle monitors [We just hope the fitters are more competent than G4S in Britain, who once fitted an ankle tag to a criminal's prosthetic leg; he just swapped legs when he wanted to go out... -Ed]
Social media companies, most notably YouTube, have been working to remove content linking the COVID-19 virus to the 5G mobile network after a number of 5G transmitters were burned down. Most notable was a live interview on YouTube with arch-conspiracy-theorist David Icke who claimed the link and also suggested that a vaccine, when it appears, will contain "nanotechnology microchips" that would allow people to be controlled. He also called for Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who is funding some of the COVID-9 vaccine research, to be jailed. Previously Icke - a former BBC sports correspondent - has claimed to be the son of "the Godhead" and that the British royal family are shape-shifting alien lizards... ● Other fake COVID-19 news posts included a video claiming to show Chinese protesters tearing down a 5G mast, which was actually old footage of Hong Kong protesters pulling down a "smart lamppost" equipped for data collection and footage of hospital beds in a street claimed to be from an overcrowded Italian hospital which was actually from Zagreb, Croatia, following a major earthquake last month.
After announcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) issued guidelines recommending that Americans wear face masks Trump told reporters "Sitting in the Oval Office... I somehow don't see it for myself." [Given his response to world - and national - affairs we would think he sits in the Oval Office with a paper bag over his head at all times... -Ed] ● Trump played down the economic downturn that has seen 10m Americans file as jobless in a two-week period last month as "It's not like we have a massive recession or worse. It's artificial because we turned it off." [Sounds like an admission of responsibility... -Ed] ● Ivanka Trump tells Yahoo! she's been finding time apart from doing her undefined job from home and childcare to learn the guitar and study Greek and Roman mythology, assumes "pretty much every parent around the country" is doing the same... ● Jared Kushner addresses reporters, shows precisely why an unqualified over-self-confident idiot like him should not have been put in charge of pandemic response by daddy-in-law. ●The Trump administration originally wanted none of the $2tn (£1.6tn) Stimulus Bill funds to go to Native American tribes; they eventually got $10bn (£8.07bn), half the amount they asked for and Democrats agreed to, after Republican senators reduced their payout. ● The Trump administration has been accused of putting veterans and Veterans Affairs workers at risk by demanding workers go back to work without a 14-day self-quarantine period after being exposed to COVID-19. ● Insatiable complainer Trump attacks hospitals, says "the complainers should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit." [If there had still been a White House Pandemic Response Unit rather than unqualified idiot Jared Kushner who denied the virus was a risk to the U.S. perhaps they would have been... -Ed] ● Speaking of which, Trump spent much of last month claiming that "nobody" saw the pandemic coming, but his trade advisor Peter Navarro sent several memos to the administration starting as far back as late January warning about the virus, advising an immediate travel ban on China and warning that the "risk of a worst-case pandemic scenario should not be overlooked" as it could kill as many as 500,000 Americans and lay waste to the economy. ● Trump has repeatedly said that the U.S. has plenty of ventilators, and may send some to Britain. Presumably these "many" are the ones being bought from China, where there are twenty-one companies manufacturing them.
It should be remembered that it is not just Trump and his family attempting to rewrite history over the virus, vice president Pence has recently been insisting that Trump never belittled the threat from the virus. He did, for months. ● Stephanie Grisham, Trump's White House press secretary (who, as far as we know, never gave a press conference) has left her job to be replaced by Trump Campaign Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Shortly after news of her appointment broke video of a February 25th interview on Fox resurfaced, in which McEnany told host Trish Regan "This President will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like [the virus] come here. We will not see terrorism come here, and isn't that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?" By February 25th there were 57 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and the administration was doing nothing while denying any risk. There are now over 400,000.
Trump is still pushing the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19, and ha said that the U.S. has stockpiled 29 million pills, despite there being no trials-based evidence for it's effectiveness. "What do you have to lose?" he asked several times at a recent briefing. Well, hydroxychloroquine has a very narrow dosage range where it is effective against malaria, above which it can cause serious harm. So why is Trump advocating it? Perhaps because Planquil, the brand-name version of the drug is made by Sanofi, a French drugmaker. Sanofi's largest shareholders include a mutual fund run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to the Republican Party, and all three of Trump's family trusts have investments in Fisher's mutual fund as well as in other European stock-market index funds that most likely also hold significant shares in Sanofi.
As well as assisting in the national response to the coronavirus and dealing with outbreaks among its own ranks, the U.S. military has been ordered to "increase surveillance, seizures of drug shipments, and provide support for eradication efforts that are going on right now at a record pace" on the U.S-Mexico border, causing concern in the military that they are being pushed into spying on American territory. Unsurprisingly the administration has failed to make the best use of the reserve military National Guard, only some of whom have been called up to assist with aid deliveries during the pandemic outbreak.
Trump has accused some Americans who cast their votes in election by mail of "cheating", telling reporters that he opposes postal-only elections during the coronavirus outbreak as he fears it would lead to widespread election fraud. Trump's place-of-residence for voting is in Florida (having fled New York City when investigations into his taxes started) so he will be voting by post because "I'm here in the White House". There is, need we say, little evidence of significant voter fraud with postal voting.
The Department of Justice is investigating Deutsche Bank over money-laundering allegations. Probably not the best time then for the Trump Organization to be asking the bank to postpone its loan repayments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Walter Shaub, former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under Obama then Trump has highlighted that as Trump did not divest from his businesses when he took office (something presidents usually do to avoid conflicts of interest), the scenario now playing out, where Trump, as president, is trying to get a deal for his businesses from a bank under investigation by his administration, is the "absolute nightmare that someone (ahem) warned about" when Trump became president. the Trump Organization has had to lay off or furlough staff and shutter resorts and golf clubs as result of the pandemic, though the Secret Service recently signed an "emergency order" to rent $45,000- (£36,300)-worth of golf carts in Sterling, Virginia, to protect an unnamed "dignitary" There is a Trump golf course in Sterling. It has not closed. We wonder who that "dignitary" might be, but, er, whoever it is [*cough* *splutter* -Ed], it will mean presumably U.S. taxpayers' money continuing to end up being payed to the Trump Organization...
The unplanned, unexpected and hasty withdrawal of the U.S. Army from Syria at Trump's surprise order has left $4.1m (£3.3m) of equiment not properly accounted for. It is not thought that any of it was left in Syria, but the lack of time and problems with internet connectivity meant that transfers in the Army War Reserve Deployment System were not recorded. ● We reported above that many April Fools' Day pranks were abandoned this year. Star Wars actor Mark Hamill tweeted late on April 1 that "I downloaded this headline yesterday before I decided not to participate in #AprilFoolsDay but didn't want it to go to waste. #Enjoy" above a news TV picture of Trump at a press statement with a fake headline "BREAKING NEWS - DONALD TRUMP RESIGNED. 'The world is saved,' 'I can't believe this!' #TRUMPTERMINATED" You can see it here. ● Conservative columnist Max Boot of The Washington Post wrote that he had tried to avoid calling Trump the worst president in U.S. history because history requires time to put events into perspective, and had instead labelled Trump the worst "modern" president, until the last month, where Trump had been warned about the impending pandemic but took no action to acquire the testing equipment and emergency supplies that are now desperately needed, preferring to play golf, hold rallies and ignore or downplay the risk. Boot is now sure that Trump is indeed the worst president in U.S. history.
Singer-songwriter Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne, "That Thing You Do!", Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 52), actor Jay Benedict (Aliens, Foyle's War, Emmerdale, 68), singer John Prine (John Prine, The Missing Years, Fair and Square, 73), comedian Eddie Large (Little and Large, 78), mathematician and cricket enthusiast Tony Lewis (The Duckworth-Lewis method, 78), singer Bill Withers ("Lean On Me", "Ain't No Sunshine", "Just The Two Of Us", 81), actor James Drury (The Virginian, Walker, Texas Ranger, The Adventures of Brisco County, 85), actress Shirley Douglas (Lolita, Dead Ringers, mother of Kiefer Sutherland, 86), Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath (Longleat House and Safari Park, 87), actress Lee Fierro (Jaws, Jaws 2, 91), actress Honor Blackman (The Avengers, Goldfinger, The Upper Hand, 94), actor Forrest Compton (Gomer Pyle: USMC, The Edge of Night, The Twilight Zone, 94), immunologist Dr William Frankland (pupolarised pollen counts, dubbed "the grandfather of allergy", 108).
^ DUMBLEDORE BEAR'S LOTTERY PREDICTOR!
Dumbledore Bear, our in-house psychic predicts that the following numbers will be lucky:1, 6, 8, 12, 42, 58[UK National Lottery, number range 1-59]
You can get your very own prediction at http://www.simonlamont.co.uk/tfir/dumbledore.htm.
^ AND FINALLY...
Little Simon came home from school with a big bruise on his arm. "What happened to you?" his concerned mother asked, as she inspected it.
"I ate some chocolate after lunch, Mum," Little Simon said.
His mother looked puzzled. "Eating chocolate won't bruise your arm," she said.
Little Simon sighed. "It will if it's Little Jennifer's..."
^ ...end of line