The Friday Irregular

Issue #563 - 8th May 2020

Edited by and copyright ©2020 Simon Lamont
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tfir@simonlamont.co.uk

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Contents

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^ WORD OF THE WEEK
ursiform
  adj. shaped like a bear


^ ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

Friday 8th May   -   Joan of Arc lifted the Siege of Orléans, 1429. Swindler and informer Thomas Drury born, 1551. Barbara Radziwełł, queen of Poland, died, 1551. Pharmacist John Pemberton started selling a patent medicine in the form of a carbonated drink he called Coca-Cola, 1886. Occultist Helena Blavatsky died, 1891. Actress Melissa Gilbert born, 1964. Victory in Europe Day and associated remembrances. World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.
 
Saturday 9th May   -   Osric, king of Northumbria, died, 729. England and Portugal ratified the Treaty of Windsor, the oldest diplomatic alliance still in force, 1386. Mathematician Gaspard Monge born, 1746. The City of Truro became the first steam locomotive in Europe to exceed 100mph (160km/h), 1904. Anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl born, 1921. Singer and actress Lena Horne died, 2010.
 
Sunday 10th May   -   Landowner and courtier Thomas Tuddenham born, 1401. Christopher Columbus arrived at the Cayman Islands, naming them Las Tortugas, 1503. Artist Hokusai died, 1849. Actress Meg Foster born, 1948. The first edition of Marvel Comics' The Incredible Hulk was published, 1962. Soprano Leyla Gencer died, 2008.
 
Monday 11th May   -   Organist Johann Gottfried Bernhard Bach born, 1715. Politician and British Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder died, 1778. A route across the Blue Mountains was discovered, opening Australia's interior to settlement, 1813. Special Operations Executive heroine Lise de Baissac born, 1905. Writer Zenna Henderson died, 1983. Deep Blue became the first computer to beat a world-champion chess player in the classic match format, 1997.
 
Tuesday 12th May   -   The marriage of Berengaria of Navarre to King Richard I of England, 1191. Emperor Shōkō of Japan born, 1401. Poet John Dryden died, 1700. The Donner Party set out from Missouri for California, 1846. Nobel laureate biochemist and crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin born, 1910. Nobel laureate writer Nelly Sachs died, 1970. International Nurses Day.
 
Wednesday 13th May   -   Antiquarian Ole Worm born, 1588. The First Fleet of eleven ships carrying convicts left Portsmouth to establish a penal colony in Australia, 1787. Architect John Nash died, 1835. Actress Bea Arthur born, 1922. Suffragist Zara DuPont died, 1946. The Pajama Game opened on Broadway, 1954.
 
Thursday 14th May   -   Simon de Montfort became the de facto ruler of England after defeating Henry III at the Battle of Lewes, 1264. Mathematician William Emerson born, 1701. Composer Fanny Mendelssohn died, 1847. The last witchcraft trial in the United States began in Salem, Massachussetts, 1878. Filmmaker Sofia Coppola born, 1971. Actor and singer Frank Sinatra died, 1998.


^ THE WISDOM OF...

This week, John Dryden:
There is a pleasure in madness, which none but madmen know.


^ FILM QUIZ

A selection of quotations from films by the same director. Answers next issue or from the regular address. Last issue's quotations were from films directed by John Badham:


^ WEIRD WORLD NEWS

Strange stories from around the world, some of which might be true...

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: More than thirty countries (though neither the U.S. nor Russia), the United Nations, philanthropists and research institutes have pledged more than $8bn (£6.5bn) to research into COVID-19 and the development of a vaccine. ● With road traffic in Britain reduced to 1970s levels and significantly reduced levels in other countries seismologists have an unprecedented chance to study the interior of the Earth including detecting small earthquakes and tremors from distant volcanoes and larger quakes that would normally be lost in the background noise. ● With many drinks' producers switching to making alcohol-based hand sanitisers to meet increased demand the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in America is asking them to add denaturants to make them taste horrible.

Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland who negotiated the purchase of testing kits from South Korea has revealed that he has had to place them under guard with Maryland's National Guard to stop the federal government from trying to seize them. ● Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to block what he terms a "blue state bailout" (viz previous TFIrs) despite his own state facing a budget defecit of at least $318.7m (£257.55m) because of the outbreak. ● Republicans in Louisiana's state legislature have voted against a move to allow people concerned about catching COVID-19 to vote by post in upcoming elections, citing (mostly unfounded) reports that it would lead to electoral fraud. Because of the lockdown the vote was conducted by post... ● Indiana's Republican Governor Eric Holcomb has had to apologise after posing for a selfie with two women in a restaurant - neither he nor the women were wearing face masks - shortly after announcing plans to reopen some businesses and stressing the continuing need for face coverings. ● Andy Bershear, the Governor of Kentucky, has had to apologise to a man named Tupac Shakur after citing him as an example of people using false names to take advantage of the state's unemployment benefits system. The man had converted to Islam and officially adopted the late rapper's name after his father died. ● Nino Vitale, a member of Ohio's House of Representatives has refused to wear a face mask because "This is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian Principles. One of those principles is that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face." Yes, he thinks he looks like God... Vitale has previously spoken against vaccinations and had his campaign account suspended in April for pushing COVID-19 conspiracy theories. [Presumably God also wear a tinfoil hat. -Ed]

Right-wing conspiracy pundit Tomi Lahren has been criticised for a since-deleted tweet comparing compliance with stay-at-home orders to "willful slavery". ● Fox News' Tucker Carlson was brutally fact checked on his own show by an expert interviewee when he falsely claimed that children under the age of 10 could not catch COVID-19. As Doctor Mark Siegel of New York University told him, younger children can catch it but are more likely to be asymptomatic or have mild smptoms, "but it's not true that children don't get it, and it is not true that they can't spread it." ● The Florida Department of Health has stopped medical examiners from releasing lists of coronavirus deaths because they showed death rates were higher than "official" figures.

The 40th annual three-night Ernest Hemingway Days festival and Look-Alike Contest in Key West, Florida, has been cancelled, presumably because no matter how burly or hirsute they are, they would all look the same in face masks... ● There has, quite rightly, been an outpouring of love for medical staff and calls for better pay, but another groups is also seeing widespread calls for them to be payed more. After weeks of having to homeschool their children 77% of parents polled said that teachers should be paid more. ● At least three doctors in Russia have fallen from high windows in mysterious circumstances since the outbreak began. The first two died of their injuries, the third, Alexander Shulepov, is in critical condition with a fractured skull. He had complained of being ordered to keep working despite contracting COVID-19 itself. A colleague is said to be facing criminal charges for spreading "fake news" about the coronavirus which, under a recently-passed law, carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

More animals are enjoying a world with fewer people out and about. The first brown bear in 150 years has been sighted in the O Invernadeiro national park in northwest Spain, while a goose was nesting in a raised flower bed inside the entrance of York railway station in England, normally passed through by thousands of travellers a day. Unlike the Cheltenham Festival, which controversially went ahead in the early days of the outbreak in Britain, America's classic horseracing event the Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September, but punters will still be able to see a race on television, with Triple Crown announcer Larry Collmus and bugler Steve Buttleman, but no horses. The competitors are turtles, with names including Seattle Slow, America Tortuga, Galapa-GO! and Sir Hides-A-Bunch. Collmus joked that he would need a glass of water, having never commentated on such a long race. It is not the first time the Kentucky Derby has been run with turtles, the first was in 1945 when World War II ended too late for the regular horse race to be staged.

Two bikers who decided to make a 200-mile (322km) round trip from Rochdale to Whitby to buy fish and chips were stopped, fined and turned around by North Yorkshire Police. ● A man who was making a 240-mile (386km) road trip from Manchester to Kilmarnock to buy a car was stopped by police on the M6 in Cumbria and told to go home. An hour later he was stopped again in the same place, fined and escorted from the county. ● One notable victim of the outbreak in Los Angeles is money-laundering. With Mexican drug dollars typically converted into goods that can be transported back across the border and sold for pesos, because all but essential shops are shut the Drug Enforcement Agency is seizing record amounts of cash dollars. ● Also in America police in Utah noticed a car slowly weaving across its lane at 30mph (50km/h) on the freeway and pulled it over. The driver was a five-year-old boy, sitting on the edge of the seat so he could reach the pedals, but with limited vision above the dashboard. He told them that his mother had refused to buy him a Lamborghini sports car so he had waited until his parents had gone to work leaving him in the care of a sibling before sneaking out with a plan to drive to California to buy one himself. He had got about 5 miles (8km) from home before being stopped. There was a not-inconsiderable flaw in his plan - Lamborghinis typically cost over $180,000 (£144,000); he had $3 (£2.42) in his pocket. The police drove him home and issued a reminder to parents to keep their car keys secure from their children.

As we have reported before, the increase in TV broadcasting from home has brought some amusement, including from children and wives interrupting interviews. Fox News 13's Florida meteorologist Paul Dellegatto was broadcasting a weather report to a cameraman standing outside his window when Brody, his golden retriever, knocked his laptop, freezing the animated chart. Brody then jumped up at the window in front of the camera, leaving Dellegatto to explain that "Craig [the cameraman] is hidden on the outside on the porch, and he's got a blanket up so the reflection doesn't get in the room here. Now he [Brody] can't see Craig, so he's going crazy trying to find him behind the blanket." Brody was not in trouble, with Dellegatto promising that "we're going to eat after this." ● CBS weatherman Lonnie Quinn also found his broadcast from a makeshift home studio interrupted - by his children. As his daughters approached him off-camera he explained to viewers that his wife was in a Zoom meeting for work and the girls wanted to say hello, but no amount of trying to usher them away after their first appearance worked, leaving him getting more and more flustered as he told viewers that "OK, Savy's gonna cry so otherwise we're just going to keep her with us," quickly followed by his elder daughter coming back into shot as well. He then told them "you gotta be quiet while daddy's talking". The rest of the broadcast was punctuated by his younger daughter's singing... ● Of course broadcasters working from home might be tempted to stray from their usual sartorial appearance [although here in Northwest England we continue to be impressed by BBC weatherman Owain Wyn Evans' three-piece suits, even when drumming (as previously reported)] but ABC New reporter Will Reeve, speaking to Good Morning America, while wearing a smart jacket and blue shirt did not realise that the camera also caught the fact that he was wearing sports shorts. ● Over in Spain viewers were amused and puzzled when news anchor Alfonso Merlos was broadcasting from home and a semi-nude woman walked across the shot some way behind him, who was not his girlfriend, former Big Brother Spain contestant Marta López but fellow reporter Alexia Rivas. Merlos later apologised and explained that he and López had broken up three weeks earlier. ● Never mind the Grim Reaper patrolling Florida beaches or the "ghosts" deterring lockdown-breakers in Malaysia, if you are out and about when you shouldn't be in villages near Manila in the Philippines you might face the wrath of Darth Vader and his stormtroopers, or at least officials dressed as them.

Updates: Captain Tom Moore celebrated his 100th birthday on the cover date of the last issue and, as well as receiving the traditional birthday card from Queen Elizabeth II, he was made an honorary colonel in The Yorkshire Regiment and presented with a replacement Second World War Defence Medal, was given a flypast by Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes and was made an honorary England cricketer. Earlier this week he was presented with a gold Blue Peter badge, the highest honour the long-running childrens' show can bestow. An estimated 140,000 birthday cards were on show at the school attended by his grandson. There are a number of murals and paintings depicting him, the Royal Mail, in addition to the special postmark for his birthday reported on in the last issue has unveiled a blue (for the NHS) postbox dedicated to him near his home, and Great Western Railway and GB Railfreight have both named trains after him. His campaign, initially set up to raise £1,000 ($1,237) for NHS charities to thank them for their care, had raised £32,796,245 ($40,583,123) by the time it officially closed - although donations can still be made directly through JustGiving. ● After U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was criticised for flouting the Mayo Clinic's requirement for face masks he initially claimed it was because he wanted to look people in the eye [Er, just how would he wear one... -Ed]. Then his wife, Karen, went on - where else? - Fox and Friends claiming that he had not found out about the policy until after he left the Clinic, despite video showing all members of the Clinic's staff and Pence's Secret Service officers wearing masks, a tweet the Mayo Clinic had put out about masks, clear signage around the Clinic and the White House's own guidance on masks, suggesting that either her husband is incompetent or she - a supposedly devout Christian - lied. Steve Herman, a Voice of America reporter who contradicted Karen Pence's claims has been banned from future Pence trips, showing that the Administration's petty spitefulness is not confined to Trump.


^ TRUMPWATCH

Trump's fixation with Fox News does not just extend to picking up what it reports and trying to make policy. He recently had a meeting in the Oval Office with Fox presenter Laura Ingraham and two doctors who appear on her show, to discuss hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug touted by Trump as a possible cure for COVID-19 despite there being no evidence and there being scientific evidence that it can do more harm than good (oh, and as we have repeatedy reported before, Trump has a financial stake in its manufacturer). As TV host Seth Meyers pointed out, the problem with electing a TV "star" as president is that he will fire anyone who criticises him, no matter how competent they are, and surround himself with an echo chamber of TV pundits to reinforce his own ideas, no matter how idiotic and incompetent. ● Trump's repeatedly upwards-revised estimates of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have been edited into a video by The Daily Show, which has been described by viewers as making him look like "an especially lethargic auctioneer". ● At a virtual "town hall" interview in front of the Lincoln Memorial aired on - of course - Fox, Trump again said that a vaccine will be ready by the end of the year, against every single expert's opinion, and again claimed that the administration "did the right thing" before, as usual now, trying to turn blame onto China. In the same broadcast Trump was played a video question from a supporter asking him to stop using "bullying" language and directly answer questions. Unsurprisingly Trump used it to launch into a tirade against the media, saying that they treat him more unfairly than any president, even Lincoln. Political cartoonist Michael deAdder summed up the event with a cartoon of the broadcast with the Lincoln Memorial thinking "Somebody shoot me". ● Trump continues to claim that the virus escaped from - or was engineered in and released by - a Chinese laboratory, despite U.S. intelligence agencies saying it did not, U.S. scientists saying there is no evidence it was genetically modified and other countries either refusing or declining to agree with him. Trump, of course, shrugged off a contradictory statement by his Director of National Intelligence.

The Trump campaign has, according to the Wall Street Jornal, ordered red Trump-branded face masks for supporters to buy, because with more American's killed by COVID-19 than died in the Vietnam War and hundreds of thousands more forecast to die, why not make a quick buck out of a disaster, much of which was made all the worse by Trump's incompetence? ● Trump's latest press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters "I will never lie to you" then lied multiple times. She later tweeted describing Trump's pandemic response as "unprecedented", prompting many to agree with her, although not for the reason she meant - most were along the lines of "an unpredentedly unprepared and incompetent response", and the "unprecedented praise officials are required to lavish on Trump if they want to keep their jobs". McEnany should, perhaps, be watching her own back after tweets of hers during the 2016 election campaign - when she still worked for Fox - surfaced in which she criticised Trump's lack of preparation for debates. Plus ça change...

Trump has repeatedly claimed, completely falsely, that nobody saw the approaching pandemic. On December 29th, as reports of the virus hit headlines worldwide, Avi Schiffman, a 17-year-old Washington State student, skipped a day's skiing during a family weekend trip to Snoqualmie Pass to set up a website to scrape data from sources including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and South Korea's Yonhap News Agency to track the spread of the virus in easy-to-understand tables and charts, updated every minute. ● As we have previously reported, most U.S. Presidents call on their living antecedents for advice or assistance in difficult times, but not Trump. Indeed, when George W. Bush recently released a video thanking medical staff, offering words of support for the American people and calling on them to unite to protect their neighbours and show empathy and kindness to all, Trump responded as only Trump would, tweeting - apparently after watching the video on Fox News - "Oh bye [sic] the way, I appreciate the message from former President Bush, but where was he during Impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside. He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!" Yes, Trump responded to a warm, heartfelt message to the American people with a self-pitying, self-obsessed divisive rant. ● Ronald Klein, who headed the American response to the Ebola crisis under President Obama, has nailed the three problems with Trump's response to COVID-19, telling MSNBC that Trump's "narcissism, incompetence and ideology" were a deadly combination, adding "if people are waiting for Trump to change, they're going to wait a long time. He hasn't changed in 3 years, he hasn't changed over the course of his response. He tried to happy talk the thing away in January... in February... in March... in April".

The U.S. is looking to borrow a record $3tn (£2.4tn) in the second quarter of 2020, more than twice the total it borrowed in 2019, pushing the total government debt to almost $25tn (£20.2tn). Even before the latest borrowing plan the U.S. Congressional Budget Office was predicting that the budget defecit (the difference between national debt and GDP - gross domestic product, basically national income) would hit $3.7tn (£2.99tn). Perhaps they shold have elected a competent businessman... ● First son-in-law Jared Kushner told - who else? - Fox and Friends that the Trump administration's response to COVID-19 was "a great success story", despite the number of confirmed cases in the country having passed a million the day before, and went on to say that "I think you will see by June, a lot of the country should be back to normal, and the hope is that by July the country is really rocking again." Susan Rice, a White House official under Obama, told CNN that Kushner's claim "would be laughable if it weren't so deadly serious", adding "I don't know how anybody with a straight face can call this a great success and declare this a mission accomplished moment when more than 60,000 Americans are dead," and that even Dr Anthony Fauci, a lead member of the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, is predicting a second wave of infections later in the year.

Trump is pinning his hopes on reopening America as quickly as possible, despite medical advice, and has tweeted support for protesters, as we have previously reported. Michigan politicians are considering banning guns from their Capitol building after armed protesters stormed it to demand businesses be allowed to reopen. Trump is reportedly planning on disbanding his Coronavirus Task Force within the next few weeks, to be replaced with an "Opening the Country" panel, eight of whose twelve members are executives in oil or gas industries who have made donations to Republican candidates or groups in the last four years; meanwhile a CDC memo leaked from within the Administration is suggesting that there could be 200,000 new cases of COVID-19 infection a day in June, as Trump and his panel look to reopen America. ● Separate reports by the CDC and the Insitute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predict that deaths from COVID-19 in America could pass 135,000 by August. When asked about them Trump, of course, was dismissive, saying "Those projections are without mitigation, we're doing a lot of mitigation... Our country has to open. Those projections are without mitigation." As can be expected with anything Trump says, this was a lie. The IHME report says "IHME's model assumes that mandates that are currently in place will stay in place until infections are minimized. The projected US deaths through early August total 134,475, with a range of 95,092 to 242,890."

Trump is becoming increasingly desperate in his bid for re-election, repeatedly accusing - without evidence, of course - China of doing "anything they can" to make him lose, and threatening to sue Brad Parscale, his own campaign manager, for his dismal, falling, polling figures, rather than trying to analyse his own behaviour. Rick Wilson, of the Republican anti-Trump Lincoln Project, was celebrating Trump's reaction to their latest ad spot, which reworked a noted Ronald Reagan 1994 re-election campaign ad called "Morning in America" which touted Reagan as having made America "prouder and stronger and better". The Lincoln Project's ad, titled "Mourning in America" focussed on the American lives lost to COVID-19 and blamed Trump for creating a "weaker and sicker and poorer" nation. Trump went on a 12-hour rant on Twitter and to reporters, prompting Wilson to tell reporters "We expected this ad to hit [but] we did not expect him to behave in the completely maniacally way he behaved all day today, but here we are." ● CNN is suing Trump's re-election campaign over a campaign ad that edited footage of CNN's Wolf Blitzer to make it look as if he was endorsing Trump's travel restrictions on China - which saw over 400,000 people fly from China to America after it was introduced. Yes, the man who decries the media - without evidence - as "fake news" is having his campaign team sued for producing fake news - with evidence...

The Department of Justice recently tweeted asking people to tweet questions for Attorney General William Barr, and the response was as expected, from people wondering why he was propping up a criminal to Trump supporters asking when he was going to round up and indefinitely imprison Trump's opponents. ● Also saying silly things on Twitter was DeAnna Lorraine, a failed California congressional candidate who attempted to unseat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She tweeted that a century from now people would envy Americans who lived during Trump's presidency and that "we are blessed to be witnessing this incredible time in America's history." The Twitterati promptly pointed out that 60,000 American are not living, with nearly 30 million unemployed and almost every American stuck inside because of Trump's incompetence, that Trump changed illegal border crossings from civil crimes to criminal offences, leading to overcrowded holding facilities, that he caused an unknown but huge number of immigrant children to be separated from their parents, emolument and numerous other atrocities and incompetencies during his presidency.


^ OBITUARIES

Actor Sam Lloyd (Scrubs, Seinfeld, The Butties, 56), director and screenwriter John Lafia (Child's Play, Child's Play 2, Monster!, 63), actor B.J. Hogg (Give My Head Peace, Game of Thrones, Dance Lexie Dance, 65), Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor (Bobby, Mera Naam Joker, Chandni, 67), keyboard player Dave Greenfield (The Stranglers, writer of "Golden Brown", 71), musician Florian Schneider (co-founder of Kraftwerk, 73), singer Millie Small ("My Boy Lollipop", "We'll Meet", "Enoch Power", 73), afrobeat pioneer drummer Tony Allen (Africa '70, 79).


^ DUMBLEDORE BEAR'S LOTTERY PREDICTOR!

Dumbledore Bear, our in-house psychic predicts that the following numbers will be lucky:
20, 29, 32, 44, 47, 48
[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 Jennifer's parents were reviewing her school report while Little Jennifer sat on a chair, watching them. "It says here that you came tenth in Maths, twelfth in History, fifth in English and seventh in Geography," her father said, "Isn't there anything you came first in, Little Jennifer?"
    Little Jennifer thought for a moment, then smiled as only she could. "Oh yes, Daddy, every day when the bell rings to go home I'm always the first one out of the door!"


^ ...end of line