The made-for-TV Covid-19 movie is being outlined in the Maldives, where Egyptians Khaled and Peri are living in a never-ending honeymoon. The Dubai-based coouple married on 6 March in their adopted homeland. Then it was off for honeymoon in Cancún, Mexico. On March 19, they headed back to Dubai. They never made it. “While we were on the plane we had access to internet and then we started getting messages from people ‘Are you going to be able to get to Dubai? There’s a new law, they’re banning expats,'” Peri told the BBC.
The coronavirus pandemic had hit. They’d left Mexico and had arrived in Istanbul for a connecting flight home. But flights to Egypt were suspended. And Turkey would not let them enter the country. For two days they languished at the airport.
“We decided to go on Google and check all the countries that allowed Egyptians without a visa, and then check if they had flights,” Peri said. It appeared they only had one option: the Maldives.
“Every time we tell people we are stuck in the Maldives, they laugh and they’re like ‘it’s not the worst situation, I wish I could be in your position’,” Peri added. “It’s not as easy or happy, it’s definitely very stressful… enjoy being at home with family. I would take that over anything.”
No longer is ‘fat’ a pre-runner to ‘and jolly’. Fat means death. Fat must be wiped out because: fat people give you cancer, probably (Daily Mail); fat people use up more aviation fuel and thereby kill the planet (Guardian); fat people kill kittens (Star); fat people will end the NHS by falling ill (all newspapers). Today’s news is that a “third of all viruses are linked to diabetes”. So the other two thirds of us who contract Covid-19 get it because… we’re too thin / old / young / poor / unloved? No matter. The key fact is in. Thin is good. The secret to long life is to be thin, which surely is why the Grim Reaper is as thin as a rake. And look who’s leading “by example”. Yeah, it’s reformed chubster Boris Johnson, who reduced his BMI by falling seriously ill and having his sustenance drip fed. And where he leads you too can follow his shining example. Here’s what you do:
*Beaches are restricted to one per person until further notice.
Facebook must know the truth about coronavirus Covid-19 because it’s banned fake news on the pandemic. Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg says misinformation will not be tolerated on his social network. There is one version approved of events and you can read about it on Facebook.
Zuckerberg will remove any content likely to result in “immediate and imminent harm” to users. “Even if something isn’t going to lead to imminent physical harm, we don’t want misinformation to be the content that is going viral,” he tells the BBC. Does he not trust his customers to use circumspection when reading news on his website? Does Zuckerberg think Facebook users gullible fools in need of his protection, the sort of people who read one website and believe everything on it?
Facebook has removed Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s claim that scientists have “proved” there was a coronavirus cure. No need to hold it up to ridicule and check it for yourself. Facebook has banned it – or censored it, if you prefer. The claim is “obviously” not true, says Zuckerberg. Obvious to him. But maybe not obvious to you. You will also not be able to consider and debunk the view that the 5G digital network has spread Covid-19. It’s been banned. Says the BBC:
David Icke had suggested that 5G mobile phone networks are linked to the spread of the virus and in another video he suggested a Jewish group was behind the virus.
Well, d’uh. Every conspiracy theorist ends up blaming the Jews. The good news is that with so much information out there, the loons are easy to disprove. Ban it and watch the conspiracy fester. It’s grist for the mill.
Says Zuckerberg: “We work with independent fact checkers. Since the Covid outbreak, they have issued 7,500 notices of misinformation which has led to us issuing 50 million warning labels on posts. We know these are effective because 95% of the time, users don’t click through to the content with a warning label.”
So you can still click it. But Facebook has edited it. Which suggests that Facebook is a publisher. And Zuckerberg is de facto Facebook editor-in-chief.
After all the clever wit aimed at racists and Daily Mail readers, stand-up comic Stewart Lee, self-effacing star of the BBC’s Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, used his Observer column to take the piss out of someone for having a funny Jewish name. Lee never mentioned Tom Tugendhat’s Jewish heritage in his column, the one entitled “Now Boris Johnson is talking through his Tugendhat”. But what he did say about the Tory MP was enough for the Jewish Chronicle’s editor Steven Pollard to write beneath the headline “My father changed his name because of people like Stewart Lee. Nothing changes”:
Seventy years ago my dad needed to change his weird foreign name to avoid the sly glances of bigots. Stewart Lee is that bigot – a man who thinks the best response to a foreign sounding Jewish name is to ridicule it in a national newspaper
Might be worthwhile to see what Lee wrote before we brand him an anti-Semite or make him Labour Party leader:
Stay alert! Many names – Fisher, Cook, Smith – derive from ancient trades. But “Tugendhat” is just different words put together, like Waspcupfinger, or Appendixhospitalwool, or Abortionmaqaquesymptom. This former intelligence officer is the nephew of a real man called Baron Tugendhat. Baron Tugendhat is not a character from a 19th-century German children’s book about a baron with a weird hat, the end of which gets tugged.
It’s a weak joke. But the mention of solid English names to mock Tugendhat makes it all it bit stinky for Mr Lee, which is a name not derived from Levison, Levi nor Levine (I’ve checked). He wants us to compare and contrast those ancient yeoman of olde England with the weirdo foreigner. In 2012 then Labour leader Ed Miliband championed his family’s immigrant roots by telling conference in Manchester: “My family hasn’t sat under the same oak tree for the last 500 years.” Fisher, Cook. Smith. They have. You can understand them. Their roots run deep and true.
Tom Tugendhat was unimpressed by Lee’s snipe. He retweeted the following by Jonathan Greenblatt:
If you see anti-Semitism, brace yourself for what Lee went on to say:
Peasants! Get back to work! Over the top, boys! Gas! Gas! For God’s sake, gas!
No. No! His analogy is for WW1, not the later conflict WW2. The gas Lee mentions is mustard, which killed Smith, Fisher and Cook in the trenches. It’s not Zyklon B gas, which murdered Levy, Cohen and Zitter in the Nazi death camps.
The anti-Semites didn’t murder Benhamu because he fled Spain’s Inquisition a few hundred years ago, eventually becoming Benham so that my mother’s family would stand a better chance of dodging Jew haters and finding work in London. And the bastards didn’t get Zaransky either, which became Sorene at the will of a border guard when my great-grandfather wisely listened to a premonition he had about a looming pogrom and fled Poland, arriving in Leeds having survived on a diet of dumb luck and pig swill.
Sorene is still a bit unusual, of course, and when a French teacher at school used to pronounce it ‘sirène’, like siren, and go ‘mee-maaa-meeeee-maaaaaaah’ when he wanted me to respond and get a cheap laugh from his tame class pets, I never thought him an anti-Semite, just a condescending twat – which brings us to Lee.
“We are appealing for help to identify a man who kissed a woman on the cheek to thank her for helping when his lorry became stuck under a low bridge,” tweet Derbyshire Police. “Were you in the area of Dale Road, #Matlock, between 12pm and 4pm on Tuesday, 28 April.”
Sexual assault is a serious crime. Derbyshire Police are appealing, in a manner of speaking:
“The woman did not the man kiss her on the cheek,” says Derbyshire Police. You can try and fill in the missing word.
We are appealing for help to identify a man who kissed a woman on the cheek to thank her for helping when his lorry became stuck under a low bridge.
The incident occurred between 12pm and 4pm on Tuesday, 28 April, in Dale Road, Matlock.
The heavy goods vehicle had become stuck and the woman, who is in her 70s, helped the men to ensure the lorry did not hit the bridge.
After the lorry became unstuck one of the men in the lorry left the vehicle, thanked the woman and kissed her on the cheek.
Officers want to speak to anyone who was in the area at time and may be able to help our enquiries into the incident – of particular interest are any drivers who were in the area at the time and may have captured the lorry on dashcam.
And remember, if you do help the police with their enquiries, you’d better have a good reason for being out at that time.
The news on Coronavirus is positive. More than 19 million Britons may already have been infected with the virus, say researchers at Manchester University. It’s the lead story in the Mirror. Better news is that 1,000 people have been injected with a vaccine and it’s “so far so good” (Metro). We could have a vaccine this summer (Express). Oh – and get this – new antibody test are found to be 100% accurate in stating if someone has already had the virus (i). And in London, signs are that the virus is dying out. Fewer than 24 people are catching coronavirus each day in London (Telegraph). Analysis by Cambridge University estimates the R reproduction rate of the virus to have fallen to 0.4 in London, with the number of new cases halving every 3.5 days. If you don’t know what the R number means, this should help:
Most newspaper leads with the positive news. But the Guardian talks of “chaos”, leading with allegations that a private firm contracted to run the government’s stockpile of personal protective equipment was hit by “chaos” at its warehouse.
And as for the risk of dying from Covid-19, the Sun leads with news that a quarter of those killed by the bug have diabetes. A double-whammy for them. Overweight and obese people are at increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
So the Times leads with news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is readying a “much more interventionist” approach to tackle obesity as part of the fight against coronavirus. Can the Government make Covid-19 part of the decades long drive to turn the fat social pariahs? Of course they can. They always do. But people do have the right to be fat.
And do medical practitioners want to tell people they are too fat? And what is ‘too fat’? At least one medic finds it easy to tell:
Australians Kate Burridge and Howard Manns tell us how coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic is creating new words and phrases. You got the ‘covo’, mate?
In these times of COVID-19, there are the usual suspects: shortenings like “sanny” (hand sanitizer) and “iso” (isolation), abbreviations like BCV (before corona virus) and WFH (working from home), also compounds “corona moaner” (the whingers) and “zoombombing” (the intrusion into a video conference).
Plenty of nouns have been “verbed” too — the toilet paper/pasta/tinned tomatoes have been “magpied”. Even rhyming slang has made a bit of a comeback with Miley Cyrus lending her name to the virus (already end-clipped to “the Miley”). Some combine more than one process — “the isodesk” (or is that “the isobar”) is where many of us are currently spending our days.
Linguist Tony Thorne, has a list of new language, writing beneath the headline: “CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral”. Here are some from his glossary coined by an excited media:
Coronaverse (Guardian) – the now prevailing socio-economic order
Quarantimes – a hashtag or label for the prevailing circumstances under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic
Viral anxiety (New Statesman) – fear and uncertainty, sometimes excessive, due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its ramifications
The coronopticon (Economist) – the notion of a national or global system of surveillance and control
Contagion chivalry (New York Times) – an act or acts of selflessness during confinement
Coronaphobia (Daily Mail) – fear experienced by the public at the prospect of having to return to work, send children back to school, use public transport, etc.
Corona-shaming (New York Times) – publicly criticising those, particularly celebrities, who have infringed public health regulations
Coronacoma (New York Times)
The Government’s new Covid-19 guidelines tell us that two people from different households are able to meet in outdoor settings so long as they stay more than two metres apart. “If you’re out in the park and you’re 2m apart… and use some common sense and you socially-distance, you can meet up with other people.,” says Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. You can’t meet indoors, not even if you both wear wide-hooped crinoline skirts, gas masks and rubber gloves. (I’m sorry, Prince Andrew, but those are the rules.) You can “take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise” rather than only exercising once a day, “play sports” with people from the same household, and people from one household can drive to other destinations (such as forests, parks and beaches).
But only in England. Politics has stepped in to muddy the waters. Many Scots will no doubt be delighted that more than one bout of daily exercise remains forbidden. The SNP Government in Scotland says the country must remain in lockdown. No common sense or you. And the Welsh Government’s counsel general, Jeremy Miles, says Wales is closed to the English. “Our regulations do not permit people to get in their car and drive to destinations in Wales,” says Mr Miles. “And that also means people getting in their cars in England.” Break the rules for Wales and you may well be fined.
Looks like only parts of the UK trust the people to stick to rules on social distancing and consider the risk and take responsibility for themselves.
“To commemorate a sweat-free and honourable relationship” some bright spark has created the Prince Andrew – Jeffrey Epstein souvenir mug. It was a “special relationship” – until the billionaire paedophile apparently killed himself inside a maximum security New York prison where he was awaiting trial for more depraved crimes. It was a suicide we’re told nobody witnessed on CCTV. What Andrew saw and didn’t see has yet to be tested in a court of law.
Having been told the lockdown would be relaxed for the back holiday weekend or just after, and then that it wouldn’t be, it’s not all that surprising to see people using parks and beaches to relax in as the sun shines brightly. London police are unhappy with the al fresco dining:
Do we care that police are unhappy? Has all police action been sensible? From Derbyshire to London and beyond, police have got it wrong. Matt Kiloyne notes: “If you’ve ever wondered what a petty bureaucrat is, it’s the one that has taped off a log in Victoria Park.”
A virus will do what a virus does. But people have free will and use common sense to gage the risk to themselves and their loved ones. Many are ready and willing to go out – and get back to work. The lockdown – it’s over, isn’t it…
No. Spiked magazine is not part of a “broad trend towards (far) right wing politics”. If you believe it is, you don’t understand what far-right wing politics is. Nazism isn’t about allowing everyone to speak and to be heard, championing free speech with no ‘buts’ and respect for the individual. Nazism champions fear. It is the opposite of courage, a moral force we should value most.
And on Spiked, open discussion rules. So can we talk about the lockdown? It invites a myriad questions, perhaps the biggest for many of us being when schools and colleges will reopen? But the Independent used Spiked!, a magazine I know well, to illustrate the rise of how the “libertarian right” are getting it wrong over Covid-19. The article notes:
With his contrarianism and pseudo-radicalism, as if a global pandemic was nothing but another opportunity to exploit, Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked!, condemned the closing of pubs and called for “Dissent in a time of Covid”, criticising the “chilling” and “dangerous” “witch-hunting of those who criticise the response to coronavirus”. This led to a backlash from mainstream commentators and even his fellow travellers.
O’Neill and Spiked! are only marginal examples of this reaction – albeit with disproportionate access to popular platforms and attention – operating as part of a broader trend towards (far) right-wing politics.
Brendan wasn’t having it. He wrote this to his followers on Facebook:
Simon Jenkins has a question for Guardian readers. There are many question about the Covid-19 pandemic – when will there be a cure?; will there be a cure?; if you survive it are you immune? – and governments’ reaction to is – is total lockdown right?; should more countries have followed Sweden’s model?; is China lying?. But he wants to know: “Why can I visit a DIY shop but not a museum?” Opening DIY stores and not museums is evidence, he reasons, that lockdown is failing. The simple answer to his puzzler is: because you can’t fix a leak with a statue.
Says Simon Jenkins:
Why can I crowd Oxford’s supermarkets but not its Ashmolean Museum? Why are people trusted to “socially distance” in a DIY shop but not in a garden centre or a National Trust park? My local hardware store can sell from its front door, but not my local pub.
Well, a pub is not an off licence. See here. And a visit to the Ashmolean is not comparable to buying food to survive, even if the cafe is open (which it isn’t). Also: you can look at statues and stuff online and get some kind of mental sustenance, but pictures of food will not supply the necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Tara Reade claims US Presidential hopeful Joe Biden sexually assaulted her. Biden, the Democrat Party’s candidate to take on Donald Trump in the next Presidential election, is accused of pushing Mr Reade against a wall and penetrating her with his finger. That was 1993, when she was employed as a staff assistant to Mr Biden when he was a senator for the US state of Delaware. Several women have accused Biden of unwanted touching.
“So, he had one hand underneath my shirt, and the other had, I had a skirt on,” she says “and he went down my skirt and then went up and I remember I was up almost on my tippy toes. When he went inside the skirt, he was talking to me at the same time, and he was leaning into me and I pulled this way away from his head. He looked at me and said, ‘What the hell, man, I heard you liked me’… He pointed his finger at me and he said ‘You’re nothing to me. You’re nothing’.”
Biden says “It never happened”. Someone’s lying. Who do you believe? Biden wants you to make a judgement. This is his own statement from 2018 about Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court, sexually assaulted her more than three decades earlier: “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she is talking about is real, whether or not she forgets the facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”
The BBC selects an interesting photo to illustrate the story and issues a warning: “WARNING: Some readers may find details of this story upsetting.”
No warning appears on other BBC stories published today, such as:
West Mercia Police officer charged with rape
India rape: Six-year-old victim’s eyes damaged in attack
Princess Alexandra Hospital security guard charged with rape
Why does the story of a man who once said all women should be believed and called fighting violence against women “the passion of my life” being accused of sexual assault carry a warning when tales of child rape don’t? Is the warning for Biden’s fans who can’t grasp the idea that due process is for everyone, even for people you don’t like who brag about grabbing women’s genitals.
Prof Neil Ferguson was a government adviser on coronavirus. He helped the Prime Minister work out the coronavirus-controlling lockdown campaign. The Sun calls him the “scientist who sent Britain into lockdown”. Unless we adhered to the lockdown rules, his warning was that as many as 500,000 (Telegraph) or 250,000 (BBC) of us could die from Covid-19. Drastic action was needed. And we were all in it together. But then the expert who judged it all fell victim to an “error of judgement”. What did he do? The headlines tell us all:
Prof Ferguson regrets “undermining” the messages on social distancing by reportedly hooking up with a married woman called – get this for nominative determinism – Antonia Staats. Indeed, what maths bod can resist Staats?
The Sun says, “Ms Staats and her husband live together with their two children in a £1.9million home but are understood to be in an open marriage”. She reportedly visited her lover twice during lockdown:
Her first visit, on March 30, coincided with a public warning by Prof Ferguson the lockdown measures would need to stay in place until June.
She made a second trip on April 8 despite telling friends she suspected her husband – an academic in his thirties – had coronavirus symptoms.
“I accept I made an error of judgement and took the wrong course of action,” says the expert who told us all to stay on or else, and was listened to by a PM who has a history of extra-marital shagging. “I have therefore stepped back from my involvement in Sage [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – do they think of the acronym then find the words?]. I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus and completely isolated myself for almost two weeks after developing symptoms. I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing.”
Prof Neil added that the government advice on social distancing is “unequivocal”, adding that it was there “to protect all of us”.
Unless, of course, you fancy a shag, in which case, wear full PPE.
Mark Di Stefano was media and tech correspondent at the Financial Times. That’s a great news beat. Media writing about media is pretty fun. And media loves reading about media. It’s a beat that gets your name known among your peers. But he blew it. Last Friday the Australian journalist tweeted: “Hi, letting everyone know today was my last day at the FT. This afternoon I offered my resignation. Thank you everyone who has given support. I’m now going to take some time away and log off x.” What he did is a tale best told by the Independent, one of the two publications he upset (the other being its sister organ The Evening Standard):
Mark Di Stefano, media and technology correspondent for the FT, listened in as staff at The Independent were told of pay cuts and furloughs on 23 April in response to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Before the call had concluded, and before staff employed in America and elsewhere had been told the news, Di Stefano tweeted the details. Shortly afterwards he published an article on the Financial Times website, revealing confidential information about the advertising downturn experienced at The Independent and quoting the company’s chief executive, Zach Leonard. He attributed the information to “people on the call”.
The FT apologised for one of their own breaking their rules. The FT’s code of conduct states:
“The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by … intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails. Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge … can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.”
Entertainment reporter Peter Ford is quoted in Media Week:
“Hope you learn from this. You’ve orchestrated campaigns against many people, including myself, in the past. You’ve encouraged pile-ons and a cancel culture against anyone you consider ‘conservative leaning’. Despite this I hope in time you bounce back as you’re clearly not a fool.”
It’s worthwhile looking at a few words on Di Stefano’s training and readiness for the role:
His remit at BuzzFeed in 2014? “Simon [founding editor Simon Crerar] said just break news.” His title was breaking news reporter. Looking back at those years, he said: “I had no idea what to do. I tweeted a lot and chased the biggest story of the day. For the first year and a half I wrote up any story I could find and then I was appointed political editor.”
And then he joined the FT, working with Janine Gibson, who he’d worked with when they were both at Buzzfeed:
I networked as much as I could taking people out for coffees and drinks. I realised the way to be a reporter in 2020 hasn’t changed that much – it’s all about who you know, having mobile phone numbers and being able to call and text message sources. Old school reporting techniques make for the best stories.”
Journalism can’t be about anything is fair game if you can gain access to it. The editor of The Independent Christian Broughton goes on the record:
“We respect freedom of speech and understand the challenges of newsgathering, but The Independent considers the presence of a third-party journalist in a staff briefing to be entirely inappropriate and an unwarranted intrusion into our employees’ privacy. Our spokesperson had a full statement prepared for the press – any interested reporters only needed to call and ask.”
It wasn’t a scoop. It was just a journalist breaking a press embargo in a rush to yell ‘first’.
Every Thursday since (how long has it been now?) people have been coming onto the street to clap for the NHS. If you can’t clap, either download the Clapp App (TM) or bang a spoon on your saucepan or tin hat. And, as in Stalin’s Russia, no-one wants to be the first to stop clapping. Everyone’s doing in. Here’s Nigel Farage:
Anyone know what he’s tapping out in Morse Code?
Adolf Hitler died on April 30 1945. The Independent newspaper seems to want to thank the German leader for doing his bit to end World War 2. The headline marking 75 years since the genocidal, mass murderer’s death chimes: “How Hitler met his death 75 years ago and brought the Second World War and brought the Second World War to a close.”
Not all bad, then, right?
On 20 April, Adolf Hitler made his final appearance above ground as he emerged from the sanctuary that had become his prison to hand out the Iron Cross to members of the Hitler Youth, among the devastated remains of what had been the Chancellery’s garden.
It was his 56th birthday and the last time he would feel the brush of sunlight against his cheek.
On 23 April, Eva Braun wrote to her sister Gretl, sending gifts of coffee and tinned food for their parents and giving instructions for the disposal of her gold and diamond watches, photograph albums and her love letters.
You want more? You should see what he did for gender equality:
On his last morning on earth, a pallid Hitler is said by biographer Hans-Otto Meissner to have greeted Magda Goebbels, the Nazi Party’s unofficial “first lady”, by taking the gold party insignia from his grey overcoat and fastening it to her lapel with trembling hands, prompting her to burst into tears at the honour. It was the highest recognition ever awarded to a woman by the Third Reich.
Adolf Hitler – gave his life to end the war. Whaddaguy! Such are the facts.
When they invented prime ministers, they also created Prime Ministers’ children. Unlike the SADDOS (sons and daughters of stars) who can mime, pose and pout in their instagram branded knickers as they work on their celebrity status, the politicians’ kids can either join the Party or find their own way. Carol Thatcher went into Golliwogs, for her brother Mark it was Africa, and Euan Blair went into the boozer and then vomited over Leicester Square. Lara Walker-Johnson went to Oxfordshire and bought a Prada headband. We know all about her purchase because Laura wrote about for Vogue magazine in a story entitled How Time-travelling To My Teen Wardrobe Helped Me Understand Who I Am Today. It’s the kind of vapid tosh made to reassure the unconvinced that minted toff Meghan Markle’s editing of the expensive magazine that advertises expensive things was not a seismic moment in race relations.
“I’m trying my best not to buy more clothes right now, uncertain about future financial prospects and conscious it isn’t the time to splurge,” says Lara in Oxfordshire. The posh always name the county they’re visiting not the village or town. A town has windows, public transport and numbered doors. A county has sprawling mansions, bridle paths and land. “But, I must confess, I did buy two headbands,” she adds, “one black and fluffy, from Shrimps, and one pink and from Prada – that I’ve been drooling over for months.”
The critics some fast. “Lara who, according to her website, is a fashion writer,” snipes one writer, adding: “I have no idea what her future financial prospects are, but her recent accessories acquisitions make me think that she’ll be okay.” The mind boggles to think what the backstory will do to the bands’ resale value. “In a moment when economic inequality, globally, and in the U.K., has never been more conspicuous – and when so many peoples’ lives are in her father’s hands – I might have kept this confession to myself.”
Two headbands in and Boris Johnson is King Herod.
In the Daily Mirror, Lara’s purchases are given no lesser importance: “Meanwhile, more than 100 NHS and care staff have died after testing positive for COVID-19 – as keyworkers beg the government for more vital PPE to protect themselves on the frontline.”
Meanwhile is the literary split screen. There’s Lara shopping online for fancy goods and a fashion philosophy while below her the huddled masses look up beseechingly and wonder if all this coverage of to-die-for Prada headbands means Lara will never need buy one again, and if they make face masks?
Can you spin the coronavirus to make a story favourable to your own political agenda? As James Ball (@jamesrbuk) puts it: ‘Half of twitter’s idea of a good question to Number 10: “How many more people will you murder for the profit of your donors, Boris Johnson.” Other half: “Do you have a message for a grateful nation, oh heroic prime minister?”’
Most of the papers lead on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans for the next stage of the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, ones he outlined in his first televised statement since recovering from Covid-19. The Times listens to the latest briefing and says the PM will reveal a “limited” set of changes to the lockdown “within days”. Plans include allowing shops selling “not-essential” items to reopen, it says, although schools will stay closed until June.
The Daily Mirror says that after more than four weeks of being indoors, people have been given some hope over a return to normality. “Not much longer”, is the paper’s front page headline. The i headline says there’s “hope in sight”. The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg writes: “Boris Johnson’s statement at the lectern this morning was a request to the public to be patient, to keep going, to hold firm through the frustrations of living life mainly behind closed doors for a while longer.
Or as the Telegraph puts it:
Thankfully you can hear Johnson not saying ‘it’s time to fire up the engines’ without the Daily Telegraph’s filter:
Such are the facts.
All these televised briefings from our top politicians tell us one thing: we see too much of them and the journalist gets the answers their Gotcha! style of questioning deserves. Her; Home Secretary Priti Patels talking about crime:
The conceit is that Priti Patel is so thick or conniving she can’t link that shops are shut with reduced theft from shops. Thankfully, people on twitter can expose the madness by clipping part of her address to fit a tweet and holding it up for ridicule.
What Patel said was about how the forces of law and order are cracking down on crime in these “unprecedented times”. “Any criminal seeking to exploit this virus for their own gain, our outstanding police and law enforcement agencies are absolutely on to you., ” she said. She went on to talk about drugs seizures and child abuse.
The New European newspapers isn’t listening. The paper set up to block Brexit is so desperate to mock Brexiteer Patel that it mangles her message to fit its agenda, sniping: “Priti Patel ridiculed after announcing ‘shoplifting is down’ compared to year before.” No word in the paper’s report about child abuse nor Class-A drugs. No word on how the reduced shoplifting might just be used to show the affect the lockdown is having on another aspect of our lives. Just partisan reporting designed to end with the sign off, ‘Gotcha!’
Usually a hot cross bun is embossed with a cross, to symbolise Christianity. English folklore says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or grow mouldy during the subsequent year. Supermarkets offer non-believers a sell-by date printed on their ready-to-eat buns. They do not feature the words ‘SEX’ or ‘FUCK’, the flag of Scots nationalist nor a Swastika. Doing so would mean them no longer being hot cross buns, rather Swear Buns, SNP Buns or National Socialism Buns.
Tory councillor Lee Mason, a former Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, has been removed from his party while bun investigators look into his tray of home-baked buns which featured in a Snapchat post “leaked” to Portsmouth’s local paper, The News. Mr Mason denies baking any bun with a swastika on it. He suggests the image of the Swastika bun may have been altered, and we note that whoever made it or don’t make it has the arms pointing anticlockwise, which as any caterer for Nazi-themed parties and weddings will tell you is the wrong way. He has however admitted to baking the other buns.
“I have not baked a bun with a Nazi symbol. You can see from the picture that is not a Nazi symbol,” Mr Mason tells Portsmouth News. “I baked some cakes, yes, but I haven’t done a Nazi symbol on any of them. And there’s no Nazi symbols there.”
The News tells readers that the “swastika-style emblem – similar to one used by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, whose party slaughtered millions of Jews during the Second World War – appeared to have been baked on a bun.”
A spokesman for a local Jewish group is upset. Another former Tory councillor named – get this – Jezz Baker says: “I’m a Pompey Jew, born and bred, and my hatred for swastikas is enormous. But if there is one person that is not anti-Semitic and has nothing Nazi about him whatsoever it’s Lee Mason.”
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP (Labour), puts the bun in context of the fight against racism, the Covid-19 pandemic and given time probably global warming. “At a time when our whole community is pulling together to support each other, anything suggesting the use of the most offensive of symbols is shockingly inappropriate and shameful,” he says. “If true, it may also breach the members’ code of conduct. It is only right that serious and legitimate concerns be reported to the city council under its complaints system for councillors.”
No word yet from victims of the Crusades, crucifixion nor Christian fundamentalists about why the cross is unsuited to cakes and anyone who serves such a symbol of persecution, idolatry and suffering with butter and jam deserves to rot in hell for all eternity.
The Dutch have cancelled their domestic football season. And it’s bad news for Liverpool and very good news for Norwich and other teams facing relegation from the Premier League. There will no champion of the Eredivisie, the Netherlands’ top league. There will be no relegations. One option was to take an average of points scored so far and add them to games still to play. But that would have made no difference to the teams qualifying for the Champions League and Europa league, respectively. In the Premier League, it would – and it means Arsenal (currently in 9th spot) qualifying for the Europa League ahead of Spurs (8th).
Manchester City’s (2nd) ban from the European competition means Manchester United (5th) take their place in the Champions League, where they will be in the mix with Leicester City (3rd) and Chelsea (4th).
It is the most likely scenario. Already all football in England below the three divisions that make up the National League has ended and all results expunged.
It’s time for the upper tiers to follow suit and present a clear path ahead. The Dutch have set the agenda – and it’s the right one.
Can it really be that smoking tobacco, inhaling all that nicotine, reduces the risk of catching Covdi-19? Can smoking tobacco prevent really you from getting this hideous respiratory disease? A French suggests it’s true. Maybe.
A team at Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris questioned 480 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the 350 ill enough to have been to warrant a prolonged stay in hospital – median age: 65 – just 4.4% were regular smokers. For those released home – median age: 44 – 5.3% smoked. But around 25% of French people are smokers. So either those with Covid-19 are liars – you told the insurance company you don’t smoke, right? – or maybe smoking is good for you?
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine at the end of March said that only 12.6% of 1,000 patients were smokers, a figure that was significantly lower than expected. Some 28% of people in China are smokers.
French neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux thinks nicotine might stop the virus from reaching cells in the body preventing its spread. Nicotine may also lessen the overreaction of the body’s immune system that has been found in the most severe cases of Covid-19 infection. To test the theory, frontline health workers, and hospital patients with the Covid-19 virus will be slapped with nicotine patches.
“Our cross-sectional study strongly suggests that those who smoke every day are much less likely to develop a symptomatic or severe infection with Sars-CoV-2 compared with the general population,” say the Pitié-Salpêtrière researchers. “The effect is significant. It divides the risk by five for ambulatory patients and by four for those admitted to hospital. We rarely see this in medicine.”
The latest plot to make Newcastle United winners is under attack. beIn Sports wants the Premier League to stop Newcastle’s proposed £300million takeover from a Saudi Arabia-led consortium. The prospective buyers have funds from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – money controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Qatar media network beIN SPORTS has an exclusive deal to broadcast all Premier League football matches in the Middle East and North Africa for the three seasons 2019/20-2021/22. “Nothing brings people together and excites passions and emotions like sport; particularly football,” guffed beIn’s spots chairman as the £400m deal was signed. But sport can only do so much. The hand of friendship can be cut off at the wrist. The two countries are not on the best of terms:
Since 2017 Qatar has been subject to a boycott by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt (the Arab Quartet), creating a deep rift in a region already beset by civil wars and insurgencies
BeIN is locked in a bitter dispute with illegal Saudi-backed broadcaster BeoutQ, which it has accused of pirating its coverage of Premier League fixtures.
“In light of the Saudi Arabia government’s facilitation of the near three-year theft of the Premier League’s commercial rights — and in turn your club’s commercial revenues — through its backing of the huge scale BeoutQ pirate service, I would strongly suggest that you fully interrogate this deal, and ask the Premier League to do the same, as a matter of urgency,” al-Obaidly wrote.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the future economic model of football is at stake,” he added.
Pick a side: Qatar or Saudi Arabia? And don’t forget to pull on your rainbow laces. This is what Human Rights Watch says of each bastion of the beautiful game:
Qatari laws continue to discriminate against women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals
The Premier League says: “The Premier League, proudly stand alongside Stonewall in promoting equality and diversity… we ask that all fans support LGBT people in football and beyond by making them feel welcome.”
Saudi Arabia faced unprecedented international criticism in 2019 for its human rights record, including continuing repression of dissidents and activists and the failure to provide accountability for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in October 2018. Amid the criticism, Saudi authorities announced landmark reforms for Saudi women that, if fully implemented, represent a significant step forward, including allowing Saudi women over 21 years old to obtain passports and travel abroad without male guardian permission for the first time. However, women’s rights activists still remained in prison or on trial for their activism. In 2019, Saudi Arabia carried out 184 executions, 84 for non-violent drug crimes. Through 2019, the Saudi-led coalition continued a military campaign against the Houthi rebel group in Yemen that has included scores of unlawful airstrikes that have killed and wounded thousands of civilians.
Racism and sexism are the norm in Saudi Arabia. The moralising PL must be shocked. It support Kick It Out, stating:
The Premier League is making it clear there is No Room For Racism as we continue to work with all our clubs, fans, the FA, EFL, PFA, Kick It Out and the police to tackle discrimination across all areas of football.
The League’s No Room for Racism campaign demonstrates its continued commitment to equality and diversity, using the power and popularity of the League to oppose racism in football.
Racism is not acceptable in our competition or the wider sport.
The Saudi and Qataris are just the sort of people, then, that our moralising Premier League can do business with. Time for the PL to make a tough decision and stop using football to teach the fans how to think.