Cock-ups worldwide, a broken ‘PAUSE’ button, the dangers of bagpipes and another act of kindness

24 November 2019

Here’s another round-up of all this week’s news, starting with our own royal family’s proving by exception that the arrogance of the “never apologise, never explain” policy actually works but it needs to be interpreted as “don’t talk to the media”.

Ex-Prince Andrew’s ill-judged interview with Emily Maitlis has inspired some interesting reactions, rather as his late sister-in-law’s did when she looked up through her fluttering eyelashes in her own (surprisingly successful) attempt to gaslight the masses even though her interviewer bottled out of asking her about the rumours that a revolving door had been installed at the back of Kensington Palace.

An incidental question arising from the Andrew & Epstein affair is the whereabouts of Ghislaine Macavity Maxwell because there seem to be a lot of places she isn’t.

Perhaps it was she who got Donald Trump to change his mind and accept the legality of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and she’s now in hiding.  His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, also said their legality should be judged by the Israeli courts (presumably to ensure an entirely impartial decision).

While Pompeo was saying this, the US Senate – with no obvious sense of irony – passed a bill intended to protect human rights in Hong Kong, leading to an unfriendly response from China;  America’s own record in relation to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is, of course, highly peccable.  As Tom Paxton sang in the 60s, in America “murderers pay for their crimes, even if we make a mistake sometimes”.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he failed to win a majority in two elections earlier this year and his wife, Sara, was convicted in June of illegally misusing thousands of pounds of public funds. No doubt anybody who criticises either of them will be accused of anti-Semitism.

Unusually, Trump’s presidential motorcade included an ambulance this week when he suddenly went to hospital for an entirely routine but previously unscheduled medical check-up, absolutely not a suspected heart attack.

The bulletproof glass in Elon Musk’s Tesla “cybertruck” isn’t.  Designed as a pick-up truck and looking like a car designed by a 4-year old, the new vehicle’s windows broke when Musk chucked a rock at them to show how strong they aren’t.  You’d think his spontaneous exclamation when the second one broke should be enough to turn off most of the Mid-Western Trump voters – it’s obviously designed for the big open spaces where men are men and minds are small – but about 150,000 of the things have already been ordered.  (The European models will be built in Berlin because the cost of post-Brexit tariff barriers make the UK too unattractive.)

There was an unedifying debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in which the former said he’d get Brexit done and the latter said he’d rebuild the NHS.  Unfortunately, Johnson’s <PAUSE> button was broken and not even Julie Etchingham could stop his repetitive burbling and gurning.

It still hadn’t been repaired by the Q&A session with the leaders of the four major parties.  (Why don’t they give the chair on/off switches to each of the speakers’ microphones?)

There’s a long and ancient shaggy dog story about some bagpipes and an octopus, which I won’t tell you but the punchline, when it finally appears, implies that bagpipes are intelligent (and musical – there, you can work it out for yourself now).  Anyway, Scottish pipers* and other wind musicians have been warned to clean their instruments after a man died from a lung disease triggered by fungi lurking in his bagpipes.

OK, those of you who already thought the pipes are an instrument of the devil can stop laughing now because the disease, a form of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, can also be found in feather duvets and pillows and causes night sweats, a dry cough and shortness of breath, with the option of irreversible scarring of the lungs.  For safety’s sake, wind players should now disinfect their instruments and those of us who like feathers on the bed should prepare to suffer.

This week’s public act of kindness was provided the Democratic Minnesota congresswoman Ilham Omar.  After Patrick Carlineo had pleaded guilty to threatening her life, she wrote an open letter to Judge Frank Geraci suggesting that a prison sentence would only make Carlineo more resentful.  She wrote that “The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion” and suggested community integration and social services would be a better solution.

 

*    Players of the uilleann and Northumbrian pipes probably don’t need to worry quite as much because they keep their airbags inflated with their elbows rather than by blowing into them, and thereminists don’t need to worry at all.

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