We seem to be going through one of those times when nobody likes anybody (I speak of nation states), when diplomatic statements are undiplomatically spiky and even good intentions bring negative reactions.
The European nations all seem to be angry with the United States, mainly because President Biden failed to tell them of America’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, causing problems for many of their nationals working there.
Despite his promise to inaugurate a new and brighter era in America after the chaos and ill-will of Donald Trump’s presidency, this looked very like a continuation of Trump’s “America First” policy.
The big kerfuffle concerns the so-called Aukus deal, a security pact signed by the United States, Australia and Britain in an apparent effort to counter the threat of expansionism by China. This involved the cancellation of a multi-billion dollar deal which Australia had with France to build nuclear-powered submarines. Instead, Britain and America will give Australia the technology to build the subs.
Furious, France declared the move a “stab in the back ... a brutal, unilateral decision,” and recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia. It did not recall its envoy to Britain but the language it used in regard to this country was scathing, described by one London newspaper as “a torrent of scorn”.
French ministers dismissed Britain as “a spare wheel” in the arrangement, “a vassal of the United States” and “constantly opportunistic,” and a former French ambassador, Gerard Araud, tweeted that “Monty Python (a British comedy troupe) has taken power in the UK.”
A longer view suggests that China now faces a powerful defence alliance in the Indo-Pacific region, a development which will be warmly welcomed by such regional partners as Japan.
As for the US and France, no doubt, tempers will cool in time. Cooperation at some level is essential, if only because the United States is the major power in Nato, the West’s defensive bastion.
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Nine out of 10 British adults have been double-vaccinated against the coronavirus, but that leaves a small percentage who have failed to take the protective jab.
Refuseniks are often higher within ethnic communities. Many say they fear side-effects or have had a bad reaction to previous injections; some have a pathological fear of the needle; others believe conspiracy theories that the vaccination is some form of government control.
A raft of evidence has long been available as to the efficacy of the vaccines, but if the doubters are ever to be convinced, a recent statistic must surely prove the case. According to the Office for National Statistics, in the first half of this year, people fully vaccinated against Covid accounted for just one per cent of all coronavirus deaths.
Can anything be clearer?
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I don’t want to sound obsessive about packaging — the way many products are presented for sale, but let me ask one last question: Why do so many manufacturers fail to make plain exactly what it is they are selling?
I wanted a glue stick, one of those tubes where you twist the bottom and gluey stuff emerges from the top. In a stationery shop, I located what seemed to be the right item, but what was printed on the package was “Strong,” “Easy for kids,” “Original,” “Natural, reliable and safe,” plus a name I did not recognise, but took to be that of the maker.
It had the right shape for a glue stick, but it could have been a lipstick or lip salve, a nasal inhaler, a crayon or a holder of some sort.
Finally, in microscopically small and hard to read print, white on a red background, I perceived the words, “Clean, easy and reliable gluing.” Eureka! But why should such exploration be necessary?
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A patient goes to his doctor and says, “I think my wife is trying to poison me.” The doctor asks why, the man says he has no idea, and the doctor promises to talk to the wife.
A week later, the doctor says he spent three hours on the telephone with the man’s wife. “What’s your advice?” asks the man. “Take the poison,” says the doctor.
More silly medical stories:
Patient: “Doctor, will I be able to play the violin after the operation?” Doctor: “Of course.” Patient: “Great, I can’t now.”
Doctor: “I cannot conceal it from you, you are gravely ill. Do you want to see anyone?” Patient: “Yes, another doctor.”
Patient says he cannot do jobs around the house like before, so the doctor gives him a thorough examination.
“Now give me the verdict, in straight language,” says the patient. Says the doctor, “In straight language, you are lazy.” Patient: “OK, now give me the medical version so I can tell my wife.”