Hello everyone, I am a bit confused, it was Boxing Day on Saturday but it a bank holiday today and there seems to be very few in the office again. Well, at least there are newspapers for Bozzie to dump on the kitchen floor. Although he has to be a bit more careful as baby Wilf has started to crawl. I don’t think the Little Otter would be happy if Bozzie hit him with a paper.
There is a bit of a row going on about the schools going backdate in January. The Gove wants them all back at the designated time, Government scientists have suggested a staggered return and some unions want schools closed. The Government want all the children to have a weekly Covid test but many headteachers don’t think there is enough time to implement it before the original date for the start of the new term. It’s unsurprising that one of the unions involved in the row is the NEU who are about as left-wing as they come. They are currently in another row with a union member who they insist is black when he is from Mediterranean/Israeli descent. On the union forms, you are asked if you are white if you say no then they automatically label you black. So according to them, Chinese, Japanese or Indians are all Black.
The Pfizer vaccine rollout to EU countries has hit a snag already. A number of the EU 27 have not received the expected number of doses due to a hold up in the distribution process at the Belgium factory. Spain is the only country to admit to not getting the 350,000 doses it expected to get today, but I understand that there are at least 7 others in the same boat. Spain is supposed to get 350,000 doses a week for the next 3 months. I also read that 8 employees of a German care home were accidentally given 5 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and are under a close watch. How anyone can be so stupid as to give one person 5 injections or to accept 5 injections is beyond me.
The 27 EU Ambassadors who were briefed on Christmas Day on the trade deal have agreed on a preliminary acceptance of the deal. Meaning that it is free to come in to place at Midnight Central European time on New Year’s Eve for the EU. Our MPs will return to the commons and a vote on Wednesday this week. As Labour have announced that they will be whipping their MPs to vote in favour it looks like the deal is all but signed. The EU will debate it properly later in January.
Airbus seems to be very happy that there is very likely to be a trade agreement. The wings of nearly all their planes are designed and built in the UK and trading under WTO rules may have made them much more expensive. But more seriously all the wing design capabilities are in the UK. I also hear that Airbus is seriously considering transferring construction of the satellites it builds for the OneWeb satellite broadband network from the US to Britain. Britain has a very good reputation for building satellites of all sizes. If this happens it will be excellent business for the UK as the aim is to build an initial network of 648 of the washing machine-sized satellites. However, OneWeb already has permission to launch another 2,000 satellites.
I was reading about the need for both electric vehicle and their battery gigafactories in the UK. While the discussions for a trade deal with the EU have been going on the big investors have been reluctant to commit themselves. But I hear that Tesla is considering a huge factory near Bristol to make both EV’s and later their batteries. It is thought that Tesla is looking for somewhere to build its right-hand drive models. As the moment they have to stop their US production line every so often and make a run of cars for export to countries that drive on the left. Tesla has been looking at a 65-acre site that is available. It is an old armaments site and is currently planned to have its own railway spur and passenger station and a direct link to the motorway network. The word is that we will require 4 or 5 of these EV gigafactories and a similar number of ones for batteries.
I’m off to see what is for my dinner, night night all.
Morning all. Well, at least it’s not snowing here, unlike some places I have seen on TV, mind it’s cold. I suppose it only to be expected it is what you humans call winter.
Today I have been reading that the British Army has been watching the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan with interest as the Azerbaijanis made heavy use of armed very cheap Turkish drones. They used these, with huge success, to attack troop concentrations and armoured vehicles remotely, without risking their own forces. It is believed they knocked out over 230 Armenian tanks for the loss of 30 of their own and two drones. Now the Army is asking for additional fighting drones to add to the 300 odd they already operate. They have also very recently added 30 mini-drones to their fleet, they are the size of your hand, weigh 6.9 oz and can be used to spy on a target up to a mile and a half away. The RAF also has a small fleet of much bigger drones which is currently being upgraded to a fleet 3 times the size.
Yet another trade deal was signed this morning bringing the number up to 62. This time it’s a continuity agreement with Turkey. Basically, these should be the easiest to sign as they are just continuations or the agreement that the EU had with them initially on the same terms. However, in virtually every case the agreements are only holding agreements and are scheduled to be renegotiated with a number of extras.
The EU are scheduled to sign the trade deal in Brussels tomorrow. The paperwork will then be picked up by an RAF plane and flown to RAF Northolt for transport on to central London for Bozzie to sign if it is voted for in the Commons tomorrow. The Commons debate is due to start at 09:30 and to last for 5 hours. So by about 15:00 tomorrow we should know if it is going to go to the Lords for their consent. If they pass it, it will come back for a further vote before going to the Windsor Castle for the Queen’s Royal Assent before Bozzie can sign the agreement.
All the chat has been about the possibility of the AstraZeneca vaccine being approved for use in the UK this week. Now I hear that there is no chance of it getting approval by the European Medicines Agency for a while yet. The reason is pretty simple, AstraZeneca hasn’t applied for their approval yet. I guess this is good news for Britain as it means that all those millions of doses that AstraZeneca are rumoured to have produced on speculation can be used in the UK.
A bit of good news for Bozzie this afternoon. The European Research Group have had a team of lawyers running a fine-tooth comb through the agreement with the EU and they have said that it upholds our sovereignty, the level playfield clauses are not too arduous (and could be ignored if we were willing to pay tariffs) and the fishing clauses were acceptable. The ERG said they are going to recommend that the Group votes in favour.
Indonesia is negotiating with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to buy 50 million doses of vaccine from both of them. The country is the worlds 4th most populous at 275 million people and has already ordered 125 million doses of the Chinese Sinovax vaccine, however this is still in Phase 3 testing and it might be some time before it arrives. However, they are now a little late to the party and probably would not get supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine until late in the 1st quarter of next year and Pfizer vaccine until late in the 2nd quarter. They have also announced that when a vaccine arrive their 1.8 million health workers would be first to be vaccinated followed by the civil service!
I thought it was a joke when I read that the Japanese were planning a wooden satellite. But it is quite true. Scientists are worried about space junk and believe that if they made the satellite casings out of wood they would burn up completely rather than leave minute metal fragments in space as currently happens.
It’s a big day for Bozzie today. It was announced at 07:00 that the AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved for emergency use. I hear that we are to start vaccinating people with it on Monday morning. It seems that a short period is required to get the vaccine to the right places and to ensure that those giving the injections know the difference in procedures between this new vaccine and the Pfizer one. I hear we already have over 500,000 doses ready to go next week and we will be able to give up to 2,000,000 a week if production can supply that many. AstraZeneca say they aim to produce 3 billion doses by the end of next year from multiple manufacturing sites. Because this vaccine is far more stable than the Pfizer one, much cheaper to buy and can be stored in a normal domestic type fridge it makes it easier to use. The permission has also been given to give the second dose up to 12 weeks after the first dose meaning that it can be rolled out to more people quickly.
Millions more people have been moved up to either coronavirus Tier 3 or Tier 4 from midnight tonight. Three-quarters of the country is now in Tier 4 and only the Scilly Isles are in Tier 1. We might as well call it what it is, lockdown, and throw the rest of the country in as well. So because of the number of new cases and the promise to test school children twice a week the vast majority of school children will not return to school until the end of January.
The other big news today was Parliament being recalled and this was all about Brexit. Bozzie started off the debate at 09:30 this morning and it went on to about 14.30 before the first vote which sailed through. The highlight of the debate was firstly seeing Scottishland MP Blackford making a fool of himself, as usual, with his normal whinging speech. Then up came The Gove to sum up for the Government and he walk all over Blackford, taking the piss and even having the Labour front bench laughing. Only one Labour MP voted against but two minor shadow frontbenchers quit to join the 34 other Labour MPs who abstained. Steptoe also abstained. The committee stage of the Bill lasted about two minutes! The Lords are debating the bill this evening and it will be ferried to Windsor late tonight or early tomorrow morning where the Queen is on standby to give her Royal Assent.
The actual agreement was signed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel this morning. They signed two copies and they were then put on board an RAF BAE 146 and flown to RAF Northolt and then on to London. Bozzie the signed them both in No 10 and he will retain a copy and the other one will go back to the EU.
A few other quick bits of other coronavirus news I heard today which may interest you. “Experts” in the travel industry are saying that they think that I will be safe to book a foreign holiday after 1st May as the vaccination program should have thing under control by then. The Welsh Police have been putting up roadblocks to prevent travel. Germany was the poster boy of Covid and everyone was saying that we should be following their example by testing more people. Then their numbers started to creep up and a partial lockdown was introduced in early November. At first, the number stopped going up, up that didn’t last very long. Then a harder lockdown was brought in on 16th December shutting non-essential shops and schools. That hasn’t worked either and the promised lifting in early January looks to be off. In addition, they reported over 1000 deaths today, a bit more than us.
One of the moans I constantly hear from the Greens is that it is impossible to recycle many plastic items. Now I hear that two plastic recycling plants are to open in 2021. One is designed to recycle plastic tubs, trays, pots and film and to convert them back into oil and chemicals from which they are made. It should be able to handle 80,000 tonnes of plastic a year. The second plant is being built to recycle a billion plastic bottles a year. That should stop the Greens moaning.
Thursday (New Years Eve)
Morning all, I hate these cold dark mornings, roll on the summer. Bozzie was moaning to the Little Otter about his dad over breakfast this morning. He has not been happy for a while that Stanley keeps breaking the mask rule. But now he is moaning about Brexit and says he is going to get a French passport. It doesn’t really matter what Bozzie says to him he is a rule unto himself.
I hear that one of the unsettled bits of Brexit is on the brink of being sorted out. The Government and the Spanish have reached a draft agreement over Gibraltar. When we had the referendum back all those years ago Gibraltar vote to remain by 96% to 4% so a solution that leaves them closer to the EU is not a problem with them. The fact that 15,000 people cross the border from Spain into Gibraltar for work every day means that the Spanish have an incentive to come to an agreement. One of the things rumoured is that Gibraltar May join the Schengen area of abolished border controls.
As if coronavirus wasn’t bad enough I hear that two of the Carnival brands that have managed to restart limited cruises have been hit by computer problems. The word is that the systems of Costa and AIDA have been hacked but this hasn’t been confirmed by the companies. However, their phone and e-mail systems are down as is the Costa website however the AIDA site is up. I also hear communications between the ships and the companies are down. AIDA had to cancel several cruises but both companies are now back operating short cruises. I understand German police are investigating.
The US Air Force is on the brink of deploying 54 of its new F35A aircraft to RAF Lakenheath. The RAF station has long hosted US Air Force planes and is being upgraded to support the new planes. The newest aircraft in the US fleet is already deployed in by some EU countries but they are spread thinly with only 60 spread across several nations. This is likely to be the first of several RAF stations where they are deployed. In addition, the US Marines are about to deploy a squadron of their F35B aircraft on HMS Queen Elizabeth in a joint operation with the RAF. The British Aircraft Carrier was specially adapted to be able to fly and support the US version of the F35B which is a little different from the British one.
I have been reading that the inmates in most Scottishland prisons are to get special meals tomorrow for the New Year. Just about every prison will be serving the traditional Scottishland New Year’s Day steak pie, roast potatoes and veg, however one will be serving roast beef. Many will be serving cheesecake as a dessert. Tea for many will be burgers. It’s back to gruel on January 2nd.
Friday (New Years Day)
Happy New Year to all you cat lovers, I hope you all remembered to say ‘white rabbits’ and weren’t too disturbed by two lots of fireworks. I slept through it all and am refreshed and ready to go. I’m happy to report that my bowl is still being topped up with leftover Turkey and it is most enjoyable.
So I was delighted to read that we have started to exercise our sovereignty already. One minute into the new free Britain the Government tweeted that it was banning “pulse”
Fishing in British Waters. It was officially banned by the EU but they gave exemptions to 80 Dutch trawlers to use the method to catch flatfish. Now we can control it and it is stopped immediately. I hear other plans are the banning of so-called “super trawlers” which are believed to have killed many dolphins and forcing the installations of remote CCTV on big and medium EU boats to ensure they don’t take illegal types of fish. We have also moved to do as Richie NikNak promised and removed the remaining 5% VAT on tampons that it was illegal to remove under EU law. I hope that many more such things follow.
More news from the Government is that we have now vaccinated over 1,000,000 people with the Pfizer vaccine. The first person got the vaccine on 8th December so that’s taken 3 weeks. On Monday we will also have the first 500,030 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine available and the Government expects to build up to delivering 2,000,000 doses a week or more next week, but it’s not clear if this is just AstraZeneca vaccinations or a combined total. As AstraZeneca pump up production they say 2,000,000 doses a week could easily be met. Their Indian partner has already started local production and has stockpiled 50,000,000 doses awaiting Indian Government approval.
The trade war between the USA and EU over Boeing and Airbus subsidies escalated a bit yesterday when the US stuck yet more tariffs on a number of EU products. Increases were put on French brandy, other brandies produced from grapes and aircraft manufacturing parts. One of the biggest exports from the UK is aircraft parts and engines. Isn’t it nice not to be involved?
A Lithuanian financial software company is to move from its home country to London very shortly. They supply the software and support to many of the major financial companies based in London and Edinburgh so they see a huge advantage in moving out of the EU to and into London the worlds largest financial centre.
The papers are full of plans to develop methane-powered railcars. The idea is that these could be used on branch lines to provide a service to little-used stations when diesel-powered railcars have to be withdrawn. The idea is to make methane from fermented human and vegetable waste and liquefy it. It would then be used in an engine to generate electricity that would drive the railcars. I think it should be called HS Poo.
While on the subject of financial services I heard a Rejoiner on the radio this morning saying that leaving the EU would be a disaster because 80% of our GDP was financial services and we had no agreement yet with the EU over them. I thought this sounded wrong so I checked it out. Well of course it is total rubbish. To get to 80% you have to count in just about everything we do excluding manufacturing and retailing. So this includes tourism, theatre, cinema, restaurants and much else. What is the actual percentage of financial services that we would recognise as such in GDP? Well, the true answer is 6.9% and that is the worldwide figure, around 40% of that is with the EU. So not 80% but 2.4%, just going to prove that can’t believe a word a Rejoiner tells you.
Do you have one of the smart doorbells that broadcast pictures from it to your phone via the internet? I hear that they are very easy to hack. In America people have started hacking into them, making a fake call to the police, like someone at the address is being held hostage or is threatening to murder someone and then streaming online the Police breaking into the home. The police have already shot a man in Kansas due to this. Have you changed your password from the supplier’s default?
Wow, it’s not quite as cold this morning. No frost in the garden, which is excellent news for my little paws. Breakfast as usual and I got to read the papers Bozzie had dumped on the floor while listening to the radio. That Ballboy bloke was whinging on as usual. This time he was telling everyone that the NHS needs to deliver 2,000,000 vaccinations a week and that he didn’t think it would happen because there is a shortage of the vaccine. Then on came the expert who basically said he was talking rubbish. He explained that the world needs 7.8 billion doses of the various vaccines if everyone in the world is to be vaccinated. So until everyone is vaccinated it will always be in short supply. Then the News came on and a man from AstraZeneca said that they would supply 1,000,000 doses by the end of next week (9th Jan) and start supplying the NHS with 2,000,000 doses a week from the middle of the month. Of course, you have to add in the Pfizer vaccine that seems to be running at around 300,000+ doses a week at the moment.
Some people in the UK may think we are not moving quickly enough, but as I said yesterday we have already done over a million vaccinations. Consequently, we are miles ahead of France where in the first three days they have managed the magnificent total of 100 vaccinations. At that rate, they will take over 5,000 years to vaccinate the entire French population! No wonder the French population is complaining that their health service is being too cautious, demanding everyone signs a disclaimer, checking over the person’s medical history and then making them spend 15 minutes recovering from the vaccination. Interestingly I hear that many EU countries are not happy about the supply of vaccine, both Belgium and Germany are complaining about the slowness of supply and are blaming the EU approval system.
It seems like Nissan Motors is having a major rethink of its car sales and manufacturing in continental Europe. The company looks have decided to withdraw from around 30 Eastern European countries and reduce its physical presence in others by having many of its range manufactured by its partner Renault. For example, it is closing its Spanish factory in Avila and turning it into a warehouse. However, the Sunderland plant appears to be quite safe and may even be expanded as it is one of the companies lowest cost factories and Nissan UK sales and exports have held up well.
It seems that LG are on the verge of launching its 2021 range of TV sets. The new range will include an 85” set which I don’t think many people will be able to afford or have the space for in their front room. But the most surprising thing is that going to offer 8K sets. Well, I find that amazing as there is not a single program or film in the that broadcasts in 8K. In fact, most programs are currently put out in HD and haven’t even made it to 4K yet. The last survey I saw said that in the UK 80% of TV sets were full HD or HD ready. I would have thought that there was more money to be made selling 4K HDR sets than trying to sell 8K sets that there are no programmes for.
Just before the trade deal with the EU was announced I see four of our warships sailed from Portsmouth on fisheries protection duties. HMS Trent led the mission, flanked by HMS Tamar, HMS Tyne and HMS Mersey and all were assigned to protect the newly agreed fishing quotas and to ensure that EU boats particularly the French stick to the new rules.
I have been reading the sad story of one of the last remaining Handley Page Herald aircraft. It is sitting in a field at the side of Gatwick airport all covered in dirt, rust and green mould. When the plane retired from flying it was positioned on the Gatwick roof terrace from where tourists could view the planes, but when the terrace was closed it somehow became the responsibility of the Gatwick Fire Brigade. They didn’t know what to do with it and it has sat in the field for years. Now a group of enthusiasts have set up a gofundme page to get it cleaned up and are looking for somewhere for it to go on display. The fire brigade are just delighted to be rid of the wreck of a plane.
It seems that people living in the London Borough of Croydon who think the weekly bin collection is rubbish have had it proved to them. Councils are supposed to deliver a leaflet to every house in the borough detailing on what day each week they can expect the bins to be emptied. Back at the beginning of November the Council’s waste collection contractors, Veolia, were supposed to deliver next years timetable to every household. But some 24 streets seem to have got the wrong leaflet so instead of Fridays they were told to expect a Wednesday collection. On Christmas Eve teams from Veolia had to drop a letter of apology through the doors on those 24 streets telling them they had got the wrong leaflet and bin day was still Friday. When this news broke in the local press residents of 46 streets complained that they hadn’t received a leaflet at all! I know Croydon are bankrupt but waste collection is one of the protected services they have to provide by law and Veolia recently had an annual £21 million increase in their contract. However, it is reported they tried to make a bigger profit on the contract by cutting corners and delivering the leaflets themselves instead of using Royal Mail as in the past.
Right, that’s your lot for this week. I am off for my dinner and to see if there is still some leftover turkey to top up my Felix. Chat to you all next Monday.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file