This Week in the New Normal #46

Our successor to This Week in the Guardian, This Week in the New Normal (or in this case “The past two weeks in the new normal”) is our (mostly) weekly chart of the progress of autocracy, authoritarianism and economic restructuring around the world.

1. Bugs on the School Menu

Last week it was announced that over 1000 state schools in Australia will be introducing “eco-friendly” snacks to their cafeterias. “Eco-friendly”, in this instance, meaning “made from insects”.

Very few media outlets are saying anything but “this is great”, or some variation thereof. KidsNews.au have a write up talking about how much healthier than regular crisps the snacks are, and referencing how little greenhouse gas is released by farming crickets instead of livestock.

Australian News even released a friendly little video of kids eating the snacks and laughing, while being brainwashed by an adult who should know better:

Isn’t that nice?

2. Energy Rationing on the Way

Just yesterday, following a week or so of Ursula Von Der Leyen laying out some groundwork, the EU Commission published a report and a set of recommendations for tackling the “energy crisis”:

Personally, I love that their top recommendation for tackling the price of electricity is “just use less”, and that it has apparently taken them months to come up with that.

Of course, they are delightfully vague about how member states should go about “reducing energy consumption”. Rationing would seem the obvious, if not the only choice. But they very carefully step around that word.

The second proposal is a revenue cap on “inframarginal electricity producers” (renewables, nuclear and lignite). That’s a revenue cap, NOT a price cap. So the prices will stay the same, but any revenue over 180 euros/MWh will go to the state, not the company.

Don’t worry, the state will then use this money to “assist energy consumers”. I see no way that system could be abused.

The third proposal has a wonderfully Orwellian phrase in it too, describing a short increase in taxation as a “temporary solidarity contribution”.

Rather predictably, the World Economic Forum is a big fan of the plan.

You can read the full document here if you are so inclined. We’ll probably do a deeper dive on this next week.

3. Boosters for days

The latest vaccine just dropped, Pfizer/BionTech’s “Omicron booster”, which specifically targets the “new variants”. According to Scientific American:

The new booster shots are expected to trigger a better immune response against the new subvariants. Clinical studies of similar two-part COVID boosters, as well as mouse research with these specific formulations, suggest that will be the case. Still, some scientists point out we have no hard evidence the new shots will provide longer-lasting protection than previous boosters. That’s an issue because people are tired of frequent requests to get yet another shot. But the U.S. government is pushing for a rapid and wide rollout before an anticipated increase of cases in fall and winter months.

The “animal data” they’re talking about goes back to a June meeting with the FDA, when Pfizer requested approval for their Omicron booster based on “preliminary data” involving 8 – yes, just EIGHT – mice. Science reports:

They have not released those data publicly, although at the June FDA meeting, Pfizer presented preliminary findings in eight mice given BA.4/BA.5 vaccines as their third dose.

Don’t worry though, all eight of the mice are fine. Boosters are rolling out as we speak.

BONUS: Dystopian horror of the last two weeks

British breakfast programme This Morning has started a prize wheel contest…with “pay 4 months of your energy bills” as a star prize. Winners are sighing with relief at the prospect.

That’s how far we’ve fallen, being able to afford to heat your house is now a rarefied luxury on par with winning a lottery—Hunger Games-level stuff.

In fact, it was literally a dystopian joke on That Mitchell and Webb Look about ten years ago:

It’s not all bad…

Well, for starters, the backlash against GMB’s “energy bills” prize resulted in them removing it from the wheel in less than a week. Which is nice, at least some people still have the ability to see just how awful that was.

Signalling a potential change in narrative direction, the three strongest supporters of vaccine mandates – Canada, New Zealand and California – are all reversing their current Covid19 measures.

Speaking of Canada, “Trudeau Must Go” is a trending social media campaign right now.

Also, a little shout out to whoever coined the term #MournHub to describe the state of the UK media this week, that hashtag can provide some blessed relief to republicans and realists alike.

And well done to the genius who took the soundtrack from a BBC documentary about North Korea, and overlaid it on coverage of the Queen’s funeral:


All told a pretty hectic two weeks for the new normal crowd, and we didn’t even mention the Guardian editorial praising the idea Charles III might oppose Tory policies or the US treasury recommending a “digital dollar”.

There’s a lot of change in the air, a lot of agendas in the works, if you see a headline, article, post or interview you think is a sign of the times, post it in the comments, email us or share it on social media and we will add it to the next edition.


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