Friday 23 October

We're talking about last night's presidential debate, free school meals, being barred from the bars, extraordinary theatre in Nepal, and pet portraiture...

Round Two

Well, at least we can say that last night’s showdown between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was less chaotic than the first time around (thanks in no small part to the mics being muted, no doubt). 

Trump went in for Biden for failing to solve issues like institutional racism while he was in the Senate and serving as VP to Obama, casting him as an average politician who doesn’t manage to get things done. 

Meanwhile Biden went for the jugular over Trumps’ handling of the pandemic, and his approach to health care, economy and immigration. Oh, and he called him “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history”.

Here are some key moments: 

– Trump on Covid-19: “It will go away and as I say, we’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner. It’s going away” he said. There are currently around 8.5 million coronavirus cases in the USA, fyi, and that number is rising. He placed nearly all his optimism on a vaccine that will supposedly arrive “within weeks”.

– Biden on Covid-19: “Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America”. He said a “bleak winter” is coming, and accused Trump of squandering months he should have been using to accelerate production PPE and preparing schools and businesses for reopening.

– Biden eviscerated Trump over this week’s report that 545 children who were separated from their parents at the border have still not been reunited with their families. Trump claimed that the children are “very well taken care of.”

– Trump said he’s the “least racist person in this room” and he’s done more than any previous president since Abraham Lincoln for the Black community. Biden said he stoked racial divisions. 

– Biden said he’d “transition from the oil industry”. He went on to say he wants a gradual transition to cleaner forms of energy – but Trump immediately jumped on the statement to try to turn oil- and manufacturing- heavy states (like Pennsylvania and Texas) against Biden. 

Biden’s comfortably ahead in the polls. Will it stay that way?

Barred from the bars

Well, we’re heading into this weekend with millions more people facing tougher restrictions to try to halt the rise of coronavirus. In Wales, 3.1 million people have to stay at home from 6pm today as a 17-day “firebreak”. Plus Greater Manchester’s 2.8 million people went into tier three lockdown overnight – and South Yorkshire’s headed for the same from midnight tonight. Meanwhile 1/10 workers on furlough have been asked to work by their boss, which may have cost the taxpayer £3.9bn. Eesh. 

Tory MP quits over free school meals vote

Caroline Ansell (parliamentary private secretary at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to you and me) has resigned after Labour’s motion to offer free school meals in holidays until Easter 2021 was defeated by 322 votes to 261. She said the vouchers aren’t a long-term solution, but that they could help families who are struggling because of the pandemic. Meanwhile footballer and all-round-12/10-bloke Marcus Rashford, who’s leading a campaign on child hunger, asked for MPs to come together and stop being influenced by “political affiliation”. “I don’t have the education of a politician… but I have a social education having lived through this,” he said. “These children matter… and for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.” 

All the world’s a stage…

Rural Nepal’s being taken by storm by forum theatre, which is a type of drama in which the audience watches the play twice. In the second version any audience member can shout “stop!” and come forward to take on the role of a character – i.e. changing the ending of the story. The issues played out are always on topics that touch many lives in rural Nepal, like gender-based violence or child marriage, and the forum theatre allows hard-to-reach, traditional communities to discuss their circumstances and troubles. It also helps women better understand the law and how they can access security and justice. The vast majority of Nepali women are unaware of their rights: just 9% of rural women surveyed by the UN Population Fund in 2012 knew that rape within marriage was illegal, and only 13% were aware of a specific law against domestic violence. Sounds to me like theatre to write home about. 

Still life in the old dog, yet

Did you get creative over lockdown? Maybe do a bit of painting or drawing? Well, Phil Heckels certainly did. He decided to draw the family Labrador, and then uploaded a photo of his work to Facebook with a spoof caption offering to sell it for £299. But by the end of the day he had seven requests from mates who wanted their own drawing – and now he’s making thousands for charity by selling his art on a dedicated Facebook page under the pseudonym “Hercule Van Wolfwinkle”. N’aww, what a cutie.