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Car Black

Italy braces for disruption as gas stations begin strike

gas station italy
© Alessio Paduano/Bloomberg
Customers queue at a gas station ahead of a two-day strike in Naples, Italy, on Jan. 24.
Italy is bracing for two days of disruptions after gas station operators across the country started a strike late Tuesday to protest against a new policy introduced by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's government.

A last-ditch attempt by the government to convince unions to call off the strike failed. But some of the groups organizing the protest decided to reduce its duration, signaling some progress in negotiations with Industry and Made in Italy Minister Adolfo Urso.

Still, the strike is a setback for Meloni, who has been on the defensive since the end of a car-fuel subsidy in late December sparked protests from consumers and labor unions. Her government responded with measures to counter alleged price gouging by gas station operators, who in turn decided to strike against what they say is an unfair characterization.

Beaker

Why the lab leak theory is almost certainly false

wuhan
The case that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, leaked from a Chinese lab seems, on first sight, to be robust.

After all, it first appeared in close proximity to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a major lab that was carrying out research on just such viruses.

Furthermore, it's plain that the virus is not of natural origin.

The Chinese authorities have confirmed that none of the animal reservoirs that a natural spillover event would require have been found, either in the Huanan wet market in Wuhan or elsewhere, despite wide and extensive testing.

The virus was also already well-adapted to humans in its earliest recorded cases, with no signs of the early genetic diversity that such adaptation would produce.

Comment: The case can be made that this originated in the US:


Bad Guys

European Space Agency halts plans to send its astronauts to China's space station

Tiangong space station
© Xinhua
China finished building the Tiangong space station last year.
It looks like the space relationship — spacelationship? — between the European Union and China may be disintegrating before even being officially launched.

As the South China Morning Post reports, new remarks from the European Space Agency suggest the institution is backing out of its longstanding deal to send astronauts up to China's newly-completed Tiangong space station.

"We are very busy supporting and ensuring our commitments and activities on the International Space Station," ESA director general Josef Aschbacher said in a Paris press conference earlier this week, per the SCMP. "We have neither the budgetary nor political greenlight or intention to engage in a second space station — that is, participating in the Chinese Space Station."

Comment: This doesn't bode well for the future of EU-China relations; however, if NATO's proxy-war against Russia in Ukraine is anything to go by, Europe will gladly sabotage its prosperity for the whims of the US:


Newspaper

Widespread outages reported for Microsoft services, follows mass layoffs that started last week

microsoft outage down
© Downdetector.com
Is anything working over at Microsoft right now?
Numerous Microsoft services are experiencing problems early on Wednesday, with thousands of people complaining about the issues on social media.

According to Downdetector, Xbox Live, Microsoft Store, Outlook.com, Microsoft 365, Azure, Teams, and several popular games, including Minecraft and Destiny, have been experiencing outages in the past 24 hours. (Editor's note: Downdetector is owned by Mashable's parent company, Ziff Davis).

User reports range from intermittent outages to entire systems being completely unavailable. "The whole xbox live system is down," said one user. "Not even the the service status page is working atm."

Sherlock

In Arizona, compelling new evidence presented of Maricopa County election wrongdoing

kari Lake arizona
© Gage Skidmore/Tim Evanson (background)
Kari Lake
Maricopa County is the most populated part of Arizona. When it comes to local government, it's strongly conservative. However, abruptly and surprisingly, in both 2020 and 2022, Maricopa County suddenly started voting Democrat. The courts shut down 2020 election challenges, but gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is fighting the good fight for the 2022 election — and today she released bombshell information about voting machine problems and bizarre signature analyses. If a judge accepts this data, it shows an election-changing pattern of suppressing Republican votes and overcounting Democrat votes.

Maricopa County had 4,420,568 residents according to the 2020 census, making it the fourth most populous county in America, with over 60% of Arizona's total population. Historically, it's been a consistently conservative county. Before 2020, the county voted for every Republican presidential candidate going back to Eisenhower's first run.

Comment: And finally:




Evil Rays

In one day: Machete-wielding 'terrorist' storms churches in southern Spain; Pensioner 'terrorist' arrested for sending letter-bomb to Spanish PM

spain terrorist

The assailant is pictured wielding a long blade
A church official was killed Wednesday and several others injured, including a priest, when a man wielding a bladed weapon stormed a church in southern Spain, police sources said.

The fatal attack occurred at San Isidro church in the port city of Algeciras in the southern Andalusia region.

'Shortly before 8:00 pm (1900 GMT), a person launched an attack with a bladed weapon, killing one person and injuring others,' an interior ministry statement said, indicating the victim had died 'outside the church'.

One of the wounded, who was injured inside the church, was in 'serious' condition, it added. The attacker was arrested and is in the custody of Spain's National Police.

Comment: Also today the Daily Mail reports that a pensioner was arrested for sending letter bombs to the PM, and to the country's Ukrainian embassy. The article alleges a connection between the pensioner and 'Russian intel', which is as ludicrous as it is desperate, and says more about the West's failing war in Ukraine, and highlights the suspect nature of this incident, than anything else:
Suspected 74-year-old terrorist is held amid claims Russian spies 'directed white supremacists to carry out attack'

Police arrested a pensioner Wednesday on suspicion he sent letter bombs targeting Spain's prime minister and the Ukrainian embassy, authorities said.

The 74-year-old Spaniard was taken into custody in Miranda de Ebro in the country's north and taken to Madrid where he will appear before a judge on Friday, said a spokesman for the National Court which deals with terrorism cases.

The arrest came after a weekend report in the New York Times which said Russian military intelligence officers had 'directed' associates of a white supremacist militant group based in Russia to carry out the campaign in Spain.
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was targeted by one of several letter bombs
US officials told the newspaper that the Russian officers who directed the campaign appeared intent on 'keeping European governments off guard' and 'may be testing out proxy groups in the event Moscow decides to escalate a conflict'.


Russia's winning the war, it has no need to do that. Further, it's NATO that has been outed as fostering terrorists cells in the West: The Strategy of Tension: NATO's Secret War Against Europe


Investigators searched the suspect's home where he was thought to have made six letter bombs, police and the interior ministry said.

Masked police stood guard outside the property as officers with sniffer dogs searched the interior, TV footage showed.

'This person was very active on social networks and according to National Police investigators, he has technical and computer expertise,' an interior ministry statement said.

'Although it is presumed that the detainee made and sent the explosive devices alone, the police do not rule out the participation or influence of other people.'

Nobody was killed by the six letter bombs sent in late November and early December to various sites in Spain, but a Ukrainian embassy employee was lightly injured while opening one of the packages.

Letters were sent to the official residence of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, to Spain's defence ministry and to an air base near Madrid from which Spain has sent weapons to Ukraine.


Will the propaganda media try to equate those objecting to the West's arming of Ukraine with 'far-right terrorism'?


Also targeted was a military equipment firm in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, which makes grenade launchers that Spain has sent to Ukraine.
Spain flat apartment

Spanish police officers stand guard outside a building after the arrest of a man suspected of being the sender of letter-bombs in November and December to the Ukrainian and U.S. embassies and several institutions in Spain, in Miranda de Ebro, Spain January 25
Investigators suspect the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), a radical group with members and associates across Europe, is behind the letter bomb campaign.

The group - which is designated a global terrorist organisation by the United States - is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

'Important members of the group have been in Spain, and the police there have tracked its ties with far-right Spanish organisations,' the newspaper said.

According to Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, RIM 'maintains contacts with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups across Europe'.


The West is arming literal Nazis in Ukraine.


'The group has provided paramilitary training to Russian nationals and members of like-minded organisations from other countries at its facilities in St. Petersburg,' it added. Russian President Vladimir Putin is pictured at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on January 24, 2023

After the embassy attack, Ukraine's ambassador to Spain, Serhii Pohoreltsev, appeared to point the finger at Russia.

'We are well aware of the terrorist methods of the aggressor country,' he told Spanish public television on November 30 just hours after the incident.

Russia's embassy to Spain condemned the letter bomb campaign.

After congratulating police on the arrest, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said investigators were 'looking at all possibilities'.

Private television La Sexta, which first broke the news of the pensioner's arrest, said the suspect was a former local authority employee in Vitoria, a town in northern Spain, who lived alone.

Following the letter bomb campaign, Spain's National Court opened an investigation into 'terrorism'.

In addition to sending arms to Ukraine in its fight against Russia's nearly year-long war, Spain is also training Ukrainian troops as part of a European Union programme and providing humanitarian aid.
It brings to mind a few other similar incidents that have occurred recently across Europe; the spate of seemingly random stabbings, such as the attack by a migrant against bystanders at a Paris train station on the 11th of January; as well as the raid of a 'far right' (rather delusional, and amateur) discussion group in Germany in December, wherein the media earnestly tried, and failed, to link them with Russian intelligence: German police raids group accused of far-right coup plot, minor aristocrat implicated

One gets there impression that there's either something in the air and/or there are nefarious forces at work which seek to benefit from these allegations of 'ties' - no matter how tenuous; and one wonders whether the massive protest that took place in Madrid just a few days ago, which was attended by upwards of 200,000 people, could be one of the targets. Notably, the following news report claims the protest was organised by 'right leaning', 'centre-right', and 'far-right groups': At least 100,000 anti-government protesters rally in Madrid, Spain

After all, there is precedent for this reasoning: Spanish Secret Service Behind 2017 Barcelona Terror Attacks, Wanted to Derail Catalonia Independence Referendum, Says Former Police Commissioner


Bad Guys

Laid-off Google employees are learning the hard way that woke corporations don't actually care

google lay offs 2023
© Getty
A lagging economy has consequences and when you pair that with a business that fluctuates in a saturated market filled to the brim with a competition that could innovate you right out of the throne in the blink of an eye, you'll learn really fast how caring and familial a faceless corporation can be.

Google spends a lot of time selling itself as a company that cares. It's at the forefront of every woke movement, making it seem like a company that truly makes the effort to be one of the people. Of course, we've seen this kind of thing before...from literally every corporation.

Every corporation wants to present itself as the friend of the family, the helpful neighbor, or the goliath you can rely on. These businesses spend millions and millions of dollars developing marketing campaigns to try to get that idea across.

Comment: Not much sympathy for those newly unemployed:








Mr. Potato

M&M's taking a 'pause' from polarizing spokescandies

M&M candy advertising branding
© M&M
M&M's taking a 'pause' from polarizing spokescandies

Comment: Any sane individual would consign this "news" to the humor section, but since ABC has chosen to dignify it, well . . . . .here it is.


After causing outrage by making over the Green M&M and launching a special bag featuring its new Purple character in honor of International Women's Day, M&M'S says it is taking a step back from its candy reps — sort of.

"In the last year, we've made some changes to our beloved spokescandies," the chocolate candy brand said in a statement Monday. "We weren't sure if anyone would even notice. And we definitely didn't think it would break the internet."

The brand added that the changes were so polarizing that "we have decided to take an indefinite pause from the spokescandies." Mars has tapped comedian and actress Maya Rudolph to represent the product instead.

Ambulance

UK: Massive spike in excess deaths sparks calls for an 'urgent investigation'

spike deaths UK vax
© Office for National Statistics
Some 17,381 deaths were registered in England and Wales in the seven days to January 13 – 2,837 above average for the time of year.
MPs have called for an urgent investigation into Britain's soaring death rates as thousands more people than usual are dying each week.

Some 17,381 deaths were registered in England and Wales in the seven days to January 13 - 2,837 above average for the time of year.

This is the highest number of excess deaths since 3,429 in the week to February 12, 2021, when the UK was experiencing its second wave of Covid-19 infections and vaccination had only just begun.

Arrow Down

Your living standards have declined dramatically

supermarket shelves
In the old days, shopping for groceries used to be a joy. By old days, I mean two years ago. Now, it is shocking and miserable. You look at these prices and wonder if you can even afford normal foods we took for granted.

Everyone knows about the egg problem, which is being chalked up to a bird flu, just as Putin was responsible for the gas price and greedy meat processors caused beef prices to soar. Sorry but this is ridiculous. The price of eggs is up dramatically because all the costs associated with making them available to consumers are up.

At first, there was just a shortage because grocery chains resisted price increases. Once they came back to the shelves, the cost dramatically rose. You are going to pay more for the worst eggs than the best egg cost only one year ago. Unless you know someone with chickens or have them yourself, you are stuck with thin shells and light-yellow yokes forever, while paying through the nose for them.

The bottom line is undeniable: in a mere two years, many of the things you loved, healthy food for your families — I'm not talking about the all-carb diet they want us to adopt — has now doubled in price.