Image of the week: Flying Kangaroo
As if it wasn't good news enough that Australia has reopened its borders for vaccinated visa holders, tourists and business travellers, arrivals to Sydney International Airport earlier this week received the best of all greetings: the dopey enthusiasm of a giant animal mascot. Qantas's Flying Kangaroo was there to welcome long-haulers with flowers and high-fives, as it just generally tried to do its bit to resurrect good sentiment after almost two years of closed borders that helped Australia manage Covid outbreaks but cut millions off from the rest of the world and vice versa. Vaccinated citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to return since November 2021, and once Western Australia joins in lifting of border controls on March 3rd, the island continent known as Fortress Australia will be fully open to vaccinated tourists again. But as for returning what had been an expanding sector before the pandemic to growth again, well it might take more than the promise of a happy mascot.
In numbers: Pig fight
Number of directors that veteran investor Carl Icahn has nominated to the board of McDonald's as he takes the fast food chain to task on its commitment to pig welfare – or "a narrow issue", as McDonald's put it.
Share of the pork produced in the US that is sourced by McDonald’s, the fast food chain said as it attempted to defend itself from Icahn’s objections to “unnecessary suffering”, which were prompted by the concerns of his vegetarian daughter.
By the end of 2022, this much of McDonald’s US pork volumes will be sourced from sows not housed in gestational crates during pregnancy, with a 100 per cent target set for the end of 2024. But it called Icahn’s call for a complete end to suppliers’ use of crates outside of pregnancy “impossible”.
Getting to know: Megan Thee Stallion
Readers will already be familiar with Megan Thee Stallion from hits WAP, Body, Savage and Hot Girl Summer, but now the American rapper is doing sterling work fighting for the right of artists not to be shafted by the music industry, suing her label 1501 Certified Entertainment on the basis that it is preventing her from fulfilling the terms of her contract. This isn’t the first time she has clashed with 1501, with previous legal skirmishes concerning its refusal to let her release new music. The new lawsuit revolves around a record released last November. According to the rapper, born Megan Pete, 1501 is now saying the record, Something for Thee Hotties, was a “mixtape”, not an album. Her lawyers have a different view, arguing it “clearly meets the definition” of an album because it is more than 45 minutes long and classifying it as otherwise is a “ruse” to keep her locked in her contract for longer. Either way, it’s all great material for her next track.
The list: Sanctions against Russia
Ahead of the predicted, but still shocking, Russian invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin's aggression finally prompted western powers to unveil new sanctions against the Russian elite, though they were castigated by many as being far from enough. So what sort of thing do they involve?
1. Bank crackdowns. On Tuesday, US president Joe Biden applied sanctions to two of Russia's state-owned banks, VEB and the military bank Promsvyazbank, known for its defence deals.
2. Asset freezings. Londongrad, sorry Westminster, froze the assets of five banks and three Russian billionaires in an initial round of sanctions regarded by many as a touch lacklustre.
3. Pipeline reversal. German chancellor Olaf Scholz halted the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, a massive project owned by Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom. Post-invasion, however, Europe's reliance on Russian gas supplies were cited as a barrier to more severe sanctions.
4. Bond trading bans. The US and EU have banned investors from trading new Russian bonds, which may well increase the cost of borrowing for Moscow.
5. Travel restrictions. The EU has imposed travel bans on 351 Duma members and leading Russian "propagandists" as well as the Internet Research Agency, aka Glavset, a St Petersburg-based "troll factory" that pumps pro-Putin content on to the web for the naive to lap up.