Scandalised Iran rocked by space monkey switcheroo - 10 Things

In the sort of shocking revelation that makes one question whether or not one can even trust self-aggrandising propaganda from oppressive regimes any more, Iran may have fibbed about sending a monkey into space. Examination of the before and after pictures of Pishgam - the supposed hero monkey who flew into space and, more importantly, our hearts - point out that the monkeys in the "before" and "after" shots are differently coloured and one has a mole above its right eye. There are three possibilities: one, that a new Pishgam was trotted out after the existing one died, as happened in the unsuccessful 2011 launch; two, that at least one of the photos is from said 2011 launch rather than this one; or three, that space has dermatological benefits and offers an excitingly high-tech alternative to conventional skin care regimens. Reports that the Ponds Institute are planning their own monkey launch for later this year could not be confirmed by press time.

Marriage equality seems to have stalled for a bit in Australia as both the major parties decide that they don't fancy being on the side of historical inevitability with an election coming up and everything, but things are ticking along nicely some of our planet's other places. France, for example, whose parliament overwhelmingly ratified a change to the law that declares marriage as being between two people rather than specifically between two people with different sexy parts. And when we say "overwhelmingly", we mean 249-to-97. History, Gillard. Inevitability, Abbott. Carn. Do it.

Meanwhile in the UK the Tories are desperately trying to convince PM David Cameron that he should delay the vote on a marriage equality bill on Tuesday for, y'know, a couple of years. In a letter to the leader 22 Conservative MPs argue that the bill, which would turn the UK's civil partnership laws into actual marriage, will be refused by a large number of MPs and therefore make the party look like jerks, that it will put the 2015 election in jeopardy by making the party appear divided when Labor and the Greens and the Liberal Democrats all vote in favour, that civil partnerships are all that people need, that it will cause the weather to explode etc etc. "We are of the clear view that there is no mandate for this bill to be passed in either the 2010 Conservative manifesto or the 2010 coalition agreement and that it is being pushed through parliament in a manner which a significant proportion of the Conservative party members find extremely distasteful and contrary to the principles of both the party and the best traditions of our democracy." And also: ewww, men kissing.

The should-everyone-just-have-guns-everywhere debate continues in the US. You might even remember the NRA's "why does the President's family have armed guards while you don't?" ad that we lovingly embedded in this very news column. You might have thought "my, that seems like a specious argument" - and you know who agrees? Fox News. Yep, even the right wing's mouthpiece of choice are now at a point where they're telling the NRA "That's ridiculous and you know it, sir" - which is what Fox News host Chris Wallace tells NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre very early on in this clip, and reiterates several times thereafter. When Fox think you're a paranoid lunatic with unhealthy adherence to gun rights, you really need to ask yourself the question: WHO ARE THEY REALLY WORKING FOR? CAN THEY READ YOUR THOUGHTS? DOES THE ILLUMINATI'S TENTACLES STRETCH THIS FAR? 
Those of you thinking of getting into the Assistant To Lady Gaga industry would do well to consider this: do you think that you are the queen of the universe? Because if you do, then perhaps you'd best pursue an alternative line of work or suffer the same likely disappointment of one Jennifer O'Neil, currently suing for 7,168 hours of overtime. O'Neil alleges that she was expected to be up at all Gaga conscious hours, not to mention "ensuring the promptness of a towel following a shower and serving as a personal alarm clock", while Gaga has recorded video testimony that insists that she is a "fucking hood rat" who  "thinks she's just, like, the queen of the universe… She didn't want to be a slave to one, because in my work and what I do, I'm the queen of the universe every day." Gaga also alleges O'Neil used her position to get free stuff and failed to carry luggage. Y'know, like the Queen of the Universe always also does.

Now that Iran has progressed the cause of monkey skin care and grooming, it's ready to talk about its nuclear programme. Foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi has asked the EU, who are organising the talks between Iran and the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia, if the end of February is good for them, because he's got a window and March is looking mad hectic. The current deal, under which Iran doesn't continue its totally peaceful nuclear programme with no military applications honest in return for letting Iran buy aircraft parts, is unlikely to continue.

Speaking of goings-on in the playful Middle Eastern region, in case you were hoping everything got pretty awesome in Egypt over the weekend, we have some bad news: no, not as such. In fact, things are heading towards another flashpoint with footage of a naked man being beaten unconscious by riot police spreading like so many adorable cat videos. It comes against a backdrop of over 60 deaths in clashes between protesters and police in the last couple of days as calls for Mohamed Morsi to relinquish power. However, the man being beaten in the video - 50 year old former labourer Hamada Saber - has appeared on TV to assure the people of Egypt that the police were in fact saving him from protesters who were attempted to rob him (of his clothes?), presumably before adding that the eight officers laying into him with batons were helpfully trying to get rid of the ants that were nipping him after he accidentally fell into a vat of sugar. So now you know. The clip is here, and we should add that it's unlikely to increase your respect for human beings. 
Israel, meanwhile, is having a great time bombing Lebanon and Syria amid fears that Hezbollah are just about to get their hands on Syrian chemical and advanced weaponry to use against it, requiring them to get in early. The fact that Syria itself hasn't decided to use these weapons which they supposedly have as defence against Israeli air strikes is just a nifty icing on the cake, really - they must be in a cupboard that's really, really tricky to open. Syria, meanwhile, is continuing its own war against itself with massive civil unrest, with Iran pledging military support to Bashar al-Assad for wharves. So, as always, lots of good things going on in the plucky region. 

Oh, Silvio Berlusconi, you adorable goof. As he ramps up his electioneering in his triumphant return to Italian politics and charge towards his potential fourth term as Prime Minister (or possibly Finance Minister, depending on what day it is and whatever craziness comes out of his head), the fun-loving convicted fraud, media shyster and racketeer has pledged massive tax cuts if elected - and furthermore, that he'd refund property taxes paid last year to an estimated total of €4bn. Now, you might be thinking "but isn't much of the reason that the European Union is in such a precarious economic state down to profligate spending by Italy under the Berlusconi government?" To which we reply: what are you, some kind of socialist? 

And finally, in what will be seen as but one of the first blows in the coming war between us and the spiders, a Kiribilli woman attempted to use insect spray on a particularly wily arachnid on Saturday which, showing a level of MacGyver-esque guile, ran under her washing machine where a subsequent puff was apparently ignited by the heat from the motor and ignited. The explosion blew out windows in her laundry and kitchen and singed the woman's hair - but, ominously, there's no sign of the spider. And before you start getting too certain that this was a one-off, be advised that spiders are now working together for reasons still opaque to we two-legged folks. Say, doesn't your shirt feel weirdly itchy right now? And what's that strange ticking on your leg?
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