The week that was, was not very good: more violence in Turkey and France, US political criticism got childish, Sanders supporters full of hot air.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. Europe has plunged into further chaos, the election is over (sort of), a war of words with China and the world’s first politically motivated “fart-in” make up the week that was.
This week has seen the security situation in Europe worsen significantly with another terrorist attack in France and a military coup in Turkey.
As France celebrated Bastille Day, tragedy struck in Nice as a man reported to be Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a truck through the busy waterfront, killing at least 84 people and injuring hundreds more.
Witnesses report that the driver of the truck deliberately zig-zagged to hit as many people as possible, leaving a trail of death for over two kilometres behind him. The driver eventually stopped the vehicle, with startled onlookers confronting him still under the belief that a horrible accident had occurred, then proceeded to produce a gun and began firing into the crowd before a standoff with police resulted in his death.
Bouhlel, we have since learned, was a French-Tunisian national with previous petty theft charges and domestic violence threats to his name as well as a six-month suspended jail sentence for a violent crime earlier this year. Bouhlel was not on the radar of French intelligence services and thus far there is no evidence of radicalisation. The attack has been celebrated by members of Islamic State however no group has taken responsibility.
A cousin of Bouhlel’s wife has spoken out, describing him as a “nasty piece of work” who had previously beaten his wife and did not follow the teachings of Islam. According to the Walid Hanou, Bouhlel did not attend the mosque, did not pray, did not observe Ramadan, drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs – none of which is permitted under Islam.
While the attack left many locals dead and injured, the death count as it stands also includes nationals from Germany, Estonia, America, Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Switzerland and Morocco. There were no Australian fatalities however five Australians have been reported as injured in the attacks, lucky to escape serious injury.
Witnesses report the driver deliberately hit as many people as possible, leaving a trail of death for over two kilometres, then proceeded to produce a gun and began firing, before a standoff with police resulted in his death.
The attack has seen France extend a state of emergency for a further three months, an unprecedented security status that has been in place since the largest terror attacks in France’s history late last year at the Bataclan concert hall and the Stade de France football ground. It is the latest in a disturbingly regular pattern of attacks in France over the past few years including an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, an attack on Jewish centres in Paris in 2014 and the infamous Charlie Hebdo massacre in early 2015.
As the world was coming to terms with the latest abhorrent attack, the news worsened with the Turkish military launching a coup against its own government. There are conflicting reports, however the capital, Ankara, and largest city, Istanbul, were rocked by gunfire and explosions.
Those behind the coup have claimed to have seized power, however Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has remained defiant, returning to Istanbul from holiday and calling on the Turkish people to take to the streets and defy a curfew ordered by the military coup leaders. Crowds of people took to the streets in support of the Government waving Turkish flags however Police have urged them to leave Istanbul’s Taksim square, warning that the military may open fire.
The skies of Ankara has been littered with warplanes and helicopters with Reuters reporters confirming that they witnessed a helicopter open fire on the headquarters of the Turkish intelligence agency as well as tanks opening fire near the parliament building which the military had surrounded. According to reporters on the ground and one opposition MP, the parliament building has been hit at least three times by the military, wounding several people.
Whilst President Erdoğan claims to still be in control, the developments will inevitably be incredibly damaging to the region and could represent a significant power shift in the most unstable region of the world. Turkey is one of the Unites States’ most important strategic allies in the Middle East, with Secretary of State John Kerry publicly declaring support for the Turkish Government. Russia, NATO and the EU have also joined in support for the Turkish Government, calling on all parties to back the “democratically-elected” government and avoid any violence or bloodshed.
The election is all but over. Sort of. Malcolm Turnbull has claimed victory and Bill Shorten (re-elected to the Labor leadership unopposed) has conceded defeat. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing about it so I’m not going to talk about it anymore.
Foreign Minister and Deputy Liberal Leader, Julie Bishop, has drawn the ire of China this week following her comments regarding a UN ruling which refuted China’s territorial claim over the South China Sea. Bishop responded to the ruling by indicating that China should abide by the UN ruling and that Australia would continue to conduct exercises in the region. China’s foreign ministry was less than impressed as they maintain their claim that the ruling has no legal basis and the court which issued the ruling has no basis in international law.
Conroy’s remarks were attacked by Turnbull and Bishop, who accused him of “urging an escalation of tensions”, although he has denied this, in spite of his suggestion that Australian forces should enter China’s 12 nautical mile limit around islands in the region by air and by sea.
Lu Kang (Fatality – Ed), spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, hit back at Bishop indicating that he was “shocked” by her remarks and advised Australia to “carefully talk and cautiously behave”. He also warned Australia not to “do anything which will damage regional peace, stability and security as well as the relations between China and Australia”.
Labor defence spokesperson, Stephen Conroy, decided it might be worth throwing a little fuel on the fire by publicly accusing China of “bullying” and “aggressive” behaviour, calling for the Government to begin “Freedom of Navigation” operations, suggesting their claims to already be conducting such exercises is a lie.
Conroy’s remarks were attacked by Turnbull and Bishop, who accused him of “urging an escalation of tensions”, although he has for some reason denied this, in spite of his suggestion that Australian forces should enter China’s 12 nautical mile limit around islands in the region by air and by sea. Either way, when dealing with a foreign policy situation as delicate as this, it’s probably best to leave the job to the foreign minister and not use it for political point scoring in my humble opinion.
A worsening of relations with China could have serious negative economic effects following reports this week that Chinese tourists have collectively spent a record $8.9 billion in the first quarter of this year, an increase of almost 40 percent.
Wacky and wonderful
Bernie Sanders has relented and bowed out of the Democratic Presidential Candidate race and announced his support for rival Hillary Clinton. Supporters of Sanders, however, are not happy and have hatched a plan to show their own, unique form of…passive resistance.
Convention delegates have switched to a bean exclusive diet, encouraging supporters of Sanders to consume as many as humanly possible before the Democratic National Convention. They aim to send a “strong” message by way of the world’s first “fart-in” political protest.
Dr Walter Tsou of the Philadelphia branch of Physicians for Social Responsibility summed it up best, saying “The fart-in is to raise attention about things that really stink in our society”.
You can leave your chemical weapons of mass destruction jokes at the door…
In proof that hitting your nineties gives you licence to do pretty much whatever you want, a woman in Germany has damaged a $116,000 piece of art by Danish avant-garde artist Arthur Koepcke.
Whilst visiting the Nueus Museum in Nuremberg with a group of ragtag seniors, the woman came across the piece which had a small crossword puzzle in it along with a sign that said “insert words”.
Apparently that was all the encouragement she needed, proceeding to show off her crossword skills by completing the puzzle with a ballpoint pen. Luckily for the wordsmith, a police spokesperson advised that the collector that owns the piece “took the damage to the work in good humour”.
I smell a conspiracy. Earlier this year, a child “accidentally” destroyed a lego display worth $20,000 at the Lego Expo in Ningbo, China. These are clearly hate crimes against Denmark…I’m looking at you, Sweden.
Have a cracking week, TBSers!