Violence from Russia, posturing from Pete, insanity from Pence, and a Californian city reelected a dead guy. At least someone had the right idea this week.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve seen Russia escalate in Syria, some higher level protesting in the US, an attack from within against a cult Liberal figure and proof that death shouldn’t get in the way of your career ambitions.
Russia has escalated their attacks in Syria this week, launching air attacks on militant targets utilising warplanes from both Syrian air bases as well as a Russian aircraft carrier.
The attacks follow the arrival of a rare Russian naval deployment off the Syrian coast including a nuclear-powered battle cruiser, two anti-submarine warships and four support vessels. Russia has identified its targets as operations centres, warehouses with weapons and ammunition, military hardware and weapon-producing shops et al.
However, the UN has reported that in Aleppo, one of the primary targets of the joint Russian-Syrian attacks, there are still 250,000 civilians stuck in opposition-controlled neighbourhoods. Additionally, the ongoing schism in the area has created a dire humanitarian crisis, which is not being helped by frequent air strikes on hospitals and the disruption and pollution of water supplies. Whilst President Bashar al-Assad has described the targets as “terrorist strongholds”, it’s important to remember that these are areas primarily held by Syrian Rebels, not Islamic State.
Who would have thought that two simultaneous wars in the same territory with military involvement from half of the world would be so complicated…
Not that Russia are limiting their operations to the southern end of Europe. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister, Linas Linkevicius, has described himself as “very afraid” for the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) as well as the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Linkevicius believes that Russia may seize the opportunity during the period before Trump’s inauguration in January to test the military preparedness and diplomatic determination of the Western alliance. The fears stem from both President-Elect Trump’s seemingly warm friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Trump’s pre-election comments regarding NATO which described the alliance as “obsolete” and suggested that the US’s continued involvement would be contingent on a greater cost contribution from other member states.
Lithuania is a member of NATO and would rely heavily on intervention from the alliance should Russia look to reclaim more former USSR territory like the Baltic States. Whilst Russia denies the threat and rather points the finger at NATO for promoting conflict by moving military hardware towards Russian borders, it’s hard to deny that there has been a prolonged Russian military buildup in the region. One of Russia’s most important military outposts is Kaliningrad, which shares its border with Poland and Lithuania as well as being on the Baltic Sea. According to Linkevicius, Russia has been reinforcing and re-equipping its bases in Kaliningrad, in addition to an extensive build up of radar, air defence and anti-shipping missiles in the region. Linkevicius, and other commentators, have suggested that this build up is deliberately designed to make it very difficult for NATO to reinforce the Baltic States should Russia decide to advance.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Yes, Donald Trump, this is Brexit
- Bana, 7, live-Tweets bombing of Aleppo
- While you were asleep: Russians claim US “pussies”, Shia’s wedding now art, med marijuana legal in QLD
It’s no secret that not everyone has welcomed the result of the US election last week with jubilation. Whilst the divide continues to grow with protests, some violent, others have found a far more productive way to show their dismay with the prospect of a Trump/Pence White House.
Mike Pence, the Vice-President-Elect, is famously anti-abortion as well as being anti-LGBTQ. In 2011, he was famously quoted as saying “I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history, when we move past the broken hearts and the broken lives of the past 38 years.” (Roe v. Wade refers to a 1973 decision of the US Supreme Court that paved the way for pro-choice laws in the US).
Artist Bethany Cosentino came up with a clever way to protest the views held by the VP-in-waiting, in an Instagram post this week that read “You can make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name and he’ll receive the certificate of the donation”.
Hats off, Bethany et al; now that’s how you protest!
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton this week launched a scathing attack on former Liberal Party PM, Malcolm Fraser, specifically on the refugee policies under the Fraser Government.
Dutton’s basis for the attack was his assertion that many of the Australians who have travelled to conflict zones to fight against Australian interests were the children or grandchildren of migrants that arrived under Fraser’s regime.
“The reality is Malcolm Fraser did make mistakes in bringing some people in the 1970s and we’re seeing that today,” Dutton said. “We need to be honest in having that discussion”.
The Fraser Government saw the arrival of 200,000 migrants from Asia, more than 16,000 from Lebanon following their 1976 civil war as well as 50,000 Vietnamese that arrived as refugees and boat people.
Unsurprisingly, Dutton’s comments didn’t go unnoticed. Former Liberal leader John Hewson described the comments as “cheap political arse-covering” and called on Malcolm Turnbull to show leadership, saying “I’m sure successive governments have made similar ‘mistakes’…and probably so too with the present government, that will emerge in the future. But, why make this point now? Is this a cheap attempt to appeal to the anti-immigration, anti-refugee movement?”
Hewson makes a good point, but I think Dutton is a little misunderstood here. He’s not necessarily anti-immigration – he just prefers his immigration under a White Australia Policy.
John Hewson described the comments as “cheap political arse-covering” and called on Malcolm Turnbull to show leadership. “Why make this point now? Is this a cheap attempt to appeal to the anti-immigration, anti-refugee movement.
A 21-year-old Burmese man allegedly set fire to a Commonwealth Bank branch in Springvale in Melbourne’s south-east this week, injuring twenty seven people including a number of children.
Witness Ashley Atkin-Fone report hearing a big explosion which was followed by black smoke pouring out of the bank. A child was then seen “running out all burnt, screaming his head off…blood everywhere” according to Atkin-Fone. He then ran over to help, assisting with extinguishing the fire and evacuating others.
CCTV footage shows the alleged perpetrator approaching the bank with a container full of an accelerant before setting himself alight which then caused the larger fire. He is now in hospital in a serious condition under police guard.
A member of the Burmese Rohinyga community in Melbourne, Habib Habib, has identified the man as a member of the small local community and suggested that he has been struggling mentally and financially. Mr Habib indicated that the man did not receive adequate care when he arrived in Australia and was placed into a detention centre. He was eventually released into the community on a bridging visa and was still waiting for a letter from the Immigration Department with an offer of a temporary protection visa as one of a group of refugees who were fast-tracked following legislation introduced in 2014. According to the ABC, those waiting on these letters had been told that if they didn’t receive them by the end of the year that they would be sent home. Mr Habib believes that the lack of confirmation of his status had caused the man significant anxiety and fear.
Thankfully no-one was killed in the fire, however a small number of people are still in a serious condition.
Wacky and wonderful
Most of us find our pollies a little rehearsed, boring and wooden; occupational hazard I suppose. Voters in Oceanside, California took this a little further by accidentally electing a deceased man to office.
Oceanside City Treasurer, Gary Ernst, was re-elected to his position this week by a six percentage points margin against challenger, Nadine Scott. Unfortunately, Mr Ernst died in September from diabetes complications which apparently didn’t leave officials with enough time to remove his name from the ballot.
Scott is calling for the job to be handed to her to honor the 15,000 people that voted for her however the City Council can declare the seat vacant and appoint their own person to fill out the term.
If they can elect a dead guy as Treasurer, surely we can have Paul Keating back?
Also on The Big Smoke
- Current Affairs Wrap: Farewell US democracy, goodbye Leonard, and everyone on social media
- Current Affairs Wrap: Aus shootings surge, Brexit backpedal, Seagal gets Russian citizenship
- Current Affairs Wrap: The FBI knocks on Hillary’s door, Cold War II and the dog that got everything
- Current Affairs Wrap: Mosul’s awkward invasion, Leyonhjelm brings his guns to town
In these uncertain times, many of us have thought about how nice it would be to have our own little country, far away from the media and our pollies. Vit Jedlicka decided to act on that impulse, founding “Liberland” on a section of unclaimed land between Serbia and Croatia.
Unfortunately, he has found himself exiled from Liberland, with neighbouring Croatia making it clear in no uncertain terms that they will arrest him if he sets foot on it. Whilst Croatia and Serbia do not claim the 7 sq km uninhabited marshland for a variety of reasons, they also don’t want an unpredictable operation opening up right on their border.
Liberland has no compulsory taxes, no gun control and uses Bitcoins as currency. Vit founded Liberland in 2015 with his girlfriend and a couple of mates before receiving nearly half a million would-be citizens online. He has even had money donated through crowd funding as well as private donations from wealthy libertarian donors.
Despite the setback, Vit is pressing on, determined for Liberland to become a reality.
Have a cracking week, TBSers!