In the news this week: hot bureaucratic fire emanating from London, Red’s skin turns pink and a new stem cell breakthrough in the US. Hooray for that.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. This week has seen London kicked while it’s down, Trump officially becoming the dictionary definition of double standards, Turnbull auditioning for his own late night talk show and science finding a cure for a different type of mosquito bite (I’m going to get hate mail for that one).
Put simply, it’s been a pretty shitty year for the good people of London. They’ve had to endure terrorist attacks, unrest over their upcoming “Brexit”, a hyperbolic scare over the health of our favourite elderly residents of Buckingham Palace and now an unbelievable tragedy at the Grenfell Tower.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the 24-storey Grenfell Tower was engulfed by fire. The building housed 120 homes and became engulfed with no warning, with flames shooting from windows up the entire side of the building.
The death toll is at least 30 according to police and could rise further, with 12 people still in critical condition in hospital. Fire safety engineers are said to have been shocked at the speed the fire spread with the entire building being engulfed within an hour; witnesses shocked as they watched some trapped inside jump to their deaths and adults desperately throwing children from the tower in the slim hope that they might still survive.
Concerns over the safety of the building in the event of a fire had been raised as recently as late 2016 but allegedly “fell on deaf ears”. The building had one internal staircase available for evacuation for 120 flats over 24 floors – it doesn’t take an engineer to see the problem there.
The building had also undergone an £8.6 million refurbishment, however, details are still sketchy as to how much of that budget was dedicated to improving the much-maligned fire safety standards. Of more concern is that it appears the cladding used on the exterior of the building may have significantly contributed to the rapid spread of the fire. Worse still, the same cladding is believed to have been partly responsible for an apartment building fire closer to home in Melbourne in 2014. An audit last year found that more than half of Melbourne’s surveyed buildings contained highly flammable cladding – let alone how many buildings around the rest of the country and indeed the world are in the same boat.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Current Affairs Wrap: May’s awful June, Adelaide Oval flashpoint, Mozambique’s baldness cure
- #AusPol winners and losers: Who pinned the tail on the Trumpie?
US President Donald Trump appears to be continuing his exclusive policy platform of reversing anything that his predecessor did during his eight years in the oval office. The latest reversal is the historic deal that Obama made with close neighbour Cuba that saw the diplomatic doors open for the first time since the Cuba Missile Crisis in 1962 that arguably brought the world the closest it has ever been to nuclear Armageddon.
Trump has described the deal as “terrible and misguided” and has reversed much of it whilst stopping short of reversing key diplomatic and commercial ties as well as keeping the US embassy in Havana open, apparently at the behest of some of his Republican Party colleagues who advised against a complete reversal.
The reversal apparently calls for stricter enforcement of the ban on US citizens visiting the island nation as tourists, as well as a ban on almost all US business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, a Cuban conglomerate that is involved in all sectors of the Cuban economy.
Trump has used Cuba’s human rights record as a justification for the reversal and has demanded the release of all political prisoners and the implementation of free elections before relations can “normalise”. Sounds above board – Trump would never deal with a country capable of egregious human rights violations. Not unless he was selling them around $110 billion worth of weaponry, of course (*cough* Saudi Arabia *cough*).
The country was in shock this week following the leak of a speech from PM Malcolm Turnbull at the Canberra Press Gallery’s Midwinter Ball that saw the PM impersonate US President Donald Trump and take the absolute piss out of him. The shock, of course, was that it turns out the PM actually does still have a sense of humour and may not have completed his conversion into the Lib-bot that most of us believed he had made.
The media, of course, went into meltdown over the incident. Despite taking the piss out of someone being one of the most Aussie things you can do, the public mocking of a sitting US Prez is generally considered a diplomatic no-no. Particularly a US Pres that is, well, let’s say, a little sensitive to criticism.
The US media quickly jumped in on the act, reporting that the speech was a direct criticism of Trump; the US Embassy in Canberra, however, issued a statement indicating that they they “take this with the good humour that was intended”. No word from Trump but it’s safe to say he’s sitting in his lair placing photos of Turnbull inside a large pentagram.
The PM found an unlikely ally in One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, who praised Turnbull and went on to tweet a swipe at those criticising him for the speech. That’s it, ladies and gentlemen, another sign of the apocalypse is upon us. Pauline Hanson has not only said something that I (and probably most of you) agree with but in her tweet she also threw the word “wanker” alongside an #auspol hashtag.
I humbly tip my hat to you, Ms Hanson. Now I’m off to scrub myself with Dettol and have a nice hot shower…
Those politicians & press having a go at Turnbull for cracking a joke are the same wankers killing Australia’s larrikin spirit -PH #auspol
— Pauline Hanson (@PaulineHansonOz) June 16, 2017
While Turnbull may have seen his stocks rise in response to the mockery, another well-known Aussie this week has seen his mockery draw the ire of many. Former Skyhooks guitarist and Hey Hey it’s Saturday “gonger”, Red Symons, has come under fire following the release of a 20-minute podcast that saw him launch into a bizarre line of questioning of ABC journalist and producer, Beverley Wang.
Wang, a Canadian by birth of Taiwanese descent, in a segment called “What’s the deal with Asians”, was asked “Are you yellow” – for the uninitiated, a universally accepted racial slur for those from an Asian background.
Symons followed up by asking Wang if she was Chinese, to which Wang replied by explaining her background as Taiwanese by way of Canada. Symons then probed further, asking her “what sort of boat” her ancestors had used to flee mainland China for Taiwan some 400 years ago.
The incident and questioning, whilst clearly riddled with racist tones, appeared to fall far more on the bizarre side of the fence than anything. However, Federal Labor MP Linda Burney has called on the ABC to discipline Symons over the incident. Burney has said she recognises that Symons was attempting to be humorous and she doesn’t believe that he should be sacked over the incident assuming he shows some contrition.
Sounds to me like it might be more advantageous for the ABC to order a PET scan for Red’s head; the racism is undeniable but if it was an attempt at humour then something might not be quite working in the ol noggin.
Wacky and wonderful
For some good news this week we turn to the Australian National University where Aussie scientist Graham Farquhar has been awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize for his work examining photosynthesis and plant physiology. The Kyoto Prize was established in 1985 and recognises achievements in the fields of basic sciences, arts and philosophy and advanced technology.
Props to Dr Farquhar’s win this week, as no Australian has ever won the award in any category.
Dr Farquhar’s work has allowed new strains of wheat to be developed that are able to grow with far less water – a breakthrough with significant implications for the world’s food supply, particularly in the age of climate uncertainty. He has also helped solve mysteries related to why clouds and wind patterns were not changing as climate change models suggested they should. The answer lies in decreases in wind speed creating a drop in evaporation subsequently creating a “damper” climate change than many expected.
Also on The Big Smoke
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- Government’s Manus compensation deal highlights status quo
- Change to Australian citizenship places value in coffers, not individuals
Stem cell research has often been a contentious issue. One on hand, its potential for unlocking the secret to curing some of our most devastating diseases is compelling, on the other hand, some believe that it represents moral and ethical lines that shouldn’t be crossed due to the cells being obtained from embryos and the potential to effectively “play God” with the human body. In 2001, President George W Bush cut funding from research in the field for this very reason.
The ban was lifted in 2009 and research has pushed ahead into myriad areas. One such area is the very popular and lucrative cosmetic surgery field – specifically, breast implants. It turns out that stem cells can be used as an alternative to the traditional fat transfer method. It’s suggested that stem cell transfers are not only more successful but also safer, especially safer than silicone implants which have caused significant medical problems in recent times.
The science is a little more limited, in that cup size increases of 1-2 are only achievable at this stage, rather than the baseball to basketball type results achieved via the more traditional method.
You have to wonder whether those so morally opposed to stem cell research to cure cancer will remain on such a high moral ground now that the increased motorboating potential has been unlocked. Call me a cynic, but George W seems like the type of guy that believes “bigger is better”. I think we all know where Bill Clinton stands on the issue…
That’s it from me TBSers! Have a cracking week!