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Well, what a week it was. The Notre Dame drove white-hot discussion, and Australia dipped to yet another unwanted sequel. What is this life?
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. This week we’ve seen cultural tragedy in Paris, a well deserved jail sentence for a pair of Californian parents, a story out of Fraser Island that has Meryl Streep’s attempt at an Aussie accent ringing in our ears, and a very interesting university course from Japan.
Much of the world looked on in horror early in the week as images of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris engulfed in flames began hitting our social media pages and television screens.
The building is one of the most iconic in the world, and possibly the French capital’s most important historical landmark. It took two-hundred years to construct and was completed almost seven-hundred years ago in 1345. It survived two world wars on its doorstep, acts of vandalism over hundreds of years, a number of sieges and an extended period of neglect. It was the success of Victor Hugo’s book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831, that created renewed public interest in the building, causing the French Government to allocate funds to restore and preserve it, which is probably the main reason it still stands, or stood, today.
The Cathedral is also home to a number of priceless historic relics and artwork, many of which have been lost in the inferno. However, reports suggest that the bravery of Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, made him instrumental in ensuring one of the most historically significant Catholic relics was saved—The Crown of Thorns, which is believed to be the wreath of thorns placed on Christ’s head during the crucifixion. Fournier reportedly insisted on entering the inferno, joining with emergency services workers to form a human chain and safely remove The Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament.
The cause of the fire is still officially unknown however the current theory is that a computer glitch may have caused the incredibly fast-spreading fire. The alleged computer glitch, if true, may be related to the recent renovations undertaken at the Cathedral or the temporary elevators used in that renovation. Paris police investigators believe at this stage that an electrical short-circuit is the most probable cause.
However, the unison feeling of woe is not utter, as members of the “yellow jacket” movement have claimed that all is not well in memoriam, questioning the nature of the $1 billion donated to rebuild it, and indeed, questioning Emmanuel Macron for not questioning the funds, or relocating them elsewhere.
“Can you imagine, 100 million, 200 million in one click!” Philippe Martinez, the head of the militant CGT labour union, told The New York Times. “It really shows the inequalities in this country.”
“You’re there, looking at all these millions accumulating, after spending five months in the streets fighting social and fiscal injustice,” Ingrid Levavasseur, a founding leader of the movement, told The Associated Press. “It’s breaking my heart.”
She added, “What happened at Notre Dame is obviously a deplorable tragedy. But nobody died. I’ve heard someone speaking of national mourning. Are they out of their minds?”
I, mean, they’re not wrong. These people took to the streets to combat the rising cost of living, and indeed, the unfair balance of wealth in their country. Seeing rival billionaires turning it into a pissing competition via huge donations is a bit, well, rich.
“The Yellow Vests will show their anger against the billion found in four days for stone, and nothing for the needy,” wrote Pierre Derrien on the Facebook page of a Yellow Vests group hailing from Montpellier. They promise to be out in force over the long weekend.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Our reaction to the Notre Dame fire proves that we don’t care
- The Notre Dame burns, takes Paris with it
David and Louise Turpin, a Californian couple who pled guilty earlier this year to neglect and abuse of 12 of their 13 children, were sentenced this week to life in prison.
The “House of Horrors” as it’s been dubbed, was an unassuming house in a middle-class section of a small city called Perris, some 100 kilometres south-east of Los Angeles. The abuses had occurred under that roof for years with no-one outside of it the wiser, until one of the teenage daughters managed to jump from a window and call emergency services.
The scene that awaited deputies who arrived on the scene was disturbing and shocking. The couple’s 22-year-old son was chained to a bed with two girls having just been set free from their shackles. The house was in a disgusting state with the stench of accumulated human waste overwhelming first responders.
The children, ranging in age from 2 to 29, hadn’t bathed in months and were severely underweight. They told authorities that whilst they had originally been fed three meals a day, it had been reduced to one and that their mother had been afraid they were eating too much.
Unfortunately the negligence was just the tip of the iceberg. One of the older children told investigators that he and his siblings would be locked in cages as punishment and would also be beaten with paddles. The teenage girl who escaped and notified police also told the 911 dispatcher on the phone that two of her siblings were chained to their beds tight enough to bruise their skin.
Both parents will be eligible for parole in 25 years under Californian law. Hopefully they aren’t still around then and the kids can go on to gain some semblance of a normal life in the years to come.
A fourteen-month-old boy was attacked by a pair of dingoes on Fraser Island in Queensland this week and narrowly escaped with his life. He suffered a fractured skull, two deep lacerations to the back of his neck and head and several minor lacerations to the back of his scalp.
The young boy’s parents woke up to the sound of his cries at around midnight; his father ran to look for him only to find he had been dragged from the camper trailer he had been sleeping in by the dingoes. His father managed to fight off the dingoes and rescue his son. Paramedic, Ben Du Toit, who received the initial call for help from the family, said, “He immediately ran up and dragged his son and chased some of the dingoes off.”
Lifelight pilot, Frank Bertoli, who flew to Fraser Island to rescue the boy and transport him to hospital, indicated that without his parent’s quick thinking, the injuries sustained could have been far more serious. The young boy was initially flown to Hervey Bay but was then transferred to the Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane so he could have surgery. His family have since released a statement indicating that the surgery was successful and the young fella is doing well.
“Our son is doing well and in a stable condition. We would like to thank everyone who has helped and cared for our son, including the emergency services and the hospital teams.”
Also on The Big Smoke
- Current Affairs Wrap: Assange gets eviction notice, mother of two charged with murder, grandad watches football
- Both sides are “ball-tampering” their budget promises
- Despite what we think, our politicians actually keep their promises
Election mode is in full swing for our Federal pollies as they take to the streets and the airways trying to convince us that despite all the evidence to the contrary, they are fit to lead us.
Whilst all eyes are on PM Turnbull Morrison and PM in waiting, Shorten, another ex-PM has reared his onion-loving face this week. Former PM Tony Abbott is fighting for his political life as he faces the very real possibility of losing the seat of Warringah which he has held since 1994. For the first time in, well possibly ever, he’s been spotted around his electorate putting real rubber on the road trying to convince the public that he cares about issues local to the electorate he has represented for over 20 years.
That didn’t stop him this week from doing the exact opposite and highlighting his Federal leadership ambitions again. During an election forum at the Manly Yacht club, Abbott was asked by locals about the Libs’ chances in the upcoming Federal election and whether he’d seek the leadership of the party again if they lose).
“I won’t go into a contested ballot. It will be up to the party room. If they want me they will need to invite me. But I am not expecting that. I am not going to shoulder anyone aside for the top job, because for me it has never been about that.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg jumped in on behalf of the front bench the next day, telling ABC TV, “Tony Abbott has got his hands full in his own seat and that is where his focus is and that is where it should be.”
PM Morrison refused to be drawn into Abbott’s comments but it was clear between the lines that he wasn’t impressed. Last week, Morrison indicated that he’d consider bringing Abbott back to the frontbench if the Libs were reelected. “They’re decisions I hope to be able to make,” he said, “but I’m not going to presume upon them, on the Australian people.”
However, the day after Abbott’s comments, Morrison quickly “clarified” his previous statements saying that he believed people were “over-interpreting” his answer. “All I’m simply saying is Tony is a member of the team, and I want to see him reelected in Warringah, and he’ll have my absolute support to help him do that,” he said, before adding, “like every single member of my team.”
Safe to say that if Abbott does manage to hang on to Warringah, and the Libs manage to hang on to government (both huge ifs), he’ll be stuck on the backbench for another term.
Wacky and wonderful
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned “life imitating art” story to finish the week.
A university professor at the Matsuyama University in the Ehime prefecture in Japan is facing up to ten years in prison after going above and beyond the textbook with his pharmaceutical science students.
Tatsunori Iwamura channelled his best Walter White (from the television series Breaking Bad) and taught his students how to produce MDMA to “further their knowledge” of pharmaceuticals.
As shocking as it sounds, it may have been “almost” above board as licenses do exist that allow researchers to produce illegal drugs for academic purposes—and sources have suggested that Iwamura used to hold one of these licenses in a different region of Japan (they have to be issued by the region in which the production occurs)—I’m not sure if the intent of the license stretched to teaching students to produce ecstasy, however.
The university has indicated they will discipline Iwamura and his assistant professor who has also been referred to police, once the investigation ends—assuming he’s not behind bars of course. Tatsuya Mizogami, the university’s president, said “We sincerely apologies for causing serious concern to students and their parents.”
Sounds a lot more interesting that my memories of high school chemistry which didn’t push much past a Mentos in a Coke bottle in terms of danger.
That’s it from me, TBSers—have a cracking week!