As far as weeks go, it hasn’t been a bad one…if you happen to disqualify Donald Trump attempting to steer a hurricane into Alabama, fire season starting in September and a reckless decision by an airline. Silver linings and all that.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had the final fall of a despot, a chaotic hurricane in the US, a tragic accident back home and a hero for the people in Manchester.
Former Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe, has died at the age of 95 in Singapore.
Mugabe’s legacy is a mixed bag; after rising to lead the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army guerilla movement in the 1970s, he spearheaded a campaign that eventually led to the end of the white rule of the African Nation.
He was considered to be the “thinking man’s guerilla”, holding seven degrees, three of which were earned while being imprisoned for opposing white rules in the 1960s.
After being voted in as Prime Minister in 1980, his role as a freedom fighter quickly transitioned into one as an oppressor. Within three years of taking power, he ordered the country’s Fifth Brigade into the homeland of the Ndebele people which resulted in the genocide of around 20,000 people.
Reports suggest that this early move saw victims raped and tortured with some being forced to dig their own graves. Whilst Mugabe did acknowledge years later that the incident was “very bad”, he blamed renegade soldiers rather than taking responsibility. Given the years of continued violence and oppression that followed, it’s safe to say that the “renegade soldiers” were very much acting under orders.
Mugabe’s tyrant behaviour didn’t stop at violence, murder and oppression; it turned out he was a terrible economic manager as well. After implementing a wide range of socialist based policies through the 1980s, the once stable Zimbabwean economy was massacred, with the populous exposed to extreme poverty due to hyperinflation and food shortages.
He then blamed the food shortages on the roughly 4,500 white farmers, who owned most of the country’s fertile land, and attempted to implement land reform that would see the lands taken and redistributed to poor black Zimbabweans. He failed to change the constitution, but his followers took matters into their own hands, storming the farms and either driving the white farmers out of the country or torturing and murdering them.
As the years went on, the population of Zimbabwe grew weary of the country’s woeful economic state coupled with Mugabe’s opulent and lavish lifestyle. A number of political attempts were made to remove him which were met with strong violence from Mugabe supporters. Eventually, in November 2017, his own armed forces turned on him and ousted him from the leadership; a move that was met with wild celebrations across Zimbabwe, and the rest of the world.
Whilst Zimbabwe may have owed its independence to him, the price they had to pay for it was severe and it’s unlikely they will spend much time mourning him.
Hurricane Dorian has continued its destructive path across the Carribean and towards the south-east of the United States. The once Category 5 storm, left an unbelievable trail of destruction across the Bahamas with at least 30 people already confirmed dead.
The destruction in the Bahamas is significant and has sparked a serious humanitarian crisis with some 70,000 people in need of assistance. Only one hospital has been left functioning on the island chain, with the medical chief of staff indicating that he believes the death toll will be “staggering”.
Leaving a bruised and battered Bahamas in its wake, it turned its sights on the Carolinas, hitting the southeastern states with high winds, tornados and powerful rainfall. So far, at least four deaths in the US have been blamed on Dorian.
Whilst its winds weakened to around 165 km/h as it pushed further north towards the historic South Carolina town of Charleston, the damage was still significant with trees being uprooted and power lines crashing down. Gusts of wind in some areas of downtown Charleston topped 129 km/h and streets experienced severe flooding. Around 15 tornadoes caused by Dorian left more than 250,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina without power, with one reportedly destroying an entire caravan park.
With Dorian now clear of the Carolinas, it’s expected to continue to move in a north-easterly direction up the Atlantic coast but is expected to continue to weaken as it moves up the coast. It is expected to make it as far north as Canada with authorities issuing a hurricane warning for Prince Edward Island and southwestern Nova Scotia.
You would think that the horrible destruction and loss of life would be the biggest part of this story. Sadly it isn’t. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump is.
The US Commander and Chief tweeted earlier in the week, warning that the US state of Alabama (a couple of states west of the Carolinas) “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated”. The only problem was, it wasn’t true. Not even close to true. There had been absolutely no suggestion that Dorian was going to head West towards Alabama.
The Alabama office of the National Weather Service quickly responded to the tweet, correcting it saying that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian”. But as we know, Trump doesn’t like being told he’s wrong. In his megalomaniacal head, he’s not capable of being wrong.
Trump wouldn’t back down, continuing to insist that all the modelling suggested that Alabama could be in the firing line. He held a press conference, holding up a map that did indeed show a possible path that could see Dorian graze the south-east corner of Alabama.
The only issue? The section that covered Alabama appeared to have been drawn on with a black marker. An earlier version of the same map model was put on the White House Flickr account on August 29 without the black marker. Trump told the media that he had no idea how the black marker addendum got there but insisted that it was correct, saying “We had many models, each line being a model, and they were going directly through. And in all cases, Alabama was hit, if not lightly, then in some cases, pretty hard. They actually gave that a 95 per cent chance probability. It turned out that that was not what happened. It made the right turn up the coast. But Alabama was going to be hit very hard, along with Georgia. But under the current, they won’t be”.
The National Weather Service has continued to indicate that this is a big steaming pile of bullshit. A position which is supported by the fact that Florida, Georgia and The Carolinas all declared emergencies in the leadup to Dorian arriving, but Alabama did not.
Trump called the accusations (from everyone, on every news network) “fake news” and quickly launched a campaign on facebook selling official “Trump Markers” – 5 for $15.
I really wish I was making this up.
Tragedy struck outside the Hurtsville Public School in Sydney’s south on Friday morning after a 12-year-old boy was hit by a car and pinned to the ground outside the school. Despite heroic efforts from bystanders to save him, the boy sadly died on the scene.
The boy, now identified as Year 7 Sydney Technical High School student, Ryan Wang, was walking across the road at approximately 8:40 am when he was struck by the car. Bystanders including an off-duty nurse and teachers managed to release Ryan from underneath the car before furiously performing CPR before an ambulance arrived. He was taken to Sydney Children’s Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.
The driver of the car, 36-year-old Rabih Abdul Rahman, allegedly failed to stop at a red light in his Corolla and hit Ryan as he was crossing at the intersection of Lily Street and Forest Road. Rahman has since been charged with manslaughter, dangerous driving occasioning death, driving while disqualified and other traffic offences. He was arrested at the scene and taken to hospital for mandatory testing. It has been reported that he was already serving a suspended jail sentence for driving under the influence of drugs.
Rahman had bail refused and remains in custody, expected to appear before Parramatta Bail Court on September 7th.
One witness indicated that there was nothing that could be done to save Ryan after he was hit, saying, “I was working on the house and I heard the crash and I heard someone screaming. When I walked down I thought it was a normal car crash but when I got closer I saw the boy trapped under the car. I saw blood everywhere. People were trying to help but no one could. My mate and I tried to move the car off of him but it was too heavy.”
Whilst the south of the country is dealing with cold, winds and rain, parts of Southern Queensland and Northern NSW are facing a serious bushfire threat. At least 22 homes have already been destroyed across the region and authorities have indicated that the danger has not yet passed.
QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed that 18 homes had been lost in three communities across the south-east of the state. Ten homes were destroyed at Sarabah, inland from the Gold Coast, and a further seven in the Stanthorpe area.
QLD Fire & Emergency Services has warned that a fire at Binna Burra in the Lamington National Park represents the biggest threat and that they expect more homes will be destroyed. They issued a warning to residents in the area indicating that “Leaving immediately is the safest option, as it will soon be too dangerous to drive”.
Thankfully there have been no fatalities yet however, a man in his twenties has been taken to the Gold Coast University hospital in a stable condition after collapsing while fighting a fire in Clagiraba.
The Bureau of Meteorology has indicated that a cool change is now pushing through Queensland but warned that strong and gusty westerly winds will fuel the fires. They said, “We still have a very high fire danger over the next few days given it’s windy and dry, so not ideal firefighting weather from that point”. At this stage, there are around 50 fires burning across Queensland.
Four homes in northern NSW have been destroyed and a firefighter is fighting for his life in hospital. The 66-year old volunteer suffered serious burns to his head, face and upper body and is listed as being in a critical condition in the Royal Brisbane Hospital.
As is usually the case amidst danger and tragedy in Australia, amazing examples of community spirit come out as people rally together to help. A convoy of Canungra residents ferried animals near the Binna Burra firefront to safety throughout the night. Kelly Casey, a local resident, successfully saved two horses and said, “We got the phone call early this morning that we needed to evacuate some horses from up on Binna Burra….so we went up and ended up bringing down a couple of horses and taking them to the Canungra showground. My neighbour has got two alpacas in her paddock at the moment and I think there are now about sixteen horses at the showground…I’ve been here seven years and every time something happens, they never cease to amaze me the people here, they’re just so wonderful. Everybody wants to pitch in and help.”
Wacky and Wonderful
A dad from the UK has been hailed a hero after rescuing the holiday plans of a plane full of people.
Frustrated tourists on an EasyJet plane expecting to fly out to Alicante in Spain from Manchester were facing a long wait on the tarmac after one of the plane’s captains failed to turn up for the scheduled flight.
Michael Bradley, who waiting to board with his wife and young son, decided to take matters into his own hands; an EasyJet pilot himself, Bradley called his bosses and offered to fly the plane himself. He said,
“So just before we went through security I thought I wonder if this is worth a phone call, I think it is because I’d like to go on holiday…I phoned up easyJet and said “Hiya, I’m standing in the terminal doing nothing. I have got my license with me…I have got my ID with me and I’d very much like to go on holiday and if you need a favour I’m standing here ready to go…..They said ‘we’ll phone you back’. Thirty-eight seconds later they phoned me back and said ‘please, please pretty please with a big cherry on top, can you fly the aeroplane to Alicante?”.
Bradley of course agreed and saved the day. Be less like Trump and be more like Bradley.
That’s it from me TBSers, have a cracking week!