Rob Idol

About Rob Idol

Rob is an aspiring writer who balances his time between a “real” job and his passion for politics, social justice and all things creative. He has an MBA, an unhealthy obsession with current events, an even unhealthier obsession with pop culture and has been known to offer favourable food reviews in exchange for free meals. www.robidol.com.au

Current Affairs Wrap: America’s 85th school shooting, HK splits further, Australia loses plot over bushfires

Sadly, it’s been a week of violence and division worldwide, as we fought over bushfires and the Hong Kong protests turned bloody.

 

 

Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had another school shooting in the US, further escalation of the violence in Hong Kong and an inferno back home welcoming us to a very scary bushfire season.

 

International

Santa Clarita in California was the scene for yet another school shooting in the US this week.

The sixteen-year-old gunman, since identified as Nathan Berhow, is reported to have killed a 16-year-old-girl and a 14-year-old boy during a 16-second rampage at the Saugus High School in Santa Clarita.

Berhow retrieved the .45 calibre semi-automatic pistol from his backpack and began firing at his classmates. He then turned the pistol on himself and shot himself in the head but somehow managed to survive and is now listed as in critical condition in hospital. It’s also been reported that the day of the shooting was his sixteenth birthday.

Berhow’s mother, Mami Matasuura, spoke to the media and said, “I don’t even know what to do right now, I am just praying for my son’s life”. Whilst motive hasn’t been officially established, other students indicated to media that Berhow was “unsociable”. A childhood friend also indicated that Berhow’s father had died about a year ago and believed that the shooting may be related. The friend, only identified as “Ryan”, said, “We were playing the backyard…over the years we stopped talking, there was a disconnect (between us)…..He was doing his own thing. It’s a shock to all of us. His father passed a year ago or something like that…his dad used to make bullets, so I’d assume he had bullets and stuff like that”.

A mother of a child at the school, Cari Wright, shared a text message she received from her daughter while the attack was taking place. It said, “Hey mom I don’t know what’s going on here at school but I love you and I’m so thankful for everything you’ve done for me. I love you so much…everyone is saying there’s a shooter on campus. I don’t know what’s going on but I love you and dad so much”.

The morning attach represents the 85th incident of gunfire on school grounds in the United States this year according to Everytown, an advocacy group which is pushing for stronger gun control laws.

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The violence in Hong Kong has continued to escalate and shows no signs of slowing down. A live broadcast on Facebook earlier in the week showed a protestor being shot in the chest by a  Hong Kong Police officer; it is believed the victim is in a critical condition in hospital.

In another incident, a man was doused in petrol and set alight during an argument during the protests and another police officer rode his motorcycle deliberately into a group of protestors.

As news of the shooting spread, the protestors fought back even harder with the violence escalating across Hong Kong, particularly inside a number of universities. Hong Kong police have indicated that the city is close to the “brink of total breakdown”.

As the week went on, the size and effectiveness of the protests continued to increase with pro-democracy protesters paralysing parts of the city. Schools have been forced to close and students and highways have been blocked. Students at a number of universities have built barricades and amassed stockpiles of weapons.

A Chinese state-run newspaper, the Global Times, tweeted that a curfew would be put in place in Hong Kong on the weekend but the tweet has since been removed; possibly in fear that it might escalate the situation further.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to see the situation improving any time soon. The Chinese government is very unlikely to back down and the numbers and resolve of the protestors continue to grow each day. All attempts by the international community to preach calm have been met with a firm “stay out of it” by the Chinese government.

 

Domestic

Large parts of New South Wales and Queensland have been ravaged by devastating bushfires this week in what might be a terrifying preview of the summer ahead.

Weather conditions provided some relief later in the week however the danger is far from over with the New South Wales RFS saying on Friday that there is a severe fire danger from “border to border”.

The death toll from this week’s inferno stands at four people so far with 1600 firefighters continuing to battle around 60 bushfires across NSW. In Queensland, a further 70 fires are burning and around 36 structures have been destroyed already.

More than one million hectares of land has been burned since last weekend and at least 300 homes have been destroyed by the various blazes. The overwhelming scale of the fires has surpassed previous major fire seasons in a week which is causing great concern for the months ahead. Professor Ross Bradstock from the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong said, “The most concerning thing to emphasise is that it’s not over – we’re not even into summer year. We are now in uncharted territory”.

Professor Bradstock also pointed to a “perfect storm” of factors that could lead to the upcoming summer months being the most challenging we’ve ever seen with respect to bushfires, “We’re into an episode of exceptional dryness due to the prolonged drought. We’ve had continual outbreaks of dry and hot weather…all the ingredients are there for the rapid development of major fires”.

While our brave and selfless firefighters and volunteers have worked tirelessly and in the face of significant danger to try and stop the spread, our politicians have turned the tragic situation into another slanging match.

Deputy PM, Michael McCormack took aim at the Greens over the implication that the increased danger being faced was linked to Climate Change, describing them as “raving inner-city lunatics”. He said, “We’ve had fires in Australia since time began, and what people need now is a little bit of sympathy, understanding and real assistance – they need help, they need shelter…..They don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time, when they’re trying to save their homes, when in fact they’re going out in many cases saving other people’s homes and leaving their own homes at risk”.

 

Witnesses at the scene, however, have indicated that Walker was unarmed when he was shot three times before then being handcuffed and dragged to a police van.

 

Greens deputy leader, Adam Bandt, fired back and suggested that a global coal shut-down would both help the climate and ease the risk of bushfires. He said, “This government has had every opportunity to minimise the risk of these catastrophic fires and instead it has chosen to pour fuel on the fire. Michael McCormack and Scott Morrison bear some responsibility for what is happening at the moment because they have done everything in their power to make these kind of catastrophic bushfires more likely”

Then everyone’s favourite crazy uncle, Barnaby Joyce weighed in. He also took aim at the Greens, accusing them of being responsible for a reduction in hazard-reduction burning during winter – someone forgot to mention to him that the Greens don’t have a majority in any house of any government in this country and subsequently have no where near the level of power that Joyce is suggesting they have.

But it wouldn’t be old Barney without taking it to the next, far more atrocious level.

When discussing the victims of the fires this week, Joyce decided to say that two of the people killed “most likely” voted for the Greens. He said, “They may need more resources, but they also need legislation regulations that allow them to get in there and do it in a more substantial way….The crazy thing there Kieran, I acknowledge the two people who died were most likely people who voted for the Green party. So I’m not going to start attacking them, that’s the last thing I want to do”.

The only voice of reason amongst the lot of them this week was surprisingly PM Scott Morrison who took aim at everyone, including members of his Coalition for their “unhelpful” remarks. He said, “Take it down a few notches. There have been a lot of provocative comments made over the last few days from all sides of the debate and I find it very unhelpful. The last thing that people in an urgent crisis need at the moment is hearing politicians shout at each other. There is a time and a place to debate controversial issues and important issues, right now it’s important to focus on the needs of Australians who need our help”.

Too bloody right.

Whilst the PM was spot on in calling for everyone’s attention to be focussed on the job at hand, it turns out that he’s been ignoring warnings from fire and emergency chiefs of this exact scenario occurring. Former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue, Greg Mullins, spoke out about the very real link between climate change and bushfire danger, “Just a 1c temperature rise has meant the extremes are far more extreme, and it is placing lives at risk, including firefighters”.

Mullins also indicated that he along with 23 other fire and emergency chiefs have been desperately trying to have a meeting with PM Morrison since April because they “knew that a bushfire crisis was coming”. Not only was the meeting not forthcoming, but according to Mullins, fire chiefs have been locked out of the discussion altogether and were “not allowed” to mention climate change.

It’s hard not to empathise with both sides to a degree. The Greens have been saying this for a long time; drawing attention to that now not only is likely from understandable frustration at the lack of action, but also because drawing attention to it whilst the devastation is fresh does increase the likelihood of them being finally listened to. That being said, Morrison is spot on – when we have over a thousand firefighters risking their lives out there as well as people losing their homes and lives – the name-calling can probably wait until next week.

But the conversation can’t be ignored and needs to be had; and the people out on the front line need to be involved in that conversation in a big way.

***

A decorated Police Officer has been charged with the murder of a 19-year-old man in the Northern Territory, sparking protests around the country.

Two police officers, including Constable Zach Rolfe, attended a home in Yuendumu near Alice Springs under orders to arrest Kumanjayi Walker for a breach of his suspended sentence.

What happened next depends on who you ask at this stage. According to Police (and presumably Rolfe himself), an altercation occurred between Rolfe and Walker which saw Walker allegedly stab Rolfe with a pair of scissors. Initial statements have suggested that Rolfe then discharged two shots from his gun into Walker – other sources have suggested it was three shots.

Witnesses at the scene, however, have indicated that Walker was unarmed when he was shot three times before then being handcuffed and dragged to a police van.

Walker was then transported to a police station rather than a hospital or clinic; the local clinic was unstaffed due to alleged recent break-ins. Michael Gunner, the NT Chief Minister has said that health workers from Yuelamu, 45 km away, were contacted at around 7:30 pm with an ambulance eventually arriving at the station at 8:30pm – an hour and a half after Walker had been shot. The ambulance crew pronounced Walker dead.

A spokesperson for the family indicated that they were not informed of Walker’s death until around ten hours after the shooting; this has also been confirmed by the Chief Minister.

Rolfe was given bail and travelled to Canberra where his family is based; a fact that caused further outrage amongst the community. Senior Warlpiri Elder, Francis Jupurulla Kelly, expressed his shock at bail being given,

“He has been charged with murder – why did he get bail? If a blackfella does that he goes straight to the clink …We are so unhappy, we are crying in our hearts. Why have the police done (sic) this? The law applies to them too, it applies to all of us”

We may never know exactly what happened, but it’s hard to believe that the outcome wasn’t unavoidable – both the shooting and Walker’s chances of surviving the shooting had appropriate medical care been given sooner.

Just a tragic and avoidable outcome.

That’s it from me TBSers! Have a cracking week!

 

 

 

 

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