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: Coronavirus elevated by WHO, Trump’s Nixon moment and a grating figure honoured (twice!)

Well, it’s been an odd week. The coronavirus became a global problem, Donald Trump’s impeachment went the full Nixon and the internet honoured a grating figure in jest.

 

 

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had the Coronavirus situation worsen, more lunacy from the Trump impeachment trial, a rort of our own back home and an absolutely epic YouTube prank.

 

International

The World Health Organisation has now declared a global emergency related to the spread of Coronavirus. They had resisted calls earlier in the week however a significant increase in the number and spread of confirmed cases has forced them to elevate the status

As of Friday, the confirmed death toll of the outbreak in mainland China had reached 213. This represented forty-two new fatalities in a matter of hours – 30 of which were in Wuhan which is considered the epicentre of the emergency. 

All of China is now effected with all 31 provinces reporting cases of the Wuhan coronavirus. The total number of confirmed infections is at almost 10,000 which is well in excess of the number of infections during the 2002-03 SARS epidemic. That being said, SARS was reported to result in a fatality in approximately 10% of cases whereas so far Coronavirus is only estimated at 2% – however, it’s very early days.

Late in the week, both the US and South Korea reported the first cases inside their country that had been spread from person to person – joining Germany, Japan, Canada and Vietnam who have already reported person to person transmission. The US has since issued a level four warning to its citizens, telling them not to travel to China. The warning also advised any American citizens currently in China that they “should consider departing using commercial means”. This is the highest level of warning the US government issues to its citizens and is only reserved for extremely dangerous situations. 

It’s also been revealed that the virus can spread from person to person in as little as 15 minutes if they are in close contact (a face to face conversation for example) or in under two hours if they are in the same confined space as an infected person.

Concerningly, this means that potentially thousands of people in Australia could have been exposed to the virus as well as numerous places around the world where cases have already been confirmed

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Trump impeachment is a circus; but the latest developments make the circus look like paint drying. 

Trump’s defence team have focussed on their claim that no quid-pro-quo existed between Trump and the Ukrainian President that is alleged to have occurred. Since the Republicans have successfully blocked calls for witnesses and evidence that could potentially prove that it occured, the strategy seemed sound. 

Then John Bolton entered the fray. Bolton, a former national security advisor to Trump, has written a yet to be published book about his time in the Trump White House. A draft of the book was recently circulated amongst his close associates as well as being provided to the White House for review. Reports began emerging regarding the content of the draft which appears to contravene much of Team Trump’s assertions regarding what did or did not happen

The Democrats have seized the opportunity and are pushing heavily in their demands for Bolton to be allowed to testify in the impeachment trial.

The New York Times, who broke the story, indicated that they’ve been told by those that have read the draft that Bolton explicitly indicates that Trump told him that he wished to withhold the $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until they turned over documents related to the 2016 US Election and former VP Joe Biden. Effectively exactly what Trump is being impeached for

Whilst the Republican-controlled senate can effectively block Bolton from testifying, rumours of Republican senators wanting to hear the testimony has the Trump camp concerned. Their entire defence relies upon unwavering partisan support from the senators and any crack in that support could quickly become Trump’s undoing. 

 

So what do you do when you’re faced with the prospect of a witness pointing the finger at you for exactly what you are accused of doing? You change the conversation – which is exactly what the Trump camp appears to be trying to do in the latest outrageous development. 

 

So what do you do when you’re faced with the prospect of a witness pointing the finger at you for exactly what you are accused of doing? You change the conversation – which is exactly what the Trump camp appears to be trying to do in the latest outrageous development. 

Renowned former Harvard Law School professor and member of Trump’s legal team, Alan Dershowitz, has put forward an extremely controversial argument that, should it be pursued, could be the end of Trump’s Presidency. His legal team have already argued that there wasn’t anything wrong with putting pressure on Ukraine under the law, but Dershowitz has taken it a step further. 

Dershowitz said“Every public official that I know believes that this election is of the public interest…if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment”

Let’s break that down for a second. Effectively, if the elected leader of a country that supposedly runs on a democratic ideology believes that the best interests of the nation are served by him being re-elected, then he’s justified in taking whatever steps, criminal or not, necessary in order to bring that to fruition.

 

 

Domestic

The former sports minister at the centre of the controversial sporting grants scandal, Bridget McKenzie, has miraculously survived another week without resigning. 

McKenzie has been under significant pressure from the public, the Opposition and the media over appearing to provide grant funding to organisations that she either benefited from or those within marginal seats in the leadup to the election, presumably to secure votes.  

The ABC obtained ministerial documents from McKenzie’s office which show that her staff colour-coded nearly 2,000 grant applications according to which party held the electorate – which would probably be enough for most of us to call for her head. 

McKenzie was also warned by Sport Australia in March of last year (two months prior to the election) that the sports grant scheme was being compromised by political interference and that the agency’s independence was at risk

An auditor-general report has already found that the program appeared to have favoured coalition marginal and targeted seats before the federal election last year. The audit also reported that in the third round of the program, 73% of projects that were funded were not recommended by Sport Australia (who are in the best position to assess the most appropriate places for grants

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary, Philip Gaetjens, was tasked last week with investigating whether McKenzie’s handling of the $100 million program breached ministerial standards however at this stage, his report and recommendations have not been completed – it is believed, however, that they may be completed this weekend. 

PM Morrison has resisted calls to remove McKenzie from the cabinet or taking any other action until Mr Gaetjens’ report is available. Apparently an auditor-general report that clearly shows it’s been compromised isn’t enough to risk destabilizing the coalition with the Nats.

Labour leader, Anthony Albanese, has described McKenzie’s conduct as a “complete abuse” as well as suggesting she’s been “discredited” as a minister. He said, “This is a complete rort – it is a scandal of massive proportions…every day that Bridget McKenzie stays as a cabinet minister – it undermines faith in our democracy”. 

I think Albo’s being a bit generous. Every day she remains a politician undermines what little faith we have left in our democracy. 

Meanwhile, the Libs are more concerned with who leaked the incriminating information, with now Sports Minister Richard Colbeck releasing a statement indicating that the government has demanded an assurance from the CEO of Sports Australia and the Secretary of the Department of Health that they aren’t responsible for the leaks.

Not that we should be surprised – we’re all very aware of the current Federal Government’s position on Whistle-blowers – especially those that dare act in the public interest.  

***

The Victorian Attorney-General, Jill Hennessy, has joined those criticising the controversial choice of Bettina Arndt as a recipient of the Order of Australia last week. 

Hennesy has written to Governor-General David Hurley asking the Council of the Order of Australia to strip Arndt of the award due to her “dangerous” views which she believes brings the Order of Australia into disrepute

Arndt received her award on Australia Day for “significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men” however Hennesy has argued that Berndt has not only sympathised with a convicted paedophile as well as being responsible for blaming and shaming victims of sexual abuse in public forums.  She said, 

“Ms Arndt’s views and activities diminish the devastating experiences of victim-survivors of family and sexual violence, promote division and discourage victim-survivors from taking steps to ensure their survival and safety”.

In fairness to Arndt, we regularly let our Prime Ministers’ (and ex PM’s) sympathise with convicted Paedophiles and blame victims of sexual abuse.

 

 

Wacky and Wonderful

A notorious South African YouTube prankster has successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of Controversial British commentator, Katie Hopkins, with an epic prank. 

Josh Pieters’ contacted Hopkins to let her know that she’d been announced as the recipient of the prestigious “Campaign to Unify The Nation” award and arranged to fly her to Prague to accept the award in person.

Pieters pretended to be representing the “Cape Town Collective for the Freedom of Speech” and advised Hopkins that she had been awarded the “equivalent of our Lifetime Achievement Award for the simply excellent work you have achieved over the past few years. You may be many miles away, but the joy of the modern world is that we’re able to follow closely as you fight for the freedom to say what you believe to be true”

It was music to Hopkins’ ears who indicated she was delighted and overwhelmed by the honour. 

The only problem is, the “Cape Town Collective for the Freedom of Speech” doesn’t exist nor does the prestigious “Campaign to Unify The Nation” award. 

You may have also noticed that if you combine the capitalise first letters of “Campaign to Unify The Nation”, you end up with an acronym that very effectively represents the opinion that many people have of Hopkins’. I’m sure you can work it out. 

The best part? As Pieters’ explains on Twitter, it was timed while Hopkins was subject to a Twitter ban, “Now that Katie Hopkins can’t read Twitter, I can tell you that on Monday I made her fly to Prague to pick up a completely fake award”. 

We all salute you, sir!

That’s it from me TBSers, have a cracking week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share via