In today’s hyperfast political environment, keeping on top of the news can seem a Herculean task. So we have been doing the hard work for you. Every Friday for two years, Listverse has rounded up the most essential stories from the week, from the world-changing, to the shocking, to the inspiring.
The week that took us into December got off to a tragic start when a terrorist attacked people with a knife on London Bridge, killing two. While the UK was in mourning, other stories were busy rocking the rest of the world. In France, the nation once again prepared for paralysis as Macron once again pushed unpopular reforms through. In Germany, there were fresh political convulsions, while political shenanigans in the US continued to rumble on. Are you ready to have your news-perceiving organ comprehensively blown for the last time? Wait . . . last time? Yup! An explanation follows the news. Read on.
10 Terrorism Returned to London Bridge
In June, 2017, armed attackers plowed a van into a crowd of people on London Bridge, before getting out and proceeding to stab dozens of bystanders. 8 people died in the carnage, while nearly 50 were injured.
We mention this, because last Friday, grim echoes of this event reverberated across the British capital. At around 14:00 local time, Usman Khan entered a building at the corner of the bridge and stabbed five people before being tackled by members of the public, and subsequently shot dead by police. Two of his victims later died of their wounds.
Khan’s identity is significant, as he’d previously been jailed for plotting to attack the London Stock Exchange in 2012, only to be released last year. In light of his attack, the UK is now conducting an urgent review into the 74 people convicted of terrorism offenses who are now outside jail.
Depressingly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson used the attack to try and make electoral hay, blaming the opposition Labour Party for Khan’s release. Labour has not been in power for 9 years – plenty of time, you’d think, for Johnson’s ruling Conservatives to repeal any laws they did not agree with.
9 Ohio’s Legislature Produced an Impossibly Strict Abortion Bill
An ectopic pregnancy is an unfortunate biological screw-up whereby a fertilized egg will not implant in a woman’s uterus, but in her fallopian tube instead. At that point, the pregnancy becomes completely unviable, with the added bonus that it can severely injure or even kill the woman.
That’s the grim background you need to know for the new bill introduced in Ohio. As reported last Friday, it’s a strict anti-abortion bill, with one side-helping of utter insanity. According to the bill, doctors would be under a legal obligation to try and re-implant ectopic pregnancies in the uterus.
Those who failed to do so would face charges of murder. Now might be a good time to mention that this procedure does not exist, and is likely impossible with current medical technology.
To be fair, the bill stands no chance of becoming law. Even if it passes in Ohio, it would fall before the courts, which routinely rule such bills unconstitutional. Still, it’s a chilling look at the zeal that has gripped the extreme wing of the pro-life movement. If Roe V. Wade is overturned, expect to see more of this fanaticism.
8 Germany’s Junior Ruling Party Elected Shocking New Leaders
Normally, German politics is about as interesting as watching paint that isn’t just drying, but has already dried and is now in a state of seemingly permanent stasis. “Safe, predictable, boring”, that’s been the mantra of post-war Germany. Then Saturday came along, and suddenly all that paint didn’t look quite so dry anymore. The junior partner in the ruling coalition, the SPD, announced the results of their leadership election. Rather than a safe pair of hands, the members had picked the candidates most likely to dynamite the government.
Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken are the very definition of obscure. What makes them stand out is their willingness to torpedo their coalition with Angela Merkel’s CDU. Walter-Borjans ran on a platform of committing to more public spending, saying they’d be willing to pull the plug on the government if the CDU said no. Were that to happen, Berlin would be sent into a tailspin.
Notably, the pair beat current Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, seen as an old-school pragmatist who was widely expected to win. It may be that the shocks that have upended politics elsewhere are finally reaching Germany’s governing parties.
7 France Erupted in Protest (Again)
Is there anyone left in France that Macron hasn’t driven onto the streets at some point or another? Since he came to power, the populist centrist has faced down waves of strikes and protests, mostly notably the Yellow Vest movement that erupted a little over a year ago.
While things have calmed down since the heady days of late 2018, there’s still time for more paralysis. On Thursday, France’s public sector workers went on strike to protest pension reform. The result was the biggest such protest since 1995.
Hundreds of thousands have now taken to the streets, with many train and bus services grinding to a halt. Even the Eiffel Tower was closed down. At the same time, most teachers, health workers, firefighters, and many air traffic controllers are joining the strikes. Basically, the country is frozen, and may stay that way for some time.
Still, this isn’t the first time Macron has faced down mass protests. Each time he seems to survive. The smart money is he’ll survive these protests, too, but in today’s volatile environment, who can tell?
6 Elon Musk’s Defamation Trial Began
One of the weirdest side-effects of Twitter has been how it can take what would normally be a feel-good story about, say, a bunch of Thai boys being rescued from an underwater cave, and turn it into a depressing news-slog. Case in point: the Elon Musk “pedo guy” tweet that resulted in a defamation trial starting this week.
Back in 2018, a teenage Thai soccer team were trapped in a cave that had flooded and in danger of drowning. The rescue operation gripped the world, including Elon Musk. At some point, the SpaceX and Tesla entrepreneur decided to build a sub that could rescue the boys. It didn’t work, and the boys were rescued manually. In the aftermath, rescue diver Vernon Unsworth said Musk should “stick his submarine where it hurts”. In return, Musk took to Twitter to call Unsworth a “pedo guy”.
As a result, Musk is now on trial for defaming Unsworth. What’s amazing about this case is that it actually got so far. Musk is a billionaire. He could have settled out of court with Unsworth thousands of times over. And its not like Unsworth has actually been accused of pedophilia and Musk is taking a stand to expose him. But here we are.
5 Sudan Began Creeping Toward Democracy (Maybe)
If someone ever tells you protest doesn’t work, tell them to take a good, long look at the recent history of Sudan. A hardline Islamic dictatorship for decades, Sudan suddenly exploded in protests last December against the ruling party. Despite a brutal crackdown, the protests continued and, over 2019, a crazy story unfolded.
In April, long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a coup. In August, the transitional ruling junta began handing power to civilian administrators. And now this. Last Friday, it was reported that the civilian administration approved a law dissolving the ruling party. At the same time, laws regulating women’s dress and movements, and other aspects of Sharia Law, began to be scrubbed from the statute books. It could be that Sudan is finally on the path to democracy.
Still, there’s a long way to go yet. Free elections will need to be held, and Khartoum will need to avoid a repeat of Egypt; where the deposal of one dictator led first to a hardline Islamist civilian government, and then another dictator. But there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
4 The UK’s NHS Election Leak Was Possibly Traced to Russia
So, this is an unexpected one. Last week, we briefly touched on secret documents brandished by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn ahead of the UK’s general election, claiming the NHS was for sale in secret post-Brexit trade talks with the US. Given the sensitivity over Britain’s National Health Service, it was a potentially election-changing moment. But it may have been something else, too.
This week, researchers at Oxford University, the Atlantic Council think tank, and Graphika analytics firm claimed to have traced the origins of the leak to something known as Secondary Infektion, an election-disrupting outfit working from Russia that’s thought to be aligned with the Kremlin. While no-one is accusing Corbyn of being in cahoots with Moscow, it now seems possible that his bombshell documents were part of a covert Russian campaign to disrupt Britain’s elections.
It might seem counterintuitive that the Kremlin would give secret help to the Labour Party, especially since far-right populist Boris Johnson would seem more like Putin’s type. But that’s assuming Putin has a direct agenda for electing certain people, rather than simply sowing chaos in nations he perceives as his enemies.
3 Malaysia’s Former PM went on Trial for Corruption
Back in 2015, a British journalist was quietly handed a sheaf of documents. Inside were some explosive revelations. The then-Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, had been siphoning off billions from a national development fund known as 1MDB. It was possibly the biggest fraud in history, and triggered an investigation by Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency. When they appeared to get close to Najib’s fraud, he fired everyone investigating him, and appointed a new attorney-general who promptly cleared him.
But the case wouldn’t go away. In the 2018 election, a former PM declared he would run against Najib on the promise of investigating the 1MDB case. The May vote resulted in Najib’s ruling party losing power for the first time since 1957. In the aftermath, Najib was arrested.
This week, the former PM finally took the stand to defend himself at a sprawling corruption trial. While Najib continues to blame a financier who is currently in hiding, the charges are serious. If convicted on even one count, he could face 20 years in prison.
2 A US Sailor Killed Two at Pearl Harbor
In the run up to December 7, Pearl Harbor usually appears in the news only to memorialize those killed in the Japanese strike in 1941; the deadliest attack on Americans prior to 9/11. This year, though, Pearl Harbor appeared in the news thanks to a much more modern tragedy. On Wednesday afternoon, a US sailor took a gun into the Naval facility and shot three civilian contractors. He then turned the gun on himself.
This appears to be the first shooting at a US Naval Facility since 2015, and the first in a long time committed by a serviceman. The most striking comparison is likely with the Fort Hood military base shooting in 2014 (not be confused with the much deadlier 2009 shooting at the same facility), in which an enraged soldier killed three other people before committing suicide. At time of writing, the Pearl Harbor shooter’s motive hasn’t been uncovered.
Aside from anything, the incident shows just how acute the problem of mass shootings has become in the USA. In mid-November, it was calculated that there had been more mass shootings in 2019 than there had been days. The events at Pearl Harbor add another number to that grim tally.
1 Impeachment Rumbled On
Remember how at a certain time in the late 90s every single news show contained at least one image of Bill Clinton looking gaunt and gray as the impeachment sharks circled? Well, we’re basically at that stage now with Trump. As such, you can probably expect this story to sit at the #1 spot until it either resolves itself or we all die of politics fatigue. Pick your poison.
Anyway, impeachment news this week came in a one-two punch against the president. On Tuesday, Democrats released their 300-page impeachment report, which they said contained clear evidence that Trump actively sought foreign interference in the 2020 election. With the proceedings now moved from the investigation phase to the judging phase, this was followed by a panel of constitutional experts testifying on whether the president committed an impeachable offense. Rather predictably, the three experts chosen by the Democrats said “yes”, while the expert chosen by the Republicans said “no”. Quelle surprise.
At this stage, opinions on impeachment seem to be set along party lines, so don’t expect any great shifts. The likeliest outcome is now: Trump gets impeached, the trial moves to the Senate, the Senate acquits Trump. All that remains to be seen is the timing.
+ The End Of The News
[From JFrater]: This news roundup marks the end of an era (since May 2017 in fact)! It is the final weekly news round up that Listverse will be presenting for the foreseeable future as we move towards a more general lineup of lists as we did during our early years. We seem to have reached a point in societal division where news is impossible to present without choosing sides and causing anguish for half of the readership.
You are either for or against impeachment. You are either a climate change alarmist or denier. You are pro or anti vaccination. You are in favor of, or against, the worldwide political protests. It is exhausting to be honest. Neither side will budge on their views no matter how reasonable the debate—so why debate at all? Let’s leave the news reporting to fake news sites (Fox News or CNN depending on which half of our splintered society you are in). Listverse is for learning and enjoyment and, frankly, the mainstream news is no longer able to provide either of those things.
I would like to thank Morris for the years of news updates but also for the general lists which were always excellent and enjoyed by all. I hope we will see some non-news content in the future from him.