Today’s International News

EN4 News journalist Bryce Arthur presents the latest development and news stories from abroad.

Today’s international news

Trump ally arrested in Florida

The former campaign adviser to the US President Roger Stone has been charged with seven counts in Robert Mueller’s investigation, which looks at alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The indictment includes one count of obstruction, one count of witness tampering and five counts of false statements.

US commerce secretary “out of touch”

Wilbur Ross has been mocked online after he suggested workers affected by the government shutdown should take out bank loans.

Federal workers will miss another payday today, following reports that some have had to use food banks.

After the Senate rejected two bills which would have ended the deadlock, this is now the longest US government shutdown in history. The President has defended the culture secretary.

Venezuelan opposition leader considers amnesty for Maduro

Juan Guaidó has said that if President Nicolás Maduro cedes power, he could potentially be given amnesty.

Since declaring himself acting president earlier in the week, Guaidó has said he is reaching out to all sectors to end the crisis, even the military. However, the military’s support remains in favour of Maduro.

Kurdish politician freed after 79-day hunger strike

The Diyarbakir court in Turkey has released Kurdish MP Leyla Guven, 55 after she endured a 79-day hunger strike.

Guven’s release date details have not been released, but the court said they would continue to monitor her after.

The MP is part of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party. The Kurdish and Turkish conflict risen from various Kurdish groups fighting for independence from Turkey.

Guven was imprisoned after she criticised Turkish military’s involvement in Afrin, Syria, which the majority identifies as a Kurdish town.

She had been in jail for a year before beginning her strike in November last year. She claims she started the strike in protest of Turkey’s treatment of Kurdish military leader, Abdullah Ocalan who was imprisoned back in 1999.

Her daughter, via Twitter, announced the MP’s release.

EN4News in Numbers

Too busy to read the news today? Or maybe you want to sound clever at a work function? Here are six interesting statistics we think you should know about, short but sweet.

 

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Infographic by Jade du Preez for EN4News

EN4News in Numbers

Don’t have time to read the news? Here’s 6 interesting statistics we think you should know about, but don’t worry, we kept it short and sweet so you don’t have to read loads to get your news.

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Infographic by Jade du Preez for EN4News

Today’s international news

White House cancels Davos trip

President Donald Trump has cancelled the upcoming visit of the US delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland amid what is the longest partial government shutdown in US history. Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requested delaying State of the Union address followed by Pelosi being denied a military craft by President Trump.

African Union urges DRC to delay the final results

The African Union has called for the final results of the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the released figures, the opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has won the election. Runner up Martin Fayulu claims he lost because of a  deal Tshisekedi made with the exiting President Kabila, who has been in power for 18 years. As a deal of this nature would constitute fraud, DRC’s Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the forthcoming legal challenge.

Japanese pop star apologises for her own assault

This month Maho Yamaguchi went public with allegations of an assault by two obsessive fans. Recently, the NGT48 singer apologised to fans for the caused trouble. Fans responded with a petition signed by more than 53,000 requesting the resignation of her manager. Since then, Yamaguchi’s manager has been removed from his post. The two fans who assaulted Yamaguchi were arrested but released without charge.

Car explosion in Colombia kills over 20 people

The blast happened on Thursday in the capital Bogota leaving over 20 people dead and dozens injured.  The 57-year-old driver of the car was also killed by the explosion. The vehicle, carrying 80kg of powerful explosive, crashed and exploded outside the General Santander police academy. President Ivan Duque described it as a “terrorist attack.”

Winter storm hits Levant region, killing two 

A severe winter storm hit Turkey extending to Lebanon and Egypt, killing one Syrian girl and another adult in a multi-car pile up as people tried to escape the storm. The storm came after temperatures plunged and the heavy rain turned into snow. The conditions across the region are improving but the storm is moving to Iran and Iraq.

Surviving R Kelly: When will we start reacting to signs of abuse?

Another day, another sex scandal, and this time it’s RnB singer R. Kelly in the firing line.

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A mugshot of R. Kelly from his legal troubles in 2002.

At the start of 2019, US TV company Lifetime releases a documentary detailing allegations of sexual assault, statutory rape, domestic violence and even enslavement by R. Kelly. The world watches in disbelief as another well-respected member of the entertainment industry is outed for being a misogynist abuser. Though R. Kelly has been in similar legal trouble before, new allegations and damning details arose from the documentary, entitled Surviving R. Kelly.

However, while shock radiates through social media, many who have been following Robert Sylvester Kelly from early in his career know that dark accusations aren’t unheard of.

 

 

For instance, in 1994, Kelly married late singer Aaliyah Haughton in Illinois. As the legal age of marriage in the state is 17, it was later revealed that the pair falsified documents to state Aaliyah was 18 — she was just 15 years old.

Aaliyah’s mother Diane Haughton recently criticised facts of the documentary citing that Aaliyah just wanted to “fulfil her dream” and called claims made in the series a “fabrication.”

However, it isn’t just the circumstances surrounding Aaliyah that are alarming. Another instance occurred several years later when a video was leaked to the Chicago Sun-Times of Kelly allegedly urinating on a 14-year-old girl during a sex act in 2002.

These events escalated to the singer being indicted on 21 counts of Child Pornography, but he was eventually found not guilty after five years in 2007, after the girl and her parents, unfortunately, refused to further testify.

The list is almost endless.

Both 2017 and 2018 saw several prominent U.S figures outed in the media for acts of sexual misconduct, notably Miramax producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey.

Rumours of sexual abuse have circulated the media industry for decades. But my biggest question while watching Surviving R Kelly: where were the parents of these young girls?

And secondly, why didn’t the celebrities speaking up now voice their disdain earlier?

“All of a sudden you’re, like, bin Laden of America. Osama Bin Laden is the only one knows exactly what I’m going through” – R Kelly, Blender Magazine, 2003

The documentary took us through a host of interviews from the victims, to celebrities, collaborators and even R Kelly’s family and friends. All had similar stories to tell about the abuse they suffered behind closed doors, with his family recounting his own troubled childhood.

It’s hard to believe that — in the exclusive circle that Hollywood is — that none of these celebrities or parents knew, or at least had an inkling of what was happening.

Numerous celebrities have come forward to condemn their former colleagues’ actions, such as Nick Cannon who apologised for working with him and reflected on his own daughters.

Lady Gaga tweeted that she “stands behind these women 1000%”, while calling for her sexually charged 2013 collaboration with R.Kelly, Do What U Want, to be removed from streaming sites.

As of now, the song is still being streamed on Google Play.

Other celebrities have weighed in, including Chance the Rapper, who apologised for working with R. Kelly in the past and supported the allegations against him. Chance explained his delay in speaking out by saying he didn’t “value the accuser’s stories because they were black women.”

I appreciate Chance the Rapper’s change of heart, but in my opinion, the value of African-American women’s opinion (versus that of any other race of women) shouldn’t even come into question.

Abuse is abuse, and while it’s good for celebrities to voice their opinion and support for victims, the benefit of them speaking out seems like too little, too late. Especially when rumours have circulated about R Kelly for almost three decades.

Instead, their words, wealth and energy should be invested in providing safeguards for young impressionable singers, actors and fans who can easily be taken advantage of. It seems that may turn a blind eye based on a potential payday.

Whether a male is of black origin or otherwise, we have forgotten that these same pledges were made by the industry – “we will do better” – during the Weinstein scandal.

As Chance the Rapper highlighted, before the Lifetime documentary and details of R Kelly’s sordid sex life were made public, little attention was paid to claims made by the victims.

While it’s good to highlight issues and expose potential abusers, the abuse will continue until people have the courage to speak up sooner. It’s easy to ignore questionable activities in the moment and then act shocked later. It takes considerably more courage to act immediately.

Until the industry and parents of minors fully recognise and act on signs of abuse, I fear we’ll hear similar stories about more of our “favourite”  entertainers in the years to come.

R Kelly reportedly denies all allegations of sexual abuse and is seeking legal action against Lifetime.

Fizzy drink health crisis?

A report released by Cancer Research UK revealed children’s shocking fizzy drinks habits, but is this the full story? 

Newspapers are no stranger to doom and gloom,  just today we were told that every day Scottish children consume 600,000 fizzy drinks a day. However this isn’t the full story.

The report released by Cancer Research UK looked at the diets and obesity levels of Scottish children. They found that 1 in 4 were obese, with fizzy drinks being a contributing factor.

Despite consumption of fizzy drinks being high sugary fizzy drink consumption has actually fallen by 21%.

Researchers have been calling on the Scottish Government to further the limit the advertising and sale of junk food special offers. despite the average Scot consuming 12 kilocalories less in fizzy drinks everyday, the consumption of junk food such as confectionery biscuits and cakes has been steadily increasing since 2010.

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Fizzy drinks currently on the market.

There are calls for the Scottish Government to do more when tackling the obesity with suggestions that restrictions on multi-buy offers on junk food and fizzy drinks which could limit children’s intake.

However, the government is holding a consultation for restricting the advertising of unhealthy food. Members of the public have until the 9th of January 2019 to take part.

InSight lands on Mars

After months in space and a truly harrowing entry to Mars’ atmosphere, NASA’s InSight probe gently touched down on Mars.

The Insight probe — the full name of which is actually Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — touched down safely on Mars’ Elysium Planitia at 7:52pm on the evening of Monday November 26, making it the eighth successful unmanned mission to Mars in the history of mankind.

WATCH: The moment InSight touched down:

At at a post-landing briefing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California Insight’s Project Manager Tom Hoffman remarked “I’m very, very happy that it looks like we have an incredibly safe and boring looking landing location”.

Elysium Planitia, located in the northern hemisphere and near the equator of the red planet, is a soft sandy plain on the Martian surface — a perfect spot for InSight to carry out its life purpose: to study the geology of Mars’ core.

Essentially an interplanetary geologist, the InSight probe is distinct from the famous Mars Rovers, in that the probe will remain in place for the duration of its mission. It will dig deep into the Martian crust, searching for so called marsquakes and drawing a picture of what lies beneath the surface from the data it collects.

“In the coming months and years the history books will be rewritten about the interior of Mars” Michael Watkins, JPL’S Director predicted in the press briefing.

Before the mission can officially start, more definitive checks will be carried out to assure the spacecraft’s on-board equipment and mechanics have survived the tough entry into Mars’ hostile atmosphere.

InSight entered the planet’s atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour and slowed itself down to a walking pace in around seven minutes. A combination of rockets and parachutes allowed the craft to land safely on the plain, which has been described as being as horizontal as a car park in the famously flat Kansas.

credit to Nasa - Scott

NASA’s probe InSight. (Photo Credit: NASA)

The landing concluded a journey which began in May 2018 and 300 million miles away on planet Earth. The Insight probe was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on the May 5, 2018, from an Atlas V-401 Rocket, making it the first Mars’ mission launched from the west coast of the United States as opposed to Florida on the east coast.

 

InSight was closely followed by two NASA CubeSats — miniaturised satellites about the size of a briefcase — called Mars Cube One or MarCO. These types of satellites are easily and relatively cheaply sent up to orbit earth but this mission marks their first use deep in our solar system, offering the possibility of improved communications and data collection infrastructure in deep space.

Probes over People

The landing is great news but looking at the bigger picture of deep space exploration you might be moved to ask — where are all the people?

It’s a good question and it is one that is getting asked more and more of late. Since the discontinuation of the shuttle program in 2011, NASA’s operations have become a lot more geared toward unmanned scientific exploration.

Think of deep space milestones of late; the curiosity rover on Mars, the New Horizons probe responsible for beautiful close ups of the dwarf planet Pluto, and now Mars’ InSight.

Since the last mission to the Moon in the 1970’s there have been no humans beyond low-Earth orbit. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic first landing on the Moon and see private companies like SpaceX inch ever closer to perfecting their own space launch systems, the question regarding when humans will next explore deep space in person will become central to U.S space policy.

Under the current administration NASA has received a slight increase in funding to just under US$20 billion — a rather modest amount as federal agencies go — and outlined goals for a permanent presence on the moon as the main deep space goal acting as a way station for an eventual trip to Mars.

Credit to NASA

The hope is to station humans on Mars in the future (Photo Credit: NASA)

The fundamentals of these plans pre-dated the Trump administration as the space agency developed a new Space launch system and deep space craft called Orion.

Some outlandish proposals have been put forward by the Trump administration, such as the so called “Space Force”— an American military presence in space. The idea has been met with derision, with Former U.S. Navy Captain and retired Astronaut Mark Kelly tweeting that it was ‘a dumb idea”.

However, NASA’s official line remains true to the goal of putting humans on the red planet.

Only exploring low earth orbit might seem like having stayed in the shallow end of the pool but it has been responsible for falling costs more reusable space technology and so more access to space.

NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine reckoned optimistically in InSight’s post landing press conference when asked will humans will get there; “I’m going with the mid 2030’s”.

Update: French PM renounces fuel tax rises

Latest: French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe has announced a suspension on fuel tax hikes, after protesters took to rioting in the French capital and surrounding areas.

Following crisis talks in Paris today, the PM renounced the policy put forward by President Emmanuel Macron. He stated that the fuel increase will be suspended for six months.

“No tax is worth putting the nation’s unity in danger.”

French motorists began protesting the tax spike in mid-November, when leader Macron announced the price rise was a necessity to combat climate change. However, the protests took a violent turn when political protesters known as “Yellow Vests” began violent clashes with authorities.

The riots, which saw over 130,000 people take to the streets in protest saw major damage to multiple homes, cafes and stores throughout Paris has seen more than 400 arrests since the clashes began. Over 133 were injured, including 23 members of the French security forces.

The action took a sinister turn Saturday afternoon when an 80 year old woman was killed after being struck with a gas canister thrown during the troubles. The unnamed woman, who was at home at the time of the incident, was struck in the head whilst closing her shutters. The woman was taken to hospital but died in the operating theatre. Two more people have also been killed.

Macron and Philippe’s approval rating have hit a new low as the violence spread across Paris and the hope is the suspension of the tax increase eases tensions between protesters and the government.

China bridges the 26 mile gap

After nine years of construction, Chinese President Xi JinPing has unveiled the world’s longest crossing bridge, linking Hong Kong to China’s mainland. 

The bridge, which cost an estimated US$20 billion to build, is set to be a life-changing invention for Chinese citizens who want to access Hong Kong and Macau from the mainland city of Zhuhai.

Spanning over 54km (26 miles) and covering 21,500 square miles of China, the bridge assists with a larger plan to expand 11 cities in the region, with the cities of Hong Kong and Macau home to 68 million people in total.

“I declare the Hong Kong – Macau – Zhuhai bridge officially open.” – President Xi JinPing, October 23, 2018

So far, the making of the now famous bridge hasn’t been easy, with 18 workers reported to have lost their lives during the construction process.

With 400,000 tonnes of steel to assemble, the new bridge has enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers, which in itself, weighs an impressive 10,000 tonnes. The design is also said to withstand an earthquake magnitude of eight and is also typhoon-proof, which are known natural disasters in the region.

The Hong Kong – Macau – Zhuhai bridge is expected to drastically decrease commuting time from four hours to just 30 minutes, meaning people can easily travel to and from Hong Kong’s international airport.

Originally set to be unveiled in 2016, the longest bridge in the world is now open for business, setting the tone for China’s futuristic vision.

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