Week in Brief: 25-31 March 2018

Week in Brief: 25-31 March 2018

Story of the week

Russia expels 59 officials following diplomatic expulsions from West

Following the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the West over the Sergei Skripal nerve agent attack, Russia has hit back by expelling 59 diplomats themselves.

The United States, Australia and more than a dozen European countries contributed to the initial round of diplomatic expulsions.

The United States expelled 60 diplomats; Australia expelled two diplomats suspected of being undeclared intelligence operatives; Britain expelled 23; Canada expelled four and denied applications to three; Ukraine expelled 13; Germany, Poland and France plan to expel four; Lithuania and the Czech Republic will expel three; Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Albania will expel two; and Sweden, Croatia, Romania, Finland, Latvia and Estonia will expel one each.

In total, the round of expulsions from the West has seen 100 diplomats sent back to Russia so far.

In response, the Russians have expelled 59 officials from Moscow, summoning senior embassy officials from Australia, Albania, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Croatia, Ukraine, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic on Friday.

This follows the Russian expulsion of 60 US diplomats (58 from the embassy in Moscow and two general consulate officials in Yekaterinburg) and the closing of the US consulate in St Petersberg, in a “tit-for-tat” move after the US expulsions.


Ball tampering scandal: Smith, Warner, Bancroft banned from playing for Australia, Lehmann resigns

Cricket Australia has announced that Australian Captain Steve Smith and Vice Captain David Warner will be banned from playing cricket for Austalia for 12 months, and that Cameron Bancroft will be banned for 9 months, following a ball tampering incident during the South Africa Test. Darren Lehmann, the Australian cricket coach, has resigned.

Bancroft was caught on camera attempting to scuff the ball with sandpaper during the third Test in Cape Town, breaching the ICC Code of Conduct, and hastily hid the sandpaper when he saw that the umpires were suspicious.

The intent was to achieve a reverse swing on the ball to assist in bowling unplayable deliveries against the batting South Africans.

Cricket Australia found that David Warner had instructed Bancroft to scuff the ball, and demonstrated how to achieve it, while Smith was aware of the plan but took no steps to prevent it from taking place.

Smith and Warner have returned home to Austalia, where they have given emotional press conferences apologising for the incident.

Steve Smith apologised to “all of my teammates, to fans of cricket all over the world and to all Australians who are disappointed and angry”, saying that he “will regret this for the rest of my life” and that he was “absolutely gutted”.

Warner described the incident as a “stain on the game”, and announced that he would take “a few days” away with family and friends.

Coach Lehmann was not sanctioned by Cricket Australian, but has announced his resignation, stating that it was “the right time to step away” after speaking with family.

Shorten says Labor would revoke tax cuts

In the next federal election, Labor leader Bill Shorten has said that the party will campaign to get rid of the Liberal’s tax cuts for major businesses, should the motion pass the Senate.

The government is currently trying to convince other senators to help pass the bill. They hope to put in a vote this week, despite currently being two senators short of what is needed.

There is much debate over whether the tax cuts will result in more jobs or better pay for workers, with many CEOs saying they would not use the money that way.

The idea of trickle-down economics is copping more flak recently, but the government may be feeling pressure after similar tax cuts have already been implemented in America and several major European countries.

Victorian Opposition MPs breach pairing arrangements, defeat Government bill

After obtaining a pair from the Andrews Government, two Liberal opposition MPs turned up to vote anyway, and have helped defeat a Government bill to restructure Victorian fire services.

Liberal Upper House MPs Bernie Finn and Craig Ondarchie sought a pair (an arrangement where a Government MP abstains from voting due to an absence on the Opposition benches) due to the Victorian Parliament sitting on Good Friday.

The pair was offered by the Andrews Government before voting commenced on the Government’s fire services restructuring bill, which seeks to restructure the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

Initially absent from the chamber, Finn and Ondarchie re-appeared in the Upper House once the Labor MPs that had been paired for them were absent, giving the Liberals a majority in the chamber, and causing the defeat of the Government’s bill.

The act, understood to be a decision by the Opposition’s leadership group, has thrown the convention of pairing into doubt, with an independent MP stating that the move likely meant that long-standing tradition was “finished”.

Labor “don’t support” current treatment of people in detention

At this year’s national conference in July, Australians may see a change in Labor’s current stance on offshore detention centres.

There are several Labor MPs pushing for more humane policies on offshore processing and asylum seekers; among them the new Member for Batman, Ged Kearney.

Bill Shorten has said that while stopping the boats has been effective, and he has no plans to change that policy, the result of that doesn’t need to be mandatory detention.


National day of mourning, general strike, declared in Palestine after protest deaths

A national day of mourning and a general strike have been declared in Palestine after at least 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces.

The deaths occurred at one of the largest Palestinian protests in history for Land Day, a commemoration of deaths in a general strike in 1976 protesting the Israeli government’s expropriation of land for settlement purposes.

The violence erupted when protesters approached the Israel-Gaza border. Israeli troops fired live bullets, rubber bullets, and tear gas at a crowd of around 30,000 people. At least 15 people were killed and 400 injured, while others were treated for rubber bullet impacts and tear gas inhalation.

The demonstration is seen as part of a broad protest movement in support of rights of refugees ousted after the declaration of the Israeli state and the Israeli war of 1948 (widely known as the Nakba) to return to Israel, and is set to culiminate around the date of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in May.

Koreas to meet in April for first summit in decade

North and South Korean delegates will meet for a summit on April 27, following a surprise trip to Beijing by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

A working level meeting will be held on April 4 to discuss details of the summit, which is expected to address denuclearisation and improvement of relations according to South Korean Minister for Unification, Cho Myong-gyon.

The summit comes as the two Koreas experience an ease in tensions following the February Pyongchang Winter Olympics, and the first foreign trip by Kim Jong Un to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping this week, where Mr Kim reiterated commitments to hold talks with the United States and pursue denuclearisation.

This summit will be the first since June 2007, and will be held at the truce village of Panmunjeom, the common name for the Joint Security Area along the North Korean border (being the only place where troops of the two opposing nations face each other), which takes its name from the nearby town where the Armistice of the Korean War was signed in 1953.

3D printed housing community to be started in El Salvador

At the SXSW festival in Texas last week, housing non-profit New Story and construction technologies startup ICON revealed a 3D printed house that cost less than $10,000, and took less than a day to build. In developing countries, the intended application of this house, it would cost closer to $4,000.

The plan is to use this technology to construct homes for people in need in communities that require housing. They have already built 800 homes in areas such as Tahiti, Mexico, and Bolivia.

Their next goal is to create a community of 100 homes in El Salvador. It will be the first community of 3D printed homes. They are currently looking for donors to help them to make this a reality for the people living there.

Defunct Chinese space station to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere

A defunct Chinese space station is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere today.

According to the South Korean National Space Situational Awareness Organisation, the station is expected to re-enter the atmosphere anywhere from Sunday evening to this morning, and should burn up into a “splendid” meteor shower.

Chinese authorities maintain that there is no cause for alarm.

The station’s name translates to “Heavenly Palace”, is 10.4 metres long and was put into space in 2011 to carry out docking nad orbit experiments.

Originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013, its decomission was repeatedly delayed.

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