Latest posts by Alex Mitchell (see all)
- The top 10 of Eurovision 2019: the good, the bad and the fugly - 17 May, 2019
- Melodifestivalen 2019 - 9 March, 2019
- The year that was 2018 – Part 6: Oceanian politics - 2 January, 2019
The Year of the Donald
Unsurprisingly we kick of this year in review with Donald Trump. Inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on the 10th January following his victory of Hilary Clinton. Trump Kick of his Presidency with an inaugural address proclaiming “America First”. Arguably we’ve seen a year of ‘Donald First’. He’s continued attacking any negative press coverage as “Fake News”. Trump even claimed he invented the word ‘Fake’ whilst acknowledging others may have used it before him. Credit where it’s due one of Trump’s early morning tweets gave us the new word “Covfefe”. When asked what the President meant to say, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer advised the media that “the President and a small group of people knew what he meant”
Trump’s not even complete first year in office has given us “Alternative facts” courtesy of White House Advisor Kellyanne Conway. Conway also lead the world in its tributes to the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre which was quickly pointed out to have been a non-existent event.
Trump has praised the healthcare system in the African nation of “Nambia” even though no such country exists. We’ve had the Travel ban which targeted visa applicants from predominantly Muslim nations including Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Chad, Venezuela and North Korea. The executive order has been thrown out numerous times by the courts before a watered-down version was accepted. Talking of bans, Trump also passed an executive order banning Transgender people from serving in the military citing medical expenses as a constraint on the budget, yet the U.S Military spends so much more on Viagra than it does on healthcare for Trans service men and women.
Despite Trump’s assurance that his administration is running like a well-oiled machine his National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn resigned 23 days into the new administration over his links with Russia during the election campaign. Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned following Trump’s appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as Director of Communications. Trump’s Chief of Staff, Renice Priebus was sacked in the first 6 months of the administration and replaced by Secretary for Homeland Security John Kelly. Upon Appointment, Kelly Sacked Scaramucci before he could even be placed in post officially, just 10 days after being given the job. Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy Davos faced an uphill battle in her Senate confirmation. The vote ended in a 50-50 tie (Luckily for Trump, Sen Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for Attorney general hadn’t resigned his Senate seat at this point). Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie in favour of Davos, the first Vice President to break a nominee tie in America’s history.
Trump’s obsession with saying what he thinks and carrying out international diplomacy over twitter adds to the turbulent year of the Trump Presidency. He most recently sparked a diplomatic upset by announcing that America would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S Embassy there.
Very little exists of Trump’s legislative agenda. His attempts to repeal Obamacare failed, most of his governing has been through Executive orders. Something he criticised Obama for doing, yet Obama faced a hostile congress whereas Trump has a majority in both houses of Congress. Next year America has the Mid-term elections which could see the Republicans lose control of at least one of the houses of Congress. In a recent special election, the Democrats took a Senate seat in Alabama for the first time in 25 years.
Following the referendum on EU membership the process of leaving the EU got underway when Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 on 29th March starting the two-year countdown. Brexit thus far has been far from simple. Prior to triggering Article 50 the government found itself in court. Gina Miller took the argument that the government required Parliament’s consent before they could trigger it. The ruling of 8 – 3 by the Supreme Court Justices found in favour of Gina Miller’s case. A vote occurred and the result to trigger Article 50 was 498 – 114. Towards the end of the year May secured a victory in the negotiations which saw the EU vote to allow negotiations to proceed onto ‘Phase 2’ which aims to look at the future relationship between the EU and UK, including trade deal. There are still numerous unknowns in how the UK will exit and on under what terms with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland fast becoming the big issue. The UK will still have to deal with the smaller border between Spain and Gibraltar. Brexiteers remain optimistic whilst frustrated. Remainers hope for a softer Brexit.
Blunder on the Red Carpet
This year’s Oscars award ceremony saw a historic blunder. In a ceremony which boasts a failsafe system monitored by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in their 83rd year of partnership with the Academy. Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway were tasked with announcing the winner of Best Picture. La La Land had matched Titanic with the number of nominations going into the ceremony so big things were expected. If you watch the clip you can see the moment Beatty spots that there is an error with what is written on the card and then passes it to Faye Dunaway who announces La La Land as the winner. The cast and crew flooded the stage and producer Marc Platt started his speech. Behind him officials from PWC came onto the stage and spoke with Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel. Producer John Horowitz interrupted the speech to announce that there had been a mistake and Moonlight had won Best Picture. After stating that he wasn’t joking he held up the correct card to the camera revealing that the LGBT film had won. It was later explained by the two members of PWC who oversaw the cards, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, explained that there were duplicate cards, one set at each side of the stage. Beatty had taken the duplicate “Best Actress” card which had been awarded to Emma Stone prior to the Best Picture award. Both Cullinan & Ruiz released statements saying that they would no longer be part of the PWC team that oversaw the Oscars.
The Myanmar government led by defacto head of government and Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was involved in a military crackdown and “textbook example of genocide” against the Rohingyas people in the Western Region of Rakhine State. Medecins Sans Frontières estimated 6,700 Rohingya including 730 children were killed in August alone. The actions of the Myanmar military have been widely criticised by the UN and Human Rights organisations amidst allegations of violations including rape, executions and arson. Aung San Suu Kyi has been widely criticised for not getting control of the military and her general inaction. Some may argue that due to the complex government and the fact that the military retains control of the region she is powerless to stop it. 400,00 Rohingya, around 1/3 of the population have been displaced from the region. Many have fled to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Towards the end of the year, Aung San Suu Kyi met with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud and got a deal to return Rohingya refugees back to Rakhine. This was seen as a conscious effort to address her critics.
An Olympic First
With two years to go before the Summer Olympics are held in Tokyo The International Olympic Committee (IOC) concluded their search for the next host. Initially there were 5 cities bidding for the 2024 games. Hamburg, Rome and Budapest withdrew leaving Paris and Los Angeles. Following bad press after the Rio 2016 games the IOC were concerned that fewer cities would seek to host the games. The IOC were impressed with both Paris and LA’s bids and were reluctant to pick one out of the two. It was proposed that at the IOC Session the committee would vote for the host of the 2024 and the 2028 games together. Both Paris and LA were hoping for the 2024 Games, Paris had time constraints on the use of proposed sites for the events. LA argued they were riding a wave of public support and were confident and ready to host the games. At the IOC Session Paris won the 2024 Games and LA the 2028. The IOC also announced funding of $1.7bn for Paris and $2bn for LA. LA will also receive $180m to cover organising committee costs for an extra 4 years. This allows future host cities a period of eight years to put together bids. Brisbane, Australia and Germany have announced early intentions to bid for the 2032 Games.