By Atiya Chowdhury and Chloé Meley
Trigger warning: this article will include details about sexual assault that some readers might find upsetting.
What do we know about the virus in China and will it affect the UK?
On the 31st of December, China announced the outbreak of a virus in the city of Wuhan, home to almost 12 million people. This week, China has quarantined the city, grounding planes and shutting down transport to and from Wuhan. Residents are encouraged to stay home, and are also obligated to wear masks when entering public places. Other travel restrictions, varying in severity, have affected 10 other cities in Hubei province. Dubbed coronavirus, the disease is spreading, with a death toll of 56 at the time of writing. Suspected to have originated from contact with infected animals at a food market, the disease seems to be particularly dangerous to people with pre-existing health conditions. The outbreak comes at an unfortunate time, with the Lunar New Year occuring on the 25th of January, a time when millions of people travel across the country to see their families. Public celebrations of the holiday have been cancelled in China and Hong Kong.
Despite attempts to confine the disease to Hubei province through a strict lockdown, cases have been recorded in nearby provinces as well, and the virus has also spread internationally to countries such as Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and the US with between one and four cases reported. It is highly likely that the coronavirus has also reached the UK, according to Public Health England (PHE). So far, of the nine people that have been tested for the virus, five people got the all-clear and four are still awaiting results. Every single person affected or suspected to have been affected had travelled to Wuhan in the last 14 days.
How is Trump’s impeachment trial going?
Boringly, is the short answer. The impeachment trial, which started last week, has seen senators fall asleep, play crossword puzzles, fiddle with fidget spinners, and even fabricate a paper plane. Some have also left their seats on numerous occasions, despite clear rules to remain seated. All electronics, usually allowed in the chamber, have been banned for this trial, leaving many senators agitated and fighting boredom in ingenious ways. Despite strict rules about eating and talking while the trial is in session, senators have also been spotted chewing gum and whispering to each other. Criticised for acting like schoolchildren, senators do not seem to care much for what is unfolding before them, because they are well aware of what the denouement will be. After all, despite it being a historic moment, the trial has a very predictable ending: Trump will not be convicted and removed from office, and senators on both sides of the aisle know that nothing will change that.
How is Harvey Weinstein’s trial going?
There is another high-profile trial currently happening in the US, that of Harvey Weinstein. Started on the 22nd of January and expected to conclude in March, People of the State of New York v. Harvey Weinstein will decide whether Weinstein has sexually assaulted Mimi Haleyi, a former Weinstein Company employee, and raped another woman, Jessica Mann, in a hotel room. Because of statutes of limitations on many allegations against the disgraced producer, and because it must be proven that Weinstein has committed sexual offences against at least two people to be considered a sexual predator, he will only be tried on those two cases. However, a few women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct will testify at the trial, testimonies that will be used by prosecutors to build up an argument about Weinstein’s long-standing predatory behaviour.
On the 23rd of January, one such witness testified, The Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra. Fighting back tears, she said that the producer forced himself into her apartment and brutally raped her 25 years ago. She also alleged that he issued a thinly veiled threat a few weeks later when she confronted him, telling her: “This remains between you and I.” In the aftermath of the attack, Ms Sciorra was traumatised, resorting to drinking and self-harm to cope with what had happened to her. Accused of sexual assault by over 80 women — allegations which have helped spur the #MeToo movement — Weinstein could face life in prison if convicted. So far, he has denied all charges.
What has been the consequences following the death of the Iranian military commander by the hands of the US army?
Following the assassination of the Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani, by the US army, the world has been waiting in trepidation at the threats of another world war. While there is no sign of a war emerging at this moment, numerous incidents following Soleimani’s death indicate that perhaps Trump’s decision has only resulted in further strain between the two nations.
On January 3rd the military commander of the Iraqi army, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in his car while leaving the Baghdad airport in Iraq. This attack was the result of the ongoing tumultuous relationship between the US and Iran and Soleimani’s responsibility in the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers. On January 8th, not so long after Soleimani’s death, a retaliatory attack on a Ukrainian airplane led to the deaths of all 176 passengers. Half of these passengers were Iranian and, after days of denying their involvement, the Iranian government eventually admitted their mistake in shooting the aircraft down.
Numerous civilians around the world began to think that the death of Soleimani would only cause more violence and protested against the threat of war. On January 4th, hundreds of protestors took to Times Square in New York in an anti-war march. Many wanted the US troops to retreat from Iran before any more attacks could occur. Others simply wanted a peace treaty between the US, Iran and Iraq to end ‘US imperialism’.
However, not all of the protests have been favourable towards the idea of a mutual agreement between the US and countries in the region, with a number of Iraqi and Iranian civilians positioning themselves against the presence of US troops. Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr notably called his supporters to rally against the American troops and the death of the Iranian commander added more fuel to the existing fire.
A few days after the assassination, an Iranian airstrike hit a US military base in Iraq. President Trump had told the media and American civilians that no Americans were injured in this attack. However, the Pentagon has revealed that 34 US troops had sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and several concussions. This has caused the Trump administration to be criticised for lying and being vague about the extent of the casualties. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a non-profit organisation, have scrutinised the Trump administration’s lack of transparency.