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(Image: Archi Banal)
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SocietyJanuary 17, 2024

Eight international stories you might have missed during your summer slumber

(Image: Archi Banal)
(Image: Archi Banal)

If you tuned out of the news cycle for a spot of summer relief in recent weeks, here’s a rundown of the global news that made headlines.

The Gaza conflict reached its 100th day

A bleak milestone in the Gaza conflict was reached earlier in the week. It’s now been 100 days since Hamas attacked Israel. That attack, in October last year, led to the deaths of at least 1,200 people along the Israeli border and triggered the ongoing war that has claimed thousands more lives.

According to the BBC, more than 23,000 people have now been killed, “many of them women and children”, while thousands of others remain unaccounted for and potentially buried beneath the rubble.

Israeli firefighters douse a blaze outside a building following a rocket attack in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon (Photo: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

2023 was confirmed as the world’s hottest on record

Here in New Zealand, the start of last year was wet, damp and just a bit yucky. But it certainly wasn’t cold, and nor was it around the globe. New research from the United States has confirmed that last year was in fact the world’s hottest since records began in 1850. “After seeing the 2023 climate analysis, I have to pause and say that the findings are astounding,” said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s chief scientist Sarah Kapnick. “Not only was 2023 the warmest year in NOAA’s 174-year climate record – it was the warmest by far. A warming planet means we need to be prepared for the impacts of climate change that are happening here and now, like extreme weather events that become both more frequent and severe.” 

According to the data, Earth’s average land and ocean surface temperature in 2023 was 1.18°C above the 20th century average, and 0.15°C warmer than the previous record year, 2016.

People remembered the UK Post Office scandal

Not actually an event that occurred over the summer break, but one that was brought firmly back into the eyes of the British public thanks to an acclaimed ITV drama. In short, the scandal saw hundreds of UK Post Office workers prosecuted after faulty software made it look like money was missing from their branches. Some people even went to prison for false accounting and theft. The scandal dates back to 1999, with 700 prosecutions taking place between then and 2015. 

In 2009, a group of workers falsely implicated formed a group advocating for justice. In 2019, a court case determined that the prosecutions and convictions linked to the Post Office scandal were a miscarriage of justice. Two years later, in 2021, a public inquiry began.

But why is this being talked about now? Because in the first week of January, ITV’s Mr Bates vs the Post Office became a major success with critics and audiences, revitalising interest in the scandal. Hopefully we’ll be able to watch the miniseries, which stars Toby Jones in the title role (as Mr Bates, not the Post Office), here soon.

Awards season kicked off with the Golden Globes

The first big event of film and television awards season was the Golden Globes, which appears to have returned to full star power after a brief controversy that resulted in a one-year cancellation in 2022 and smaller event in 2023. The big winners at the Globes this year were Oppenheimer and The Holdovers on the film front, while Succession, The Bear and Beef dominated the telly categories. All look set to remain the frontrunners across the remaining awards ceremonies (this week’s Emmy Awards and Critics Choice Awards were pretty in line with the Globes). 

Even if you couldn’t care less about the winners, you probably heard about the opening monologue. Comedian Jo Koy faced backlash for a, well, really bad monologue that drew a very negative reception from those in the room and watching at home.

Logan Roy (Brian Cox) in Succession. (Photo: Supplied)

The Jeffrey Epstein documents were unsealed

A series of documents linked to accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein – and totalling more than 4,500 pages – were made public over the summer break. They mention more than 150 names connected to Epstein, though not because they were also involved directly in any criminal misconduct. Among those named in the final batch of documents were former US presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump (the former of whom it’s been claimed had dinner with alleged Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre) and Prince Andrew. It’s alleged that Epstein paid Giuffre $15,000 to have sex with Prince Andrew, who has repeatedly denied the claims.

Taiwan held its election

Lai Ching-te of Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential election, after term limits prevented incumbent Tsai Ing-wen from running again. Given China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, the election provoked a response from the super power. It had previously urged people not to vote for Lai, the former vice president, saying the party he led did not represent public opinion in Taiwan. However, China said that his victory would not “impede the inevitable trend of China’s reunification”. 

A foreign ministry spokesperson said that regardless of the election result, “the basic fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China will not change.”

A step closer to the presidency for Trump

Concluding yesterday, Donald Trump easily won the Republican Iowa caucuses, which is often dubbed the first major test for a presidential contender. That being said, it isn’t always an indicator of who will become the Republican nominee for president (for example, in 2016, Trump did not win but ultimately became president).

But while Trump may have been victorious here, the road back to the Oval Office remains paved with court cases and the possibility of being disqualified from running for the presidency at all. This week, Trump will again face proceedings linked to a historical sexual assault, this time to address potential defamatory remarks made against the complainant. And last week, as the Washington Post reported, Trump entered two courtrooms in relation to his claims that, as former president, he should be immune from prosecution. 

Donald Trump appears in the Manhattan Criminal Court in 2023 (Photo: SETH WENIG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

North Korea tested another missile

North Korea has been testing unidentified missiles for some time now, a trend that continued over the festive period – a time when missiles are probably not needed. On December 18, reports said North Korea had fired its “most powerful long-range missile” after a meeting between South Korean and United States defence officials. “South Korea, Japan and the US were quick to condemn the missile test on Monday, noting it breached UN Security Council resolutions and would make the Korean peninsula less secure,” said the BBC.

And just this week it’s been reported that North Korea has tested what could be “one of the world’s fastest and most accurate” missiles, one that could “ultimately be fitted with a nuclear warhead”. 

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