The Week in Brief: 10–16 December 2017

17 December 2017

The Week in Brief: 10–16 December 2017

Image credit: Kaboompics (Pixabay) — CC0 public domain dedication.

Anti-nuclear weapons group wins Nobel Peace Prize for 2017

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a group founded in Australia, was last Sunday awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017, “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons“.

Beatrice Fihn, the group’s executive director, took the opportunity to call on national powers that still produced nuclear weapons to adopt a United Nations treaty banning atomic weapons.

Setsuko Hurlow, an 85-year-old survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and now campaigner for the group, also spoke, recalling her memories of the horrific experience.

CBA admit to breaking anti-money laundering, terror financing laws

The Commonwealth Bank has admitted to breaking anti-money laundering legislation thousands of times, after being hit with a number of allegations by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

The company may find itself hit with fines in the realm of billions of dollars.

The allegations particularly concern the potential use of CBA’s “intelligent deposit machines” being used by criminals and possible terrorists to launder $42 million.

German electronica artist’s performances in Iran could signal a new era

German electronica artist Schiller (Christopher von Deylen) was the first western artist to perform in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, nearly 40 years ago.

Popular among electronica listeners in Iran, Schiller performed five concerts in the capital city of Tehran this week.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s moderate approach to Islam in politics, society and culture is suggested to be the root of this slight opening up, and may be a precursor for improved relationships between Iran and the West.

British surgeon autographs patients’ livers

In an unusual case, renowned British surgeon Simon Bramhall plead guilty to two counts of assault by beating in the Birmingham Crown Court this week, after marking his initials on the livers of two transplant patients.

Bramhall, 53, used an argon beam to initial the organs, which were discovered during follow-up surgery on one of the patients.

The marks are not thought to be permanent, nor to affect the function of the liver.

This appears to be the first case of its kind in legal history.

Royal Commission on child sexual abuse delivers final report

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its final report on Friday 15 December 2017.

Among its 189 recommendations, the Royal Commission has recommended that priests who become aware of child sexual abuse through the confessional be obliged to report it.

This has already caused controversy among the Catholic Church, with the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart indicating he would personally defy the law if necessary.

The Commission also recommended that new criminal offences be introduced for failing to protect children from abuse, and failing to report abuse in an institution; that celibacy should be voluntary; and that religious ministers convicted of a child sexual offence be permanently removed from the ministry.

NSW Labor Senator Sam Dastyari resigns amid China allegations

Embattled Labor Senator Sam Dastyari announced his resignation on Tuesday morning after fresh allegations of his links to China.

Mr Dastyari told reporters: “I’ve been guided by my Labor values, which tell me that I should leave if my ongoing presence detracts from the pursuit of Labor’s mission. It is evident to me we are at that point, so I will spare the party any further distraction.”

Last year, he stepped down from the Labour frontbench after it was found a company owned by Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo paid a legal bill for his office.

This year, Fairfax reported that during a secret meeting with Mr Huang Xiangmo, Mr Dastyari told the billionaire his phone was probably being monitored by US intelligence agencies.

Reports have emerged the Senator made comments at a Chinese media conference regarding China’s controversial claim on the South China Sea that were contrary to the ALP’s position.

In late November, Labor leader Bill shorten fired Dastyari from his position as deputy Senate whip. Just last week, the Government called on the powerful priviliges committee to review his conduct.

Most recently, Mr Dastyari is facing allegations that he pressured deputy leader of the opposition Tanya Plibersek not to meet a Chinese political activist in Hong Kong.

Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria

During a visit to a Russian military base in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the partial withdrawal of forces from the war-torn country.

Accompanied by defense minister Sergey Shoigu, President Putin announced the Russian and Syrian militaries had completed their goal of destroying ISIS.

Address Russian servicemen on the base, Mr Putin said: “The task of fighting armed bandits here in Syria, a task that it was essential to solve with the help of extensive use of armed force, has for the most part, been solved and solved spectacularly. I congratulate you. You have shown the best qualities of a Russian soldier.”

In a televised speech, the President said: “Friends, the motherland is waiting for you. If the terrorists again raise their heads, we will deal such blows to them they have never seen.”

Attempted NYC terror attack

US authorities are investigating after a would-be suicide bomber detonated a homemade bomb in an underground walkway connecting subway lines near Times Square.

Four people were injured and taken to hospital including the suspect, 27-year-old Akayed Ullah.

Ullah sustained burns and lacerations to his hands and abdomen. The other three people are being treated for minor injuries.

While police believe Ullah detonated the bomb himself, they cannot confirm whether the walkway was his target or if he intended to detonate the bomb elsewhere.

No terrorist groups immediately claimed responsibility, suggesting this was yet another lone-wolf terror attack.

Trump announces moon mission

US President Donald Trump announced his plans to send astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972.

After signing Space Policy Directive 1 during a brief ceremony at the White House on Monday, Mr Trump said: “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use.

“This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints. We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”

The directive calls for collaboration with the private sector and other countries but does not specify when the mission will occur or how much it will cost.

The move comes after India announced it would conduct a moon mission in March 2018.