The Week in Brief: 24–30 December 2017

31 December 2017

The Week in Brief: 24–30 December 2017

Image credit: Brigette Tohm (Pexels) – CC0

Australians to spend $18 billion between Boxing Day and January 15

Australians are expected to have spent a record-breaking $2.36 billion on Boxing Day this year, according to both the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and the National Retailers Association (NRA).

Retail revenue in NSW alone is tipped to have reached over $770 million, Victoria following closely in second place with around $740 million.

“Judging by the increase in foot traffic and shoppers lining outside bricks-and-mortar stores, I think we may have hit the mark,” said ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman.

“Every year Boxing Day crowds seem to grow, however, with the growth of online retail the ARA believe many Australians got their bargains online this year, with consumers choosing to click through websites to take advantage of the best sales of the year.

“With online shopping accounting for more than 7% of total retail sales and looking to account for 15% in the next five years, we believe physical retailers will not be the only retailers to receive an increase in post-Christmas sales.”

The ARA and Roy Morgan Research are expecting Australians to spend approximately $17.9 billion between Boxing Day and January 15.

US to cut $285 million from UN budget

The United Nations’ budget will lose approximately $285 million (USD) in a 5% cut the United States government says it negotiated.

The US is the largest contributor to UN’s budget, paying nearly 25% of the regular operating budget.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, criticised the international body over “inefficiency and overspending” and said Washington would not let “the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of.”

The move comes after 120 countries in favour of a UN resolution which calls on the US to reverse its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.

Prior to the vote, US President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to countries who supported the resolution.

US Ambassador to UN pranked

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has apparently been pranked by Russian comedic duo Vovan and Lexus.

Speaking to a man she believes to be the new Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, the Ambassador claims to be aware of a Southeast Asian country near Vietnam called Binomo.

Below is an extract from the conversation.

Fake Polish Prime Minister: You know Binomo?

Ambassador Haley: Yes, yes.

Fake PM: They declared independence.

Haley: Right.

Fake PM: They had elections and we suppose Russians had its intervention.

Haley: Yes, of course they did, absolutely.

Fake PM: And now this Binomo land makes the situation in the South China Sea even more tense.

Haley: And we’re aware of that and we’ve been watching it very closely and I think we’ll continue to watch that as we deal with the issues that keep coming up about the South China Sea.

Fake PM: Yes, that’s correct. What should be done because of this Binomo?

Haley: Let me find out exactly what our stance is on that, and what if anything the US is doing or thinks should be done and I will report back to you on that as well.

Venezuela prepares to issue cryptocurrency

Venezuela intends to launch its own cryptocurrency, the Petro, which will be backed by five billion barrels of Venezuelan oil reserves, as well as gas, gold and diamond reserves.

The backing of the currency by hard assets differentiates it from other cryptocurrencies.

The Government hopes that this will offset a collapse in Venezuela’s existing currency, the bolivar fuerte, and encourage greater overseas investment.

Australian bill of rights debate re-ignited by marriage equality

The review of religious freedoms to be conducted by Phillip Ruddock will be used by the Greens to push for an Australian bill of rights.

The review comes after Australia legislated for marriage equality earlier this month, raising concerns among some politicians about protections for religious freedoms.

Australia’s constitution is notably sparse compared to other modern liberal democracies when it comes to protecting rights.

The Greens and Labor may cooperate to have the matter referred to a Senate inquiry, which would consider the merits of constitutional reform.

The five-member panel conducting the review into religious freedoms is expected to report its findings in March.

Queen Elizabeth II’s honours list released

The list is released biannually, and includes names of those being knighted, made dames, and given awards such as the CBE, MBE, and OBE.

Included on the most recent list were Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr, Bee Gees’ singer Barry Gibb, and author Michael Morpurgo, who have each been knighted; ballet dancer and Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell has been made a dame.

Actor Hugh Laurie, author Jilly Cooper, and former editor of British Vogue magazine Alexandra Shulman have been given the CBE medal; England women’s cricket captain Heather Knight has been made an OBE; and both hip-hop artist Richard Cowie (aka Wiley) and Paralympic athlete Stefanie Reid have been made MBEs.

POW exchange in Ukraine

On Tuesday, Ukraine and the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) conducted the largest prisoner exchange since the civil war started in 2014.

Under the terms of the exchange, Kiev was meant to release 306 POWs and recieve 74 in return, however the exact number is uncertain.

Ukraine’s representative to ongoing peace talks, Viktor Medvedchuk, told Russian News Agency TASS that some prisoners held by Ukraine chose not to return to the rebel-held areas.

While both sides of the conflict continue to hold prisoners, Mr Medvedchuk said he believes an “everyone for everyone” exchange will occur in 2018.

“I think all these provisions should necessarily be fulfilled and all of them [prisoners] should return home. There will be stage two of the exchange and then the principle suggesting ‘everyone for everyone’ will be implemented.”

DPR representative Darya Morozova said a total of 73 prisoners were returned to Ukraine, with one opting to stay.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron issued a joint statement which praised the exchange, and called on both sides to release any remaining POWs.

The exchange comes before the new year and Orthodox Christmas, and could signal progress in implementing the Minsk Agreements brokered by Germany, Ukraine, France and Russia.

$415 million illegal drugs seized in Arabian Sea

In a joint Australian-Canadian operation, over $400 million worth of illegal drugs has been seized by the Royal Australian Navy, consisting of heroin and hashish.

The drugs were moved on to the HMAS Warramunga, and are planned to be disposed of at sea at a later time.

The Royal Australian Navy has said that it is the greatest amount of hashish that has been seized by an Australian ship while on Middle East maritime security operations.

Bombings in Kabul claim 41 lives

41 people have been killed and 80 injured in a suicide bombing at a Shia cultural centre in Kabul.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attach, which occurred at a lecture marking the 28th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Three explosions occurred — the first initiated by a suicide bomber at the back of the packed lecture theatre, and the remaining two outside the building as attendees attempted to extinguish the fire from the first bomb.

This is the seventh suicide bombing in Kabul since 20 October, with the total death count reaching 130 people.

“Swatting” incident leads to police shooting

A Kansas man has been shot dead by police who responded at his home after a “swatting incident” over a Call of Duty game.

Andrew Finch, 28, was shot when answering the door to his home. Police had responded after receiving a 911 call claiming that a shooting, hostage situation and arson attack had occurred at Mr Finch’s address.

An officer, concerned that Mr Finch was reaching for a weapon, fired a single shot. Mr Finch was unarmed, and died in hospital shortly after.

The incident is understood to be a “swatting” incident (a prank where a perpetrator summons police to a victim’s house) which originated over an online argument over a wager of a few dollars in a Call of Duty game.

12 people dead after New York City fire

12 people have died and four left critically injured after a fire ripped through an apartment complex in the Bronx, New York City.

The fire broke out at 2363 Prospect Avenue, a five storey building in the neighbourhood of Belmont, after a 3 year old boy played with the stove in his unit.

It is the deadliest fire that has occurred in New York City in 27 years.

Daniel Nigro, the Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, has reminded New Yorkers that open doors help flames spread, and to “close the door, close the door, close the door”.

Dear reader,

2017 has been a rollercoaster of a year. The world has witnessed true tragedy, but it has also seen some incredible wonders.

We have enjoyed bringing you news and views on the events of this past year and look forward to doing so in 2018.

So, on a final note for 2017, we would like to thank you for your support and wish you and your loved ones a very happy new year.

Kind regards,

Olbrycht-Palmer Media Group.