The Week in Brief: 31 December 2017 to 6 January 2018

7 January 2018

The Week in Brief: 31 December 2017 to 6 January 2018

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Heat wave strikes across Australia

Total fire bans are in place across Sydney as temperatures are expected to soar today.

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting many areas in Sydney will reach over 40°C  today, with Penrith and Richmond expected to hit 45°C .

Victorians saw temperatures reach up to 40°C on Saturday, with the CFA issuing a state-wide fireban, 3,000 homes losing power, and a bushfire damaging homes at Carrum Downs in Melbourne’s south east.

150 firefighters in South Australia have tackled a bushfire that burnt through 12,000 hectares in South Australia’s east near Sherwood, with the CFS at its highest state of alert and fire bans across the state.

African-Australian leaders respond to gang crime amidst federal criticism

African-Australian community leaders have called on young people to stand against rogue crime elements, and hit back against comments made by federal ministers on African gang crime in Victoria.

The comments began when Environment Minister Greg Hunt said African gang crime was “out of control“.

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reinforced Mr Hunt’s comment by suggesting the “lawlessness” was a “failure of the Andrews Labor Government”, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton followed suit by saying Melburnians are “scared to go out at restaurants of a night time”.

Richard Deng, a Sudanese community leader, said that the Prime Minister should be more supportive of the Victorian government’s efforts, while Zione Walker-Nthenda, a spokeswoman for the African Australian Communities Leadership Forum, said that the complex factors between youth crime in African-Australian communities “needed to be addressed as such”.

Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency shows there is an overrepresentation of Sudanese-born and Kenyan-born offenders in some crime categories and a spike in Sudanese-born offenders committing armed robberies.

However, Victorians are 25 times more likely to be seriously assaulted by Australian-born and New Zealand-born offenders.

“Fire and Fury” over new Trump book

The release of a new book on the workings of the Trump administration has caused chaos in Washington, with President Trump lashing out against former adviser Steve Bannon.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff contains inflammatory comments attributed to Steve Bannon, including that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

President Trump distanced himself from Mr Bannon in a written statement, saying he had “very little to do with our historic victory” and that he had “lost his mind”.

Trump lawyers sought and failed to stop the publication of the book, with publishers moving the publication date to last Friday instead of Tuesday next week.

North Korea accepts South Korea’s offer of talks

North Korea has accepted South Korea’s offer of high level talks, marking the first direct dialogue betweent the two countries in over two years.

The talks will be held on January 9 at the border village of Panmunjom and will are set to cover the North’s inclusion in the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea as well as the improvement of inter-Korean relations.

While it is largely considered a sign of de-escalation in the region, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters at the UN that the talks will not be taken seriously “if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea”.

Ambassador Haley said: “We consider this to be a very reckless regime. We don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture. We think that we need to have them stop nuclear weapons, and they need to stop it now. So North Korea can talk with anyone they want but the US is not going to recognise it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have.”

The development was made possible when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his new year address that it was vital to lower military tensions in the region and improve ties with the South.

Trump dossier author referred to Justice Department

US Senators have referred the author of the Trump dossier to the Justice Department, alleging he lied to federal authorities about contacts with reporters.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsay Graham have alleged that the author, the former British spy Christopher Steele, violated 18 U.S.C. § 1001 –prohibiting false statements to federal authorities – through statements to the Judiciary Committee about the content of the dossier, and urged the Justice Department to investigate.

F.B.I renews Clinton Foundation investigation

The F.B.I has resumed interviews with people connected to the Clinton Foundation, amid calls from the White House and Republicans to review previous accusations of corruption made against the foundation.

The interviews hope to ascertain whether any donations were made to the Clinton Foundation in exchange for political favours between 2009 and 2013, when Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State.

Prosecutors had dropped the investigation in 2016 for lack of evidence.