Last Week Today: current events and commentary with Sofia


(Top left) Photo courtesy of: Studio Incendo/flickr, (Top right) Photo courtesy of: Medill DC/Wikimedia Commons, (Bottom) Photo courtesy of: Jamie Smed/flickr

"A lot of things happened this summer," Sofia Tollefson, '21 said. Some of these events include protests in Hong Kong, the Mueller Hearing, and the United States women's national soccer team winning the World Cup.

Sofia Tollefson, Staff Writer

A lot of things happened this summer. A LOT. It can be hard to keep up with everything happening in the news and the world, especially during the summer when all you want to do is relax. So for your convenience, reader, I’ve tried to summarize everything that happened this summer. Here’s what you missed: 

The Mueller Hearing: After Robert Mueller submitted the Mueller Report (it was released to the public on April 18th), Congress pushed for a hearing, despite Mueller not wanting to testify. Mueller then spent seven hours referring members of Congress to his report. The only slightly big moments were when Mueller said his report did not exonerate the president (his report stated that) and that, theoretically, the president could be charged with a crime after he left office.

The China-US Trade War: In July, the trade war started when the U.S. imposed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. China immediately retaliated with the same tariffs, and the two countries have been neck and neck in raising tariffs every since. In May, the U.S. raised to $200 billion and plans to raise an existing 25% tariff to 30% in October. If these waves of tariffs continue, all Chinese goods will be under tariffs. Both the U.S. and China have been hurt by the trade war (despite Trump claiming otherwise) and this conflict has propelled Trump’s drop in approval.

The Hong Kong Protests: Protests started in Hong Kong on March 31 after an extradition bill was announced by the Chinese government.  The proposed bill would place Hong Kong under mainland China’s jurisdiction, meaning people can be taken back to the mainland and tried for a crime there instead of in Hong Kong. While that may not seem like a big deal, China is known for throwing almost anyone tried into prison. Recently, Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong, withdrew the bill, but protesters continue to call for investigations of police brutality and the release of those arrested.

 Jeffrey Epstein: Jeffrey Epstein was arrested this July for sex trafficking and conspiring to commit sex trafficking; Epstein plead not guilty to both charges. He was denied bail, and on August 10 was found dead in his jail cell. It was reportedly a suicide. This closed the criminal case but many alleged victims have started to sue his estate.

Julian Assange: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested on April 11 in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, after staying there for almost seven years. British police were able to enter the embassy after Ecuador withdrew his asylum due to his bad behavior and poor hygiene. According to friend and former colleague Jérémie Zimmermann, “unless the people around him force him into the shower, he might not change his clothes for days.” Assange has been charged with an 18-count superseding indictment that alleges Assange was complicit with Chelsea Manning (a former intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army) in obtaining and releasing classified documents illegally.

Brexit: In 2016, the population of the United Kingdom voted (through a referendum) to leave the European Union. Turnout was very high for the referendum – 72 percent. However immediately after the vote the British took to the streets to protest the British Exit (otherwise known as Brexit). Brexit was supposed to happen on March 29, 2019 but has been delayed twice – the current date is October 31. A deal was reached in 2018 but was denied by members of parliament three times. There have been numerous complications in agreeing on a deal, from a backstop for the Irish border to rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa, the UK and EU are not seeing eye to eye. At the time of the Brexit referendum, Theresa May was prime minister, however recently Boris Johnson took over office and has struggled to come up with a deal. Johnson had said he would be fine with a ‘no-deal Brexit’ (leaving the EU without a deal) but that was officially voted down a few days ago. Johnson recently lost his party’s majority in Parliament which might trigger a general election for a new prime minister, but who knows, certainly not Boris Johnson. As of right now the future of Brexit and the UK is uncertain. 

Iran Nuclear Deal: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known more commonly as the Iran Nuclear Deal, was formed in 2015 and implemented in 2016. Under this deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and reduce its number of gas centrifuges. (Probably a good thing since less uranium = fewer nuclear weapons). However in May of 2018 the US officially withdrew from the deal. As the deal continues to collapse and the remaining countries try to salvage it, Iran has already increased uranium enrichment and the size of their stockpile. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tried to mediate between the U.S. and Iran but so far has been relatively unsuccessful.  

U.S. Women’s Team Wins World Cup: The U.S. women’s soccer team won all seven games at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, including the final match where they beat the Netherlands 2-0. Rose Lavelle, a native of Cincinnati and graduate of Mount Notre Dame High School, scored the second goal. She is the second youngest American to score in a final. Yay Rose!

The First Democratic Debate: The first democratic debate took place on June 26 and 27, with exactly 20 candidates (10 debating each night). Three candidates, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, spoke Spanish on the first night. While only Pete Buttigieg spoke Spanish the second night. Kamala Harris stood out for attacking Joe Biden the second night on his opposition to busing. According to a poll by Project FiveThirtyEight, Joe Biden dropped by 4.8 percent after the first debate while Elizabeth Warren rose by 5 percent.  

The Second Democratic Debate:  The second democratic debate was hosted by ABC News on July 30 and 31. The same 20 candidates debated, 10 each night. Joe Biden dropped another 2.7 percent during the second democratic debate after being attacked by Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Bill de Blasio, and Kirsten Gillibrand* on various topics. Harris rose by 10.2 percent while Bernie Sanders rose by only 1 percent. According to TIME, Booker had one of his best campaign performances, while Gillibrand struggled slightly on her signature issue – female empowerment. On Wednesday, August 28, Kirsten Gillibrand resigned from the 2020 presidential race.  

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