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Common Weal Around the World

Nicola Biggerstaff

While we continue to bring you updates on current affairs in the Scottish political sphere, here at Common Weal we also believe it’s also important to keep tabs on events from around the world, in order to maintain a grounded perspective of our socio-political climate.

In Ukraine

Last week, the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine burst, causing unprecedented damage to the surrounding areas. The scale of the ecological and humanitarian impact has already been compared to Chernobyl, with the number of deaths and the scale of destruction unable to be measured due to the ongoing conflict.

This has been particularly devastating due to the dam’s purpose as a cooling agent for the reactors at the long-contested Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which has been under Russian occupation since the early stages of the conflict. It has once again brought the safety of the plant into the spotlight, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continuing to monitor the situation amid discrepancies in water measurements.

Ukrainian authorities, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself, claim this was a result of an intentional, pre-emptive strike by Russian forces in anticipation of the Ukrainian forces well-publicised summer offensive, in which Ukrainian authorities claim they have already taken back several towns and villages in the contested eastern regions, but these claims are disputed by Russia.

In Italy

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi died at the age of 86 on Monday.

The controversial figure held office at various times between 1994 and 2011, and had been suffering from declining health since contracting Covid-19 in 2020. He had been receiving treatment in hospital for a lung condition related to a rare form of leukaemia since April of this year.

His scandal-laden tenures, including being charged with varying criminal offences yet avoiding incarceration due to his age at the discovery of his crimes, have left their mark on European relations and western politics.

His influence on far-right Italian politics has undoubtedly been key to their ongoing popularity in government, with his successor and current Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni saying in a video message that he remained ‘one of the most influential men in the history of Italy’

His latest string of controversies included his continuing show of support for old ally Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine.

In the United States and Canada

The legal consequences of his actions are continuing to bite for former US President Donald Trump, who has been federally indicted on 37 charges relating to the storage of confidential documents in his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. He appeared in court in Miami on Tuesday for arraignment, where he entered a not guilty plea and was subsequently released on his own recognizance.

This comes just a couple of months after being indicted by the State of New York on fraud charges relating to hush money paid to an adult film star during his 2016 election campaign, and having also recently been found liable in a civil suit brought forward by E. Jean Carroll.

Many of his other legal battles are still ongoing, including the federal charges relating to the January 6th attempted insurrection, which are still sitting with the Department of Justice following their referral from the commission, and in Georgia relating to his camp’s alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state

Meanwhile, the east of the country is continuing to feel the effects of the devastating wildfires in Canada, with the smoke affecting air quality across the states and major cities. In particular, the north-eastern states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York have been impacted by the effects of the toxic fumes. In New York City, where measurements on Sunday were declared to be ‘dangerous for vulnerable groups’, many residents are still being advised to stay indoors to avoid the harmful effects of fine particle pollution, and to continue to wear N95 face masks to filter these particles when they do travel.

Over 400 wildfires continue to devastate the forestry across Canada, with over 40,000 square kilometres burned and over 100,000 residents displaced.

Originating in the western provinces last month, they have continued to spread as far east as Quebec and Nova Scotia, with over 200 fires still deemed as ‘out of control’, according to authorities.

Experts have warned to expect this scale of devastation to become the new normal, the fires and their effects serving as a stark reminder to us all of the impact that climate change will continue to have on our daily lives if we do not act now.

In India

Authorities are still working to determine the cause of this month’s devastating train collision in Balasore, in the country’s eastern Odisha province, which killed over 280 people and injured at least 1,000 others. The death toll continues to rise as at least 300 remain in critical condition.

Having previously thought to have been caused by a signalling automation issue, causing one of the trains to switch tracks, a criminal negligence case has since been opened, citing the potential culpability of unnamed rail employees. Reuters reports that the signal may have been switched manually.

In Colombia

Four children have been found unharmed after surviving 40 days in the jungle following a devastating plane crash.

The accident on the 1st of May, which claimed the lives of three people, including their mother and the pilot of the Cessna aircraft, left the four siblings, aged thirteen, nine, four, and one, to fend for themselves in the jungle, surrounded by dangerous animals and poisonous vegetation.

The children, of the Huitoto Indigenous community, were found by rescuers following an operation involving hundreds of volunteers, search dogs and helicopters. They all remain in hospital as they receive treatment for malnutrition and insect bites, and where they have also been reunited with their surviving family.

1 thought on “Common Weal Around the World”

  1. Interesting that you chose to present the Ukrainian claims with regard to the dam followed by a brief ‘but these claims are disputed by Russia’, when you could have equally chosen to present the Russian claims and then ended with a “but these claims are disputed by Ukraine.” To me this indicates that you are reflecting the story the way the mainstream Western, media has chosen to present it.
    For the record, the flooding impacted on the Russia held side of the river more strongly than on the Ukrainian held side, reduced water levels to the point that Ukrainian forces may find it much easier to cross than had the dam still been intact, and could interrupt water supplies to Crimea. This does not prove that Russia was not responsible, but it does illustrate that the issue is not necessarily clear cut.

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