Written by: Emma Shuen Lee (21-O1), Katelyn Joshy (21-U1), He Jizhao (21-U5), Zuo Yuning (21-A1), Zexel (21-E2), Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)
Designed by: Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)
Here’s August’s edition of bite size current affairs, a monthly summary of the happenings around the world! From USA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan to NUH’s smallest baby, we have all the news for you.
USA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan
Following through on his campaign promises, President Biden has been keen on removing the USA from conflicts overseas, including that in Afghanistan. Adopting the deal negotiated by his predecessors, Biden announced that the USA will complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by 11 September, just in time to commemorate 20 years after the 9/11 attacks.
This move comes after many years of fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, one which cost trillions of dollars and had united both the left and right in their desire for American withdrawal. Thus, the withdrawal was highly needed, though Biden has been criticised by both political allies and rivals alike for the hastiness of it, which has left disastrous repercussions on locals and US citizens who are based in Afghanistan.
Several human rights organisations worry for the future of the situation, expecting a great exodus of refugees, especially given the Taliban’s human rights records. Women are especially at risk.
The world also witnessed the futility of US intervention in the Middle East —the Afghanistan government fell almost immediately after the US withdrawal. This sufficiently showed that US intervention was never about building long term foundations for democracy to flourish overseas, but simply short term solutions to temporarily benefit the superpower itself, giving it strategic gains in the territory.
UN Report Stern Warning for Humanity
Humans are altering the climate in unprecedented and irreversible ways, a UN scientific report asserts. The study warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a temperature cap being broken in just over ten years.The report “is a code red for humanity”, showing the severity of the situation.
The solemn assessment of our planet’s future has been delivered by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group whose findings are endorsed by governments worldwide. In strong, confident tones, the IPCC’s document says “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land”.
Nevertheless, scientists say we can be saved if the world acts fast. Hopefully, deep reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can stabilise rising temperatures. Similarly, UN Secretary General António Guterres said: “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success.”
It is clear that if we do not act fast, the only ones to suffer are ourselves.
Alibaba rape allegation and toxic work culture
Two former employees of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba were detained by the police after being accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague at a work event. While the Chinese tech industry and the general public may have been taken aback by the allegations, women have long suffered the constant objectification and sexual violence in the male-dominated sector. For instance, not long ago, Chinese tech companies invited popular Japanese porn stars to their events to boost publicity. Qihoo 360, a cybersecurity company, had a Japanese porn star dance with its programmers in 2014 while some of its female employees wore revealing outfits.
Worse, when women are brave enough to speak out about it they are immediately shot down and shunned by society. Three years ago, a student at the University of Minnesota accused Richard Liu, the founder of one of China’s biggest conglomerates, JD.com, of raping her after being forced to drink at a business meal. When Mr Liu denied the allegations and the police remained silent, the Chinese internet and tech industry supported him and denounced her as a gold digger.
However, the fact that the police took action to these public accusations has rekindled hope for China’s #MeToo movement, which seemed to have lost steam due to censorship and nationalist attacks from the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Flooding in Hubei province
Just as people breathed a sigh of relief after the “once in a millennium” rainfall in Zhengzhou, heavy downpours struck China’s Hubei province. In Hubei, torrential rains caused power cuts and landslides destroying hundreds of homes and forcing the evacuation of over 6000 people. It was reported by Xinhua that 21 people were killed and four others are missing as heavy rain lashed townships. Hundreds of firefighters, police and military have been dispatched to the worst affected areas.
What is more alarming is that as many as 774 reservoirs in Hubei had exceeded their flooding warning levels on the evening of 12 August. So far, the extreme weather in the province has already damaged more than 3600 houses and 8110ha of crops, with total losses estimated at 108 million yuan.
Even though China regularly experiences flooding during its wet summer months, the scales of and damages by recent torrential rains are unprecedented. China is now facing the daunting challenges of climate change after modernizing at a time when its leaders favoured economic growth over climate resilience. As such, many cities are ill-equipped to absorb water from heavy downpours.
Flash flood at Tampines and Pasir Ris
Water levels rose rapidly during a heavy rain shower in the early hours of Friday morning, August 20th, along the junction of Tampines Avenue 10 and Pasir Ris Drive 12. The pooling waters quickly swelled into a flash flood, stretching as far as the Tampines Expressway entrance by 7:58 A.M. When the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) arrived at the site, at least 13 vehicles were found stationary and partially submerged in the floodwaters, with 25 people having been evacuated prior. In a statement released by the SCDF, one person who complained of leg pains was taken to the Changi General Hospital. The SCDF also took five other people to nearby sheltered areas for safety. The flood finally subsided around 9:40 A.M.
The Public Utilities Board (PUB) is currently investigating the cause of flooding, with nearby construction work falling under suspicion. Several of those affected by the flood claimed the authorities said that a drain was blocked. It is believed that a roadside drain is of key interest in ongoing investigations.
NUH’s smallest baby
Kwek Yu Xuan was born on June 9 last year at the National University Hospital. She was born four months earlier than expected. Doctors expected her weight to be at least 400g. However, Kwek was only 212g at birth, which is about the weight of an apple. She spent 13 months at the hospital and was discharged on July 9. Yu Xuan is now a healthy 6.3kg baby. She is believed to be the world’s smallest baby to survive a premature baby.
Her birth came as a shock to both parents and the care team for the infant. Ms Zhang is a nurse clinician and became part of the care team said in her 22 years of being a nurse, she has not seen such a small newborn baby. Yu Xuan’s parents had planned to return to Malaysia for the birth so they could reunite with their four-year-old son, who is under the care of Mr Kwek’s parents.
The family has no intention to return to Malaysia as Yu Xuan requires follow-up care from the hospital. Yu Xuan’s discharge was a joyous occasion and the family are thankful for the nurses who took care of Yu Xuan.
- SUN, D., 2021. PUB investigating if construction works caused flood at Pasir Ris-Tampines junction. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/pub-investigating-if-construction-works-caused-flood-at-pasir-ris-tampines-junction> [Accessed 20 August 2021]
- CNA. 2021. SCDF evacuates 5 people after vehicles were stuck in flash floods at Pasir Ris; 1 person taken to hospital. [online] Available at: <https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/scdf-evacuates-5-people-after-vehicles-were-stuck-flash-floods-pasir-ris-1-person-taken-hospital-2124966> [Accessed 20 August 2021].
- LIEW, I., 2021. Pasir Ris flood: 1 person taken to hospital, 5 others rescued from vehicles by SCDF. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/heavy-rain-leads-to-flash-floods-and-traffic-snarls-in-parts-of-singapore> [Accessed 20 August 2021].
- Yuan, L. (2021, August 12). Alibaba rape Allegation Reveals China Tech’s seamy side. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/12/technology/china-alibaba-technology-sexual-assault.html.
- Shepherd, C. (2021, August 21). High-profile rape Allegations Revive CHINA’S #MeToo movement. Subscribe to read | Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/414d7956-5341-4d6d-8c02-95daaadfc002.
- Former Alibaba employee detained in China over sexual assault allegations. South China Morning Post. (2021, August 15). https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3145075/former-alibaba-employee-detained-china-over-sexual-assault.
- Victor, D. (2021, August 13). Flooding in China Kills 21, as THOUSANDS escape to shelters. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/13/world/asia/china-flooding-evacuations.html.
- Hermesauto. (2021, August 13). 21 killed, 4 missing as heavy rain HITS central China. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-cities-declare-rain-red-alerts-amid-power-cuts-floods.
- Tan, A. (2021, August 7). Discharged after 13 months at NUH, world’s tiniest baby is now a healthy 6.3kg. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/baby-believed-to-be-worlds-smallest-discharged-from-nuh-after-13-month-stay
- Martinez, L., Conor Finnegan, Theodorou, C., Cathey, L., King, L., Winsor, M., Seyler, M., Lenthang, M., Deliso, M., & Hutchinson, B. (2021, August 23). Afghanistan updates: Taliban warns US withdrawal deadline is “a red line.” ABC News; ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/live-updates/afghanistan-withdrawal-live-updates/?id=79482353
- Pannett, R. (2021, August 23). Live updates: Taliban rejects extending Aug. 31 U.S. pullout, calling it a “red line.” Washington Post; The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/23/afghanistan-kabul-taliban-live-updates/