Welcome back and Happy New Year to all! For most of us it’s back to the daily hustle and bustle of university life in Maastricht. After an eventful break filled with celebrations, good food, lots of drinking, spending time with family and friends and of course the infamous cyber-attack. It has been reported from sources inside the university that UM has paid the ‘ransom’ to the hackers. This has not been confirmed or denied by any UM spokesperson, as long as the investigation into the hackers and the consequences continue no announcements will be likely to be made. The imperative question is whether the hackers have access to files they can use at a later stage to essentially blackmail the university or its researchers, endangering the ‘digital security’ of the students. The university has disclosed nothing on this matter, but, most importantly the WiFi is back! … albeit to a limited extent.
Much of the headlines this week have been regarding the devastating bushfires in Australia and the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, by the United States. The catastrophic bushfires in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia have been devastating. Scorching temperatures have broken records, leaving 500 million animals killed and 24 people have died with dozens still missing. 3,000 military personnel have been deployed across the nation with volunteer fire-fighters working around the clock to deal with the crisis. The scenes at Kangaroo Valley in NSW paints an eerie picture of the graveyard the fires have left behind, surrounding the area with an odor of scorched and charred wilderness. Sydney ecologists suspect Australia might be looking at species going extinct in the wake of these fires. For Australians these fires represent a much bigger picture. They represent the lack of awareness on climate change, the lack of climate action, acceptance of indigineous knowledge and practice, land exploitation, the destruction caused by colonialism and growing capitalism. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been highly criticized over his handling of the situation as the fires represent the power of the government, their defense of their climate policy and their actions or lack thereof.
The assassination of General Qasem Soleimani by the Presidents executive-order has sparked fears of World War III. It is important not to overstate or understate the significance of this moment, however, it will not likely prompt World War III. The key players in such a conflict, such as Russia and China, are not significant actors in this current situation. Yet, this could be the defining moment for the Middle East and for Washington’s role in it. General Qasem Soleimani was killed by US drone strike on friday. Events have already begun to escalate, with several rockets being fired in Baghdad, one landing in the Green Zone (by the US and UK embassies), however, Iraqi military have reported no-one hurt in the attack. Now with 3,000 more American troops landing in the Middle East these attacks are likely to continue. The consequences of this strike are not only reserved to the region; Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group, only hours ago attacked a military base in Kenya that is used by both American and Kenyan forces. The scenes in Iran are drawn of angry people, mourning the death of somebody who they saw as a leader, an icon and second in command to their supreme leader. The loss of the General is going to leave a big void in the region, whose legacy is hard to overestimate. His body was flown today to Ahvaz in southwest Iran for the beginning of the nations three days of mourning. His burial ceremonies are to take place on Tuesday.
What seems to be a new political strategy by the White House based on the logic of Goodfellows ‘Mafioso’ style of assassinations has sparked fears, anger and confusion across the world. Iran has vowed to take ‘severe revenge’ over the death of their General. President Trump’s tweet – his infamous response method – vows the full strength of American weapons at 52 Iranian targets if Iran retaliates. It is hard to see where this conflict is headed but it is no less worrying and the irony of Trump’s prophecies in 2011 is not to be disregarded; “Our president [Barack Obama] will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate. He’s weak and ineffective so the only way he figures he will get elected […] is to start a war with Iran.”
To finish with some lighter news, the Golden Globes will take place today Sunday, Jan. 5. For it’s 77th anniversary, the Golden Globes will witness the return of Ricky Gervais as host to potential surprise appearances and winners. Some of the favourites set to win are Jennifer Aniston, “The Morning Show” for Best Actress in a Drama Series, “Fleabag” for Best Comedy Series, Jared Harris, “Chernobyl” for Best Actor in a TV Movie or Limited Series and Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown” for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Limited Series or TV Movie etc. With “Succession”, “The Crown” and “The Morning Show” all buying for their chances to win Best Drama Series, the annual ceremony is sure to be a night of memorable moments.