Fire, floods, Trump: summer stories you missed

Read all about it: Deaths, heat and political wrangling dominated the summer’s papers.

Did the world change over the summer? In the last six weeks the Brexit row became even more bitter, Trump became yet more bizarre, and two American icons died. And then there was the weather.

British journalists call it “silly season”. Americans call it ”slow news season”. The summer weeks where anyone important is on holiday leaving editors scrabbling through celebrity gossip to fill their paper.

This summer, however, was rather different.

In America, the key moments of summer 2018 happened within minutes of each other on August 21, as the investigation into supposed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election ensnared its first victims.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was convicted of financial fraud, while his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to arranging hush payments to two of Trump’s alleged former lovers. The news left Trump “on the precipice”, according to CNN.

British politics was dominated by deepening rifts over Brexit. Calls for a “People’s Vote” on the final Brexit deal grew louder as Theresa May’s Chequers deal came in for heavy criticism. Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis, meanwhile, continued to escalate.

It was a contrasting six weeks for two of the world’s major tech companies. Facebook saw over $109 billion wiped from its market value in one day following a data leak scandal. Just a week later, Apple became the first trillion dollar company in world history.

Then the tragedies. A bridge in the Italian city of Genoa collapsed after a violent storm, killing 43 people. And just three days ago, the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro was destroyed in a fire, along with around 20 million of the country’s most valuable artefacts. Government neglect was blamed for both disasters.

America mourned two very different icons. Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul”, died just nine days before former Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

But the biggest story was, of course, the weather. 2018 was Britain’s joint hottest summer on record.

The heat caused wildfires in Portugal and Greece which killed dozens of people. The effects of climate change were also evident in Kerala, India, where floods killed 483 people.

But did the world really change?

Boiling point

Not really, say some. Trump-related controversies, wrangling over Brexit, a couple of notable deaths — this is all very normal. In fact, we will remember the summer of 2018 as a blissful break from a tumultuous political age. There was no huge, unpredictable moment that we will look back on as a turning point.

That is the wrong way to look at history, reply others. Such hinge moments are very rare. The world did change, because the world is always changing. The sagas of Trump and Brexit fractured the UK and the US more than ever. But it is the glorious, strange weather and its ominous results that will have the most impact.

You Decide

  1. Did the world change over the summer?
  2. Which news story will you most remember from the last six weeks?

Activities

  1. Write a shorter version of this article using completely different news stories from the last six weeks.
  2. What has the greatest impact on the world: crucial turning points or gradual change? Write 500 words answering this question.

Some People Say...

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.”

Anton Chekhov

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Summer is usually the quietest time of the year for news as the parliaments of most northern hemisphere countries take some kind of break. However that does not mean that the news shuts down entirely. We know that major news websites see a slight drop in traction over the summer as people concentrate on relaxing.
What do we not know?
Whether the major news stories of the past six weeks will be remembered in a year’s time. We also do not know how much of the extreme weather this summer can be put down to climate change. Although climate science is advancing, several studies have found that experts tend to overestimate the risk attributable to climate change.

Word Watch

Investigation
The Special Counsel investigation started in May 2017 and is led by Robert Mueller.
Trump’s alleged former lovers
They are adult film star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford), who was paid $130,000, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was paid $150,000.
Most valuable artefacts
The jewel in the museum’s crown was “Luzia” — the oldest human remains to have ever been discovered in Latin America. The museum’s other exhibits ranged from fossils and the reconstructed skeleton of a dinosaur to Roman frescoes and pre-Columbian objects.
John McCain
McCain died of brain cancer at the age of 81. His parting message to the American people contained several implicit digs at Donald Trump, who was not invited to his funeral. McCain challenged Barack Obama for the presidency in 2008.
Britain’s joint hottest summer
Along with 2006, 2003 and 1976.
Kerala
A coastal state in south-west India.

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