May in headlines

Above the Fold

1st June 2018

As we make our way into the midst of summer we reflect on the month of May, which will widely be remembered as the month of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. But let us not forget the other stories that shared the news agenda: a dramatic resurrection, a summit cancelled, GDPR introduced… the list goes on and on.

Read on for a refresh of last month’s major stories.

Babchenko: back from the dead

It’s a story to make your head spin. A convoluted tale of espionage and deception in the vein of the best le Carré plots—only this actually happened.

Tributes poured in after it appeared that Russian journalist and enemy of the state Arkady Babchenko had been assassinated in his home in Ukraine. His distraught wife had found him in a pool of blood, with three bullets in the back.

Yet 24 hours later, the world’s media were stunned as a very much alive Babchenko appeared at a press conference alongside the Ukranian Security Services. In fact, his death had been an elaborate ruse, designed to smoke out secret Moscow operatives at-large in the Ukraine.

With one plotter now apparently jailed as part of the sting, the Independent’s Oliver Caroll summed up the general mood of his friends: “happy, but will punch his face in”. What his wife is thinking must be another matter entirely.

The French Spiderman

Last weekend, Mamoudou Gassama won widespread praise and recognition after climbing the outside of a building to save a four-year-old boy dangling from a Paris balcony. Footage of Mamoudou climbing four stories to cheering spectators was widely circulated and shown across news outlets such as CNN, Sky News and BBC News.

The Malian immigrant has since been personally congratulated by President Emmanuel Macron for the heroic act and made a naturalised French citizen. To add to this, Mamoudou has just confirmed an internship with the Paris fire brigade, where he hopes to train to become a fully certified fire fighter.

GDPR: the all-enveloping acronym

Four letters that managed to annoy the hell out of everyone in May, GDPR invaded our inboxes as every newsletter we’ve ever signed up to – intentionally or unintentionally – proceeded to beg us to “stay in touch”.

Yet, in earnest, GDPR is mutually beneficial to businesses as well as recipients. Europe’s data protection rules are undergoing sweeping changes and to keep up with the huge amount of digital data being created, rules across the continent have been re-written and are due to be enforced. As of the 25 May the new mutually agreed European General Data Protection Regulation (hence, GDPR) updated the rules on personal data.

GDPR is intended to bring outdated laws across the EU up to speed with an increasingly digital era. Once enforcement by data protection authorities formally begins, it will alter how businesses and public-sector organisations can handle customer information.

It also proved useful for culling some of those pesky emails clogging up our inbox.

An historic referendum

It’s a case of ‘job done’ for pro-choice activists in the Republic of Ireland, where history was made as the country’s abortion laws were overturned. Previously allowed only when a woman’s life was at risk through birth, a landslide win (66.4% to 33.6%) for the repeal vote bookmarked a campaign fraught with emotion.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke of a “quiet revolution” in his county, and the lifting of a “burden of shame”. It marks the next step for a country – close to Eulogy’s heart – that has shown increasing liberalisation since the 2015 vote to legalise same-sex marriage.

For campaigners, however, it’s a case of one battle won, one fight to come. All eyes now turn to Northern Ireland, where restrictive abortion laws remain in place.

Trump and Kim: will they, wont they?

Eat your heart out Ross and Rachel. What could yet become a love story for the ages – come on, the tension between the two leaders is palpable – took another twist in May, with Trump’s dramatic cancellation of the planned 12 June US-Korea summit.

The cancellation followed negative North Korean reaction to comments from Vice President Mike Pence, who compared the situation with that of Libya in the early 2000s. As CNN reported, North Korea has long used Libya as an example of why it needs nuclear weapons—after Gaddafi abandoned his nuclear ambitions, he was ousted and killed.

A week later, and talks appear in a better place. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Kim’s “right-hand man”, Gen Kim Yong-chol, in New York as part of efforts to revive the plan. Who knows, the two authoritarians could yet have their “love at first summit” moment.

A step towards justice?

The biggest story of 2017 has reached its next act, with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s indictment on charges of rape and a criminal sexual act. The decision by the New York grand jury marks a step towards trial, and should Weinstein be convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

In the meantime, the man who was once the untouchable ruler of Hollywood will be made to wear a GPS tracker and surrender his passport. And let’s not forget, investigations in Los Angeles and London are still ongoing—with more than 70 separate accusations of sexual misconduct.

Train chaos leads to policy backtrack

It just wouldn’t be a monthly news roundup without an obligatory transport meltdown. Once again, it’s the trains that are causing Brits the most trouble. Thameslink and Northern Rail’s introduction of brand new timetables hasn’t gone quite to plan—resulting in over 1,000 cancellations in just one day of service.

The reactions to social media criticism by both operators hasn’t exactly eased tensions. Thameslink has proceeded to become embroiled in a bizarre Twitter spat with, of all companies, Poundland, while Northern Rail has seemingly decided on a simpler solution to customer service—the block button.

Could the government swoop in to sort out the rail chaos? With transport secretary Chris Grayling seemingly now moulding himself in the vein of Her Majesty’s Opposition, anything is possible.