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May 02 2011

al Qaeda in Germany

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Last Friday, three men we arrested in Germany because they were suspected of planning a bomb attack. Prior to their arrests, German authorities and federal agents surveillance the men in order to build a case against them. Authorities thought the three suspects tie to a high ranking al Qaeda member in Afghanistan could help stop future attacks on Germany.

One of the suspects was identified as Abdeladim El-K, 29, who is a citizen of Morocco but had lived in Germany for a decade. Last year he attended an al Qaeda training camp along the Afghani-Pakistani border. The suspect received weapons and explosive training and orders to carry out at least two attacks in Germany. Authorities believe the order was given in spring of 2010.

Abdeladim El-K then came back to Germany illegally in May 2010. He recruited two acquaintances identified as 31 year old Jamil S., who has German and Moroccan citizenship, and 19 year old Amid C. who has German and Iranian citizenship. It is believed the three bought bomb making materials such as hydrogen peroxide and acetone and had been plotting since December. They had also download instructions for making the bombs.

The three had planned to set off a shrapnel-laden bomb in a crowded place or representative building to kill a large amount of people. Some news reports claim the suspects were planning an attack during the Eurovision Song Contest in Dusseldorf from May 10 to 14 but this has not been confirmed by authorities. Instead officials reported that no target had been chosen.

Although the three suspects have been arrested, it does not mean officials can positively say they stopped the attack. The head of the federal Office of Criminal Investigations stated that there is at least one person who they could not identify. Abdeladim El-K had built himself a network with ties in Austria, Morocco, Iran, and Kosovo, which leads officials to believe there could be more people planning attacks.

Islamists in Germany have been associated with several attacks:

In March, an ethnic Kosovo Albanian shot dead two US airmen on a bus at Frankfurt airport, injuring two others before his gun jammed; he told police he had wanted to avenge Afghans killed by Americans, but he was not thought to be part of a militant group.

In 2006, home made bombs were placed on trains in Cologne but failed to explode; a Lebabanese man was jailed for life for the attack.

The 9/11 ring-leader Mohammed Atta, worshipped in a mosque in the northern city of Hamburg

So with all these attacks, Germany has a heightened concern about terrorist attacks. This concern has led to increased security, It is said that al Qaeda is retaliating against Germany for sending troops to Afghanistan. This retaliation is seen with the recent emergence of homegrown radicalization.

May 01 2011

South African hate speech trial

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This past week, inside the Equality Court, ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, appeared in a hate-speach case. Controversy arose when media reported that Malema sang the struggle song Dubul ibhunu at the University of Johannesburg last year.

Malema, 30, joined the ANC Youth Pioneer movement at the age of 13 when  apartheid was still an issue. He boasts that the ANC taught him to fire a gun and chant slogans. Now, years later, as the leader of the ANC Youth, some think he could become the future president of South Africa.

In South Africa’s apartheid era, the pro-black song was sung and includes the disputed phrase “Shoot the Boer!” Afrikaners, the descendants of Dutch settler and creators of apartheid think the song is offensive and incites racial hatred. (The word Boer is the Afrikaans word for farmer.)

So, Afrikaner interest groups, Afriforum and the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU), took the song and Julius Malema to court to prove the song incites hatred towards white farmers. Taking the stand was Malema, supported by his all black counsel. Some of his supporters included ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, leading poet Wally Serote, and Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the ex-wife of former President Nelson Mandela.

For Malema, the song was a metaphorical call to defeat apartheid, not a literal incitement to violence. For TAU and Afriforum, the song suggested that Afrikaners were the enemy at least to be shunned and at most to be killed. They arued that this hatred could lead to genocide.

But, the song was not the only issue brought up at trial. Malema was also questioned about the land reform policy he was trying for. He has ideas of policies that would confiscate land of white farmers without compensation. Many Afrikaners think it is unjust to be forced from their land and many are fearful of these possible policies.

Overall, this court case shows the continued issue of racism. The trial decision will also reveal where free speech crosses the king into hate speech in one of Africa’s most democratic countries.

Apr 13 2011

Italy, the EU, and the Refugee Crisis

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Starting in December 2010, Tunisian protesters created an uprising that resulted in a regime change. Unfortunately, the new regime is not exactly what some people expected, which has led to many Tunisian citizens fleeing to Europe. “Political unrest, increased enforcement in other areas and calmer waters have all contributed to what is becoming an issue that the European Union will have to face.

As stated, this influx of migrants from North Africa has created issues for the 27 member European Union. Nearly 23,000 migrants have traveled across the Mediterranean to take shelter on the small Italian island of Lampedusa. This tiny island, with a population of about 5,000, is actually closer to Africa than to mainland Italy. With so many refugees landing in Lampedusa, the island has become overcrowded. A few thousand people have found shelter in the island’s migrant center built for 800 but, many are still left with no form of protection from the elements.

Recently, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi personally visited the small island to see what steps should be taken to alleviate the issue. “Berlusconi said Saturday the Italian government will provide aid, including 150 off-road vehicles and four coastal patrol boats to Tunisia. There also is an agreement to send ships just outside territorial waters to intercept boats, the prime minister said.” Italy has also agreed to issue temporary residence permits to qualified migrants. But, even though Italy is trying to solve the issue, it needs help from the rest of Europe.

In late March, the UN refugee agency urged the European Union to help Italy with the situation. Italy has also personally asked for help and has not gotten the response they had hoped for. Currently, the EU is dealing with the global financial crisis and friction over NATO’s intervention in Libya. The migration issue is definitely not something many of the European countries want to deal with especially because many of them are also dealing with a rise of xenophobia in their societies.

So, as stated earlier, Italy is trying to issue temporary residence permits to qualified migrants. Italy asked the members of the European Union to recognize these permits, allowing migrants passage and entry into other EU countries. The response was negative. “Individual European countries have their own policies for handling immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Under European law, the country where migrants first arrive is responsible for determining their status, a norm that Italy and Malta have asked to be waived. (So far, they have been rebuffed.)

To make matters worse, France not only rejected the permit idea, they also increased their patrols on the French Italian border, and have turned away hundreds of refugees. Germany, also having a negative response to the permits, has stated that the refugees have landed in Italy and it is Italy’s responsibility to deal with the problem.

Overall, the influx of migrants from North Africa has caused a lot of tension in the European Union. The Italian interior minister is questioning whether Italy should even stay in the EU and many countries in the EU are criticizing the way Italy has dealt with the migrants. As more migrants start to arrive in Europe, the issues in the EU have to be solved or else even more problems could arise.

Mar 19 2011

Dangerous Drugs in Pork

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Recently, a state broadcaster ran an expose on pig farms in China and found that many farmers are using the illegal fat burning drug. This report led to Chinese officials investigating. This has resulted in over a dozen Chinese being suspended or punished for allowing the drug to be used in the pigs food.

The drug used was clenbuterol, which, can reduce a pigs body fat and make the butchered skin looker pinker which makes it look fresh for longer. The consequence of having this drug in our food is that it has resulted in hospitalization for stomach pain. It has been banned and yet it is still being used because farmers want to speed up the process to make a profit.

Chinese authorities took action and found a couple hundred pigs with the drug and killed and buried all of them. The officials also destroyed over a thousand pounds of pork in the stores. Authorities say they are cracking down on tainted food and taking action to make sure they do not have any more issues with their food safety.

Mar 16 2011

Radiation in Japan

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On March 11th, 2010, Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded. As a result, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan was damaged. Unfortunately, the radiation given off by the power plan has spiked within the past two days. This increase has led to the United States encouraging Americans who live within a 50 mile radius of the power plant to evacuate.

The Japanese are also fearful that the radiation will lead to health issues such as cancer. So, the Japanese government has taken precautions. They have evacuated the people closest to the plant, told others to stay inside, and distributed the drug potassium iodide to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine. They are also screening the public with both Geiger counters and sodium iodide detectors.

The United States military was also ordered to stay 50 miles away from the nuclear power plant. Although, this will not stop the relief mission because 14 US warships have taken position offshore to ferry food and water to survivors of last weeks devastating earthquake and tsunami. Seen on Facebook, families of soldiers and other Americans have expressed concern of exposure to radiation. Hopefully this leads to more precautions being taken.

Feb 21 2011

Unrest in Tunisia

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In December of 2010 an uprising began in Tunisia, which led to the president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fleeing the country. This revolution ended his 23-year rule and inspired other Arab countries to protest as well. Now two months later, the former president is sick in the hospital after suffering from a stroke. The Tunisian people want answers and are asking about Ben-Ali’s condition and whether or not he is even still alive. Reported by the Associated Press, if he is still alive, Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry asked “Saudi Arabia to extradite Ben Ali following ‘new charges against the ousted president for his implications in severe crimes.'” These crimes include incitement to murder and also reports of security forces raping women and torturing people during the period of unrest.

Now that the Ben Ali is no longer in charge, interim Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi is taking the reigns. Ghannouchi says he will only stay in power until he can get Tunisia to democracy. But the people are not happy with this because of his apparent ties to Ben-Ali’s government. As reported in the New York Times, “one of the largest demonstrations since Mr. Ben Ali fled took place on Sunday in Tunis, where several thousand protesters marched to the prime minister’s office to demand the caretaker government’s resignation.” The people ousted Ben Ali so they could finally get away from the authoritarian rule and yet with Ghannouchi in charge, the Tunisians feel as though nothing has changed. They want to create their own government, which leads the another issue in Tunisia.

With just an interim government in place, the Tunisians are trying to agree upon a government to rule the people. Tensions are growing because it is not clear whether Islamism is going to be integrated into the new government. Competing groups are protesting for their cause daily, which is continuing the unrest in Tunisia. As the New York Times States, “About 98 percent of the population of 10 million is Muslim, but Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western lifestyle shatter stereotypes of the Arab world. Abortion is legal, polygamy is banned and women commonly wear bikinis on the country’s Mediterranean beaches. Wine is openly sold in supermarkets and imbibed at bars across the country.” With this being said, many Tunisians are protesting that religion would ruin their new government.

As seen above, many things have to be resolved in Tunisia to reach their goal of having a democratic state. If the peoples’ needs are not met, uprisings and protests are going to continue.