Briefs News

World in brief: Impeachment, leaders at the UN and rescued Nigerian captives

A formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump was officially made on Sept. 24. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the inquiry will investigate whether the President abused his presidential powers and sought help from the Ukraine government to undermine Democratic candidate Joe Biden. The Associated Press reported that the allegations came after a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which you can hear Trump asking for help finding incriminating actions by Biden’s son.

“The president must be held accountable,” Pelosi said. “No one is above the law.”

Global leaders met on Sept. 23, in New York for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. Discussions on the climate crisis and a possible armed conflict between the United States and Iran were among the headlines. French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood against the U.S. and Iran conflict, urging them to resume negotiations over the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, reported Reuters. Greta Thunberg also made a heartfelt plea, but towards the inactions of leaders regarding the climate crisis. She arguably dropped her most powerful quote yet with “how dare you” in a video that was shared more than 50,000 times.

On Sept. 26, more than 300 captives were rescued from a building that housed an Islamic school in northern Nigeria. Many reports described the survivors mostly as children, boys aged around 5 to their late teens, walking in chains. Police declared that seven people, teachers at the school, were arrested in the raid. Such schools are known to be abusive, yet parents lacking financial resources often opt to leave their children in the hands of the school boards. CBC reported that earlier this year, Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Muslim, was planning to eventually ban the schools. It is still unclear how long the children were retained.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Concordia launches a free online course partnered with the United Nations

The goal of the course is to educate as many students as possible worldwide

Concordia is now offering a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) this fall, not only to Concordia students, but to students around the world.

The course, entitled Wicked Problems, Dynamic Solutions: The Ecosystem Approach and Systems Thinking, educates students on ecosystems and conservation theories, said director of the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre Peter Stoett. “[There is a necessity for thinking] about socio-ecological systems as we try to find solutions for some of the greatest challenges we face.”

“[The course] is an attempt to give widespread access to a course that teaches people some really necessary concepts and case studies related to the survival of future generations,” said Stoett. The online course is free and available to anyone around the world, as a part of the United Nations’ objective to make this course accessible to as many people as possible.

“The focus of the course, as the title implies, is on systems thinking and the ecosystem approach,” said Rebecca Tittler, coordinator of the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability & Loyola Sustainability Research Centre. “Systems thinking involves consideration of the various components of a system and the interactions between components.”

Tittler was on the core development team for the MOOC. She said the course discusses how to resolve colossal issues that result from climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, deforestation and forest degradation.

Stoett has connections with the UN, having previously worked with them, which prompted the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to contact Stoett for the opportunity to create this course at Concordia.

Robert Beauchemin, CEO of KnowledgeOne, the company in charge of developing eConcordia online courses, described the MOOC as a web-based platform. Beauchemin said the course is accessible through any web browser available on any computer, tablet and mobile device.

“The main reason we do that is because more people in Africa have cell phones than laptops and in Asia, as well,” said Stoett. “You don’t need a computer to take this course in a day and age when almost everyone—even really low income groups—have telephones.”

He said the second aspect to the course is to help compensate financial difficulties using a blended learning course available to all Concordia students.

Half of the blended learning course is offered online and half of the course will be taught in a classroom. The blended learning course will be a course available to all Concordia students, said Stoett. The MOOC will be a part of the blended learning course, which will be offered under the department of geography, intended as a course for first-year geography students.

Stoett said he believes the MOOC would be interesting to recent high school graduates, students mostly in the southern hemisphere, students who are entering university, who cannot afford university or either live in a country where university is not a well-developed system.

The Concordian asked Stoett if the curriculum is focused on North America or studying ecosystems worldwide. “It’s definitely worldwide,” said Stoett. “We have really tried to hit a global note with this—many of the case studies we used [and] many of the videos we used are from Africa, quite a few from Asia and some from Latin America.”


Will push come to shove?

Image via Flickr

North Korea is at it again. After a recent United Nations Security Council vote to impose more sanctions, the nation has chosen to end it’s non-aggression pact with its southern neighbour as well as cutting the hotline between the two.

The UN vote comes after North Korea’s third nuclear test last month despite general disapproval from the international community and is set to strike hardest at North Korean diplomats, cash transfers and access to luxury goods.

According to CBC, North Korea’s reaction has been to claim it will retaliate with “crushing strikes” to any intrusion into North Korea, as well as threaten a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States.

North Korea is backing itself into a corner. The international community has already condemned the country for their actions and yet they continue to press forward.

In 2003, the country pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty that was signed by most of the world’s countries. By 2006, North Korea had started testing long-range missiles, a move that the United States called “provocative.” Between then and 2009, North Korea, while it claimed to have stopped testing, threatened on several occasions to restart its testing programs. In April of 2009, North Korea announced the launch of a satellite, which drew criticism from many countries, including the United States. North Korea then announced that any sanctions or pressure applied after the testing would be considered an “act of war.” Three years later, in 2012, North Korea once again disregarded the international community and launched a long-range rocket, which put the satellite successfully into space.

The UN had no choice but to take action against North Korea. After blatantly disregarding the opinion of the international community, putting aggressive sanctions in place is the best way to send a message to North Korea. Even North Korea’s biggest ally, China, voted with of the rest of the UN Security Council unanimously in favour of these sanctions. This is an especially big moment — China is historically against economic sanctions, let alone on a neighbouring country.

However, North Korea seems determined to move forward with their agenda. For them, at least outwardly, this tactic is one of self-preservation. North Korea believes that having nuclear capabilities is the only form of deterrence, especially from larger countries like the United States. The country also declared some of their actions — such as launching a satellite into orbit in December 2012 — as non-violent, peaceful acts.

However, the world is not convinced. As long as North Korea continues to test these advances in nuclear and missile technology, the world will be on constant alert for any sign of a threat from the East Asian country. If this conflict continues to escalate and North Korea doesn’t heed the warnings of the international community, pressure through sanctions will probably continue from the United Nations.

How far is North Korea willing to push this? Are they really prepared to take the actions they claim? Will they be able to withstand the pressure from the majority of the international community?

For now, the UN Security Council is content with passing sanctions against North Korea. However, if Kim Jong-un continues to push the country in this direction, this conflict could reach the point of no return.


A gothic birthday party, UNzipped

Photo : Andrew McNeill

With the band’s biggest festival appearance yet just days away, UN’s Kara Keith was fretting over footwear before set lists.
“It’s all about the outfits, right?” reasoned Keith.
UN, a gothic rock/electro-pop duo featuring Concordia grad Jen Reimer on drums with Keith on vocals and piano, is jetting off to Austin, Texas to play POP Montreal’s showcase at the SXSW Music Festival.
Over 2,000 acts from all over the world flock to SXSW every year to mingle with music industry professionals, debut new material and wrestle for exposure. Buzzing reviews at this festival can change an artist’s life overnight. Just one year after her SXSW debut, former McGill student and electronic musician Grimes has gone from virtually unknown to posing for Vogue.
“I haven’t gone to SXSW before, but I’ve done a lot of crazy shit in my life,” said Keith. “It’s just another five-day-long party where I don’t have a home to go to at night.”
Keith and Reimer have been playing together in bands for over five years, but they first collaborated as UN in 2010 and have just released their debut album, Nu. Keith’s confidence on stage is magnetic, her voice deep, dark and borderline satanic. Backed by snappy synth, piano and Reimer’s fierce animalistic drumming, this is something you must dance to, entranced in your own world.
UN’s sound and stage presence has the ability to whisk the crowd away to a subterranean gothic birthday party, providing an escape from the mundane.
“It’s cathartic for me,” explained Keith. “That’s why it ends up being cathartic for other people.
All the melodies, lyrics and ideas are from my singular experience. I walk about with those songs all the time.”
Reimer and Keith left their families behind in Alberta before becoming Mile End inhabitants. They attended separate classical music conservatories in Edmonton and Calgary, but met at an artist residency program at the Banff Centre in 2007.
“We started jamming together in these little huts in the woods, spending night upon night playing music,” revealed Keith. “We instantly connected.”
At the time, Keith studied piano, while Reimer was perfecting the French horn. Reimer picked up the drums as recently as two years ago for UN’s first performance in New York City, though she had only been practising for three weeks.
“[Reimer] already had so much skill in her body from being a very accomplished classical musician,” explained Keith.
Keith found Alberta hostile to artists, as rent was skyrocketing and it was difficult to find space to practise or play.
“It wasn’t a very nurturing community, and we felt like outsiders,” said Keith. “There were no other women doing anything [like us].”
The pair clicked with producer Howard Bilerman, known for his work on Arcade Fire’s Funeral (2004), while at The Banff Centre. Keith wrote a record while in Alberta, but flew to Montreal in 2008 to record with Reimer, Bilerman and a band of 10 other people.
“That was our foray into Montreal. We were just going to come for two weeks and make a record,” said Keith, “but that record took six months.
“We quickly evolved, realized it was an amazing city, and now we are very happy here.”
Though the songstress was unhappy in Alberta, the record she wrote while living there is curiously upbeat, and became quite popular. Keith’s indie-pop single, “Kick this City,” caught fire in 2008 and was picked up by CBC for radio play.
Since moving to Montreal and forming UN, Keith’s songwriting has turned to gloom.
“What’s funny is that as I’ve gotten my life more organized, been happier, got really good friends, moved to a great new city, and started taking care of myself, I started writing really dark music,” said Keith.
Despite the drastic change in her musical tone, Keith insisted that it’s completely unintentional. She challenged herself to depart from her more complicated classical roots and produce music that was simple, strong and straight from the gut.
“I’m not trying to do anything, I don’t listen to music, and I don’t know what our ‘sound’ is,” said Keith. “Neither does Jen.”

UN debuts at SXSW on March 16 at Hotel Vegas in Austin, Texas.

To download their new album visit their bandcamp:

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