Briefs News

World in Brief: Al Qaeda claims fatal shooting, SuperBowl Sunday and National Emergency in Somalia

The Islamist militant group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) allegedly claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting that happened last December in Pensacola, Florida. A Second Lieutenant from the Royal Saudi Air Force undergoing training in the naval base opened fire at American soldiers before being killed, reported The Concordian. The claim was made on a leaked audio recording, but the militant group did not provide evidence, reported Reuters.

France declared it was sending more military troops to the Sahel desert amid increasing violence from jihadist groups. French military presence will increase from 4,500 to 5,100 soldiers by the end of February in the border zones of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Defence Minister Florence Parly said in a statement on Sunday that the operation was to increase “pressure against ISIS-GS,” the ISIS group of the Greater Sahara. According to an article in Al-Jazeera, there have been more than 4,000 reported deaths in 2019.

The Kansas City Chiefs were crowned champions of the 54th Super Bowl on Sunday, in Miami. The National Football League team played against five-time winner San Francisco 49ers, who were designated favourites by most oddsmakers initially. But Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the game and brought the team to victory, 31-20, over the 49ers. This year’s halftime show was performed by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira after other artists such as Jay-Z and Rihanna turned down the offer over NFL racism controversies.

On Sunday, Somalia declared a national emergency over a major locust infestation. The Desert locust is a grasshopper species that rapidly devastated huge amounts of crops in the region. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Unions, a locust swarm of one square kilometre can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. This puts the upsurge at an even more worrisome level, as the East African country is already experiencing an alarming level of food insecurity.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in Brief: Lebanon protests, Royal titles and Impeachment

More than 150 people were injured in Lebanon’s capital during new riots against the current government. Police retaliated against protesters who were throwing objects including stones, firecrackers and metal signs last Saturday, according to the Associated Press. The riots have been ongoing for the past three months amidst a dwindling economy and of the government’s reformation following the prime minister’s resignation in October 2019. Saturday’s demonstrations condemned the government’s inaction towards the growing debt of $87 billion US, or 150 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will no longer be members of the royal family, according to a statement from Buckingham Palace. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have their royal titles removed and will no longer receive taxpayer money. “As agreed in this new arrangement, they understand that they are required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments,” reads the statement. The decision came after the couple announced in an Instagram post their intentions to resign from their roles, spend more time in North America and become financially independent.

Democratic U.S. lawmakers said on Saturday that President Donald Trump must be removed from office. The 111-page document marked the first time the Senate was called to convict the President. “The Senate should convict and remove President Trump to avoid serious and long term damage to our democratic values and the nation’s security,” read the document, quoted in an article by Reuters. “The case against the president of the United States is simple, the facts are indisputable, and the evidence is overwhelming.” The Senate trial is expected to start on Jan. 21.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


World in brief: Deadly protests in Chile, Catalan pro-independence activists sentenced

Protests against the cost of living have now taken 11 people’s lives in Chile after a weekend of on-going demonstrations. The vandalism and violence were originally prompted by the rise of transit fares announced two weeks ago, which has since been suspended by President Sebastián Piñera. Yet, the initial reason was only a reflection of a deeper national frustration against growing economic inequalities. As reported by The Guardian, the state of emergency declared on Oct. 19 led to more than 10,000 military troops taking over the streets of Santiago, imposed curfew in major cities and the interruption of subway services. Such interventions haven’t been seen since the end of Pinochet dictatorship back in 1990.

Tensions in Spain have been rising as the Supreme Court sentenced nine pro-independence activists up to 13 years in jail. The sentenced leaders were judged on their role in the 2017 Catalan referendum which was backed up by more than half of the 5.5 million voters but deemed illegal by Spanish courts, reported Global News. The decision, which came on Oct. 14, led to an entire week of extreme protests by separatists. As more than 300 people have since been detained by the police, Catalan President Quim Torra, who initially called for civil disobedience, is now open for talks with the Spanish Government.

The White House finally backtracked and dropped plan after announcing that the next G7 would be held at Trump’s golf resort in Miami. The initial move was considered by many to be further evidence of the President using his office for personal gain. CBC highlighted that Trump was the first administration official to praise one of his properties for hosting the international summit. While it comes as one of Trump’s rare reverse decisions, his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that he knows people think it looks lousy.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


World in Brief: Shooting, whistleblowers and deadly protests

Four people were killed and five injured in a shooting last Sunday in Kansas City. Police said the two suspects opened fired in a busy bar around 1:27 a.m. following a disturbance or fight. According to an article in The Washington Post, the four victims were all Hispanic men, but the police refused to add further comments.

A second whistleblower surfaced on Sunday morning supporting previous allegations on Donald Trump’s exchanges with Ukraine’s president. While they haven’t filed a complaint with the inspector general, attorney Mark Zaid said in an interview with the Associated Press that the whistleblower has “firsthand knowledge that supported” the original claims.

Protest in Iraq over unemployment and corruption are still raging since Oct. 1. The death toll was estimated at 106 on Sunday – five days after the first confrontations between the police and protesters. According to an article in Reuters, the Iraqi government agreed to a plan that increases subsidized housing for the poor, stipends for the unemployed and training programs and small loans initiatives for unemployed youth.

Protesters in Hong Kong defied the law prohibiting marching with a masked face. According to an article in the Agence France Presse, the crowds were “condemning the government for deploying emergency powers to ban face masks at public gatherings.” What started as a peaceful march quickly turned into violent confrontations as police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and physical force.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in brief: Sept. 17

America’s third Democratic debate ahead of the 2020 presidential nomination took place on Sept. 12, in Houston, Texas. Frontrunners Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders featured among the top 10 candidates.
According to Reuters, access to better health care fuelled a heated conversation for the most part of the debate, alongside gun control. The latter topic resulted in one of the best moments of the evening, as candidate Beto O’Rourke shouted to the dynamic crowd “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”

Still no lull in sight in the Hong Kong protests, as the 15th weekend of mass protests demands more autonomy from the Beijing government. The past months have seen the great capital crumble under tear gas and violent riots. Also known as the Anti-Extradition Bill protests, it erupted after the government introduced a bill that would make it possible for Hong Kong’s citizens to be deported to mainland China, where critics say they could face human right violations, reported the BBC. Even though the bill was withdrawn earlier this month, the protests are now calling for greater democracy and investigation into police brutality.

West African leaders announced an investment of a 1$ billion plan to fight armed groups and the Islamist threat in the Sahel region. According to Al Jazeera, the pledge was made on Sept.14, at the end of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit in Ouagadougou. The plan is to combat rising insecurity and terrorism, especially in Burkina Faso and Mali. During the Summit, Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore argued that “threats transcend borders. No country is safe,” and that “the escalation of violence has led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis” in the Sahel.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Engaging with the world’s problems today

Active listening, sharing experiences can go a long way in the face of systemic issues

In my opinion, 2017 was a very terrible year. We were inundated with awful news on a daily basis. My reactions perpetually got more apathetic and became more withdrawn because of these stories. The sheer amount of bad events that happened during 2017 makes it impossible to list a few, because I believe all of them are equally important and deserve to be read into individually. However, I learned something very important throughout last year: listening and being supportive of people, no matter how small these actions may seem, are important in making the world a better place.

There were many issues I wasn’t well informed on, such as President Donald Trump banning transgender people from enlisting in the American military. So, I read as much as I could to become better informed and understand people’s experiences—especially pieces written by trans people. I opened my heart and became more empathetic about issues towards people with different lives than mine, because I think solidarity is important during difficult times. I became an active listener, willing to listen to anyone who wanted to open up about their life and hardships.

I never had the opportunity to vote when I was growing up in Saudi Arabia, and was quite surprised to learn that many Canadians are apathetic about using their right to vote. I understand that many political candidates are not ideal, however, I believe indifference contributes negatively to many people’s lives, especially marginalized people. Supporting and encouraging more people of colour, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community to run for political office would also help us take steps in the right direction. In my opinion, the more diverse our politicians become, the better and more accommodating policies will be.

In addition to participating in the democratic process, other actions we can all take include talking and writing about our own experiences, and listening to other people’s stories. We need more diverse voices in every level of society. We need to fill the large gap of knowledge that has been suppressed for many years. It takes a lot of courage to write and talk about experiences that may be traumatic, sad, insulting or demeaning—and I respect anybody who doesn’t want to do that, since it isn’t their obligation to speak out. But doing so does help other people understand experiences they will never live through.

Also, I think it’s important to talk about positive experiences. Young people are always looking to relate to people who look like them or who have a similar background. By sharing positive stories and experiences, people can relate to each other in meaningful ways. They can see a perspective they don’t see often—a positive one.

The more visible representation we have, the more diverse the stories become. I’ve tried to do this in some of my writing as I’ve enjoyed interjecting personal anecdotes into my works, and it may give people an insight into a life different from their own.

In my opinion, we are facing huge problems as we enter 2018. Old systemic issues that have plagued us for many years, such as racism, misogyny, war, homophobia, famine and violence, continue to exist. Yet, we are also facing new emerging problems that are unprecedented, for instance our increasingly wild weather patterns due to climate change, and the threats on Twitter of nuclear war by the United States and North Korea. Nonetheless, there is no reason to remain apathetic—I believe indifference is a privilege only certain segments of the population can have.

I’ll personally continue trying to listen, grow and become a more empathetic person. I’m not egotistical enough to think I’m going to solve the world’s problems, but if I make my community a little bit better, I’ll be happy. Small acts of positivity and collective action have great potential to at least make the lives of those around you better, and hopefully have a positive impact on a larger scale.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin



Opinions: United States government turns blind eye in pursuit of its interests

As the Syrian civil war escalates, bringing with it a large death toll, western politicians are making this crisis the top priority on their agendas. Amidst all the chaos, it is important to stop and question the rhetoric used by U.S. politicians and their allies concerning the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

A Syrian woman living in Turkey wears a Free Syrian Army pin during a protest against Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad in front of the Beyazit mosque in Istanbul February 17, 2012. Photo from FreedomHouse on Flickr.

On Dec. 12, 2012, the United States recognized the Free Syrian Army as the representatives of the Syrian people instead of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. This move was taken without any regard to elections or democratic measure of any kind – ironic for a country that criticizes Assad for being anti-democratic. A couple of months later, the United States vowed to supply the FSA with weapons in order to boost its capacity to fight Assad’s regime, in hopes of ending the civil war.

Oddly enough, this measure was met by an increased number of casualties and refugees and recently, by the introduction of chemical weapons. The million dollar question which ought to be asked of the U.S. government is will arming the FSA solve the conflict and reduce the amount of casualties or will it just continue to feed the chaotic situation?

Consider Operation Cyclone, in which the U.S. government armed and financed the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union, thus instilling one of the most radical Sunni governments the world has ever seen, the Taliban. There are clear resemblances to the current American objectives in Syria.

According to many reports from intelligence coming out of Syria, Al-Qaeda militants are the most armed factions of the Syrian rebels under the name Al-Nusra Front, outnumbering the secular fighters. Their main objective is to create a Muslim Caliphate and unify the Syrians under strict Sharia law. Their arguments have little to do with the Syrian people’s aspirations for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

The issues regarding the FSA are not just within its radical factions but rather its actions and sources of funding. Thousands of Syrian Christians and Kurds have already left their homes because of the massacres they faced by the Syrian rebels, for the mere reason of being Christian, Kurd or Shia Muslim.

On Sept. 5, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, hundreds of FSA rebels stormed the Christian village of Maaloula and surrounded its main church. A week before, 450 Kurd families were killed in cold blood by the Syrian rebels, yet the U.S. government did not give one comment on that. On top of the strict sectarian mentality that drives the FSA, the Saudi and Qatari Sunni governments keep providing money and weapons to the FSA, which are known to be overwhelmingly Sunni.

The United States and its allies keep supporting the FSA, yet the Syrian conflict escalates daily.The time has come to question American actions based on historical and current evidence. If the United States government was sincere about its intention to instill democracy and the rule of law in Syria, it would have pushed for a democratic solution to the conflict, as opposed to the on-going discourse of military threats by direct intervention and arming the rebels.

The United States emerged in the Syrian conflict not as positive force but a force that embraces a highly sectarian group and aligns itself with its economic interests in the Arabian Gulf, as opposed to aligning itself with the Syrians’ democratic aspirations.



World in brief

Occupy Davos! The movement lives on…
The world’s bigwigs, including Stephen Harper, descended on the resort town of Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, an annual invitation-only event with the goal of improving the world we live in. On Saturday, three Ukrainian topless protesters made it clear they weren’t happy with the number of poor people out there. The three are from the group Femen, which is known in Ukraine for their half-nude protests. Armed with signs and torso scribblings that read things like “Gangsters party in Davos,” they were detained. A delegation of Occupy protesters also camped out nearby in igloos to draw attention for more help for the world’s needy.

I’m leaving, and taking my bras with me

Talk of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom has been all over the news lately, even though the referendum isn’t set until 2014. But like in a U.S. election year, when people often threaten to move to Canada “if so-and-so gets elected,” some people are already grumbling about leaving. The latest is Michelle Mone, a Scots dropout-turned-successful lingerie entrepreneur, who says she’ll move to England if the divorce goes through. Independence supporters believe Scotland will do okay on its own with oil money, but Mone and other business owners are concerned about the economy. “I will move my business and I will move personally,” she told the Sunday Times. “I don’t think we can survive on our own and I think it would be really bad for business.”

Detroit school pulls incredibly douchey move on child cancer survivor
J.T. Gaskins is a 17-year-old leukemia survivor. After learning that the sister of a family friend had cancer, he decided that it would be a great idea to grow out his hair and donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit that gives hairpieces to children who suffer from hair loss. Unfortunately, Gaskins’ Michigan school, Madison Academy, has some draconian rules about boys’ hair, and suspended him. The school’s policy calls for “neat” coifs that are off the collar. “I fought cancer my entire life. I’m going to keep fighting this,” J.T. told local news. “I’m not going to not give back just because my school says no.” Attaboy! His mother launched a petition on to convince the school to change its policies. A Locks of Love spokesperson confirmed that they’ve heard of similar incidents at other schools.

Paula the plucky penguin promptly poops on political property
Brigette DePape she is not, but Paula the penguin definitely made a scene on the floor of the Kentucky Legislature last Tuesday. The penguin was brought in from the Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati, OH, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. Senator Katie Stine was reading aloud Resolution 92, intended to honour the aquarium for its work, when senate president David Williams interrupted her: “Are you talking about the penguin that just defecated on the floor?” Amid the room’s laughter, Stine said, “Actually, senator, I believe that’s your desk.” The comments from online readers are delicious: “Don’t see this is [as a] big deal here since David Williams and his Republican cronies do the same to the people of Kentucky every single day.”


Africa needs better leaders

“All my people with me, they love me, they will die to protect me, my people.”

Those were the words of Libyan’s president Moammar Gadhafi at the beginning of the country’s ongoing uprising. As the revolt continued to spread across the nation, his rhetoric quickly took a menacing tone, as he added that the rebels were traitors, and they were to be punished and dealt with without mercy. Unlike the successful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia that started the movement in that part of the world, Libyans are likely to be engulfed in a very difficult war for some time to come.

All this could have been avoided had Gadhafi simply stepped down. He has, after all, been in power for more that 40 years. The same can be said of Ivory Coast’s current political turmoil. The sub-Saharan country is engaged in a bloody civil war prompted by two presidential candidates, who each claims to be the victor of 2010 elections. Despite the general assessment of the voters, and the international community who declared the opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the clear winner, President Laurent Gbagbo, who ruled for a decade, refused to step down.

Unfortunately, those are just additional examples of the inadequacy of the African leadership, and it’s been happening for far too long. Since the wave of independence in the early 1950s to early 1990s, Africa has struggled to establish a steady and proficient political system. The continent inherited many of the problems from the colonial era, and the tremendous influence of the powerful outsiders has also prevented a significant political shift; nonetheless, it is time for Africans to form stronger and better constitutions that will ensure a better future.

This should start with the eradication of longstanding regimes, as expressed by the modern revolts of the Middle East and Northern Africa. People are frustrated and miserable under those regimes. Libyan intervention was met with both skepticism and praise. The critics viewed it as another Western crusade for supremacy and control. Democratic powers have always promoted the concept of peace, and in the case of Africa, it has been a relatively complex journey for most states.

This leads to the belief that the implementation of a Western model of democracy may not be feasible due to historic differences, culture and general outlook on life. Not to mention the past liaison that left people more than cynical and wary of the West’s intentions towards Africa.

Honestly, people are more concerned about what is being done, than about who is doing it. Periodical elections are meaningless if the majority cannot access clean water, food or decent health care and schools for their children. Furthermore, a governing body should ensure the security and well-being of its citizens. On multiple occasions, Africans have experienced vast violations of basic human rights and carnage, perpetrated by governments appointed to protect them. Most of the financial problems on the continent can be attributed to the terrible and inept governance. Lack of good leadership has restrained Africa from competing economically; furthermore, the continent is exploited because of disorganization and abundant corruption. The potential of intellectual minds is immensely stagnated since they lack genuine support and institutions to help them accomplish great things.

Nelson Mandela once said, “I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses.”

All those are reasons to demand better governance, and start to envision a better future for Africa. With vast natural resources, a lively and rich culture, and the immense potential of the African youth, the continent can do much better, but nothing will change under the current governing bodies.



Ottawa protesters march in solidarity with Arab world

Upwards of 250 demonstrators gathered at the steps of Parliament Hill last Saturday to call on the Canadian government to do more to support the people’s uprisings in Libya and Yemen.

Last weekend’s protest in Ottawa coincided with several others held throughout Canada as well as across the U.S. and Europe. The crowd brandished signs depicting dead Libyans and Yemenis while chanting out “Silence no more, Saleh out the door!” and “Canada, Canada be the guide, we are witnessing genocide!”

Both Libyan and Yemeni protesters have flooded the streets of their nations’ major cities in the hopes of ousting dictators Moammar Gadhafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, only to be met with violence from government supporters. It is estimated that over a thousand have died in Libya as a result of Gadhafi using his nation’s air force and mercenaries in attempts to quell the protests. In Yemen, Saleh has also authorized the use of deadly force to put down the unrest as troops fired on protesters in the Port of Aden last Friday, reportedly killing four and wounding over 40 others.

Among the those who spoke at the protest was Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, a pro

Demonstrators crowded the steps of Parliament Hill. Photo by Navnnet Pall

fessor at the University of Waterloo and editor of news website the Canadian Charger. Elmasry was in Cairo at the time of the Egyptian revolution and even submitted footage which aired on CBC, CNN and on the New York Times website. He hoped that Canadians would not see the revolutions taking place in the Middle East and North Africa as being religiously aligned. “It was not an Islamic revolution, in the case of Tunisia, Egypt and now in Libya and Yemen; it’s a popular revolution which is pro democracy,” said Elmasry. “They were and are peaceful and deserve Canadian support.”

NDP member of Parliament Paul Dewar, who represents the Ottawa centre riding, also spoke to the crowd outside Parliament asking that Gadhafi be brought to justice. He called for a no-fly-zone to prevent further bombings of Libyan people as well as to prevent Gadhafi from moving his mercenary troops. Dewar asked that the dictator’s assets be frozen and for Prime Minister Harper to “push the United Nations to refer Gadhafi and all of his cronies to the ICC to be held accountable. Blood on his hands is blood that needs to be held to account.”

Abdul Aghliw, a Canadian-Libyan whose family is back in Libya, came out to support the Libyan protesters. “All that we ask for is for the dictator to leave,” he said. “And it doesn’t look like he is going to leave anytime soon and he is killing us. He is killing us.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama over the phone on Monday about joint efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Libya, reported the Washington Post. Both Canada and the U.S. have imposed financial sanctions against the Gadhafi family and the Libyan government.


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