Conceptualizing Racism in Europe

Photo: Terra Nova Fondation. Racism is a term imbued with ambiguity. Sometimes racism is a manifestation of misplaced anger or irritation, at other times it is deep-seated and systematic. Part of recognising the shapes racism takes is crucial in the battle against it. Racism is a product of its context, which makes the European and Swedish perspectives an interesting duality for investigation.

by Talib Jabbar

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The Gamer’s Choice: Play or Quit!

The video game industry giant Blizzard is able to organize its own expo. Photo: Joi ito on fotopedia.Sometime in Spring 2010, the following conversation took place in an American university, somewhere on the North-eastern seaboard. The class discussion was about U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Student A: “The number of insurgents we killed are more than the number of our casualties.”

Student B: “Dude, this is not HALO!”

HALO is a bestselling video game, developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Studios. How do video games and their portrayal of military culture affect or reflect discourse in universities and in politics?

by Ali Acikgoz

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Contested water and food crises in Egypt: A cause for social unrest?

Fluctuating wheat prices hit the poorest population worst. Bread provides one third of the caloric intake in Egypt and around 40 % of household income is spent on food.Egypt is currently facing a variety of economic, social and political crises, but there could be even bigger challenges in store just around the corner. With 95% of the country uninhabited and covered by unfertile desert, any threats posed to its few fresh water resources in turn represents a threat to all human activities. However, with most eyes at present on Egypt’s political situation, few are giving environmental problems much attention, seeing them as something to tackle after the political situation has stabilised, and thus failing to see the crucial link between environmental and political stability.

The agricultural sector in Egypt constitutes only 14 % of its GDP, but for food security agricultural land is of vital importance. Previously Egypt used to be a wheat exporter, but due to its rapid population growth it has now become the world’s largest wheat importer, producing only 60% of the wheat it consumes. More than half of the imported wheat comes from Russia, but during years of bad harvest, such as 2010, Russia sold 40% less wheat than normal to Egypt, causing unexpectedly high prices. Such fluctuating food prices are often followed by food riots and social unrest, as has been analysed by a group of researchers in a paper called ‘The Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East’.

by Inga Härmälä

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Is Morsi Becoming Mubarak?

Morsi looks in the mirror and sees Mubarak, according to this street artist.When Mohamed Morsi took office in the summer of 2012, there were great expectations placed on his shoulders. This was only natural: he was Egypt’s first democratically elected president, representing the organisation with the broadest public support in the country – the Muslim Brotherhood.

But his first major move made people draw comparisons between the new and the ancien régime. In November last year, Morsi signed a constitutional declaration that strengthened his own powers and forbade courts from striking down his decisions. Public protests reached revolutionary heights and the declaration was at last rescinded in December, but it planted a seed of fear among Egyptians that their new president might be of the exact same model as their last one.

Of course, this is the most obvious proof supporting anti-Morsi protestors’ theory saying that Morsi is becoming Mubarak. However, there are more subtle examples not making the headlines, including how Morsi is using the media, how the regime is supposedly hiring street thugs to break up peaceful anti-government demonstrations and the rumoured conspiracy surrounding the convictions at the Port Said tragedy trial.

by Jacob Berntson

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Mongolia: From puppet to puppet master?

The Mongolian flag waving before the steppes. Photo: rouwkema on flickr.Mongolia, with its seemingly infinite steppe, is a landlocked country surrounded by two giant neighbours. To the north looms the former Soviet Union who pulled the strings in the satellite state, Mongolia, before its collapse. During that period, Mongolia was but a mere puppet in a gradually decaying Soviet era. The other sides of the compass point to China, who in the course of history has made attempts to claim parts of contemporary Mongolia.  At its peak, under the leadership of Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire's influence was felt in Africa, Europe and Asia. Do the Mongolians have what it takes to regain some of its past splendour, or will their ambitions be crushed by two neighbouring power nations?

by Benny Wilbrink

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Fifty Shades of Green: How the German Green Party Established Itself in Mainstream Politics

Party Co-leader Cem Özdemir. Photo: Wikimedia commons.Who votes green? The environmental studies graduate? The management consultant? The housewife on the parish council? The medium-sized business owner? In Germany, it is currently all of these people and more. The German Green Party has risen in popularity among all groups of society over the past three years – a development that appears surprising considering the roots of party. When the party was founded in 1980, it was merely a niche for environmental rebels and was dismissed by former chancellor Helmut Schmidt as "environmental idiots who will have disappeared again soon“. Yet, thirty years later the party is still around and more successful than ever.

by Anna Scholz

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Ireland’s Abortion Problem: “It’s a Catholic Thing”

A Dublin protest after Savita’s death. Photo: Infomatique on Flickr.When a pregnant 31-year-old named Savita Halappanavar was suffering from severe pain, her husband, Praveen, rushed her to Galway University Hospital, Ireland. After being sent home following an initial examination, Savita returned to the emergency room a few hours later. At this point, Savita was told she was going to miscarry her baby. As Savita was in severe pain, the couple asked for the pregnancy to be terminated upon hearing this news. But they were told, “unfortunately, it is a Catholic country, and when the fetus is still alive, you’re not able to terminate it.” Savita miscarried three days later, by which time she was in a critical condition herself after suffering from extensive, excruciating pain. She never recovered, and, to the dismay of her family, Savita died from blood poisoning and infection seven days after first being rushed to hospital.

by Sean Kearns

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The High Price of a High Denomination

Even in Brussels the €500 euro note can be seen as impractical or suspicious. Photo: Niklas Hjelm-SmithThe €500 note is one of the most valuable legal tenders of any issued currency in the world. It is so valuable that shops normally refuse to take it, making it too inconvenient a note for the average person to use. Most Europeans have never seen nor used one, even though €500 euro notes make up a third of the total value of euro banknotes in circulation. Its high value relative to its size allows for a specific ease of use, which, according to the European Central Bank (ECB), is to serve as currency for the purchase of expensive items and to assist people who wish to store lots of their own wealth in cash. These are also the same reasons why criminals love it, and why the note has attracted so much controversy.

by Niklas Hjelm-Smith

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Why BRICS? South Africa and the Club of Emerging Nations

The leaders of the five BRICS countries meet for a 2012 summit. Photo: Wikimedia commons.The BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – have garnered considerable attention since Jim O’Niell of Goldman Sachs coined the term in 2001.  More than a mere acronym, the group of developing giants has become institutionalized and holds regular summits. Additionally, the countries announced plans to form a development bank earlier this March. Membership of such an organization carries with it both prestige and influence, and emerging countries such as Indonesia have voiced interest in joining. Debate is now stirring on whether it is time for the inclusion of more countries into the BRICS. It is for this reason interesting to take a closer look to the group’s latest additionSouth Africa. Why BRICS?

by Jesper Åkesson

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Evicted for Entertainment: Brazil’s 2014 World Cup Prep & Beyond

Rocinha Favela: One of Brazil’s largest slums, lying in prime location next to Rio’s city center. Photo: Wikimedia commonsWith the 2014 FIFA World Cup right around the corner and the 2016 Summer Olympics shortly thereafter, the city of Rio de Janiero in Brazil has been making significant strides to clean itself up and prepare for the estimated 79% increase in international visitors for the games. These preparations include over USD $25 billion to renovate Rio’s Maracana stadium, build a futuristic Olympic Park, improve tourism, and intensify police and security. The poorest areas of Rio have seen significantly positive changes such as the reduction of crime, increased tourism, and the development of restaurants, music venues, and dance clubs. However, as seen in prior instances of global-event preparation, there are always cases of neglect, where the most vulnerable areas of society bear the burden. In the case of Rio, the poorest of the poor are the focal point in preparation for the events, for better and for worse.

by Sofia Murad

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