Weekly recap: seven news stories students should be aware of

As we move past Halloween and into a new month most students are probably looking for a way to make the school year stop going by so fast.  With the stress of planning out your next semester and subsequently your life probably hanging over many people’s heads, it can be easy to lose sight of what else is going on in the world around us.  To help keep students in touch with national and international news we will break down what has been going on during the past week.

  1. European Spy Agencies Worked Together on Mass Surveillance

In wake of the recent whistleblowing actions of Edward Snowden we are now becoming increasingly aware of the lack of privacy that we actually have due to the government’s hidden surveillance programs. Multiple foreign leaders, including those of our Allied nations, have expressed outrage at the revelations that the American National Secuity Agency (NSA) had conducted secret surveillance on them through phone and internet taps. The documents released by Snowden also indicate that Spain, Germany, Sweden and France all have intelligence agencies that are involved in the practice of mass surveillance through screening phone and internet traffic. Each of these countries’ intelligence agencies are linked to the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), an English electronic intelligence agency. GCHQ has been in the practice of internet and phone monitoring since 2008 when the company tapped directly into the transatlantic fibre optic cables to carry out bulk surveillance. The agency has also been advising these countries ways to conduct the surveillance while staying within the law, as only Sweden has laws stating that its intelligence agency to monitor cross-border email and phone communications without a court order.

2. White House defends Obamacare rule that forces new insurance

This past October 1 Obamacare became available to the nation via online exchanges, and out of an entire nation only six people were signed up with their coverage by the end of that first day. So far about 3.5 million people have been issued cancellation notices regarding their insurance policies, many of those going to people who purchase their own insurance rather than purchasing insurance from their jobs. The cancellation notices could result in a “transitioning” from the existing health coverage to one that meets new “minimum standards”. Some have complained that the new plans cost too much for them and are dissatisfied with President Obama after he stated that nobody would need to change their health insurance plan if they needed to. The Affordable Care Act will contain such benefits as allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26, employers covering women’s birth control free of charge, and screen testings such as colonoscopies for free. President Obama has estimated that about 5% of United States citizens could potentially lose their health plans in favor of new government enforced plans.

3.  Fatal shooting at Los Angeles airport

This past Friday morning saw a shooting at the famous Los Angeles International Airport which resulted in one death and several injuries. Paul Ciancia, 23, served as the lone gunmen who killed one TSA officer while injuring two other officers and one civilian. Ciancia reportedly was dropped off at LAX by a roommate shortly after 9am Friday morning and unveiled an assault rifle before opening fire at a security checkpoint. Ciancia was shot four times by the police, captured and taken into custody, he is currently under guard watch at a local hospital to recover from his injuries. The lone victim, 39-year old Gerardo Hernandez, serves as the first TSA officer to die in the line of duty since the agency was created in 2001. Several letters in the shooter’s duffel bag indicate that he planned to kill any TSA officers that he encountered at the airport.

4.  Two French journalists executed in Mali

The Middle East and Northern Africa continue to serve as the most dangerous grounds for foreign reporters to tread on in the world. This past week, two French journalists were kidnapped in Kidal, Mali and killed by armed men just several miles outside of the city. The two victims, Ghislaine Dupont, 51, and Claude Verlon, 58, were both reporters for the French radio station Radio France Internationale and were doing a special report on the turmoil in northern Mali in light of the country’s upcoming parliamentary vote. The killings are believed to have been carried out by the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA), a separated rebel group which controls large portions of Northern Mali. Both Dupont and Verlon had worked with Radio France Internationale since the 1980s and both were highly experienced when working in “difficult” areas, such as Africa and in the Middle East. Terrorist groups such as the NMLA and factions of al-Quaida have been known to function and train in this particular area of Northern Africa.

5.  Maine Congressman Michaud declares he is gay

Rep. Mike Machaud from Maine, disclosed his sexual orientation on Monday in response to opposing political opponents using questions of his personal life as a slanderous part of their campaigns. Michaud, a Democrat who is currently running for governor, becomes only the seventh openly gay or bisexual member of the U.S. House of Representatives. This announcement comes as the Senate takes up a bill that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Michaud will be running for governor of Maine in 2014 against Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Independent Eliot Cutler. Should Michaud win the election, he would be the first openly gay person to win a governor’s race.

6.  Over 1,500 Nazi-seized paintings found in Munich apartment

German authorities have recovered a vast collection of paintings previously condemned and thought to have been destroyed by the Nazi party in a small apartment located in Munich. The apartment belongs to the grandson of Hildebrandt Gurlitt, an art collector employed by the Nazis to collect important artwork belonging to Jewish people living in Germany shortly before World War I with the purpose of destroying it. The invaluable pieces were often sold to these “art collectors” at very low prices because the Jewish owners of the art were simply trying to raise money to leave Germany or would directly sell the art with the promise that they would be able to escape Germany. The collection includes works by famous artistic figures such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, with the overall value estimated at over one billion euros (about $1.4 billion).

7.  Man finds fossil sea monster in garden

A man living in Suffolk, England found a large bone while digging through his garden over 16 years ago. John Lambert, owner of the garden and fossil finder, had forgotten about the bone for all those years before remembering it and bringing it to a local museum for identification. The massive 15lb bone was found to belong to the pliosaur, a dinosaur that lived in the oceans from 250 million to 60 million years ago. The pliosaur was described as having the most powerful bite of any animal in the world and the largest of the species could have grown up to 65 ft in length. Lambert will keep the fossil in hopes that it will draw attraction to his garden, which is over eight acres and opened every year for charity.

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