Top Events of Summer 2011, Honourable Mentions: World

Fall is upon us, and so are the hordes of frosh wandering around campus in search of their classes (“what do you mean Health Sci isn’t right next to Nat Sci? I have to walk where?”). If you’re one of those frosh, welcome to Western, and don’t worry—you’ll figure out where all your classes are just in time for second semester.

With the new school year comes the triumphant return of the mitZine for its eleventh volume, the first issue of which is available now. As you may have seen in the frosh issuewe cobbled together a list of the top 5 most important events of the summer, and arrived at the following list: 

  1. The News Of The World phone-hacking scandal
  2. The Norway attacks
  3. The government crackdown in Syria
  4. The Canadian federal election
  5. The intense interest (and lack thereof) in the Royal visit

This list is hardly exhaustive; many important events came and went, and we only had so much space. But here are some more of the defining events of the summer, in chronological order, that didn’t quite make the cut:

Osama bin Laden’s Death
Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, was killed on May 2nd, 2011 during a covert operation by US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Despite topping the FBI’s list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” for almost 10 years, bin Laden eluded three consecutive presidential administrations before finally being located and killed at a residential compound.

President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s death in a televised address that was celebrated across the United States. Jubilant citizens took to the streets in New York and Washington, reveling and celebrating in disbelief — ecstatic that vengeance had been served to anti-American terrorism, personified. Chants of “USA! USA!” broke out at baseball games as the news spread virulently across the country.

But the unexpected death of Osama bin Laden raised as many questions as it answered:

How could bin Laden have lived mere minutes from a Pakistani military complex without local authorities knowing? Did the US government break international law when it infiltrated a foreign country and assassinated an unarmed man and members of his family? Did the American public’s response reveal a permanently damaged (and violent) psyche? If bin Laden’s death closes a chapter in the “War on Terror”, will the United States finally withdraw from (or at least modify its strategy in) the Middle East?

The death of Osama bin Laden was undoubtedly an important event, but how important remains to be seen. Four months after his death, bin Laden has disappeared from the public discourse and nothing practical has changed. Draconian security laws are still in effect around the world, terrorists still operate in the Middle East and elsewhere, and anti-Muslim discrimination is more widespread than ever.

 – Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood

Vancouver riots embarrass Canada Vancouver riots

After witnessing the crushing defeat of their beloved Canucks on June 15, enraged fans proceeded to riot and loot the streets of Vancouver, smashing store windows and setting cars ablaze. Such actions echoed those carried out by similar hooligans during the 1994 Stanley cup playoffs.

Rioting sports fans have always ignited debates regarding the effects of fan dedication towards their respective team, but these displays of lawlessness carry with them many other difficulties. Professional sports teams have always prided themselves on their abilities to bring a town, city or even a nation together, but there are always those who take this dedication way too far, leading to larger ramifications for thousands of others.

After examining over 200 sports-related riots, Jerry Lewis, professor of sociology at Kent State University in Ohio, came to the conclusion that all of the 200 riots had 5 things in common, two of which carry significant political and social consequences. The first is the fact that the fans were gathered publicly in an urban area, and the second is that there was an abundance of young white males present. If these displays of barbarism continue, legislatures may begin to look at gatherings of sports fans as riot-inducing displays and question the applicability of the right to assemble publicly when it comes to sporting events. If this were to happen a ripple effect might ensue where all seemingly peaceful assemblies (that could potentially escalate into violence) may be brought into question and potentially halted pre-emptively. Also, young white males may be especially targeted by law enforcement when going to watch their favourite team, in another example of profiling. Where does this all end, one might ask? Not only in a loss for the home team, but also a loss for the whole sporting community.

– Aubrey Chapnick

Google+ is born Google+

Google+ is so much more than an incomplete mathematical expression: it is a new and exciting place to network socially. It comes to us clean, polished and very white–like the future in any respectable sci-fi flick.

For the new user, G+ is easy enough to navigate because the interface is extremely (almost suspiciously) familiar. You may post thoughts or links, upload rad ‘pics’ and sweet ‘vids,’ and “+1” other posts that you Like.

While there are striking similarities to Facebook, G+’s main advantage is its introduction of ‘Circles’: customizable lists of your G+ friends. You can thus safely upload raunchy ‘pics’ to your “BFFs” Circle, leaving your “Family” and “Highschool Teachers” Circles none the wiser.

For those concerned with Facebook’s (lack of) privacy regulations, the slick and intuitive G+ provides the ideal alternative. However, it is unclear whether G+ will generate enough buzz to sustain itself, or if, due to waning popular interest, we will eventually be waving goodbye to this new social network.

– Paul Craig

London riots embarrass UK London riots

On August 4, police shot and killed a man named Mark Duggan in the Tottenham area of London, England. In the following days, his friends and family gathered to peacefully protest the shooting, but on August 6 the protest turned violent. The riots spread, and by the time they ended on August 10, worst riots the UK has seen in decades had reached as far as Bristol and Manchester. By that time it seemed the rioters were no longer motivated by Duggan’s death, but by what they saw as the oppressive British social order.

Similar to the Arab Spring movement earlier this year, social media appeared to play an important role in the organization of the riots (to the extent that any riot can be considered “organized”). And similar to the protests in the Middle East, the British government was quite unhappy with the rioters’ use of this relatively new tool. The day after the riots were quelled, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the government was looking into the possibility of blocking access to social networks like Facebook and Twitter in the event of future outbursts.

Though it appears the government has decided not to pursue this possibility, to do so would have been a misguided, knee-jerk reaction. People have been rioting since long before they had Facebook to help them along. As the late regime of Hosni Mubarak showed us, even cutting a whole country’s Internet access will not stop determined demonstrators, no matter what their cause. Granting the government power to block access to social media would do little to quell unrest, and more importantly, would have a tremendous potential for abuse.  The riots were a symptom of much greater social problems, and as much as Mr. Cameron may wish it were so, they could not have been stopped at the flick of a switch.

– Julian Uzielli

Jack Layton’s Death Jack Layton

It was an eventful summer for the federal New Democratic Party. Party leader Jack Layton led the NDP to its most successful election ever on May 2, more than doubling its seat count to 103 and making it the Official Opposition for the first time.

Not long after his historic victory, on July 25, a shockingly gaunt Layton announced that he had been diagnosed with an unspecified type of cancer, and would temporarily step down as head of the NDP. He died on August 22 at the age of 61.

His death prompted an overwhelming outpouring of grief and sadness from Canadians of all political stripes. The reason for this is simple: Layton was that rare breed of politician that was not only popular and charismatic, but honest, kind, and unfailingly true to his beliefs. His loyalty was not for sale, and he always stuck to his principles no matter the odds—just look at the NDP’s doomed-from-the-start 58-hour filibuster over the Canada Post lockout in June. He was able to inspire and energize the electorate in a way no other Canadian politician has even begun to approach. Though not everyone agreed with his politics, he was universally respected for his integrity—a quality in which all too many MPs are sorely lacking.

Layton’s untimely death leaves a gaping hole in the NDP. How it will affect the future of the party remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the next leader of the NDP will have some big shoes to fill.

– Julian Uzielli

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