Win an Apple Macbook Air and a 32GB Ipod Touch!

For your chance to win an apple macbook air and a 32GB ipod touch either share our Facebook photo and like our facebook page or RT our photo on twitter and follow us.

The winner will be announced next thursday and we must have over 50 shares or 50 retweets! So get sharing/retweeting now and you could have these 2 fantastic items by the end of next week!

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Prism – Are You Being Watched?

What is Prism?

It is a secret government organisation run by the National Security Agency (NSA). They had access to data held by major internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

What data can it obtain?

Detailed information about online activity, crucially including the contents of emails and live chat. The documents revealed Ed Snowden suggested they had access to chat logs, stored data, voice traffic, file transfers and social networking data of individuals. The government also confirmed they had asked for millions of phone records.

When was it set up?

It is believed to have been set up in 2007 under the US surveillance laws passed by George W. Bush and renewed by Obama in 2012.

How has it emerged?

Through a secret NSA presentation to staff which talks of “collection directly from the servers” of internet providers.

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 How have companies responded?

They deny knowledge of the programme despite the detail of the NSA presentation.

How does it other countries?

As the primary sites of all the world’s major internet companies are in the United States, it means every communication by another national can in theory be read by NSA agents.

The BBC said: “User data (such as emails and social media activity) is often not stored in the same country as the users themselves – Facebook for example has a clause in its privacy policy saying that all users must consent to their data being “transferred to and stored in” the US.”

Is it legal?

This is uncertain and many privacy campaigners are investigating whether there are grounds for a legal challenge. Experts say the legislation covering the issue  is sketchy. Many argue that protecting the country from terrorism is more important than individual privacy.

Are you concerned? Or do you agree that security is more important than individual privacy?

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Kenyan MPs Salaries Cut

Public outcry has led to the Kenyan government to cut MP salaries by $45,000 to $75,000 (approximately 40%). Protesters called the Kenyan MPs ‘MPigs’ forcing this decision despite a previous decision in May where MPs saw their salary rise to $120,000.

However, MPs will receive a $58,000 car allowance for agreeing with the cut, as well as a large pension, an armed guard, a diplomatic passport and access to airport VIP lounges. The MPs believe that they deserve the high salaries, often providing financial help to their constituents. Although many would agree the MPs are hard working the public outrage stemmed from the fact that they were receiving well over the national average income of $1,800 per year.

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Should Kenyan MPs have their salary cut? If so what should be done with the money?

Thanks for reading this short post!

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Turkey Protests 2013 – Your Questions Answered

In Turkey, protests have broken out in the biggest unrest in a decade. Read on to find out why…

Why are they protesting?

Late May trouble began in protest to the proposed demolition of one of  Istanbul’s green spaces (Gezi Park), which has a huge symbolic value to many of the locals. The government planned to use the space to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks and a mosque on the site

Why did so many end up protesting?

Although the protest started off small the police agitated the locals when they tried to clear the protesters away with tear gas and water cannons. As a result, in early June, thousands of people joined in. The government has admitted to overreacting, but so far there have still been approximate 2,800 protesters injured, 800 arrests and 2 deaths.

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Who are the protesters?

The protesters are far-ranging from young to old, rich to poor.

What do the protesters want?

Originally it was the stopping of building on Istanbul’s green spaces. Now, a committee of experts known as the Taksim Solidarity Platform has been established to negotiate with government. Their demands are to scrap the redevelopment of the green space, the sacking of many police officers, the prevention of excessive force and to release the arrested protesters.

What other factors could have led to protest?

Days before the protests a bill was passed in parliament to ban the late-night sale of alcohol in shops, which led to protesters holding up beer to Recep Tayyip Erdogan (their Prime Minister) as a gesture of defiance. There are also plans to place a constitutional ban on headscarfs, adultery and kissing in public.

What are your thoughts? Do you think they should be protesting? Is their police showing too much force?

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Iran Election 2013 – Your Questions Answered

On Friday, Iran is holding an election for a new president. In total 7 contenders are hoping to gain the presidency after 1 contender dropped out earlier this month. Although Iran has no true political parties the candidates are ideological distinct (4 are conservatives and 3 are cautious reformers)

Is the current President standing?

The current president – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – is unable to serve another term after already serving a maximum of two consecutive terms.

Who are the candidates for the presidency?

Pro-Khamenei candidates:

– Saeed Jalili who is Iran’s security of the National Security Council and a chief negotiator in foreign affairs

– Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, mayor of Tehran

– Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide of Khamenei

– Mohsen Rezai

The reform candidates:

– Mohammad Reza Aref, the former vice-president

– Hassan Rowhani, former nuclear negotiator

– Mohammad Gharazi, an ex-minister

Who did not make it through vetting?

In total 678 people desired to stand for the presidency, with only 8 candidates (now 7) remaining after the vetting process. This process is meant to “prevent corruption and deviation”, according to one jurist. It includes background checks on police records, court records, and registry records for loyalty to Islam. After, the Guardian Council (12 Muslim clergymen) help the vetting process, but this has led critics to believe that many candidates are ‘hand-picked’ because of their loyalty to Islam.

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Are the they concerned about a low turnout?

This does appear to be the case. Authorities have made changes to hold local council elections for the same day as well as by-elections for the Assembly of Experts (a group of clerics that appoint the supreme leader). By combining all the elections into one day is a hopeful attempt to boost voter turnout.

What are the election issues?

The economy is in a very poor state, mostly as a result of the country’s nuclear programme.  All the candidates have declared their intention of improving the economy. The pro-Khamenei candidates have also talked about privatisation and fighting corruption whilst the reformers talked about improving world relation. However, NO candidate has mentioned the nuclear programme, which is the cause of their messy economy.

How does the election work?

One candidate needs to have over 50% of the vote to win. If no candidate gets that in the first round and run-off will be held between the top 2 candidates to ensure one candidate gets the majority of votes required to win. On 3rd August the president is to be sworn in.

Who will winner?

Although opinion polls and media coverage of the election is often unreliable the informal polls in Iran show that the moderate reformer Hassan Rowhani has a strong lead. But, it is hard to say and all we can do is wait and see…

Keep reading my blog to find out the result of this election in 2 months time!

What are your thoughts on the election in Iran? How should the candidates tackle the crippling economy?

Thanks for reading,

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Job Cuts In Greece

The Greek parliament is holding a vote today on a proposal which could lead to the unemployment of 15,000 state employees. The reason for the proposals is to help the country to reduce costs and receive more bailout money, but there have been a series of protests in opposition to the job cuts from trade unions (groups representing those who may lose their job). Adedy, the civil service trade confederation, and the private sector GSEE union called a demonstration outside parliament late on Sunday afternoon against “those politicians who are dismantling the public service and destroying the welfare state”.

greekjobcuts

If the law passes it would undermine the constitutional guarantee that the civil servants’ jobs would be for life. Although the sector has been very large since the 1980s it is argued that the dismissal of the workers would be against their constitutional rights. Those who have broken rules will be the first to be dismissed, but a lot of other workers are to be replaced by younger employees.

It is estimated that if the law goes ahead unemployment will rise further than the 27% it is currently at. The proposals are predicted to pass with a fairly comfortable conservative majority supporting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

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Iceland Elections – Your Questions Answered

Today Iceland held a vote in their elections where a defeat is expected for the current coalition government, who first made it into power after economic difficulties in the country. The two parties who were partly blamed for the economic difficulties are expected to form a coalition to replace the retiring prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir. The two centre-right parties are eurosceptic; this could prevent the government’s efforts to secure EU membership.

Who Is Competing? 

The Progressive Party, normally thought of as Iceland’s third party, has grown in popularity as a result of its opposition to the government’s to use the people’s money to repay British people/banks for money lost in their banking collapse. Their leader, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, hopes to get approximately 20% of their debt waived by foreign company’s whom they own money too.

The Independence Party, their conservative party, fell from power in 2009 after being the key party since after World War 2. The main reason for this was because much of the blame of the economic crises was put on the party and their leader, Geir Haarde, was put on trial – but he was only found guilty of minor offence. Currently, their leader, Bjarni Benediktsson, hopes for increased economic growth in the country by encouraging investment and reducing taxes.

The current coalition, between the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, are low on opinion polls and unlikely to gain re-election. Bright Future, a pro-European party, and the Pirate Party, a pro-digital rights party, are also both low on opinion polls.

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Why Is The Current Government Not Popular?

The simple answer is because they are blamed for the economic collapse 2008-2009. Since then the country has experienced some economic growth and unemployment has dipped below 5%. Unfortunately, Iceland still has high debts and owes a lot of money to other countries and companies. The governing coalition made matters worse by declaring that they would pay of these debts using the citizen’s money.

The EU

The residents of Iceland wanted to join the EU after the economic crises because it is seen as a protection for the country from future economic difficulties. Although the government did start some negotiations they have been slow and nothing much has come from it.

Their Electoral System

They have a 63 member parliament (Althingi). The members are elected proportionally, which means seat are elected proportionally to the number of votes received. A key aspect of a proportional electoral system is that it prevents any one party gaining too much power (a tyranny of the majority), but can lead to smaller, more extremist, parties gaining representation.

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Iraq Election

In Iraq provincial (regional) elections have been held for the first time since American soldiers left the country in 2011. In the lead up to the election there was violence throughout the country, which has led to the Shia-led government postponing a couple of other provincial elections.

At present, Iraqi troops are ensuring there is stability in the country. Dozens of people have been killed by bombings in the last week alone, as well as two polling stations have been attacked. So far 14 people who have decided to stand for election have been murdered, but the Prime Minister (Nouri al-Maliki) told citizens to continue voting in defiance of “enemies of the political process”.

Iraq_Top

Approximately 14 million Iraqi citizens are able to vote for the 8000+ candidates competing for the 378 council seats. In the capital, voters were searched twice before they could cast their vote and elsewhere security forces patrolled. One student, Abdulsahib Ali Abdulsahib, said that “security is the most important problem that all of them should be working for; without this, life would be so difficult,”

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Somalia’s al-Shabab – Your Questions Answered

Who are they?

  • al-Shabab means ‘The Youth’ in arabic
  • They are affiliated with al-Qaeda
  • They formed as a young radical section of the Islamic Courts Union (Sharia courts established to rival the Transitional Federal Government) in 2006, as they fought Ethiopian forces who had entered Somalia to back the weak interim government
  • Foreign jihadists (islamic militants) were reported to have helped al-Shabab
  • Places ruled under al-Shabab are subject to strict Sharia law e.g. stoning a women to death if she has committed adultery

Does al-Shabab control much of Somalia?

  • They are mainly in control of rural areas – however, they did have control over some towns and cities in the past (in August 2011 al-Shabab were forced out of the capital, Mogadishu) 
  • One port city, Kismayo, had been vital for al-Shabab to bring in supplies to areas under their control – they no longer have control of the port
  • Although this has been a big victory for the government and the African Union frequent suicide attacks are made by al-Shabab in the capital
  • They are increasingly using guerrilla warfare against the forces of the African Union
  • Since, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces have taken control over parts of the country to regain order

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Who is the leader of al-Shabab?

  • The head of al-Shabab is Ahmed Abdi Godane, but is known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair 
  • However, there is some evidence to suggest his leadership is being put under pressure from a large southern breakaway section of the group
  • The previous leader, Moalim Aden Hashi Ayro, was killed by a US airstrike in 2008

al-Shabab’s foreign links

  • Joined al-Qaeda in 2012, but have been working together for longer
  • It is believed that members of al-Qaeda who are retreating from areas, such as Afghanistan, will soon seek refuge with al-Shabab in Somalia

Attacks by al-Shabab, other than in Somalia

  • In the Ugandan capital, Kampala, they committed a double suicide that killed 76 people (they were watching the 2010 world cup football final)
  • Attacks in 2002 on Israeli targets near Mombassa in Kenya

Who backs al-Shabab?

  • Eritrea, an independent state in North East Africa, is an ally, but it denies that it supplies al-Shabab with weapons
  • Eritrea dislike Ethiopia

Somalia

Somalia is pretty much a failed state. They have not had an effective government for about 20 years and have been subject to constant war. As a result, al-Shabab easily won support among Somalia’s promising security – something the citizens welcomed!

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