Limiting Climate Change Good for the Economy

The steps needed to limit global warming to 2C would see 650,00 new jobs created and 27,000 deaths avoided in the United States, according to a study from the New Climate Institute in March.

Growth in the renewable energy sector would stimulate economies, and the results of preventing climate change would save lives. Coastal cities are at risk of extreme weather events, and heat waves threaten the elderly and infirm. Reducing the likelihood of such catastrophes would also limit healthcare costs.

The effect is even more pronounced in the developing world, which is more susceptible to drought and famine. Over a million lives would be saved in China by limiting warming to 2C, and almost two million new jobs would be created in the process.

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Conservatives Take Majority in U.K.

In the May 7 election in the United Kingdom, the Conservatives, led by David Cameron, took the majority for the first time since 1992. The party was elected in only four seats more than is needed for a majority with less than 37 percent of the popular vote.

Cameron’s opponents—Ed Miliband for Labour, Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats, and Nigel Farange for UKIP—all resigned as a result of their loses. The exception was Nicola Sturgeon, whose Scottish National Party won all but four of the seats in Scotland.

Cameron’s campaign included promises of austerity in order to tackle Britain’s ballooning debt and a referendum on withdrawing from the European Union. His government is already moving ahead with the equivalent of a near $19 billion cut to its welfare budget and is in negotiations with the E.U. ahead of a possible referendum next year. (See our article “The European Dream is Fraying” in this issue.)

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Controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill C-51 Passes in Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Bill C-51, designed to combat the spread of terrorism, has become law in Canada. Critics of the bill, however, including Amnesty International and 100 law professors who signed an open letter to the government, say that it goes too far.

The more controversial aspects of the bill are criticized for being too broad in scope. These include making it a crime to promote terrorism and allowing judges to censor terrorist online propaganda. Critics argue “terrorism” is poorly defined by the bill, and that these new powers could be used to silence legitimate democratic dissent.

The bill also gives law enforcement greater access to information relating to individuals suspected of terrorism held by other government departments, such as the Canada Border Services Agency, Health Canada, and the Canada Revenue Agency.

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E.U. Response to Humanitarian Disaster in the Mediterranean

The E.U. border agency Frontex announced at the end of May that its boats will now operate in Libyan waters in order to rescue migrants at risk of drowning. This is in contrast to their Triton Operation’s previous mandate to only operate within 10 km of the Italian coast.

The action comes in response to mounting international pressure over the recent catastrophic migrant death tolls in the Mediterranean with over 1,300 lives lost in April alone, making it the deadliest month on record.  (See our article “Death on Europe’s Doorstep” in our Spring 2015 issue.) In addition, the United Kingdom has sent a warship, the HMS Bulwark, to assist with rescue operations. So far the ship has taken part in the rescue of more than 1,000 migrants.

The U.K.’s new aid is a reversal of its leader’s earlier statements that they would not support the rescue of migrants as they feared it would lead to an increase in the number attempting to make the crossing from North Africa.

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Philae Comet Lander Wakes Up

The culmination of a 20-year space mission is in full swing in June as Philae sent its first transmissions since landing in November. The interim hibernation was due to an off-nominal landing site that reduced the sunlight to the craft’s solar panels.

Philae is the lander that accompanied the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft, which allows the small unit to broadcast its information back to Earth. Their target was the  comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which circles the sun every 6.45 years halfway between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

As the comet nears the sun, Philae has sent data back to earth that includes the details of its rocky landing: instead of a dust plain, it sits in a pebbly ravine. The accidental location is a boon for scientists as geological information was the reason for the mission, and the nearby stones may be as old as the solar system itself.

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Congress Votes to limit the NSA

In June, the U.S. Congress rejected some of the mass intelligence-gathering powers of the NSA. The bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, most significantly ends the bulk collection of the private telephone records of U.S. citizens.

The Act is the first legislative response to the 2013 disclosures of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The ability of the NSA to target online communications remains in place, but the collection telephone metadata had allowed the security agency to monitor the “who called who” of the entire American public. It remains to be seen whether the NSA’s reach will be further restricted as a result of Snowden’s leaks.

The Republican party was divided on the bill, which split the vote between the values of security and privacy. Critics say the bill would do little to protect privacy anyway when telecom companies already posses this data.

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Life Imprisonment for Founder of Silk Road

Ross Ulbricht, also known online as the Dread Pirate Roberts, was sentenced in the U.S. to two life terms and three lesser prison sentences without possibility of parole.

Ulbricht founded and ran the online, international marketplace Silk Road, which has been called an ‘eBay’ of drugs and other illegal goods. The website allowed users to buy and sell anonymously and have drugs mailed direct to their door.

On charges of money laundering, computer hacking, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics, he has received the maximum punishment allowed under federal guidelines.

His defense argued that the website was safer than street-level organized crime, but the court heard from the parents of several men who had died due to overdose after purchasing drugs through Silk Road.

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Terrorist Attacks in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait

Three simultaneous terrorist attacks shook the world on June 26. The attacks did not appear to be coordinated, but all were inspired by the increasing spread of jihadism.

In Lyon, France, a man set off an explosion in the chemical plant where he worked. He killed only one employee, his boss, using  a knife, and displayed the head next to a flag with the Islamic declaration of faith.

Two hours later in Sousse, Tunisia, a gunman dressed as a vacationer killed 39 people at a beachfront hotel before he was shot by security forces. It was the second attack aimed at tourists in the region in three months.

Less than an hour after the second attack, a suicide bomber in Kuwait City killed 25 at a Shiite mosque during Friday prayer. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Though they do not appear connected, the three incidents came just days after ISIS called for such attacks to take place during the holy month of Ramadan.

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