Wait, a Nicaraguan Canal? A few summer news stories that you may have missed while getting your tan on

The Labor Day weekend marks the symbolic end of summer in the United States, and the end of August is also the end of vacation time in many other countries.  With summer winding up and the school year starting, this is a good chance to overview some of the top news stories you might have missed this summer while you were enjoying your holiday.

So here are the top 5 news stories from this summer, with summaries provided by students in my current World Politics class.  They are, in no particular order:

Violence Escalates in Syria

An interactive graph of Syria’s chemical, biological, and missile production sites available from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

The Syrian conflict started in the spring of 2011 when, in the face of peaceful protests, the Assad government responded with overwhelming violence.  Civilians have since taken up arms in response, and the civil war has since escalated and has seen tremendous violence that has killed thousands and displaced 1.5 million civilians.  In recent days, reports were that the government has used chemical weapons on its civilian counterparts, prompting a UN investigation.  The United States has claimed that the use of chemical weapons crossed a red line and has prompted a possible United States military response.

Edward Snowden Reveals NSA spying

In June it was leaked that the National Security Agency was collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers.  These records were being collected and stored in bulk, whether the customer was suspected of wrongdoing or not.  The NSA Agent who leaked the information revealed himself as Edward Snowden.  Some people see Snowden as a patriot for revealing this domestic surveillance, while others see him as a traitor for exposing government secrets that could potentially save lives.  Snowden has since been on the run, seeking asylum where he can.

Egypt: Is it a coup or isn’t it?

On the one year anniversary of Mohamed Morsi’s election, mass protests broke out in Egypt demanding the president step down.  On July 1, the Egyptian military issued an ultimatum against President Morsi to solve his differences with his opposition or be disposed of.  He refused and the military responded by arresting him.  The military picked an interim President Mansour who dissolved the upper house of parliament, which had recently seen an Islamist party win a significant majority.  The Morsi supporters and the military have since seen armed conflict in the streets of Cairo, leaving hundreds dead.  Groups around the world are taking sides during this conflict.  Officially, the United States is not taking a side in the conflict, and is refraining from characterizing the situation as a military coup, perhaps to avoid the law preventing aid to such a coup.

Al Jazeera has a good timeline of the events.

Eurozone climbs out of recession, though Greece still falters

In perhaps some of the best economic news to come out of Europe in some time, the Eurozone reported positive growth for the first time in 18 months. The two largest euro economies, Germany and France, performed better than expected, and Portugal (which took out an EU/IMF loan in 2011) showed the strongest growth at 1.1%.  Several countries still struggled, including Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Greece, who recently requested a new loan to support their economy.  A European recovery would be good news to other countries, as the recession has hurt growth in places like China.

A Canal Runs Through Nicaragua?

The proposed 286-kilometer (178-mile) canal route to be built through Nicaragua. (Reuters, image from a RT news story)

A Chinese investment group led by Wang Jing has agreed to invest $40 billion to build a waterway to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of Nicaragua.  The project is expected to begin in December 2014 and be completed by 2019.  The new canal is expected to compete with the existing Panama Canal, which is currently undergoing an expansion to try to keep up with the increase in vessel size and quantity since its opening in 1914.  Aside from potential political controversies of a Chinese investor building a rival canal to the Panamanian Canal that has a significant history of American interest, there is also environment concerns about the route going through Lake Nicaragua, which is the source for fresh drinking water for most of the country.

Honorable Mention

While the above stories mark the top 5 of the summer, you might also want to check out:



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