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Friday, May 31, 2013

Anti-Erdogan Protests Ignite in Turkey

Scores were injured when Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters occupying a park in central Istanbul. Police staged a dawn raid on an encampment of Turks protesting the removal of trees from Gezi Park, part of Taksim Square, one of Istanbul’s only green spaces open to the public. Protestor’s rallied after the attack which saw several school children and tourists injured in the surprise assault. “This isn’t just about trees anymore, it’s about all of the pressure we’re under from this government. We’re fed up, we don’t like the direction the country is headed in,” said protestor Mert Burge, indicating that the aims of the Gezi sit-in have broadened to a generalized critique of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration. While Erdoğan has presided over a significant modernization of Turkey, including tripling the per capita income of Turks and making significants moves to end the Kurdish insurgency in eastern Turkey, his opponents have many criticisms. As Erdoğan’s neoliberal religious Justice and Development Party has successfully limited press freedom, minority rights, and the independence of the traditionally secular army, allegations of authoritarianism have become more common. As news of today’s police raid spread through Turkey, protests sprung up nationwide.

Gum Arabic Conflict Kills Dozens

At least 60 are dead after clashes over land rights in the Darfur region in Sudan this week. Al-Gemir tribesmen have accused the Beni-Halba tribe in Katila of attempting to wrest away control of acacia groves, which produce Sudan’s major export gum arabic. The Gemir have owned the land for at least 300 years, and have profited greatly from what amounts to a virtual monopoly on the popular food additive. While skirmishes have been reported in the area for weeks, on Tuesday alone fighting claimed the lives of 64 Gemir and Beni-Helba Darfurians. According to the U.N., “an estimated 6,500 people fled Katila and sought refuge in Tulus [in South Darfur].”

U.S. Wheat Exports Troubled By GMO Appearance

Japan has banned the import of certain wheat from the United States after unapproved genetically engineered (GMO) grain was found at an Oregon farm earlier this week. The strain, developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the popular herbicide Roundup, is not approved for commercial planting; indeed no GMO wheats have been approved for use anywhere in the world. The U.S. Agriculture Department has been unable to determine if any of the wheat has entered the food supply, but stressed that even if it had, a 2004 study had found that the Monsanto strain poses no significant safety or health problems. In 2006, unapproved GMO rice was discovered in American food supplies and exports cratered, driving rice prices down. Michael Firko with the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the rice situation was different, because the grain was found in commercial supplies. In the case of the GMO wheat, the grain was growing haphazardly. The farmer tried to kill them with Roundup, “a small percentage of them didn’t die,” Mr. Firko said. A test by Oregon State University confirmed the Monsanto developed Roundup-resistance. While Japan has banned all imports of wheat from the Pacific Northwest, the European Union has suggested it would screen all American wheat imports for the GMO strain.

Large Asteroid Passes Near Earth

An asteroid, named 1998 QE2, measuring over 1.5 miles across passed near Earth at 20:59 GMT (1:59PM PDT) today. Asteroid 1998 QE2 got about 3.6 million miles from Earth at its closest, more than 200 times as distant as last February’s ‘near-miss’ asteroid 2012 DA14, but 1998 QE2 is more than 50,000 time the size of 2012 DA14. Today’s pass will allow scientists to gain a greater understanding of the origin and make up of asteroids. Asteroid 1998 QE2 is particularly interesting as, like about 15 percent of other asteroids, it has its own moon. The asteroid is not visible with the naked eye, but those lacking a basic telescope can view today’s passing on Space.com.

Weekend Read: In The Crosshairs

Chris Kyle was the most successful sniper in U.S. military history. Upon leaving the Navy, Kyle began counseling veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with mixed success. Nicolas Schmidle reports in The New Yorker.

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