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Weekly news round up: Al Qaeda’s new leader, Australia’s tax on carbon and the Vancouver riot kiss

Elizabeth Yick

Mon Jun 20 2011

Vancouver riot kiss

SO CONSUMED by exam preps you have no time for news? We help you catch up. In our news round up this week, we talk about Al Qaeda’s new leader, Australia’s tax on carbon, and the Vancouver riot kiss.

Al Qaeda’s new leader

What now that Osama bin Laden is dead? Has the “war on terror” finally been won?

It has been a little more then a month since  Al Qaeda lost its figurehead, but as CNN reports, the Islamic extremist organisation Al Qaeda has emerged from its hiatus to announce a new leader. Ayman al-Zawahri – a physician from a prominent Egyptian family, and the trusted deputy to Osama bin Laden for many years – will now take on the mantle of leadership of the world’s most infamous terrorist cell.

But the appointment has raised a few eyebrows from well known analysts, who wonder if the academic-type al-Zawahri lacks the personal charisma and inspirational back-story of his predecessor. It has often been argued that it was bin Laden’s charm and affluence that made it possible for Al Qaeda to gain the foothold it did in the recent decade.

Al-Zawahri will be under pressure to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden by launching strikes upon both the United States and its allies. That said, U.S. officials don’t seem to be overly concerned, as they say intelligence indicates Al Qaeda is currently incapable of organising and executing a successful attack, and doubt al-Zawahri is likely to be able to command the network of operatives required for a complex operation.

Whether Al Qaeda will flourish without Osama bin Laden and continue to play a prominent and threatening role on the international stage under its new leader, is further discussed by both the BBC and the Washington Post. In the meantime, the world can only watch with wary eyes.

Julia Gillard’s carbon tax

“Global warming” and “climate change” are terms that have been bandied around the international stage a lot in recent years, with many countries now vowing to take an active stance on climate change and its impact on the environment.

For its part, the Australian government (led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard) wants to push through a carbon tax – which is the taxation on the carbon content of fuels. In other words, we will be charged for the amount of carbon-dioxide (CO2) that is being released into the air.

Since the announcement in mid-February this year, there has been much discussion and discontent as to who should be charged, and how this charge should be carried out.

Needless to say, this proposed carbon tax has neither been popular with the Australian public nor the industrial sector, which would be heavily affected if this taxation scheme goes ahead.

With the negotiation process of the multi-party climate change committee at a stalemate, coupled with record lows in the Labor government’s approval ratings, it was perhaps why the government decided in the past week to embark upon a costly media advertisement campaign to sell the idea.

The only problem was, it cost the government a whopping $12 million to run the television advertising campaign, sparking a furore, as The Age reported. It earned the ire of the deputy leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Christine Milne, who said it was “a mystery… how you can start working on a campaign in the absence of a finalised deal about what it is you are advertising.”

Independent members of parliament Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor were equally displeased with the Gillard government’s decision for the advertising campaign, calling it “unhelpful” and “presumptuous”.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott was also quick to join the fray and remind the Australian public that Julia Gillard had called taxpayer advertising “an abuse” before the last election. But then of course, Prime Minister Gillard did make the pre-election promise of not introducing a carbon tax at all…

The debacle continues.

Riot police walk in the street as a couple kiss on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver broke out in riots after their hockey team the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images

Riot police walk in the street as a couple kiss on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver broke out in riots after their hockey team the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images

Vancouver Riot Kiss

No, this is not a scene from a movie, but it might as well have been.

A pair of lovers locked in an embraced, sharing a tender kiss amid the chaotic violence of a riot in Vancouver last week.

This image went viral on the Internet within hours, as people speculated on the veracity and context of the photo.

Who were those two people? What were they doing? Are they alright? Why were they kissing? What were they doing on the ground? Why were they lying on the ground sharing a kiss when the riot was raging around them? How did they even manage to be in this position? Was it staged? Is this picture even real?

Turns out, the man pictured was an Australian from Perth named Scott Jones and the woman was his girlfriend, a Canadian called Alexandra Thomas. The couple had attended the Stanley Cup final between the ice hockey teams the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins.

When the Canucks lost, some angry fans took to the streets in a rioting mob, and in the mayhem, Alexandra was knocked down by a police shield. Scott rushed to her aid and shielded her from the riot police who mistook the couple for troublemakers and threatened to hit them if they didn’t  move. Upon discovering their error, the police moved on, leaving Scott to cradle his girlfriend in his arms, and in that moment he had bent down to give her a kiss and reassure her that everything was doing to be alright.

At that time, photojournalist Rich Lam was being pushed back by the police when he briefly saw the couple lying on the ground. Thinking they may have been hurt as casualties of the riot, he hurriedly snapped a few pictures.

Some people think the picture defined “a moment”, others feel it captured true romance in our era. What do you think?