Germany’s Wurst Nightmare: The WHO Report

By Shirin Yassen

Sausages are to Germans like pasta is to Italians. So the World Health Organizations warning this October that processed meat may cause cancer was tough to swallow for the Germans.

Sausage is ground meat, herbs and vegetables stuffed into a skin, and it has been part of the German diet for centuries. Germans make at least 40 different types of sausage, and of the 31 types listed in the U.S. National Hot Dog and Sausage Council’s online sausage glossary, 11 are from Germany.

Catalan_Hot_Dog_Stand_FrankfurtFrankfurt even lent its name to a sausage, yet now German citizens have learned that frankfurters may cause cancer. But the Germans’ craving for their hot dogs is not likely to stop.

Germany’s newspapers released hundreds of articles when the processed meat announcement appeared, prompting the WHO, the U.N. health organization, to issue a statement clarifying that while it was not calling for people to stop eating sausages altogether, it did recommend that consumers reduce their consumption of processed meat.

WHO said it had found sufficient evidence “that consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” WHO’s findings were based on 800 studies carried out around the world.

German and Austrian food ministers criticized WHO’s report on the health risk of processed meat. “No one should be afraid to eat a bratwurst,” said Christian Schmidt, the German food and agriculture minister. “What counts is the quantity, too much of something is always bad for the health,” he explained in a statement, drawing a comparison between sausages and sunshine.

While government officials were upset, Germany’s wurst lovers were even more annoyed and angry by the report. “It’s total nonsense,” a woman selling sausages to a line of customers in Frankfurt told the Wall Street Journal. “If it is true, every German would have already died of wurst,” she added.

When it comes to sausage, there’s no place like Germany to eat it. At many German festivals the main food that is served is sausage, and the Germans have been serving wurst for hundreds of years. And in Duetschland, people take wurst seriously.


It’s even part of the language, as when someone says: “All things comes to an end, only the sausage has two.” When they want to express indifference, Germans say “It’s all sausage to me.”

Germans eat more processed meat than any other people. Reuters reported that an average German consumes 17.2 kilos of the stuff each year, with each region specializing in its own particular version of the national varieties. Bratwurst, for example, made from pork in a natural skin and grilled or fried, has over 50 varieties in Germany, differing in size and seasonings, as well as texture.

In 2009, Berlin opened a sausage museum dedicated to its now maligned staple and the city’s favorite snack. It is a paradise for sausage lovers and a magnet for tourists. Frankfurt holds a festival every year, featuring a competition for the best frankfurter, a six-day event that draws up to 500 visitors a day. Indeed, Germany has another two museums also devoted to its sausages.

WHO’s warnings may not prevent sausage lovers from indulging their appetites. Oktoberfest may be over, but other festivals are scheduled in Germany for November. Wurst-eating is a year-round German occupation, and people continue to eat it. I guess WHO’s report is “all sausage” to them.

Photograph No. 1 from Wikimedia Commons

Photograph No. 2 by Tednmiki, courtesy of Wkimedia Commons

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The Resilient Thai Tourism Industry

By Melissa Yeager

Along the beach in Ao Nang, Thailand, a long line of little huts winds along the shore where one can purchase a massage, a piece of pineapple and rent a beach chair for the day all for $5 US. A steady stream of Westerners, from Australia to the U.K., pour in daily to take advantage of the deal.

While the tourists sit in their beach chairs, soaking in the sun and spectacular sights of little island cliffs dodging in between the waters of the Andaman sea, a man with a large wooden pole across his back slowly makes his way across the sand. On either side of the pole sit two hot make-shift grills cooking spring rolls and Pad Thai.

Street food vendor at Ao Nang

Street food vendor at Ao Nang

The man offers the meal to beach goers for less than a dollar US.

This type of tourism is a cornerstone of the Thai economy and according to Reuters, accounts for 10 percent of its GDP. A myriad of recent events has threatened the industry, yet after each one, the tourists keep coming to the place known as the “Land of Smiles.”

First, there was the military coup. There were reports of Australian tourists who were harassed. Two British tourists were killed on the island of Koh Tao.

Then came the explosion at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok. The bombing killed 20 people and wounded more than a hundred others. Police arrested a suspect, but not before Thailand saw a dip in tourists traveling to the country.

But even so, in late October, the Thai Tourism council announced it expected to see more than 30 million visitors by the end of 2015, a 22 percent jump over last year.

Long Boats in Krabi, Thailand

Long Boats in Krabi, Thailand

Much of the growth is attributed to the expansion of the Chinese middle class, as many Chinese now have the money to travel more than ever. More than 8.1 million Chinese tourists will visit Thailand which, according to the Thai Tourism council, is a 76 percent increase from 2014.

That number could grow even larger in the future if Thailand and China are able to complete a project linking the two countries by railway. Both governments had pledged to have the long awaited project moving by December, but just last week, a Thai Transportation Ministry official announced the plans had stalled once again. The governments still plan to break ground in December, but the project will likely take well into 2016 to complete.

Photographs by Melissa Yeager




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The End of China’s One Child Policy

By Qiyong Sally Zhang

China’s one child policy has been abandoned. All couples can now have two children. This three-decade long policy ended on Oct. 29, according to a communiqué issued by the Communist Party of China.

“I’m shaking to be honest. It’s one of those things that you have been working on and saying for years and recommending they should do something and it finally happened. It’s just a bit of shock,”  Stuart Gierel-Bastern, a University of Oxford demographer, said in The Guardian.

“This is a historical moment signaling the complete end of the one-child policy,” Wang Feng, a demographer at Fudan University in Shanghai, said in The Wall Street Journal.

The one child policy, also called the family planning policy, was started in 1979 by the president Xiaoping Deng to limit China’s population growth. Population growth has always been a big issue in China. China has more than 1.3 billion people, which makes it the largest country in the world. The Chinese Communist Party believes that a large population limits the country’s economic development and also increases the pressure on the environment.

This policy has been controversial since it started. Cai Yong, an expert on China’s population, told the Associated Press, “A draconian birth control policy is not the answer to the world population problem.” Also, some people believe that this policy promotes the abuse of human rights. In rural China, there have been some events in which the local government forced women to abort a child due to the policy of the central Chinese government.

4374017007_e7436403c6_zThis policy reduced the population by 300 million people in its first 20 years.  At the beginning of the 21 century, the government began to relax the policy. In 2013, the Chinese government published a new policy, if both of the spouses are an only child of their family, they can have a second child.

Besides relieving the population problem, stimulating the economy may be another reason for abandoning this policy. According to the New York Times, compared with earlier years, the Chinese economic growth in the third quarter was 6.9 percent, which was the slowest since the global financial crisis of 2009.

Some people believe that the abandonment of the one child policy means a positive step of China towards personal freedom and human rights. However, some western media still believe that this only shows the “loosening” of the one child policy, instead of the abandonment of the policy.

“If China is serious about respecting human rights, the government should immediately end such invasive and punitive controls over people’s decisions to plan families and have children,”  William Nee, a Hong Kong activist for Amnesty International, said in The Guardian.

Photograph by Sung Ming Whang courtesy of Flickr.

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A Soccer GOOOOOAAAAL Can Have Deeper Meanings

By Tara Schoenborn

Ecuador had a historic 2-0 soccer win over Argentina on Oct. 8 in the first-round qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. This win marks the first time Ecuador defeated Argentina on its home turf, reports the Cuenca High Life. Ecuador has only qualified for the World Cup on three occasions, whereas Argentina has the reputation of a soccer champion, according to The Guardian. The significance of the win goes beyond the game and represents broader political and cultural implications in South America.

Soccer or “fútbol” is closely intertwined with everyday life in South America, states Soccer Politics, and greatly influences society. Soccer arrived just as the countries were establishing new constitutions, identifying rights and defining their cultures, as reported on the Kojo Nnamdi Radio Show. Soccer became something everyone could rally around, despite differences in background, and each country developed a distinct style.

Coverage of the Oct. 8 game on the United States’ FOX Sports and Malaysia’s Malay Mail Online shows that the association of South America with soccer moves beyond the continent. In the United States, soccer is often viewed as a sport played by little boys and girls in grade school, but according to Time Magazine, soccer is an identity worth fighting for in South America. As a result, and because many South American nations are still developing powers, most of the world sees South America through a soccer lens and a stereotype.

For example, Pitbull created a theme song for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that capitalized on many Brazilian stereotypes, such as samba, beautiful women, and, of course, soccer. When Brazil lost 1-7 to Germany, outlets like USA Today framed it as a disgrace. The Washington Post published an article that put the loss in the context of a disagreement between Brazil and Israel, and Jornal Nacional TV reported the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor as saying, “This is not football. In football, when a game ends in a draw, you think it is proportional, but when it finishes 7-1 it’s disproportionate. Sorry to say, but not so in real life and under international law.” Palmor used the loss to embarrass Brazil and threaten its identity and power, which has strong implications for policy.

France vs Ecuador during the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Maracana stadium.

France vs Ecuador during the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Maracana stadium.

Historically, the champions of South American soccer are Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, according to World Soccer Talk. Interestingly enough, these are also the nations with the most economic and political promise. Ecuador, on the other hand, has yet to win a game in Copa América, the regional tournament among Latin and South American nations, according to the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol. This implies that Ecuador’s Oct. 8 defeat of Argentina has a larger meaning within the region. Ecuador defeating Argentina at home symbolizes the possibility that Ecuador can become a regional player and also a rising international power.

Under President Correa’s tenure, Ecuador has grown substantially, both politically and economically, but it has also suffered assaults to human rights, reports an article in the Washington Post. Recently, protests and social unrest have been frequent due to an economic downturn and Correa’s feud with the media, the Miami Herald reports. It will be interesting to see how Correa uses the win over Argentina to leverage his power at home by rallying the public around the team, fostering nationalism to flex his muscles in the region and attempting to show the rest of the world that there is more to Ecuador than the stereotype of soccer.

Photograph by Rodrigo Soldon II retrieved from Flickr.




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The Fight for Japan’s Pacifist Identity

By Sarah B. Grace

The bloody theatrics of “the biggest rugby upset of all time” by Japan at the World Cup in September paled by comparison with the desperate, equally physical battle fought two days before by the nation’s opposition party politicians. Their goal was to prevent voting on legislation to re-militarize Japan.

Although their efforts were ultimately fruitless, the Sept. 17 televised parliamentary session saw chaotic “scenes reminiscent of a rugby match,” wrote The New York Times, as lawmakers did everything possible to impair voting on the final stages of the bill. The opposition leaders seized the committee chairman’s microphone and bodily piled on top of him. They also punched and kicked the governing party legislators trying to protect the process (and the chairman).

In a country whose society hinges on respect, the spectacle that Japan’s leaders made of themselves could only have been inspired by the prospect of a future in which Japan involves itself in international conflicts. Following its defeat in World War II, Japan rebuilt itself upon a foundation of pacifism, trusting its defense to the United States. This allowed the country to focus on economic renewal and progress with staggering success.

A desire for Japan to become a kind of Asian Switzerland has only recently been on the decline. This pacifist mentality by the Japanese people successfully kept the nation out of the Cold War, and acted as a stabilizing force for much of the second half of the 20th century. Widespread protests outside Parliament and across the nation about the bill to build up the nation’s military speak to the enduring popularity of this mindset. Also, “a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists,” as The New York Times reported, criticized the bill as violating Japan’s postwar Constitution.

Japanese infantry advances in Manchuria during World War II

Japanese infantry advances in Manchuria during World War II

Yet the bill passed, proving that resistance to legislation cannot match the momentum behind it, supplied largely by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire for an empowered Japan. Abe intends to free the nation from the entrenched national guilt of World War II, and he wants to respond to recent international events that contributed to this vision. The Islamic State’s beheading of two Japanese citizens last February, and its subsequent promise of more attacks as reprisal for Japanese humanitarian aid to its foes.

Abe is also concerned with the growing threat of Chinese power, and his desire for regional and territorial dominance must have partially inspired his push for “proactive contributions to peace.”   The Japanese Parliament in January 2015 approved a record-setting defense budget equivalent to $41 billion. Abe’s defensive collaborations with the United States also herald Japan’s continuing evolution.

If the events of September are anything to go by, Japan’s fighting spirit is certainly alive and well. It is precisely because of this passion, however, that Abe’s proposed evolution towards a more militarized Japan may not go as smoothly as he hopes.

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


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