International News Desk – At Home: Spy Poppies? In Foreign News: East Timor Votes

At Home: Spy Poppies?

Remember those cute quarters that came out in 2004, the ones with a red poppy on them? They were pretty cool; the world’s first coloured coins, apparently. Unusual, no doubt, but while Canadians were busy appreciating the red flowers it seems our Mint had the Americans nervous and formulating conspiracy theories. This is no real surprise; It’s what they’re good at. What CBC calls the “harmless ?poppy quarter?” (1) has been simultaneously reported by U.S. army contractors as being “filled with something man-made that looks like nano-technology” (1). I personally wouldn’t know what nanotechnology looked like if I was confronted by it in coin form, but That’s just me.

The U.S. army contractors were puzzled on their travels in Canada to encounter this coloured coin, so much so that the Defense Security Service was compelled to issue a warning that the suspect coins were fitted with advanced tracking capabilities. In fact, the poppies had one army contractor so anxious he started to believe more coins were being planted in his coat by Canadian spy officials after he’d emptied his pockets: “Coat pockets were empty that morning and I was keeping all of my coins in a plastic bag in my inner coat pocket” (1). I guess he missed a few! Coins are tricky things, my American friend. don’t panic. If someone gave you an extra 50 cents they probably thought you looked a bit down on your luck . . .

CBC News has pointed out the fact that the questionable material under suspicion in the U.S. is merely a protective coating over the coloured portion of the coin so that it won’t be as susceptible to damage. The Mint assures us that there is no nanotechnology involved; no mesh material or radio transmitters to be found. Go figure–It’s just a quarter? I thought tracking devices in coins was an ingenious plan. I mean, everyone knows that petty change is the kind of thing you hang onto for a long time. I know when I am planning evil deeds I tend to spend only large bills and keep my precious quarters with me for months at a time. Nevertheless, our humble coins were part of a 29-page published report concerning espionage, put out by the Defense Security Service. Who knew commemorative coins could cause such a fuss?

(1) CBC News. ?Canada’s poppy quarters caused sensational warnings of ?spy coins? in U.S.? Retrieved May 7, 2007, from http://www.cbc.ca/cp/world/070507/w050777A.html

In Foreign News: East Timor Votes

Since separation from Indonesia in 2002 after much violence in the area, East Timor has been on a rocky road to full-fledged independence. BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/6188623.stm claims that over 150,000 residents of the young country are living in refugee camps, and that a great number of these people were originally displaced from their homes during the fighting between 1999 and 2002. Following further violence last year, many of these people still feel too threatened to leave their camps and return to their original homes.

In the face of the first presidential election since East Timor’s independence, aid workers are doing their best not only to establish a fair voting system where citizens won’t fear for their safety, but to get the youth of the nation interested in their country’s future. Amazingly, East Timor’s population is stated to be 67% under the age of 20, with 18% between the ages of 15 and 20 (1). Aid workers are concerned that this massive youth population has only a vague idea about what living in a democracy should mean for them.

Last month, conflict occurred between rival political parties as the outgoing President Xanana Gusmao expressed his wishes that East Timor would find its feet as a democratic nation. The election was carried out amidst a police presence of 3,000 (including international forces) plus around 200 international monitors brought in to ensure a fair electoral process. Regardless of these precautions on the part of the international community, East Timor is calling for a recount and another round of voting after the election results.

While United Nations and European Union officials claimed the election to be a success, “generally calm, orderly and peaceful, with a high voter turnout” (2), five of the eight candidates filed complaints concerning irregularities in procedure and voter intimidation. The two leading candidates, Jose Ramos-Horta and Francisco Guterres (23% and 29% of the vote according to preliminary results, respectively) are due to undergo a second round of voting this week to determine the winner.

1 BBC News. ?East Timor: Voices from a troubled nation.? Retrieved May 9, 2007, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/6188623.stm

2 BBC News. ?Calls for East Timor vote recount.? Retrieved April 12, 2007, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6547641.stm

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