Going green in China's coastal waters

Beachgoers in China looking to kick back at the shores of the country's beer capital might want to think twice. An algae bloom off the eastern coast of Qingdao, in Shandong Province, has covered 7,400 square miles and counting, according to Xinhua News Agency, and researchers expect to see part of it wash ashore in the next few days.

Whatever does make it ashore from the bloom will add to a 75,000 square foot patch already coating Qingdao's beachside waters. But the residents of Qingdao are used to these algae invasions. Blooms have become something of a summer tradition in Qingdao's Yellow Sea since they first emerged in 2007. The 2008 bloom forced the government to deploy thousands of soldiers and locals to clear the waters in time for the sailing competitions being held at Qingdao as part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

What's behind the outbreaks over the past few years? Bao Xianwen of the Ocean University of China, located in Qingdao, told Taiwan's China Post earlier this month, "We don't know where [the algae] originated and why it's suddenly growing so rapidly. It must have something to do with the change in the environment, but we are not scientifically sure of the reasons." But Western outlets like the New York Times and the BBC who covered the blooms in 2008 blamed that year's algae explosion on agricultural and industrial run-off. 

Though the bloom hasn't sat well with many of Qingdao's beachgoers, some intrepid swimmers are taking a different tack. ""We have not been disturbed by the green algae. I swim here as usual," 32-year-old local swimmer Zhao Xiaowei told the China Post. Li Li, a preschooler from inland Hebei Province, told China Daily he didn't mind it either: "I like the green 'grass.' It feels so soft."

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What will the political fallout be from the Norway massacre?

It is perhaps inevitable, given the facts of the case, that Norway's worst massacre in recent memory will lead to soul-searching questions about immigration. A blond-haired, blue-eyed sociopath -- who has railed against "Islamic colonization" -- bombed government buildings and gunned down young people at a summer retreat (officials have yet to release information about how many of the victims were Muslim and whether they were specifically targeted by the gunman). But will his actions change anything politically?

Norway's Muslim population has been growing in recent years -- estimates say there are about 100,000 Muslims in the country -- and with that growth has come the kind of backlash many of its European neighbors have seen. Immigration and asylum rules have been tightened. And the anti-immigrant Progress Party has risen to become the second largest in parliament. Its leader, Siv Jensen, has spoken of "a form of sneak-Islamization in this society and we must put a stop to that." (Last week's mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, was once a member of the party, though he has also criticized it for not going far enough).

Analysts say politicians are going to be careful talking about immigration in the wake of the attack. "In the short term, the parties are not going to touch the immigration issue.… I think it's going to make politicians quite cautious in their wording, their rhetoric," Hanne Marthe Narud, a political science professor at Oslo University, told Reuters.

Some Muslim leaders have said the violent outburst could help bring Muslims and Christians closer together. "I think minorities will think of themselves as more Norwegian.… Religion, ethnicity, color will go into the background. The Norwegian identity will be strengthened," Mehtab Afsar, the Islamic Council of Norway's general-secretary, told Reuters. "We are standing shoulder to shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters in Norway."

Politically, it's less clear what the outcome of the attack will be. Raymond Johansen, the ruling Labor Party's general secretary, said yesterday that the shooting "will impact Norway and the political debate in Norway for many years." Does that mean bad news for the anti-immigrant Progress Party? Not necessarily, say political analysts. Local elections are set for September, and the Progress Party will "have to keep a low profile on the immigration issue in the upcoming election campaign simply to avoid being associated with the terrorist attack," Todal Jenssen, a Norwegian analyst, told Bloomberg News. But, the party is unlikely to see a major loss of political support since national traumas like last week's rampage "tend to breed cultural fears, which project onto immigrants or the unknown," Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Center for International Political Economy in Brussels, told Bloomberg. "The fantastic show of support for open society and the values of democracy will inevitably fade away and be overshadowed by suspicion of the unknown." As shocking as it is to believe, the Progress Party could actually benefit from Breivik's attack.

One Eritrean immigrant said he wasn't worried about any negative consequences: "The most important thing is what the majority thinks. And the majority is fine with us."

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