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Topics in February

Feb 22, 2017

Microplastics in Soils

A far-reaching problem: It takes a very long time for natural processes to degrade plastic, which is practically immune to chemical processes. The widespread use of plastic has thus become a serious problem for humanity at large.

Microplastics are a threat to more than just the oceans: Plant ecologist Matthias Rillig studies soil contamination.

Plastic is practical, hygienic, and sturdy, and it can be used in every area of our lives. As a result, it is no wonder that about 320 million tons of plastics were produced worldwide in 2015 – and the figure is rising. But the fact that plastic is so stable, even practically inert – there are almost no substances that react chemically with plastic – is both an advantage and a problem. Unlike paper and other forms of organic waste, plastic waste biodegrades extremely slowly.

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A War with More than Two Parties

“The Cold War wasn’t just a struggle between East and West,” says historian Timothy Nunan.

American historian Timothy Nunan is currently at Freie Universität studying the importance of the Middle East during the Cold War.

The Cold War is often described as a conflict between East and West. Previously, little attention had been paid to the role of the Middle East as another theater in this geopolitical conflict. Timothy Nunan, who studied at Princeton University and earned his doctorate at Oxford, wants to change that.

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Putin's New Wars

Concealed identity: In March 2014, Russian troops occupied a barracks in Ukraine in the course of the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. The soldiers were not wearing any insignia, and the Kremlin denied that they had come from Russia.

A student of European Studies is studying Russia’s propaganda activities in other countries for his thesis.

Bruno Kahl, the head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s federal intelligence agency, is worried: Could the Russian government affect the outcome of the Bundestag elections? He has warned about hacking in interviews, drawing a parallel to the U.S. presidential election. American intelligence agencies are certain, at any rate, that IT experts acting on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred up negative sentiment against Hillary Clinton in social networks and hacked Democratic Party e-mails during the 2016 election campaign.

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