Know Before You Go: Smog in Beijing, Pistorious is Guilty, and Germany in Syria

It is finals week, so we shortened the Know Before You Go; so, here are the Top Three stories in the news this week!

  1. Oscar Pistorius Guilty of Murder
    Steenkamp's mother in court
    Reeva Steenkamp’s Mother in Court (Image Courtesy of the BBC)
    • What You Need to Know: Several weeks ago, we reported that Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was going to be put under house arrest after spending one year of his five year sentence in jail; he was originally in jail for manslaughter. He was charged after his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was shot four time in 2013; it was originally ruled that Pistorius thought that it was a burglar. But now, a Judge in South Africa has ruled that Pistorius is guilty of murder. This means that Pistorius will go back to prison. There has not been a ruling yet, but the minimum sentence for murder is 15 years. This decision was a unanimous decision was reached by five justices in South Africa.   Pistorius has extensive firearms training, and that played a major role in the decision to find him guilty of murder. The presiding justice, Eric Leach, said that because of his training, Pistorius must have known that whoever was behind the door would die. Also, since Pistorius’ life was not in danger and no warning shot was fired, it seemed unlikely that he thought that anyone behind the door was threating him. For more information on this story, visit
    • Why You Need to Know This: Pistorius became famous for his time in the 2012 Olympic Games in London; now he will become famous for murder. It is unlikely that this verdict will be overturned, since none of Pistorius’ constitutional rights were violated. He will see serious time for this and by the time he is out of prison, he will be past his prime to compete in any sporting events. This overturned verdict will be instrumental in court cases in South Africa for a long time to come.
    • Office Top Tip: This will be a big deal in South Africa for a while. If you find yourself traveling to South Africa, keep this in mind. It will be in the news and in the mouths of many of the citizens there.
  2. Germany Parliament Backs Anti-IS Mission
    German frigate Sachsen
    German frigate Sachsen on its way to support French Forces in Syria  (Image Courtesy of the BBC)
    • What You Need to Know: Germany is the latest country to join the U.S.-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. After last month’s Paris attacks, the French requested assistance in fighting the terrorist group. Members of Parliament voted to send troops to the region in a landslide vote of 445 to 146. Germany will send jets, a naval frigate Sachsen, and 1,200 soldiers to aid France. The decision from Germany followed the day after Great Britain launched their first air strikes in Syria. While the German forces will stay there for a year, France is pushing for countries in the United Nations and the European Union to join the fight against IS. For more information on this story, visit
    • Why You Need to Know This: IS is getting gutsier with its attacks on foreign soil. The rest of the world had remained quietly guarded about stepping in and joining the U.S. in its air strikes against the group in Syria. But since the attacks in Paris, countries are turning up left and right to support the cause. With Germany now joining the cause, there are four major Western countries that have united in attempts to wipe out IS; if you count Russia, which is technically supporting the Syrian regime while the U.S. coalition is supporting the rebels, five major countries are ready to fight IS. But whether the air strikes are successful will only be known with time.

      Graphic showing air strikes in Syria (Image Courtesy of the BBC)
    • Office Top Tip: The more countries that join in on the fight against the Islamic State Terrorist organization, the better. There is hope to take out IS all together, but more countries will need to get involved before that happens.
  3. Beijing “Red Alert”
    Beijing on Dec 1 (Top) and on Dec 3 (Bottom) (Image Courtesy of the BBC)
    • What You Need to Know: On Monday, China’s capital city issued a Red Smog Alert. As we talked about last week, Beijing has been undergoing a string of smog issues. Now, the first red alert means that schools are closing, construction is stopping, and cars are being limited to when they are allowed on the roads. In an ironic tone, the Red Alert was put in place has China is taking part in COP21 in Paris. Even though the levels of pollution are lower this week, over the next few days, there is fear that the levels will rise over the next few days. Due to humidity and no wind, the red alert will stay in place until Thursday when a cold front is expected to move through the region. The US Embassy in Beijing stated Monday that the pollution levels were 10 times the recommended limit. For more information on this story, visit
    • Why You Need to Know This: With the meeting occurring in Paris, this Red Alert is a huge issue not only for China, but for the world as a whole. With China as one of the world’s biggest polluters, it’s going to be a topic of conversation until the COP21 is complete. The type of pollution that Beijing is experiencing is a whole new kind of dangerous; if the country doesn’t do things to improve how dangerous the pollution levels are, this spells major trouble for China and Beijing.

      China Polution Graph
      China pollution graph (Image Courtesy of the BBC)
    • Office Top Tip: If you are planning on being in Beijing or in China in general over the next year or so, expect major reforms coming the country’s way.


Check back next week for more news so you can Know Before You Go!

All stories are based off of information gather from CNN, the New York Times, The Guardian, The BBC, and the Telegraph.



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