I Predict a (Pussy) Riot

pussy riot

Tension in Russia is nothing new. If you happen to be a straight cisgender male, you’re generally okay. If you are literally anybody else, you essentially reside in an informal jail cell. Protestors of the human rights deficiencies in the country are treated with extreme measures, and nothing exposed this as viscerally as the treatment of the Pussy Rioters. A feminist punk rock protest group from Russia, they first made worldwide headlines in 2012, when they staged a performance in Moscow’s ‘Cathedral of Christ of the Savior’ of their song ‘Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away” in reaction to the Orthodox Church leader’s support of Vladimir Putin during his election campaign. they were arrested and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”. they were imprisoned for two years and only released in December 2013. “We didn’t ask for any pardon” Alyokhina stated at the time of her release, “I don’t need mercy from Putin.”

Today, it has been revealed that two members of the Pussy Riot movement, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, have been arrested in the Russian resort of Sochi,  near where the Winter Olympics are being held, after Alyokhina posted a photograph of what appears to be them imprisoned in the back of a police van in Sochi.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the BBC that she and Maria Alyokhina were being held at a police station after being detained on suspicion of “theft”. They have not yet been officially charged. Ms Tolokonnikova said that they had arrived in Sochi on Sunday to perform a new song, ‘Putin Will Teach You To Love Your Motherland’, about “political repression in Russia”. She tweeted that the authorities used “force” during the detentions near a ferry terminal about 30km (20 miles) north of the seaside Olympic venues.

vladimirr

This comes after more controversy in Russia concerning the removal of a transgender rights activist from the Winter Olympics arena on Tuesday, which was defended by the International Olympic Committee as being “peaceful.” Former Italian MP Vladimir Luxuria – dressed in rainbow colours – was taken away by four unidentified men in a car with Olympic markings as she tried to enter an arena Monday night for a women’s hockey game. The first openly transgender parliamentarian in Europe was guilty of watching the Olympics in Sochi while holding a banner reading “Gay is OK”. This is another event showcasing the rising tensions in Sochi due to Russia’s oppressive human rights laws. While being gay has been legal for twenty years, a new law that was passed recently puts LGBT rights and issues are alien to Russian culture, and members of LGBT communities should be regarded as second-class citizens and should not be regarded as equal to the rest of Russian citizens.

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Scottish Independence Debate Podcast

Stuart Johnston presents an independence debate with Ashtin Loughry and Cameron Bark. Will independence be a good thing for Scotland or not?

Scottish Independence

There are many valid questions surrounding the Scottish Independence Referendum. Will independence weaken university research in Scotland? What would independence mean for education? Would we have our own currency? What would happen to the NHS? How will Scotland become an independent member of the European Union?

I am in no way politically informed and part of me doesn’t really care for politics in general. For this reason I would just like a solid answer as to why Scotland should choose independence? What will we actually gain as a country and as a community? Why do we need to be independent? There is a lot of heavy political jargon surrounding many independence debates which is far too much for my brain to handle. So, for me, a simple answer would suffice.

A lot of Scots bring out the patriotic aspect to validate their reason for voting Yes. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy being Scottish, I do. I feel very privileged to have been born in this country. However I just don’t hate England. I don’t see why anyone would and I don’t think that patriotism is a good enough reason for agreeing to break up the Union.

In saying that, for some odd reason this particular discussion managed to bring about a small amount of Scottish rage within me. Maybe that’s just the effect Katie Hopkins has on us.

The independence question – you decide

When it comes to the Scottish independence referendum, I’m not sure. It’s not a case of a lack of information as such, but probably a bombardment of disinformation.

When the original idea of an independence vote came around I was prolifically no. But really it was because I was thinking of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. But that’s a pretty shallow argument, so it took a bit of thinking to arrive where I am now. I would say that I’m on the fence, leaning towards yes. My lean is attributed to one section of arguments: politics. The reason for that is because the way I see it the only spectrum in an independent (or not) Scotland that can truly be predicted is political.

The current state of affairs isn’t particularly desirable as Scotland is under a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition that we specifically didn’t vote for. I come from an area of Thatcher wasteland so for my community being ruled by Conservatives is a huge injustice. So, at least if we were independent we would be ruled by a government that we actually voted for. Thin argument if that’s your only one though.

The other side of the coin is that if we vote no then how would Scotland be treated as part of a country that we tried to escape. I dread the thought.

For me, that ends all viable arguments. For there is no models to compare of an already developed country in a similar situation. Because Scotland and the rest of the UK are so similar, I can’t see there being many social or economic arguments either way. This is unlike the situation with the Catalan region of Spain, which with the huge tourism industry in the region, if they were to become independent, and follow other small countries in installing a duty free law, could see their area turn into a country or principality such as Andorra or Monaco. The way I see it Scotland will remain indifferent.

An Not-so-foreign Foreign Issue

Even though I have only been in Scotland a little over two weeks, it seems that the way politics are handled here are not so different from the way they are back home in the U.S. of A. Before I hopped on that 9 hour flight to Edinburgh, I was told by many people to be excited because I was going to be in Scotland during a very turbulent but exciting time–a time where the word “independence” would be whispered with feelings of adoration and beguilement. “How exciting,” I thought. “How lucky I am to be able to be in the midst of a group of people stirring with the same emotions that stirred in the hearts of those who fought for the freedom of America.” A bit nostalgic and a tad overemotional of a thought perhaps, but, hey, that’s just the kind of girl I am.
Upon arriving in Scotland, I was driven to my flat by a man with whom I conversed about the Referendum a good bit. He was an older fellow who seemed to believe it was high-time that Scotland had its independence; he wanted to vote Yes and believed that this country could easily sustain its own economy with oil and, to no stereotypical surprise, its whiskey. Since he was the first Scottish individual I had spoken to about the issue my whimsical picture of the fight for Scottish independence was perpetuated.
The second individual I spoke to about it was a uni-age guy who had some very interesting beliefs that he was gathered from a myriad of different sources. He believed the whole vote to be some what of a conspiracy–a way for the Scottish government to trick the English into giving Scotland more power by threatening a YES vote. An interesting idea to be sure.
The third group I spoke to were two of my classmates who both held a similar view of the issue: disillusionment. Ah yes, now this feels like home. Discussing the topic with them made me think for a quick second that I was back in North Carolina talking about “politics” and the next big issue with a few friends at coffee. They both see the whole issue of independence as an issue that could have maybe had merit at one time or another but due to oversaturation by the media and the ridiculous blind-loyalty of Scottish Nationalists neither of them really want much to do with it at all. I can’t blame them. Oversaturation of politics in the media is something I am quite familiar with as an American, especially as an American student whose home university is very liberal. It seems like everyday the young adults and 20 somethings of the U.S. are bombarded with different viewpoints on a whole host of different subjects but one thread remains common amongst them all: the issue is never really the issue. Now, what I mean by that is the topics the media chooses to speak on are rarely at the actual heart of the issue at hand. Rather, they focus on the fringe issues that get people really heated up and polarized like abortion, homosexuality, freedom of speech, etc. None of those issues are wrong to discuss at all; however, most of them they are abused, used as distractions from discussing the topics, though perhaps less clear and more difficult to handle, that truly affect the situation.
For the issue of the Referendum, this fringe issue that everyone seems to be playing on is the hatred of the Tories and/or the English in general. The YES campaign, according to my classmates, appears to be driven by this essential polarization: either you want to continue to be associated with the English/Tories or you are a loyal Scot and want nothing to do with them. Quite the heavy-handed viewpoint, is it not? This is what politics has become in America and it appears to be no different here. And, because of the plethora of information coming at us from every direction in this world of 24/7 news media cycles, the issue gets lost. It is so hard to discern truth from extravagant lie and because of this, it is so much easier to just sit back and let other people handle it all. We just want our peace and quiet right? Why does anything have to change at all? While I agree with this to a certain extent, there is no denying that if all of the sensible people decided to sit back because they are overwhelmed, that means that the floor is open for all those extremists with their heavy-handed opinions to make the final decision. And, let’s be honest, no one wants that. But how is one to wade through all the muck of the political media marsh in order to find solid ground?
What everyone wants to know is if Scotland can survive on its own, monetarily and politically. But, the majority of what appears to be discussed in the media focuses not on that central question but instead on the perks of saying YES and what a terrible Scot you are if you say NO. Now, don’t take my word for it for I am just a wee American lass attempting to understand a complex issue about a country that is not my own. Even though I am still very much in the dark, I am intrigued. So, ermm, let the games begin??

Scottish Independence: How much do we actually care?

Should Scotland be an Independent Country?
-Yes or No

After discussions in class today about Scottish Independence it struck me how few of us actually have strong feelings about the possible breaking up of the Union. When the topic Scottish Independence there was a mad rush of the search engines as Google took the hit of our ill informed mentality of Scottish politics. The few who were well informed of the subject without the aid of the internet merely voiced their opinion and then accepted the opposing argument. This fleeting attitude towards our futures cannot be a good sign.

With the Referendum taking place in September 2014, we have limited time to boost interest among young people. However, in a poll of more than 1,000 over 16s commissioned by the ICM that was released yesterday it found that support for Independence has grown from 32% to 37% since September. This increase has demonstrated that there is a strong chance that Scotland may be divided from the rest of the UK and that we should get concerned, and quickly.

Becoming an Independent country could benefit Scotland; we would be able to pass acts that would suit our country and not simply have to make do with what Westminster decide for us. Many laws enforced in England and Scotland are made without much consideration of those up North. Our climate is colder, and therefore, we must take into account issues such as the winter allowances for pensioners. Also, with a lower life expectancy than England, should Scots have to retire at the same age as the English and not enjoy their twilight years for as long?

Lastly, Scotland is heading down a different political path than the rest of the UK. Represented by the Conservatives, a party Scotland has rejected for years, why should our country be pulled by the hand like an insolent child by Westminster. Is it time to stand on our own two feet?

scottish-flag

Obama back in bringing with him at least 19 female senators.

During the last American elections in 2009, we saw the United States grow as they voted in their first ever African American president, democrat Barack Obama. This time round, with Obama returning for a second term, at least 19 female senators will help make up the 113th Congress – the highest number in U.S history.

Republican Deb Fischer (Neb.) and Democrats Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) will be joining the Congress this time round. Also, with two Republican female senators retiring, 15 of the 19 women will be democrats.

“Democratic women in the Senate were the first line of defense against the Republican war on women,” stated EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock. “Voters saw the role they played, and they trust them to lead on the issues that matter to women and families. That’s why they sent every single Democratic woman up for re-election to the Senate back to Washington. It’s an incredible testament to the good work these women do in Washington.”

Also, this election saw Obama bringing American politics directly into the modern world by using Twitter throughout his campaign. Even at the end he used the social networking site to let the world know his success with three simple words and one heartwarming photo. ”Four more years.” The president tweeted – which became the most retweeted post in the history of the site.

American politics is no longer just for the traditional white middle-aged man.