When charity goes wrong: The tribulations of Oxfam, Save the Children and Brendan Cox

What does charity mean to you? Is it giving when there’s nothing left to give or delivering a portion of funds dedicated to improving lives in more disadvantaged areas of the world? But what happens when scandal erupts, muddying established reputations for giving and disrupting their operations? You often get an amalgamation of finger-pointing and outrage without much in the way of in-depth discussion.

Oxfam Store
Image sourced from Google (Labelled for reuse)

Oxfam became embroiled in trouble in February 2018 when a number of its charity workers in Haiti were found guilty of sexual misconduct against vulnerable people who were victims of the 2010 earthquake. The scandal quickly reached the papers, followed by a swift suspension of their operations in the country, and a full government inquiry. Currently the charity will not be granted any more funding unless serious reforms are brought to the table for safeguarding and ethical treatment. On top of that, some celebrity endorsers such as the actress Minnie Driver chose to step away from the charity, refusing to associate themselves with any wrongdoing. The Oxfam PR teams are sure to be in meltdown at this point, desperately trying to put out the fires and making the case to continue their work. According to the BBC, around 0.7% of the UK’s GDP has gone to overseas development aid since 2016 and as one of the biggest charities, Oxfam has been on the receiving end of some vicious criticism and attacks. Some used it as an excuse to cry foul of the money we send abroad to assist other countries, while others blew things out of proportion. The hateful Daily Mail posted a story saying that Oxfam’s own charity shops throughout the UK were equally guilty of misconduct, with 123 incidents alleged sexual harassments over nine years. Yet considering the length of time and the fact that this number accounts for 0.06% of charity workers in the charity shops, this is likely a revenge smear for when the charity exposed the gross levels of inequality last year.

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Brendan Cox speaking at a memorial event (Labelled for reuse)

Soon after the Oxfam scandal, allegations also sprang up against Brendan Cox, very much a resulting factor of the #MeToo movement which exploded in 2017. The first allegation came from a filing in 2015 in which Brendan was alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman at Harvard University in the United States; he was never charged for this, but more details eventually surfaced regarding inappropriate behaviour in his time at the Save the Children charity. In an admittance of guilt, Brendan Cox recently stepped down from his posts, stating: “I want to apologise deeply and unreservedly for my past behaviour and for the hurt and offence that I have caused”. Cox’s behaviour is hard to believe at first glance but simultaneously it is vastly disappointing to see someone expected to represent honest and progressive interests take such a drastic downturn in values. He does his family, particularly his wife Jo, an immense disservice with these deeds and will likely not work for the charity sector again. The controversy didn’t stop there as later the man in charge of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth, also resigned due to quote: “unsuitable and thoughtless texts to female staff”

Both scandals point to the notion of “trial by media”, a point in which the media and online discussion ends up deciding for the masses how guilty an organisation or person is, thereby setting the tone and direction of the conversation before any civil debate can take place. This paradox of charity work against unsavoury behaviour from those at the top speaks to several debates including power and position and the way we react to such scandals. Politics inevitably seeps into the scene; type in #Oxfam or #BrendanCox into Twitter and you’ll find a maelstrom of rage coming from the right wing, with the vitriol being directed at a single person more often than not. This raises another question; do we question how and why charity went wrong or vilify absolutely the organisations and the people who run them? I disagree with the latter; while the cliché of “a few bad apples” may reflect badly on charities, it should not discount the work charities do.

Cancer Research UK
Image sourced from Google (Labelled for Reuse)

With that said, the way we handle organisations and individuals can differ drastically; charities should be held to account with the confidence that their work to give to others will continue while also tackling the few individuals that violate their goals. The British actor Simon Pegg said it best in a recent interview: “Oxfam is an organisation which helps countless people; I think it would be wrong to hold entire organisation to account for the actions of a few people”. On the other hand, holding individual people responsible for their actions is more complicated; we are all imperfect but should misconduct vilify us for the rest of our lives? This is made all too easy in the digital age and should instead be determined through an appropriate punishment in the justice system. Nevertheless, charity work should continue if we are to look outwards, rather than inwards as the UK is doing so often nowadays, with an increased emphasis on ensuring that each charity worker is both accountable and ethical in their responsibilities.

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2017: A year of corporate handouts and rising elitism

 

Donald Trump Inauguration
President Trump’s Inauguration. (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

What can be said about 2017? While an improvement from its predecessor, it was often one of underhanded, back-room dealings at the top that benefited a few people as opposed to the many. Of course, it all started with Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, which contrary to what he would have you believe, wasn’t so massive in terms of crowd size. Running his presidency like a full-on businessman, staff including strategist Steve Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer would leave the White House over the course of the year.

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Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un (Sourced from Wikimedia Commons and labelled for reuse)

Inflated egos in both North Korea and North America rippled outwards throughout 2017; Kim Jong-Un continued to test rockets, including some that could reach the western coast, making its neighbours understandably nervous and leaving others to wonder whether conflict was on the horizon. Despite a trading of childish insults back and forth between the two leaders, Trump and Jong-Un didn’t end up trading their words for missiles. In the US, emboldened by the President seemingly turning a blind eye to their actions, neo-Nazi groups began to come out of their closets, violently clashing with groups like Antifa in the process. It came to a head in Charlottesville in August where a Unite the Right rally saw one person die and thirty-nine others injured. So long as Trump refuses to condemn the return of these vile far-right individuals, their abuse will only continue.

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Saffiyah Khan standing up to an EDL member in April 2017 (Sourced from The Guardian)

The #MeToo Campaign exploded across Hollywood and many big names from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey were implicated in sexual assault. The sheer size of the movement which quickly spread across twitter and other social media networks drew plenty of attention to how big the problem of harassment and sexual abuse is worldwide. In fact, the year itself was a strong one for women; Saudi Arabia moved to allow women to drive for the first time in its history, and women in the United States formed the biggest march in US history to take on the President and his woman-abusing ways. This was followed up by a march for science in which hundreds of professionals moved to condemn Trump’s denial of science and proven facts. Personally, I feel the viral picture above of Saffiyah Khan standing up to the racist English Defence League tells the story of women in 2017 better than I can; nearly 100 years after they were first given the right to vote, women are making their voices heard on higher, more widespread levels and it’s easily the most positive story of the year.

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Peshmerga soldiers at the Battle of Mosul (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

Despite terror attacks around the world, the worst of which being in the Middle East, ISIS lost a vast amount of territory in 2017 as military offensives worked to push them back. As far as physical presence goes, it’s hard to see the group lasting much longer, but their ideology may endure longer yet, particularly through their indoctrination methods. Despite this however, bombs continue to fall on the Middle East, with America making use of a MOAB for the first time; the praising of the use of weapons by the US media certainly didn’t help here. The impact of dropping so many bombs on the regions needs to be considered, particularly with regards to creating more terrorists.

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Members of the Washington Redskins kneel for the US National Anthem (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

Sports and politics collided in the US as Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players triggered a wave of peaceful protests against police brutality and the treatment of minorities throughout the country; it was a brave yet simple act that would continue throughout the year as others spoke out against their treatment while also exposing the monopolistic and neglectful behavior of the NFL itself. Of course, Trump and his rabid supporters moved to attack and abuse the players, brainwashed by nationalism into believing that they were disrespecting flag and country. What they seemed to forget through all this is the right to protest that lies in the first amendment.

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French voters celebrate outside the Louvre (Sourced from Wikimedia commons and labelled for reuse)

In spite of successful surges in 2016, the EU managed to stand strong for the time being as France and the Netherlands defeated far-right nationalism in their respective elections. Geert Wilders was beaten by Mark Rutters who will maintain his seat for another five years. In France, the French Front Leader Marine Le Pen, a big fan of Donald Trump, lost out to Emmanuel Macron, who has pledged to bring several ambitious reforms and possibly reach higher in the leadership of Europe. On the other hand, the Catalan Independence vote triggered further instability within Spain; both the EU and the United Nations chose not to recognise the vote as legitimate. Outside of these events however, 2017 was also notable for the first millennial coming to power; Sebastian Kurz, 31 is leaning to the right side of the political spectrum with one of his policies dictating that refugees who come to Austria will not receive benefits until they have lived in the country for five years. Future leaders who come to power in the future should be scrutinised and held to account.

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Jeremy Corbyn addresses the Labour party at the launch of their election campaign. (Sourced from Wikimedia Commons and labelled for reuse)

Over in the UK, things really haven’t moved forward since last year’s debacle; Theresa May’s early UK election aiming to “crush the saboteurs” turned into a mess as voters were swayed to Jeremy Corbyn, forcing the originally unelected PM to bribe Ireland’s DUP 1.5 billion pounds to cling on to power. Further scandals would continue infest the Conservative party throughout the year. First development secretary Priti Patel left the cabinet for her plans to secretly send funds to the Israeli army, then deputy Prime Minister Damien Green crashed out after pornography was found on his computer, and Boris Johnson bungled a UK prisoner release in Iran. Bafflingly enough, David Davies and Jeremy Hunt are still in their jobs, despite their own negligence regarding Brexit and the NHS. The current UK government seems weaker than ever and some are looking at the prospect of yet another vote next year, one which the Labour party could take and come to power. Have they done anything positive this year? They did at least move to tackle the endless plastics flooding our oceans in the Budget this year, but they could have done so much more.

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Firefighters tackle the blaze at Grenfell Tower (Sourced from Wikimedia Commons and labelled for reuse)

Around halfway through the year a fire erupted at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London killing 71 people, injuring 74 and depriving 223 of a home. The disaster exposed incompetency in public safety on part of the Labour ran council, poor effort in financial relief from the current government and the ever-widening gap and subsequent neglect between the UK’s rich and poor. Currently the inquiry is ongoing, and details can be found online; who is to blame for this comes down to several factors; there were no sufficient sprinkler systems in place, nor was there enough funding given to make the building safer. I remember driving near the site and seeing its burnt remains jutting out among the other towers; it’s practically a monument to the horrendous and shameful way the poor have been treated in the UK and even now, many of those who did escape the fire still haven’t received their full compensation. Making sure it never happens again is only a starting point, the rift between rich and poor must also be tackled.

Brexit passport
Image sourced from pixabay, labelled for reuse

Moving to the highest level of governance, the backwards Brexit stupidity continued in the UK as gross nationalism and poor preparation took priority over careful thought and fair dealing. Without a single benefit to its name, the negotiations hobbled on and eventually news broke out that chief negotiator David Davies hadn’t carried out a single study into the economic impact of Brexit over the year the con took place. His laziness spoke volumes of the true attitudes towards Brexit; one where the abusive rich will be high and dry as they impose the oncoming economic chaos onto everyone in the lower classes. The madness only got worse with the announcement of blue passports; a ridiculous campaign in The Sun brought about the decision which could cost the taxpayer five hundred million pounds. Staying true to last year’s explosion of fake news and denial, an aide of Theresa May quickly denounced this figure; what’s more damning about the move is how it panders to the bigoted individuals in the UK while completely ignoring other problems like homelessness, healthcare and education. Clearly the magic money tree is well at work here…

Rohingya Persecution
Protests calling for the support of the Rohingya people in Myanmar (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

On the humanitarian front, the worst crises came through Yemen and the Rohingya Genocide. After three years of endless attacks, famine and suffering have swept through Yemen and the sales of the arms trade have only made it worse. Further down the line, a genocide swept through Myanmar as ethnic cleansing masquerading as a crackdown on insurgency took hold, causing half a million Rohingya refugees to flee to Bangladesh. While Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize was not revoked, her downfall in the eyes of the international community was cemented with her complicity and failure to stop the suffering and treat the Rohingya people with dignity. On the other side of the coin Robert Mugabe was ousted in Zimbabwe with a military coup, ending a near four-decade period of economic failure through hyper-inflation. Many locals celebrated the move, praying for more prosperous times for their country. On the nature front, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua were plunged into chaos when Storm Nate struck, but this also caused an outpouring of support with some Americans heading there on their accord to help those stuck without electricity.

Following on from last year’s Panama Papers, the Paradise papers shed further light on the abuse and hoarding of unequal wealth around the world. In fact, 2017 was also a big year for the top 500 richest people as they saw their wealth increase by a gigantic one trillion dollars at the expense of billions beneath them who lost out on stagnating wages, increasing homelessness and privatisation of public services as they continue to gain more power and influence over others. The same holds true for privatisation of services that belong in public hands; Virgin, through a rather callous lawsuit against the UK’s NHS, has acquired one billion pounds worth of healthcare contacts in this year alone.

Trump UN Speech
Trump delivers a speech at the United Nations (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

In his continuing mission to take America backwards, President Trump received his first major victories; he withdrew America from the Paris Climate Accord (The only nation on Earth to do so), scraped through a watered-down travel ban from the Middle East region and towards the end of the year he pushed through a tax cut that will make the rich even richer. He went on to cop his biggest controversy for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Bullying and emergency voting ensued at the UN as the US demanded the names of those who voted against their decision and vetoed any action against them. The reckless decision created an explosion of violence between Palestine and Israel. But Trump also received his first major defeat, losing Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones, something which could spell further difficulties in the mid-term elections next year.

Net Neutrality Protest
New York City protesters look to stop the repeal of Net Neutrality (Sourced from Flickr user Backbone Campaign and labelled for reuse)

To close out the year, another shock hit the United States as the net neutrality repeal was passed, ready to segregate internet users into paid groups. From there, Ajit Pai, the head of the Federal Communications Commission pranced about both on and off the internet, happy that he and his friends in corporate telecasters were about to get a lot richer by charging citizens for access to specific sites. This brings difficulties in a few ways; not only are consumers being ripped off for what should be an inclusive service, but the flow of information can also be manipulated. If any information and websites holding governments and organisations to account could be locked behind a paywall, then the public would be constantly misinformed through a form of corporate intrusion to ensure their continued dominance.

2017 was ultimately a year of people at the top pressing down on those beneath them; with the negative results of 2016 still in the mind, this isn’t surprising and the ways the elite took advantage of last year’s events manifested themselves in the twelve months that followed. There was pushback in some areas but there is still work to be done. One thing I saw felt quite indicative; on the way back through Brussels Airport earlier this year I saw the security barrier manned entirely by G4S employees, followed up by a billboard for Exxon Mobil, a company who has been given the go-ahead to drastically up their plastic production; considering the talk of giving G4S plans to arrest in the UK and Rex Tillerson’s questionable views on climate change, this is perhaps an indication of the power corporations and those at the top may soon hold. We should watch this carefully in the year to come.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

World Youth Alliance Emerging Leaders Conference 2017: A Reflection

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From November 26th to 29th 2017, I participated in the World Youth Alliance’s Emerging Leaders Conference in Brussels, Belgium. The theme: “Human Dignity in the refugee crisis” was the main anchor point and a central value for the organisation. Starting off slow on Saturday the 25th with a quick dose of exploring, I quickly mixed in with the other 69 attendees.

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The city of Brussels grew on me over time; I was staying over at a part of the city called “Botanique” and while that portion was relatively modern, the best aspects came through the more classical architecture that really hammered home the history behind the city. The royal palace, towering cathedrals and large statues are all monuments to the Belgian Monarchy which stretches back to 1831. Placing these older-fashioned buildings against the backdrop of the Christmas season was a brilliant match, with the work union buildings lighting up to the Grand Place in the centre of Brussels. Because of the closely-knit nature of the city, you could walk just about anywhere without having to use the transport services too much.

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Then there was the EU Parliament building itself; a massive complex that serves the beating heart of Europe; in terms of scale it was even bigger than the United Nations in New York, with a strong assortment of conference rooms, a media centre as well as a full public exhibition with a detailed timeline and history of the union. It brings a ton of context as to how the EU came to be from the end of World War Two in 1945 to end of the Cold War in 1991. This felt especially poignant to me as a British citizen; the last image on the extended timeline was in May 2016 with the Brexit vote (or what I would call a con). It put into perspective just how much we’re about to lose by leaving the European Union, from support and funding for various projects, to trade with our neighbours and connect with fellow Europeans across the continent. The EU isn’t perfect; no organisation ever is, but the benefits of membership far outweigh the drawbacks, most notably the promotion of common values that aim to carry across all member states.

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This same forward-looking mindset carried over into the panels which were all very engaging and informative, whether it was UK researcher Surindar Dhesi or Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson. They have some genuinely smart and pragmatic individuals working at the EU who have a strong resolve to understand and address these very issues. The fact that some individuals want to smear them as enemies and obstructionists of the UK is extremely shameful. On the second day of the event, I made my own speech to the group on an idea called Responsibility to Integrate (R2I), a means to improve refugee integration and promote more tolerant societies. Despite it being my first time delivering a more extended speech of over ten minutes, I felt it went very well with a balanced pacing and tone of voice that allowed me to get across my points succinctly. This continued over into the final evening in which I read out part of the WYA’s declaration after a lovely meal at a Grill Restaurant.

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I haven’t been the most optimistic about the UK’s future with regards to Brexit, but to see so many inspiring and passionate young people all coming together to share their stories and perspectives felt incredibly uplifting. We hailed from very different countries including Croatia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, China, Algeria, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia among many others. The event was a fantastic time and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the organisers; but most all though, each and every person who attended formed a real sense of companionship by the end of the three days. While it went by quickly, I would definitely do it again and want to wish everyone all the best for the future. I hope that we can all contribute in our own ways to solving the world’s problems.

Boris Johnson and the £350 Million: Positions, pandering and relations between politicians and media

Boris Johnson Mayor
(Image sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

Boris Johnson; what a character… That’s probably the simplest way to describe the UK’s current Foreign Secretary. For many years he’s been in the spotlight, his time as the mayor of London being one example, though recently this has often been for the wrong reasons; last year he was one of the spearheads behind the leave campaign and while he wasn’t quite as vitriolic as Nigel Farage, Johnson still gained infamy for his use of a bright red bus with the slogan: “We send £350 Million a week to the EU; let’s spend that money instead on the NHS”. Of course, we know that this trick worked and Boris hoped this would propel him towards a leadership position, which instead went to Theresa May. Dishonesty and its openness have drastically increased in the UK since last year’s referendum; a willingness to twist facts and get the result you want, in turn gaining a higher ability to impose your personal interests on everyone else.

Vote Leave Bus
(Image credited to ITV.com)

Recently, to the dismay of many, the “£350 Million” claim emerged again. Johnson took on his duties, visiting Donald Trump in New York only to then shirk them by repeating a lie using a newspaper as a bulwark for his endless schemes to become the leader of the Conservatives. His face was plastered on the front page with the headline: “I’ll secure the £350 Million for the NHS” followed by a 4000-word article outlining his plan for Brexit and telling people to believe in Britain, another empty phrase to pander to the nationalists and the ignorant. If the lie managed to trick common Britons into voting for Brexit last year, why not do it again to make it look like he’s standing up for Britain as a country? The UK Statistics Authority expressed their disappointment at the repeated use of the figure and James O’Brien, a popular political commentator might have said it best: “As Foreign Secretary, Johnson’s latest lie is an abuse of one of the Great Offices of State. That would’ve been a very serious matter once”. Some have called for Johnson’s resignation or sacking; I can’t help but feel the same.

Boris Johnson Headlines

Johnson’s veering off to the side to write a self-promoting article speaks volumes of how the press plays a significant role in political procedure. The papers hold UK politicians to account but often they’re known to throw their support behind a specific party in the election; the Daily Telegraph in Boris Johnson’s case is no different. Media ownership by rich moguls is a big problem in the UK and this facilitates a medium where a pompous self-interest takes centre stage. Since Johnson repeated the false £350 million claim, the Telegraph has followed up with further articles showing fellow politician Michael Gove throwing his support into the mix; they spread the slogan without questioning it, common people read and move towards believing them; with such a massive disconnect with politics in the UK, this is how it usually goes. In return, many politicians find themselves working for newspapers, the most recent of which being George Osborne becoming the editor of the Evening Standard and Nick Clegg joining the i Paper as a columnist.

FCO UK
(Image credited to LinkedIn.com)

Nowadays I find myself in a somewhat similar position; writing this blog and expressing my individual opinions with a journalism degree under my belt while pursuing a planned career in international affairs, particularly through the UK’s Civil Service. I’m of the opinion that you check your biases at the door when working for this sector; what would happen if I suddenly leaked some information to the press or wrote an article bigging myself up while working to undermine my superiors? I’d probably be sacked immediately, no questions asked. This comes back to my previous post on leadership where a lack of accountability has allowed the higher-ups to get away with breaking the rules set out by democratic institutions. In my opinion, the rules and ethical conduct of country branches should travel all the way to the top, ensuring accountability is maintained and that neglect of position and responsibility is cut down. As for Boris Johnson, he’s likely to keep his job, despite the frustration from commentators, with Theresa May apparently working to rein him in so as not to look to wobbly. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but he’s sure to be discredited further if continues to spread falsehoods.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

Leaders, their actions and how rhetoric reflects on the people they represent

G20 Leaders
(Image credited to Country Digest)

What does it mean to lead a country in the 21st Century? While for the most part we’ve moved past the dictators and conquerors of eras past, there are still many cases throughout the world where the few are being catered to while the many are either being pushed down or worse, tricked into following the wrong stories or ideas. The United States continues to have problems with its leadership, striking a nerve over the past couple of weeks.

Charlottesville Counter Protest
(Image credited to Wikimedia Commons)

Recently President Donald Trump hit headlines (for the 200th time this year? I’ve lost count…) on his refusal to condemn the toxic surge of white supremacists in Charlottesville, before going on to equate Nazism with the counter-protesters (Some of whom are violent themselves) standing against it. A shameful move, but the impact it had on the society at large is arguably even worse. Trump’s actions continue to damage America, but it’s also a damning example of a leadership problem that exacerbates rather than working to solve societal problems. Some of his more unsavoury supporters go along with his dismissal of the media as saboteurs and while the mainstream hasn’t been wholly balanced across presidencies, Trump should expect to be scrutinised because without coverage there is little knowledge or awareness of what leaders currently stand for. This in turn not only generates a collection of opinions on a leader but also creates a ripple effect on common people. On the one hand, leaders mislead the people to maintain their own positions or on the other, they give themselves so much status and power that citizens cannot hope to hold them to account.

What Trump says and does, not to mention every leader in the modern world, carries a real societal consequence. Consider the way President Duterte is encouraging the killing of drug dealers in the Philippines, the way Hugo Chavez planted blame on democratic institutions such as the media and courts to trick the Venezuelan people into supporting an erosion of democracy and accountability. Or look at the way President Erdogan has bent Turkey to his will over the past year and the less drastic but nevertheless infamous phrase from UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove in the Brexit campaign: “People in this country have had enough of experts”, practically proclaiming that people should deny the facts even when they are right in front of them. But Trump’s refusal to condemn hateful groups stands as one of most telling attitudes of leadership today.

He refuses to openly condemn white supremacists because it’s unhelpful towards his own self-centred goals; he wouldn’t dare anger his most ardent fans when they’re the most important group towards keeping his floundering presidency alive. They keep the likes flowing on social media and the hate running through the minds of thousands. Keep them beholding to his wildly divisive presidency and they won’t see the real problems at the very top of management. Operating within his own self-interest is the name of the game and this attitude is very damaging to the society he represents. The same also goes for fact as it is twisted and skewed to manipulate people.

White Supremacists
(Image credited to Pinterest)

Not only are people more emboldened to go out and march for a disgraceful cause, it also feeds and enhances their superiority complexes; they believe in their disgusting beliefs with a greater passion and take bolder steps to defend it. Typically, I have believed that there is good and bad in every person, but Nazism is evil, no matter which way you frame it. Having demonised themselves throughout World War II, the fact that there are people getting behind this cause shames those who fought and died over seventy years ago. We’ve reached the point where individuals are defending Nazism, a movement that committed genocide. It should never be given a platform to spread but the way America’s leader has handled the problem only amplifies this.

How you choose to represent the people and lead reflects the amount of responsibility resting on your shoulders; the people spot you so much in the media and in society that they typically form an opinion or reaction from it. Leaders should set an example to follow, not bring popularity to the worst aspects of society while turning a blind eye to behaviours that should have died out decades ago. They say that once an idea comes about, it never truly dies; efforts must be made, especially from leaders to promote and shape progressive ideas and work to shut out hateful ones, but right now that’s not on the agenda as accountability erodes and greater control is enacted either through misdirection or placing one’s self above others. The same also goes for corruption; instead of facing ramifications, it is instead swept under the rug and many unethical decisions that directly affect common citizens are hidden away behind closed doors, leaving the media, mainstream or otherwise to scrape out the details.

Free Press March
(Image credited to Common Dreams)

Indeed, no leader or the country they represent has ever been completely spotless which brings us to the official definition of the word: “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” Surely now is the time to refine that statement by adding on at the end: “with good grace, ethics and accountability”. We have the modern systems to include the people in political procedure including NGOs and some efforts from the UN but more of an effort needs to be made to raise awareness of leader’s deeds and how they are held to account. UNA-UK, an organisation working to build a bridge between the UK and the UN has suggested some measures to bring more accountability regarding the sustainable development goals, which speaks volumes of greater issues. If you have stonewalling and deflections at the highest levels of governance then the world’s problems will be very difficult to solve; therefore, leadership and ethical conduct are becoming increasingly important as world issues affect more and more people.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

The Youth Assembly at the United Nations 2017: A Reflection

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From August 7th to 12th I journeyed to New York for the 20th Youth Assembly at the United Nations, an event which brings together a vast collection of people aged between 16 and 28. Most applicants were chosen based on their individual initiatives and their contributions to society at large. I took part in the event with five other team members under Global Young Voices, who served as a media partner. After posting the event around a few times on social media, I thought I’d share a bit more of it here.

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Heading to New Jersey for the first part of the event, I found that Fairleigh Dickson University (We were based on the Florham Campus) was the birthplace of Global Young Voices. Two members of the team attended the university on study abroad and came up with the media outlet between them; from here FDU threw in their support, which in turn both grew GYV and allowed us to attend the Assembly. A sort of prologue to the Youth Assembly took place at the university called “Sustainable Ventures for Sustainable Development” (SVSD) which interestingly, was made up of mostly African, Chinese and Middle-Eastern groups and their initiatives.

Hope for Oppotunity Interview

Two of the first people I interviewed at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Suaad and Juwahar were from Dubai and had received some recognition for their initiative: “Hope for Opportunity” which aims to promote Saudi Arabian assistance in the refugee crisis. I was struck by how positive and uplifting they were; they understood the kind of injustices in the world yet they believed in their ideas and wanted to take them to the next level. That’s the same thing I can say about each of the delegates who attended the session; they all had such great ambitions and a powerful resolve that brought everyone together as a community. The speakers and panellists at the session would only continue to build these bridges.

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From here, we and the delegates who attended the SVSD moved to New York and UN Headquarters. The opening ceremony featured a range of speakers and saw the GYV set about covering the sessions. There was a wide variety here from Microsoft showing up to teach coding and how robotics can shape the addressing of world issues, a media panel featuring GYV’s founders Edy and Camilla and plenty of other inspirational stories. I remember one speaker in a climate change session receiving a standing ovation after her impassioned speech on living in a United States with difficulties accepting and tackling the very real issue. Throughout the week I did a variety of tasks from collecting images, taking notes of each session and presenting each interview (Live or otherwise) to go up on the GYV website; the latter I thought went very well as I brought a relaxed presence to the delegates who each took it in turns to answer questions. The only real downside was that all the work we did over the four days meant we had little time to explore the city which was probably a little disappointing for those who hadn’t visited New York before. Personally I’ve visited the Big Apple three times over the years, the last being in 2012 where I passed through on a school ski trip.

Stories Across Borders Session

The main goal of the trip though was to run our own session at the UN Assembly; entitled “A Society for All: Stories across Borders, the goal of which was to grant more exposure to initiatives while also building delegate’s confidence in delivering their ideas to others. In the lead-up to the session I was introduced to Ceylin Sener, a sixteen-year-old from Turkey who was chosen to present her initiative, the “Humans First Club”, a group which has assisted Alzheimer’s patients and taken education to children in underdeveloped rural communities. Ceylin, along with three other speakers each gave a ten-minute speech in the style of a TED talk. We all worked together very well and I thought Ceylin really rose to the challenge of delivering that ten-minute speech. The event was my first time mentoring another person and when it came to feedback, I felt I was quite precise with tips. But to improve I feel I could have gone the extra mile by practicing with Ceylin alongside the presentation slides more; there were also a few gaps when it came to presenting on the day such as when and who would change the slides throughout the speech. Despite these gripes, each of the four speeches got some great reactions from the audience, a full house who took up the entire conference room; all ten of us are sure to keep in touch long after the Assembly.

GYV Team with Mentees
The GYV team, along with our speakers

All in all, the Youth Assembly was a fantastic event and a real honour to attend as both a citizen of the UK and a member of Global Young Voices. Looking back on an event as big as this really hammers home the importance of many things; networking and collaborating with others, the kind of passion and commitment that can take you to the heights of world leadership (Which some delegates were singled out for in the closing ceremony) and of course the notion that if we all work together by pooling initiatives together then real positive change will come about. I especially enjoyed how the event was a blend of media and governance, bringing the two experiences together.

I’d like to thank many different people; my two colleagues at the Cooperative store who covered an entire week’s worth of shifts, my parents for supporting me in these opportunities, the FDU staff for accommodating us and assisting with equipment, and finally the Global Young Voices team for allowing me to come along and everyone I met and spoke to during the week; you were all amazing people and I’m hoping we’ll be able to attend again in the future.

You can find more of our coverage, including interviews, write-ups and videos on the Global Young Voices website at: http://www.globalyoungvoices.com/the-youth-assembly-at-the-united-nations

America’s Syria strikes: Influencers, deflections and the media band-wagon

Chemical Attacks UN Discussion
Image credited to nytimes.com

In April 2017, a sarin attack slammed into Khan Sheikhoun in Syria; 80 people, many of them children, lost their lives in horrific images that quickly spread worldwide. In response to this, President Donald Trump, quickly pinning the blame on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, authorised the US navy to launch 59 tomahawk missiles (each costing about a million dollars each) at Assad’s air force bases. From here Trump is now openly intervening in Syria and more recently said that NATO has regained its relevance, his first major U-turns since coming to power in January. His decision to hit Syria is extremely dubious for not consulting congress first and the fact that the cost of a tomahawk missile could have easily gone towards other sectors including education and infrastructure. On top of all that, we had no idea who carried out the chemical attack, but now there’s plenty of evidence that points to the American government’s point of view being a fabrication, a sham to justify the further use of more powerful and expensive weapons that do nothing but exacerbate current conflicts and give more fuel to companies consumed by a lust for profits. Appearing on the BBC, Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy to Syria said that Trump had just “given jihadis a thousand reasons to stage fake flag operations”; it’s baffling that we still don’t get that dropping more bombs creates more terrorists. Ironically it was the Bolivian representative Sacha Llorenti who called out the United States for its actions and demanded further accountability and investigation at the UN itself.

US Tomahawk Missile
Image credited to nbcnews.com

The decision itself raise many questions about America’s newest president; what does he really stand for? Are the Syria strikes proof that he panders to the war profiteering business or is it a distraction to break off from his apparent collusion with Russia? In either case, it’s extremely hypocritical that Trump is more than willing to react when an atrocity occurs by dropping more bombs but fails at actually helping refugee children caught up in the horrendous attack. They say that weapons used to be manufactured to fight wars, now wars are manufactured to make weapons; it’s very telling that Raytheon’s stocks (The company who builds the tomahawk missiles) went up right after they were launched by the US Department of defence. Whether Trump himself profits from this remains unknown.

Battle lines in the Syrian conflict remain incredibly one-sided with the United States and Russia placing their own interests into the conflict with their respective allies following behind. Recently I spoke to a fellow student on my course whose family originates from Syria who had a lot to share about recent events. He believed that Assad would not use chemical weapons and risk an international incident when he is close to winning. In turn this is also backed up by other often obscure sources; the UN’s Carla Del Ponte branded investigations as “inconclusive” while pointing to evidence that rebel fighters in Syria may have access to chemical weapons. In addition, further evidence from American MIT scientist Theodore Postol said in a fourteen-page paper that the so-called crater made by the chemical bomb may have been fabricated “Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real,”. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.” It all points to a suspicious event that paints a narrative of warfare masquerading as humanitarian intervention.

CNN Chemical Attack Fake News
Image credited to theduran.com

Throughout the week that followed, the mainstream media was utterly complacent to the use of tomahawk missiles; one particularly horrifying quote from Brian Williams of MNSBC remarked: “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: I’m guided by the great beauty of our weapons”. In addition, many articles written about the chemical attack were framed towards assigning blame, rather than considering evidence. What does this say about the media at large? They hound Trump down all the way through the campaign for his bigotry and now suddenly they’re perfectly fine with the use of destructive weapons? World Socialist Web Site sums it up best: “No lie is too great. If the US intelligence agencies declared tomorrow that Putin was responsible for an outbreak of tornadoes or a hurricane striking the US Gulf Coast, by means of a secret Russian program to alter the weather, their claims would be presented as the gospel truth by NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and Fox, while the New York Times would publish a four-page “investigative” report, complete with maps and charts provided by the CIA.” It’s indicative of the way fake news is slowly consuming modern society What better to distract the masses than with a major conflict facing further ignition by the entrance of western players? If anything wars also deliver profit for the media as they can rack up the viewership and social media hits with every nasty event that occurs far from their shores.

MOAB
Image credited to USAF/Getty Images 

Most recently the United States chose to use a MOAB or mother of all bombs to target terrorists; easily the most powerful non-nuclear device ever built, it’s a further escalation of an already raging fire. Just how far can Trump and the United States go? Will the bombs ever stop dropping? As an administration and as a country, they must rethink their attitude and approach now. Pompous use of military muscle can only lead to more conflict and more profiteering at the expense of innocent people.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

Sources (In order of appearance)

2016: A year of nastiness unchained

 

2016 was a difficult year in many ways, there was much in the way of bitterness and little in the way of understanding; what went wrong over the past 365 days could almost be considered a chain reaction of sorts; there was something radical about this year, a point where numerous systems and sensibilities were suddenly thrown out the window in a blind rage. This is something I’ll try to consider and reflect on here, however difficult it may be from a purely UK perspective.

Was it any surprise that the same year white swimmer Brock Turner got a lenient sentence for sexual assault was the one in which a misogynistic, lying billionaire cheated his way to being President? The year itself seemed very backwards in general; Brock Turner’s judge was recently cleared of any misconduct while police brutality remained a serious problem in the United States. The Zika virus broke out at the start of the year in Latin America, India and Africa, prompting several relief efforts. Brussels and Istanbul both suffered horrific terror attacks at the hands of ISIS, delivering further prominence for far-right groups across Europe. President Duterte of the Philippines took a dark turn as he launched a violent war on drugs throughout the islands and Venezuela continued to plummet with rapid inflation ravaging citizens, most of whom can now barely afford food, water and other essentials. The internet saw a rise in fake news as it spread rapidly through Facebook and other sources, casting further doubts and requiring further checks and tensions began to flare between America and China as Donald Trump began to forge his own awkward rulebook as a millionaire president. Rising from the ashes of TTIP, CETA, a trade agreement which would put more power in the hands of corporations has made progress in the EU and Canada, a blemish on an otherwise welcoming and tolerant nation who have taken in over 38,000 Syrian refugees as of December, this year.

Image result for Trump and Farage lift
Image credited to Huffington Post UK

When talking about the Western world however, most eyes point to the UK and the United States who both took grossly misguided steps that may well end up destroying the values of openness, acceptability and freedom. The picture above explains better than words what happened to both nations in 2016; two lying conmen, masquerading as anti-establishment standing in a gold-plated lift with smug grins on their faces over how they managed to trick two of the most powerful western nations into voting against their own interests. They really did bring change this year; specifically, they made things worse and both times, events that should have derailed the two conmen had little to no effect. In the UK, MP Jo Cox was murdered by a far right terrorist chanting “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” while in the US, Trump could get away with making vulgar remarks about women and walking free from his criticism of a disabled reporter and countless ethnic minorities. It was blindingly clear that the two cons were disastrous. Britain has been hurled to the back of the queue on the world stage and into a period of uncertainty without any plan or a deal that would leave us better off and the United States has an incredibly misguided and potentially dangerous presidency coming in January 2017. On both sides of the world, the two big votes were fraught with infighting, vitriolic exchanges across social media and many instances that whipped some (not all) people into frenzies of anger and resentment. This often happens with any election but 2016 felt so unhinged and furious in the West that the structure of politics, left and right, looked set to come crashing down; not for reasons of progress but for more efficient division and manipulation of the masses to go down a specific path.

Image result for Brexit Protests
Image credited to Flickr user David B. Young. Labelled for reuse

It all came unravelling rather quickly on both sides of the pond; Nigel Farage has never been in the political arena for anyone other than himself; right from the get-go, his act in appearing to support the common man deluded thousands into believing his lies and frankly we should have expected this. The UK public elected him as an MEP where instead of collaborating, all he ever did was run his mouth off about how much he hated the European Union while receiving a hefty salary for it. 2016 saw him become especially bold in his vile rhetoric, spearheading the propaganda of the leave campaign and coming to a head with an utterly shameful comparison of the Hope Not Hate group to extremism and a subsequent disrespect of Jo Cox’s husband Brendan (Who is still grieving along with his family after their loss). Even now Farage is continuing to be a thorn in progressive UK politics, proclaiming himself the bridge between us and Donald Trump and propping up on division and bigotry. Most recently he felt the need to insult the Archbishop of Canterbury and his message of peace and acceptance, as if a country where division isn’t commonplace won’t be acceptable for him.

This erosion and hacking of Britain’s democracy didn’t stop at the EU referendum; Theresa May’s government passed the snoopers charter into law, perhaps the most extensive surveillance laws in the world; no discussion, no debate, they were simply put through and will come into effect next year. All companies will be required to hold browsing data (Categorised by who, what, when and where) for thousands of people across the UK with public authorities having free rein to access devices. On top of this, the government can demand a backdoor into devices from companies to allow for even more intrusion; consider the notion of all MPs being exempt from the charter and you have an extremely suspicious law coming into effect. Then there was the successful bid for Sky by media mogul Rupert Murdoch; after his last attempt was derailed by the phone hacking scandal in 2011, NewsCorp will now take over the large British broadcaster for £11.2 billion, handing over even more control to corporate media. It doesn’t bode well for public perception (which for years has been manipulated by the tabloid press) and it certainly doesn’t bode well for journalism either as a greater control and agenda is enacted on the media. Some have stated that Sky News won’t turn into Fox News in the States, but it may be worth taking their future coverage with a grain of salt. What could happen next? According to an account in the book: Hack Attack by Nick Davis, Murdoch may wish to steamroll British regulator Ofcom, imposing a complete domination of the UK press without any barriers. That’s worth keeping an eye on.

Image credited to Chicago Tribune

In the United States, things weren’t looking much better; after another horrendous spike in racism and abuse, thoughts turned to President-Elect Donald Trump’s oncoming term. Once again, Trump’s lies quickly came to fruition as his cabinet was filled to burst with the richest millionaires ever seen in a presidential cabinet. Draining the swamp as promised? People will soon learn that what they voted for was a sham. Any hope of the terrible decision being derailed was again quashed, this time by the electoral college, who placed Trump into the White House by passing the 270-vote mark. There’s something baffling about this to me; the electoral college is made up of many educated men and women; surely, they could clearly see that Trump is both unqualified and unfit to lead and yet they put him through all the same. According to an article in The Daily Signal, electors are pledged to support the candidate voted in by the general public; could this be another sign of appeasement, a need to avoid infuriating the masses? Either way, Trump is headed for the Oval Office and his presidency may be a rocky one; lately he has been tossing around the serious topic of nuclear weapons like a game, possibly meaning to rearm America’s stocks rather than disarm; some ties to Russia have also been difficult to swallow.

Then came the 19th of December in which a final flurry of insults was hurled at everyone; Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Turkey, a truck ploughed through a Christmas market in Berlin in another terror attack and Trump received his key to the White House all while Aleppo burned, the world failing to gain any more clarity on the Syrian battle lines. A chaotic close to a dreary year in world affairs and local politics.

Image sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse

Looking back at 2016, I feel that an explosion of anger and hatred was unleashed after being bottled up for years, something which the rich, powerful and the opportunists took advantage of to better achieve their goals of manipulation for personal gain. Yet despite all this, there were still some genuinely positive moments for the year. The Paris Climate Agreement, after being established a year ago, has been coming into its own. This was then followed up by Leonardo Dicaprio’s climate change film: “Before the Flood” which fired back at environmental sceptics. War criminals Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Congo, Radovan Karadžić of the Bosnian-Serb conflict, and Hissène Habré of Chad all faced justice at the hands of the International Criminal Court, Belgrade War Crimes Court and African Union court respectively. Austria rejected far-right nationalism in its presidential electionThe snoopers charter ran into trouble at the EU Courts who said general and indiscriminate retention of emails and electronic governments in illegal, ironically providing further evidence that the Brexit con was extremely short-sighted. The Rio Olympics went relatively well despite Brazil’s economic problems and the later impeachment of President Dilma Rouseff. Over 30,000 Muslims in Hampshire protested the disgusting ideologies of ISIS and students turned out in droves in London to protest tuition fees on November 19th, continuing the pushback against rip-off education costs. Dakota’s controversial oil pipeline hit a major wall as communities of indigenous Americans and their supporters showed the power of protest. The final camp of terrorist group Boko Haram was captured by the Nigerian army, leaving them on the run and Israel’s crimes against Palestine were subjected to a pushback by the UN. A vaccine for the Ebola virus, VSV-EBOV was proven to be effective with a 70-100% success rate. Finally, China has announced that it will aim to completely ban the ivory trade by the end of 2017. As angry as we can get, it’s very reassuring to know that our ingenuity can win out in many cases.

Looking ahead to 2017, what kind of progress can be made? Can we manage to learn from the massive uptake of xenophobia and division? Or will some nations, especially the West, descend into further nastiness? It may well come down to common people, who can’t be blamed for 2016’s missteps as they were horribly misled by the people above them, to make the biggest action against changes that will negatively impact them in the future, not to mention challenge racism, bigotry and those who would cause further damage and division. To close, I think this alternative Christmas message from Brendan Cox suits best; it’s something that everyone should watch and consider as we go into the new year.

(Images in the public domain used for the purposes of review and criticism)

Sources

Brock Turner released from jail after serving only three months of his sexual assault sentence: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/brock-turner-released-three-months-sexual-assault-stanford-rape-case-a7222051.html

Brock Turner sexual assault trial Judge Aaron Persky cleared of misconduct: https://mic.com/articles/162780/brock-turner-sexual-assault-trial-judge-aaron-persky-cleared-of-misconduct#.DAAnZPWDI

Zika outbreak: What you need to know: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35370848

Brussels to Istanbul: Two airports, two bloody attacks: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/29/europe/turkey-istanbul-airport-brussels-similarities-elbagir/

Philippines: Death toll in Duterte’s war on drugs: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2016/08/philippines-death-toll-duterte-war-drugs-160825115400719.html

Venezuela on the brink: a journey through a country in crisis: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/venezuela-on-the-brink-a-journey-through-a-country-in-crisis

2016 Lie of the Year: Fake news: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/dec/13/2016-lie-year-fake-news/

WHAT IS CETA?: http://www.waronwant.org/what-ceta

Jo Cox murder suspect tells court his name is ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/18/thomas-mair-charged-with-of-mp-jo-cox

Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?utm_term=.e4b1a8a3b281

Donald Trump aide Wilbur Ross: ‘Use Brexit to steal UK trade’: http://www.lbc.co.uk/news/world/donald-trump-aide-wilbur-ross-use-brexit-to-s/

Trump fan goes on rant on Delta flight, yells obscenities at Hillary supporters: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-calls-passengers-hillary-b-es-trump-rant-article-1.2889096

Nigel Farage launches scathing attack on Ukip’s ‘low-grade people’: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/09/nigel-farage-scathing-attack-ukip-low-grade-people

Nigel Farage insults Herman van Rompuy, calls EU President a “DAMP RAG”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bypLwI5AQvY&index=22&list=WL

Nigel Farage refuses to apologise for ‘Breaking Point’ poster in final pitch to voters: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-poster-nigel-farage-eu-referendum-live-latest-vote-leave-remain-a7095236.html

Nigel Farage faces threat of legal action over Hope Not Hate accusation: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/20/nigel-farage-accuses-jo-cox-widower-brendan-cox-of-supporting-extremism

Nigel Farage hits out at Archbishop of Canterbury over Christmas message: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/nigel-farage-archbishop-of-canterbury-negative-christmas-message-a7495186.html

What is the IP Bill and how will it affect you?: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/ip-bill-law-details-passed

UK’s new Snoopers’ Charter just passed an encryption backdoor law by the backdoor: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/11/30/investigatory_powers_act_backdoors/

Politicians will escape intrusive spy powers of the Snooper’s Charter: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/politicians-will-escape-intrusive-spy-powers-snoopers-charter-1594320

Sky reaches agreement for 21st Century Fox takeover offer for £11.7bn: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/sky-21st-century-fox-sale-takeover-agreement-reached-rupert-murdoch-a7477011.html

Why we use electoral college, not popular vote: http://dailysignal.com/2016/11/07/why-the-founders-created-the-electoral-college/

Donald Trump declares ‘Let it be a nuclear arms race’ with Russia: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/22/donald-trump-vladimir-putn-signal-renewal-nuclear-arms-race/

The Russian ambassador’s assassination was no work of art: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/22/assassination-russian-ambassador-turkey-9-11-art

Berlin terror attack: Horrifying dashcam video shows truck speeding into Christmas market: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/22/berlin-terror-attack-tunisian-suspect-anis-amri-investigated/

Donald Trump Completes Final Lap, Electoral College, to White House: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/us/politics/electoral-college-vote.html?_r=0

The crisis in Aleppo: who’s fighting who and why: http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2016/12/15/aleppo-crisis-war-syria-explained/

Simple Politics: https://www.facebook.com/simplepoliticsuk/posts/1437746876270138:0

Marrakech climate conference: world forging ahead on climate action: http://ec.europa.eu/clima/news/articles/news_2016111801_en

Austria just decisively rejected the far right’s presidential candidate: http://www.vox.com/world/2016/12/4/13833796/austria-presidential-election-2016-hofer-van-der-bellen

EU’s highest court delivers blow to UK snooper’s charter: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/dec/21/eus-highest-court-delivers-blow-to-uk-snoopers-charter

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff removed from office by Senate: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-37237513

More than 30,000 Muslims from across the world meet in the UK to reject Isis and Islamic extremism: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/more-than-30000-ahmadiyya-muslims-from-across-the-world-meet-in-the-uk-to-reject-isis-and-islamic-a7191306.html

Student march: Thousands protest education cuts in central London: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/student-march-thousands-protest-education-cuts-in-central-london-a3399941.html

UN Security Council urges end to Israeli settlements: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/passes-resolution-israeli-settlements-161223192709807.html

We finally have an effective Ebola vaccine. The war on the disease is about to change: http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/22/14039628/rvsv-zebov-ebola-vaccine-trial-effective

China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/world/asia/china-ivory-ban-elephants.html

Alternative Christmas Message 2016: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/alternative-christmas-message

President-Elect Donald Trump: How, why and what comes next for the United States

November 9th 2016 will be a long remembered day for the world, the moment that American politics lost its mind; the point where millions voted for an unqualified, racist bigoted man to be the leader of the free world. Defying all the polls and the media putting him down (“Brexit times ten” as some are calling it), Donald Trump has won the White House and is set to be inaugurated in January 2017. Hillary Clinton was far from an ideal candidate but at least she held some notions of not regressing, most notably a push towards combating climate change through supporting renewable energy projects and companies.

Why did Trump win? What was it that convinced millions that he had their best interests in mind? Really it was a collection of factors and components, some of which were hardly down to Trump himself. First of all the media attention was concentrated on him beyond reasonable doubt; from beginning to end, Trump’s face was plastered across every TV station and every front page, his unethical behavior being under constant viewing; according to the New York Times, Trump received two billion dollars worth of free media. The likes of Tim Cruz and Jeb Bush had no chance of gaining the Republican nomination when the media wasn’t interested in them. In the eyes of the media Trump was a source for an endless string of stories sure to get some attention and clicks but right from the get-go, the election proved to be very one sided, especially during the nomination process.

bernie-sanders-image

The second strike hit when Bernie Sanders lost the democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, despite his selfless policies and wishes to create a brighter future for everyone. If Bernie Sanders had been the nominee, it’s very possible that he could have bested Trump while also delivering a case for positive change. Sanders seemed very genuine and much like Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom, he struck a chord with young people. But according to the media, his campaign did not exist and it was confined to “invisible primary” status; with barely a blemish against Sanders’ name, the 2016 election could have been a landslide in a far more desirable way. On the whole, socialism isn’t a preferable concept in the United States and considering Hillary Clinton’s position in the centre, rather than the left, the odds ended up being stacked against Sanders. In the midst of this selection and the road campaigning, Brexit took place and I feel this is partially responsible for Trump’s win; it gave him momentum to know that the English had “taken their country back” (Though leavers still have no idea who or what they were taking it back from…), not to mention the always hateful Nigel Farage coming over to the States to voice his support.

donald-and-hilary

Lastly when the two chosen candidates were entering the campaign trail, Trump saw fit to endlessly bash his opponent, crafting a carefully built message in the process to indoctrinate Americans, especially aspects of the working and middle class white crowd. The overall sentiment I feel was as follows: “Whatever I say or do, that’s nothing compared to what Hillary has done and will do if she becomes president”. Taking cues from white privilege, nationalism and exploiting anxieties, Donald Trump, as a businessman was able to craft a message that drilled itself into the minds of millions; it went so deep that Hillary’s words were to ring hollow, despite her victories in the primary debates. People eventually disregarded or worse gave in to Trump’s filthy words because they were so helplessly brainwashed by them; the “grab em by the p*ssy” tapes could and should have been the end of his campaign but instead they only rallied more unsavory individuals around him who had been sitting in silence until now.

This “whitelash” and sense of entitlement against the establishment was evident across America. A perspective was taken on by the masses; if a media outlet is supporting Clinton then they were automatically assumed to be bribed or part of the corrupt establishment. The more the media pushed against Trump, the more people vowed to go against it, proclaiming that they were taking control; even when they were being truthful, people chose to disregard it; some became so hell bent on mistrusting anything remotely close to the mainstream that viewed Trump with a reverence unheard of in any election. Combine this with a massive complacency on Hillary’s part and you begin to see why Trump claimed the Oval Office this year.

marine-le-pen-image

If a nationalist can obtain the most powerful position in the world, then there is absolutely no doubt that other far right parties will be spurred more than ever to spread their toxic perspectives. Most recently French far right leader Marine Le Penn celebrated Trump’s victory, proclaiming that their new world was being constructed. What kind of world could this be? One where the far right triumphs all over Europe, seceding from union into isolationism and selfishness? It’s a scary prospect indeed.

donald-and-melania-trump

But all of this fear could be completely unfounded; Trump could get into the Oval Office next year and suddenly do a 180 on much of his hateful rhetoric, or perhaps his drastic policies may need scaling back and thus reduce the damage they might do. Was his campaign all lip service to get him into the most powerful office in the world? Already he has stated that he will not completely scrap Obamacare as he initially promised and will not throw Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran out the window either. Despite his many failures as a businessman though, Trump certainly knows how to get people on his side because of a sly charisma that Clinton just didn’t have; his speeches were uninhibited and vulgar compared to every other candidate in recent memory. This in turn weaponised the populous against his opponent, creating a group that would follow him religiously. This comes back to a point I made in a previous post; “if you are an American who for years “if you are an American citizen who for years has listened to politicians sound sophisticated while accomplishing nothing, you might just be primed for something that is everything they are not”. It’s this kind of approach that has fuelled the rise of post-truth politics and in turn it’s created a nasty collection of borderline evangelicals in the political space.

donald-trump-protest-march

When you consider the perspective of some Trump fans, the word “deplorables” doesn’t seem too far-fetched when you look at it in the aftermath of the election; this is a group of individuals who vowed to riot if Trump didn’t win but are now attacking minorities when he has. A fight is beginning in America, one to push back against the racism that holds the country in a tight grip; just like Brexit there have been many horrendous incidents with Twitter users such as Shaun King have been working to document incidents of racism and abuse. As I look back on all the coverage of the negative rhetoric that swept through America it’s hard not to be fearful, especially for those across the pond. The one positive thing I can say about Trump is that his focus on putting the US first may cause them to turn away from the world stage; only then will they be able to look themselves in the mirror and understand the fundamental problems that have infected their nation for years. All that can be done now is waiting until Trump’s eventual inauguration in January; that is if his upcoming time in court doesn’t throw him off the rails…

Sources

  • Why Wall Street loves Hilary: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/why-wall-street-loves-hillary-112782
  • Is Hillary Clinton’s ambitious solar energy goal for the US workable?: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/28/is-hillary-clintons-ambitious-solar-energy-goal-for-the-us-workable
  • $2 Billion worth of free media for Donald Trump: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html?_r=0
  • ‘Mr. Brexit’ Nigel Farage Speaks at Donald Trump Rally in Jackson, MS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj4K9fr_WgY
  • How Donald Trump made hate intersectional: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/how-trump-made-hate-intersectional.html
  • Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html
  • America and Britain Are Being Hit by the Same ‘Whitelash’: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/america-and-britain-are-being-hit-by-the-same-whitelash
  • Marine Le Pen: Donald Trump has shown how we can ‘build a new world’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/13/marine-le-pen-donald-trump-has-shown-how-we-can-build-a-new-world/

  • After campaigning against Obamacare, Donald Trump wants to keep two major provisions: https://mic.com/articles/159253/after-campaigning-against-obamacare-donald-trump-wants-to-keep-two-major-provisions?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social#.8Jg9YJsyo
  • Trump Just Announced He Will Not Cancel Obama’s Iran Peace Deal: http://occupydemocrats.com/2016/11/12/trump-just-announced-will-not-cancel-obamas-iran-peace-deal/

  • In Context: Hillary Clinton and the ‘basket of deplorables’: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/sep/11/context-hillary-clinton-basket-deplorables/

  • Shaun King’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/ShaunKing
  • BEFORE TAKING THE WHITE HOUSE, TRUMP DUE IN COURT OVER FRAUD: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/11/donald-trump-university-lawsuit

(All images sourced from Google, labelled for reuse)

 

 

Black or White? The glaring issue in the discussion of world issues

 

As with any point in history, the world has some issues to grapple with, but in 2016 in particular I’ve noticed an especially ugly trend that’s creeping about; black or white. There is hardly any room for a middle ground to satisfy both sides, no room for a happy medium in-between; it must be one extreme or another; keep it simple and the people will remain riled up and they too eventually become susceptible to easy influence.

Military use is a prime suspect in when choosing one extreme over another and when looking back at the strategies in the Middle East, it’s all too easy to point fingers. Bush’s military strategy for Iraq and the War on Terror was hackneyed, charging in with reckless abandon. Applying military intervention without careful thought led to the Iraq War and in turn the deaths of thousands of people. The trend has continued somewhat with the constant airstrikes and drone attacks sent by President Obama to the Middle East and of course Trump, paying no regard to the damage and civilian casualties caused, said he would “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS” thus amplifying and furthering the issue of terrorist radicalisation. Looking at the awful comments below the video supporting his wretched morals leaves me shocked at the lengths people sink to.

trump

Now Trump is going to the other extreme; the possibility that America won’t help out its NATO allies at all. He said that the financial contributions from the likes of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be reviewed; in other words, if they aren’t paying enough, then they don’t deserve America’s help, according to his statements. It’s an unbelievably selfish and self-centered move from the Republican candidate whose focus is entirely geared towards putting himself first while also driving a wedge between Americans and anyone who isn’t from their country. Cutting off bonds to other countries can only lead to more conflict and a greater leaning towards a gross nationalism that is sweeping through politics today.

Division is a trend that has never burned more strongly in the modern western world and with this the notion of a careful approach is quickly tossed aside; we already had the infighting in the UK over the EU Referendum. The anti-immigrant rhetoric was an incredibly toxic aspect of the campaigns; all too often I’ve seen countless comments that categorise the influx of refugees as the importing of terrorists with no thought paid to the victims fleeing conflict (Many of which we in the West created).

burkini

Simply put, it’s indoctrination on both sides as resentment against immigrants is free to run wild in the West and this treatment reflects outwards on the people; recently in France, a demeaning Burkini ban came into play and a restaurant refused to serve Muslims because in the eyes of the chef: “All Muslims are terrorists”. This theme of paranoia runs rampant in today’s world to the point that individuals grow so narrow-minded in their attitudes. The same trend of indoctrination is occurring in the States; a video in which Trump supporters literally attempt to cover up a protester with a “No racism, no hate” sign at the Republican National Convention emerged earlier this year. This is the attitude posed in the 2016 election; you’re either with Trump or you’re against him and if you’re against racism (Judging by the attitudes of those in at the convention) then that automatically makes you an enemy of the campaign. There’s not a single person in that video that stops and thinks about an alternative perspective or questions their precious little idol. It’s a sure sign that fear is winning out when individuals view world affairs with such simplistic abandon.

This kind of extreme leaning also applies to race relations in the United States; to Trump and many Republicans, there is no consideration that maybe not all Muslims are terrorists. Yet again generalisation and stigmatisation sweeps in; either the entire religion is guilty or not at all; there is no middle ground there. No discussion, no debate, just the common people being led blind by a man who preys on fear and emotion, simplifying everything in the process. Blind labelling has given ridiculous ideas further traction, most notably the possibility databases for American Muslims and Syrian refugees, segregating groups off to be constantly monitored. It will undoubtedly fuel further bouts of racism and discrimination; that sends a message that these people are to be treated with suspicion.

Calais Jungle.jpg

And now most recently we’ve had the announcement of a wall, yes a wall, to keep refugees and migrants from coming to the UK from Calais; no doubt a direct result of the Brexit vote several months to appease the selfish racists of the country who fell for the fear-mongering leave campaign. No thought there, not a single consultation of how we could create a balance between taking in refugees while also securing our borders from illegal immigration. If this announcement proves anything, it’s that irrational decisions are slowly becoming the new norm in today’s world. To those who made this horrendous decision I ask what kind of benefit this will bring? I see it doing three main things; adding momentum to Trump’s vile campaign in the United States, add another tool for terrorists to use in their propaganda and create even more sentiment against foreigners.

This flawed perspective on world issues is creating divides and allowing the views of the ignorant and inconsiderate to be pushed to the forefront. There needs to be a better understanding promoted in the world, an attitude that emphasises a middle ground when dealing with difficult issues we all face from the simple civilians to the highest government officials.

Sources

  • “Trump would “bomb the sh*it out of ISIS”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWejiXvd-P8

(Images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)