Tag Archives: Student

The other side of the conflict: conversing with a Russian friend

 

Nadia's photo

I FIRST MET Nadia in the city of Toronto during the summer of 2008. Back then the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were being occupied by Russian troops and today, six years later, Russia is being accused of invading Eastern Ukraine. During the time Nadia and I shared in Canada, we discussed the Russo-Georgian war and many other related topics over lunch. I was interested in hearing her perspective on the current crisis.

I found her point of view particularly interesting not only because she is a Russian citizen who is currently living in the country, also because being fluent in English and Chinese as she is, she has worked and studied in China, Canada and South Africa, among other places. In other words, few people understand the West and the East the way she does.

First of all, I would like to know whether you consider you are receiving proper information from your government regarding the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s participation in it.

– I do believe that during a war no one actually receives proper information. We all only see what our governments want us to see and that’s not something exclusive to Russian society. The news that you watch in Spain and the news that I watch in Russia are totally different. And how you and I perceive the news is also different. For you, as well as for the greater part of the world, it is ‘yet another conflict’ taking place in some remote country. For me, as well as for most Russians, it is a war in which my friends and relatives die and get hurt. I do take it personally, and so it is hard to keep calm and objective.

The Western world portrays Russia as an invader. On your TV screens you can see Russian troops and military forces all over Ukraine. We in Russia see the war between Ukrainian national forces and forces of the Ukrainian opposition, in which many ethnic Russians die or get hurt and they are our relatives, or our friends, or our friends’ relatives. I cannot say that politics is one of my strong points so my understanding of what is happening is very limited, but the general idea of what I, as an average Russian, would get from the news here is that the current Ukrainian government is rather confused and basically does not know what to do next; that Russia is trying her best to help reconcile the two parts of the conflict; and that European and American news lie.

Now, which news source is really lying? I don’t know. And you don’t know. And I don’t think we will ever know. I think in such circumstances one should not believe any mass media since during a war everybody lies.

Back in July, the USA and the EU imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Russia in response to her involvement in Ukraine. The Russian government retaliated banning certain imports from those countries who took part in the sanctions. Have these measures affected your everyday life?

To be honest, not really. But it does not mean that all Russians are totally okay with the change. There might be somebody who is suffering because they cannot buy their favourite sort of Dutch pears any more. I would say there are many factors to be considered in this regard, starting with one’s geographical location and finishing with one’s income level. There was a big discussion regarding these sanctions and there were different opinions on the matter.  And I, as well as many Russians I know, believe these sanctions are fair in an “eye for eye” view of things.

Going back to the negative effect it might have had, my opinion is based on my personal experience. I personally have not experienced any difficulties or inconveniences caused by these sanctions. However, I live in the far East of the country and it is really, really far out: an 8 hour flight away from Moscow. We never had most of these banned imports anyway. In that region nothing changed. A couple of weeks ago I visited my friends in Moscow and St. Petersburg and one of them said that some fish became more expensive. But in general, I don’t think these sanctions have had a major effect on our lives.

What is your opinion, and what would you say is the general opinion where you are, regarding Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula?

I really do not see anything negative in this. And I do not think there are many Russians who would be unhappy about it. You must also remember that we never really perceived Ukraine as a foreign country, there is so much history and blood relations that connect Russia and Ukraine, especially Crimea and Sevastopol. The population in this region is mostly Russian; they willingly became part of Russia so I cannot see anything wrong with it.

While I’m writing these lines my best friend is enjoying her holidays in Crimea and she says it is great there and people are happy. No one was killed in the process of this very episode of the crisis and I would say that all parties involved are actually happy about how it all was resolved. The American government was not very happy though. I came across a very interesting article on the Internet in which the author could not understand the American government’s involvement in this Crimean issue. He said it was nearly ridiculous that the USA would interfere, as ridiculous as it would be if a region of Mexico voted to become part of the USA and Russians would interfere. And I agree with that. I think the fact that the rest of the world has a problem with recognising Crimea and Sevastopol as part of Russia responds merely to political reasons. For me, this region was never truly separated from Russia, if you look at its people throughout history.

Do you consider the pro-Russian rebels who are currently fighting in Donetsk and other parts of Eastern Ukraine as rightful Russian citizens who should be given the chance to join the country?

Yes, because the people of Ukraine and Russia are historically connected and many of us have relatives and friends in Ukraine and naturally vice versa. Given the amount of propaganda and hatred towards Russians that is being cultivated in Ukraine – no matter how the crisis would be resolved – I do not think that any Ukrainian born Russian or any person with a Russian surname would have a peaceful life in Ukraine. It does feel wrong and sorrowful to me but I do not think that there is anything that could be done to change that.

What is happening now has been happening for so long and has become so complicated that no one can give a reasonable explanation to it or predict how and when it will all end. All this will cause some sort of discrimination, or even a genocide in the long term, making it impossible for Russians -or as you call them pro-Russians- to live in Ukraine. And to answer your question, there are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Russia now. And Russia will give a new home to every person from Ukraine who wishes to have one. And I think that is right, I think that is human.

Valentina Melnikova, president of “The Association of Mothers of Russian Soldiers”, estimates there are currently between 7000 and 8000 Russians fighting on Ukrainian soil. Have you heard of someone you know who’s been deployed there? What do you think about this sort of military involvement? Is it Russia’s duty to protect the rebels in Ukraine?

I don’t know of anyone who is currently fighting in Ukraine.  You never know what truth is so I would not take any current estimation as factual. The Internet is flooded with various rumours regarding Russian soldiers dying in Ukraine but I would not like to repeat the rumours: I believe one can only trust something he or she has personally experienced when it comes to war.

What do I think about this sort of military involvement? It is understandable for me if Russian people would want to go and fight for their families and friends who live in Ukraine. But as any sensible person, I think this war should stop. I think it should have never been started in the first place. It has always been beyond my understanding why people should kill people. Any war is wrong, but this particular conflict feels so wrong that I can hardly believe it is all really happening. I do not understand why people, regardless of their nationality, must pay with their lives and the lives of their loved ones for mistakes made by a group of greedy politicians.

The conflict was triggered by the violent protests that took place in Kiev last February, which managed to overthrow the government in what many viewed simply as a coup d’état fueled by the West. Would you say the USA and the EU are being somehow hypocritical denouncing other countries’ involvement in the region while supporting coups worldwide whenever they suit their interests?

I really do not feel that my knowledge of politics is anywhere close to judge such things. As I see it, every  government is hypocritical when they are trying to protect their interests. I think it is important for us to remember it. Our governments are hypocritical, the news that we watch is -if I may say so- ‘photo shopped’ according to our governments’ interests. And one of the negative side effects of this informational war is how we, people from different countries, let these things change our perception of each other.

I was on an international flight a week ago and there was a man from a Western country who sat next to me. There was a friendly chat between the two of us that lasted for a few minutes until I said I was Russian. After that this man just stopped talking to me, he turned away and acted as if I didn’t exist for the rest of the flight. Somehow it made me feel responsible for what my government does, or to be more precise, for what my government does according to his government’s news. I know I deviated from the question, but I feel it is important to say that we should not judge people on the basis of where they come from –  especially in such a tense international environment. We should not become victims of our governments’ hypocrisy.

Do you think the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine were at risk of being violated or damaged after the former Ukrainian government was overthrown?

I do believe so. And I do believe that ethnic Russians in Ukraine will not be able to live there peacefully.

Should the Ukrainian regions inhabited by a majority of ethnic Russians be granted the opportunity to join Russia the way Crimea did?

It is another question I feel uncomfortable answering because of my very weak political background. On one hand, if these regions joined Russia the way Crimea did, it might cause a second wave of sanctions and unhappy American and EU politicians, which would make this crisis even more complicated and reduce the chances for a peaceful settlement in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, it seems more than right to give Russians born in Ukraine an opportunity to live in Russia, to live peacefully with their loved ones in a country where they feel at home and are not hated for being of Russian descent.

 

To end this interview, I would like to briefly discuss with you a topic which has been pretty controversial among sectors of European and American societies. That is no other than Russia’s law against gay propaganda. I recently watched a documentary in which many people from all corners of Russian society publicly supported the law and advocated the need to protect children against inappropriate content and confusion. What are your thoughts on this measure? In the past Spanish society was probably more careful about the content children were exposed to. Now I think it is not far-fetched to say Spanish media exposes children to all kinds of violent and sexual content throughout the day. You have been to several Western countries; would you say our governments are becoming too permissive?

I do not think that media content in Western countries is much different to Russian media. Actually it is all the same TV shows, programmes and series that we watch. Though we do have this age restriction now in movie theatres, you know all those 12+ or 18+ markers that are shown before the movie begins.  I personally find them quite useless. I mean if a 15-year old wants to watch an 18+ movie, he’ll do it no matter what newly established censorship says. And I cannot say that governments are becoming too permissive about these things. It is just the amount of 18+ content today is so huge and availability of any information is so wide that no government will be able to control it. I think any restriction in a modern world is quite useless because today’s children are born with tablets in their hands. It is the parents’ duty to protect their children from all sorts of scenes they may find harmful that are shown on TV or available on YouTube.

As for gay propaganda and that documentary you watched, Russia historically is quite a traditional society and I have to agree that in general Russia’s tolerance level is quite limited nowadays. I think it has a lot to do with the Soviet times, when people went fanatical about morality and words like “gay” or “lesbian” were whispered in disgust. I frankly believe my mother did not even know such words before American movies were allowed on TV. But today things are changing, many people are starting to see it differently and maybe in some 200 years they will even allow gay unions in Russia.  I am sure that on that documentary you watched it was all 40+ 50+ people who were supportive of this law. Younger generations, at least in many cases, are not as traditional and if the director of that documentary had wanted to show Russians that support gay couples he or she would have easily found them in all corners as well. It is again, two sides of the same coin.

-Thank you very much Nadia for your insight. It has been a pleasure speaking with you again.

-The pleasure has been all mine.

 

By Alberto Aberasturi.

 

 

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Visions of Division

To mark the end of our Conflict theme, Andreyna Valera collates this exclusive photo essay, depicting the remarkable stand off on the North Korean border.  

Last December, the relationship between North and South Korea was especially tense. Tourists were told the tours around the Demilitarize Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA) could be easily cancelled. These places catch the attention of thousands of views from all over the world every year, attracted by what can be considered the most similar place to hell on Earth.

First thing you are told when you step in the Korean DMZ is that you are not allowed to make eye contact with North Korean soldiers, not either gesticulate towards them to not ‘provoke’ any reaction. There is also a dress code that must be respected: no broken jeans or flip-flops, it can be used by North Korea to confirm one of their many lies about the rest of the world and manipulate saying how poorly the rest of people live that they cannot even dress properly.

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An American Marine takes the lead of the tour as soon as you arrive. He makes you to sign this document where it is advised “the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action”. Although the JSA is a neutral territory, the safety of visitors cannot be guarantee in a hostile enemy act. Afterwards, another American soldier makes a presentation of the Korean War, how the Armistice was signed and the creation of the DMZ. They never sign a peace treaty so technically they are still in conflict.

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North and South Korean soldiers stand face to face overlooked by American soldiers, who also impose a strict photograph policy on visitors. A stunning performance for those who visit this location: Panmunjeom. The glass doors at the back of the picture have strange forms that North Korea uses to take pictures of tourists and provoke American soldiers playing with lights and reflections.

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American and South Korean soldiers work shoulder to shoulder. There is an important American military base in Itaewon, North Seoul (South Korea). The US also played a decisive role as creating the DMZ as in the Korean War.

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The static defensive position that South Korean soldiers keep constantly comes from the Martial arts. All South Korean soldiers have been formed with taekwondo training intensively, due to military service is still mandatory. Representatives from both Koreas meet in this room to negotiate; the north part of the table is for the North of Korea and the south for the South.

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A fake town built by North Korean government as a propaganda strategy for worldwide tourists that visit the DMZ. There are many buildings and towers illuminated regardless nobody lives there. Satellites have proved that electricity is a luxury in most of the country.

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This town is inhabited. However, there are restraints to take pictures from this point and all pictures must be shoot behind a mark line controlled by South Korean soldiers.

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Korean people, from both North and South, leave their desires of union and reconciliation among them represented in those coloured pieces of clothing. The few familiar reunion agreed with North Korea have taken place in this area.

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This bridge was used to exchange prisoners after the Armistice in 1953: once the bridge is crossed, there is no way to go back to the other side ever again.

Danish students are “Tinder”-ing away

The Tinder dating app has found a large audience among Danish students.

The Tinder dating app has found a large audience among Danish students.

As a new dating app takes off on campus of the University of Copenhagen, students are intrigued. However some  worry about the objectification it entails, when fellow students are reduced to a “swipe right” or “swipe left”.
By Katharina Zuanich, University Post

On an evening at the end of a long week, the Faculty of Humanities campus KUA, University of Copenhagen, is upbeat and bustling with its typical Friday bar crowd. Groups of students are sitting together drinking, chatting, and – at one particular table – leaning over an iPhone hurriedly debating whether a fellow student’s photo is deserving of a green heart, or a grim red X.

This is being done on Tinder, a dating app that has recently found a large audience among young people in Denmark. According to the company’s own data, students make up about 50 percent of Tinder users according to a US report. Whether used for dating, hooking up, or meeting new people, students are intrigued. Not surprisingly for the humanities crowd that we talked to, they are wary of its appearance-based objectification.

”People are more aggressive on there,” says history student Nils Bärenholdt. ”More so on Tinder than in real life. It makes people a commodity, and I think it’s wrong to look at humans like a commodity.”

A simple method

The concept is very simple: Tinder presents you with a succession of photos gleaned from Facebook profiles of people based on your chosen gender, age, and location. Tinder uses your phone’s gps system to link you to those nearby.

If you like what you see, you swipe to the right on your touch screen. Only if the other person has also ‘swiped right’ on your photo, can you message each other and chat. If you don’t like someone, they will never know.

At University of Copenhagen (UCPH) campuses there are large numbers of students contained in one central area. Tinder is a way for students to find potential dating partners. Though basically solely an appearance-based judgment, it is fast and effective at putting people in casual, low-commitment, spontaneous contact with each other.

Real connection, or just a game?

”It’s popular among young people and students. It is mostly for fun, just a game,” says Andrea Peterson, at the history department’s Friday bar, ”but I think a lot of guys are taking it seriously.”

One such guy is Henry Guyer, a student in the Master of Applied Cultural Analysis program and an avid Tinder-er. “I think it really fits a society where you don’t really go out and meet people that much, and you mainly can only meet people through others you already know,” he says.

”As a student, Tinder is a fun game to play, but it’s also a social experiment. You see so many types, you begin to typify people,” says Alan Jürgens, who studies philosophy. He is touching on a contemporary backlash many students feel towards the Tinder method of swiping ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on a photograph.

Encounters more aggressive on Tinder

Though it has been growing in popularity, many students appear to be similarly quick in picking up on these feelings the app can potentially evoke, and consequently deleting it after a short period of use.

Andrea claims she has since deleted Tinder from her phone, citing that, for her, it was ”just a game”. Nils Bärenholdt has done the same, saying that the aggressive nature of the interactions, and the ‘commodification’ of its users was the main reason.

A source, who prefers to remain anonmymous relates a creepy experience:

“I was getting strange looks by a group of guys sitting at a table nearby while I was at my student job, and I could not figure out why. After a little while I realized that they were all hovering over a Tinder screen, swiping away at girls’ photos. They must have found my profile on Tinder, and were trying to figure out if I was actually the same person.”

Is this a new modus operandi of social interaction, a harmful commercialization of human relations, or merely a fleeting novelty? Given the large number of students testing the new waters of Tinder, however shallow they may be, it is unlikely the prevalence of the app will wane anytime soon.

(This article is from Universitypost.dk, the English-language media of the University of Copenhagen, and a partner of Pandeia Network. You can visit the website here)

Photo: Katharina Zuanich

Venezuela: The Horror of an Unknown Struggle

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Venezuela is going through a period of social upheaval.  Andreyna Valera and Ana Escaso explain, through this series of shocking eyewitness reports for Pandeia, just how bad the struggle for transparency, democracy and freedom has become.

Despite being the largest deposit of oil reserves in the world, Venezuela is facing a difficult financial situation. All economic indicators have been declining; inflation is presently at 56% and still increasing; and food staples have been scarce in supermarkets. Meanwhile, President Maduro disagrees. In an interview with Christine Amanpour for Al Jazeera, Venezuelan President assures that the GDP has grown dramatically, unemployment has dropped from 40% to less than 10% during the revolution and extreme poverty is minimal at 6 % compared to 25% before the presidency of Hugo Chavez.

In the words of Maduro: “Our democracy is so strong because we do not belong to any economic group, no international arms company. I’m not a businessman in the power to enrich a minority. And I don’t think the whole opposition is fascist”.

However, insecurity and social unrest is palpable in the Caribbean breeze. Testimonies coming from different parts of the country describe a situation quite different from what we would consider – in theory – a democratic system.

An Unstoppable Uprising

Graffiti in Avenida Don Julio Centeno, Valencia.

Graffiti in Avenida Don Julio Centeno, Valencia.

 

The tide of protests that has shaken the Venezuelan presidency began with a very specific and representative episode of what is actually happening in Venezuela. On the twelfth of February , a number of students entered the streets showing their unhappiness with Maduro’s administration. In that protest, a member of the military attempted to rape a student in the city of San Cristobal, Tachira . As a result, students took to the streets to protest against the abuses of power. The government in response arrested some of them. This caused more civilian reactions calling for condemnation of the military for the attempted rape. The government responded violently to the pacifist demonstrations. The protests spread to other states and began to take place in working class neighbourhoods, in which people cried out for change and pointed the finger at President Nicolas Maduro as the guilty party.

As the death toll rose to ten during the protests the opposition leader, Leopoldo López, was accused of conspiracy against the government and for inciting violence. “My arrest will make people wake up, Venezuela will realize what the majority wants. My arrest will not be in vain,” declared Lopez in a video released after his imprisonment in Ramo Verde military prison, where he remains detained.

The Maduro government supporters, both inside and outside of Venezuela, have attempted to politicize the student demonstrations, naming them as “the most radical and fascist right wing of the opposition.” However, words and testimonies of young protesters clearly explain that they do not take to the streets for political reasons; they do it for the simple reason that Venezuela bleeds, as Caracas has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

“I’m just asking for justice”

Several young people who are actively participating in demonstrations in Caracas and Valencia have told their stories. All have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. “It does not matter if they know our names. Everyday we are vulnerable to anything and the government doesn’t care,” mentioned one of the students.

Joseph, a health sector student, complains of continued abuses by the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB): “We have been pushed to put the slogans down and start throwing stones to defend ourselves […] They charge at us so disproportionately, as if they were attacking criminals”. On the twentieth of February, the FANB attacked demonstrators with guns and armoured tanks in San Diego during the concentration of Tulips; children and the elderly suffered from suffocation due to tear gas, Joseph tells us.

GNB patrols and motorised overnight in Chacao, Caracas.

GNB patrols and motorised overnight in Chacao, Caracas.

 

Mary, another protester, spoke about the media control from the government: “The demonstration on the twelfth of February in Valencia passed peacefully. I found it amazing the amount of people that were there but I was surprised the lack of media’s presence. It was a very high attendance march, it was an important event in our country and no national media cover the event ( … ) the only way to know how things were going in different States was through social media , Twitter especially”. She also tells of how supporters of Chavez attacked the protesters: “Two cars tried to sweep along the crowd. The first one succeeded: the car literally drove over a girl who was next to us squashing her legs”. During that first day of protests, a young man had already died in Caracas for a headshot, allegedly by the FANB.

Teresa, another student of physiotherapy, tells how the eighteenth of February took a radical turn when protesters were aware that they had to begin to defend against FANB’s attacks and supporters of Chavez. On that day, she came to reside in Valencia as they were doing since February twelfth, all day until nightfall. “Suddenly there were no more cars in the streets and in the distance we saw many lights. No cars lights but motorbikes. About twenty of them arrived and stopped 100 meters from us. Within seconds, they started firing pellets. The next thing a tsunami of people running, running from the guards, shots everywhere and the sound of motorcycles could be heard behind us”. Teresa claims that so far this year, she has learned more about how to make Molotov cocktails to defend against GNB’s attacks rather than techniques of physiotherapy exercises.

One of the youths arrested in the protests and led to jail Core 2, Valencia, claims to have met with fifteen soldiers also detained in the same prison during the first week of March. This shows how some of military had come to join the uprising. One man told of how these military encouraged them to keep fighting, because they felt more guards would do it as well. The same student also claims to have seen Cuban military around demonstrations: “They don’t even try to be discreet by dressing in the Venezuelan military uniform, they feel free going out in the Cuban uniform”. He also describes how the GNB try to camouflage in CANTV’s vans (Venezuelan phone company) to be closer to the barricades. “Some are in uniforms, others in civilian; they got out of the vans and shoot against the ‘guarimbas’ (barricades)”. He claims he is not on the street for political reasons: “I ‘m just asking for true justice for those demonstrators that have been murdered”. He further claims that there is evidence that government-armed groups have killed many protesters.

Robert Redman, killed by a headshot at the hands of an unidentified motorbike last 12th of February overnight in Chacao, Caracas.

Robert Redman, killed by a headshot at the hands of an unidentified motorbike last 12th of February overnight in Chacao, Caracas.

 

Cristina, the mother of a three-year-old child, reported that on the night of the eleventh of March  at approximately 23:14, the GNB used tear gas against civilians indiscriminately in Chacao, Caracas. She tells how the GNB committed an abuse of power and an attack on public health using expired tear gas against civilians. Her son was hit by tear gas and got sick, and then she denounced these events through social media.

 

 

Expired tear gas used by the GNB in which is written, "Warning, it is dangerous to use after the expiry date". In the bottom picture 2013 appears as deadline.

Expired tear gas used by the GNB in which is written,
“Warning, it is dangerous to use after the expiry date”.
In the bottom picture 2013 appears as the date.

There is no official number of deaths, nor the number of wounded and detained people after a month of protests. La Mesa de la Unidad (opposition block) held a press conference last week that had been posted so far: 21 deaths; 350 injured by bullets, choking, lacerations, buckshot and tear gas; 1322 under arrest, of which 1195 are under precautionary measures; 92 prisoners; and most disturbingly there have been 33 confirmed cases of torture.

State media intervention

Despite military repression there remains a diminishing international media coverage, “half the country does not pay attention to what happens unless it affects your daily life (…) is the schizophrenia of a country divided into two,” says a journalist from Cadena Capriles in Caracas. This journalist showcased an investigation into the claims military forces were shooting from close range at students. “Then motorbikes went out to intimidate the population. The streets were still closed due to barricadas. They were shooting at buildings, we couldn’t get out from the newsroom…” the journalist claimed in an article for lanacion.com.

The international media have faced difficulties when reporting on what is happening in Venezuela, with more than a dozen journalists arrested during the protests. According to President Maduro, the safety of the media has always been guaranteed in Venezuela, as long as they do not cause harm to the Venezuelan people. After the closure of the Colombian television channel NTN24,  the case of the CNN in Spanish came to light. CNN showed a false image of the protests, according to the Venezuelan President, and for that he had to interfere personally causing an intervention in the signal.

Already during Hugo Chávez’s administration, despite many protests complaining about the lack of press freedom, threats to media from the government continued. First they took control of Radio Caracas Television, following their takeover of Globovision, the main news channel in Venezuela. Now the few surviving channels are hesitant to report on the demonstrations. The press has also suffered political pressures, even having difficulty finding paper for printing newspapers.

Meanwhile, most large foreign media has not given enough importance to these events and what it means for Venezuela and the international community. While protests in Ukraine has been monitored and analysed, the crisis in Venezuela has been barely told, and when it has it’s been delayed and muted. All this has meant that the main source of information for both journalists and citizens, is social media and in particular Twitter, which remained down in different parts of Venezuela during protests.

The people responsible for the testimonies and images in this article have asked for their identities to remain anonymous. This video has been launched and promoted by the civic platform SOS Venezuela.

UK: The Bottom Line

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Radicalization, heavy drinking, bullying and a high profile library ban are just some of the major topics in this week’s UK press. Rachel Barr looks at everything from the army, and controversy in the London Mayor’s office to the Nek-nominate craze in this week’s Bottom Line.

Army Chaplain Conducts Memorial Service in Helmand, Afghanistan

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ALLEGED RAPE AND BULLYING were the factors included in the suicide of British soldier Anne-Marie Ellement, in a recent inquest into her death. It was reported that the two men alleged to have raped her were not prosecuted, inspiring  the coroner present to call on the Ministry of Defence to review its help with vulnerable soldiers. Speaking out to the BBC, the Corporal’s mother said that her daughter had been “bullied, belittled and overworked and driven to the depths of despair”. The Army’s director of Personal Services has responded by stating that future lessons to be learnt and their priorities to prevent this kind of tragedy will come from the coroner’s report, and that they were deeply sorry for the ministry’s failures.

 

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MUSLIM CHILDREN at ‘risk of radicalization’ should be put into care, argues London Mayor Boris Johnson, deeming extremist indoctrination a form of child abuse. Writing in his weekly column in The Telegraph, he claims that political correctness is preventing counter-terrorism officers from doing their jobs and stopping “the infection of radicalisation” on vulnerable young people “before it is too late”. In response, the Muslim Council of Britain has stated to the BBC that Johnson’s column looked more at generating headlines than solving problems, and that young people of all faiths should not have to worry about the risks of living in a ‘Big Brother’ society.

 

 

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SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER Alex Salmond risks being banned from all Council buildings in Aberdeen, in a move the Scottish National Party has deemed “an act of madness”. Aberdeen’s Labour led council will debate a motion this week which would ban the First Minister and his ministerial team from everything from council offices to schools and libraries, after claims of his ‘bullying tactics’ emerged last year. The council and Salmond have had some years of disagreements, which will come to a head in the decision of the ban, to be made on Wednesday.

 

Meanwhile, The Student Press are talking about….

NEK-NOMINATE, the “social drinking game for social media”, which involves downing something alcoholic within 24 hours of someone nominating you, filming it and then tagging three other ‘nominees’ to do the same – or worse –  when you post it online. The game has become an online craze and is now ‘out of control’, according to an interview with the Irish Rugby player responsible for it’s success. Speaking to The National Student, Ross Samson said the game had ‘snowballed’ and he wanted nothing further to do with it – after videos emerged with people having sex on camera while downing their drinks, and others had drank theirs mixed in with dead, blended mice.

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Blogging for Warwich Student Union, Zoe Buckland is concerned that peer pressure for the drinking game might be even stronger because it is online. Her concern derived from the three deaths which have implicated the craze as a possible cause – calling out to students to “stay safe” and reassuring them that it’s “okay to say no”.

Death or no death, the game involves  two “really unsurprising, predictably lame, facets of the culture of our generation”. Writing for Durham’s Palatinate, Toby Hambly points a figure at the ‘narcissistic culture of social media’ and lad culture – a ‘double whammy’ of internet predictability when the two are combined. In knowledge of this age of vanity and binge drinking, Hambly concludes,  we should reserve our outrage for things truly deserving of it, not something so predictable and determinable as Nek-nominate.

 

 

 

Mayoral Elections: Icelandic Fast News

Among other things, Icelandic nature is known for its characteristic "Geysers".

Among other things, Icelandic nature is known for its characteristic “Geysers”.

 

Everyone wants to experience Iceland’s beautiful nature. However a major increase in tourism is creating new problems in Iceland. In the capital city Reykjavik the mayor is taking a stand against NATO, and Iceland’s airport Keflavik deals with mischievous youngsters. Pandeia’s Svanlaug Árnadóttir gives a brief account of what is going on in Iceland. 

 

Tourism is booming right now in Iceland. The amount of tourists visiting Iceland every year has increased by 20 % from 2012 to 2013.

This requires accommodation for the visitors, and around 1100 new hotel rooms are being built Reykjavík. Since tourism is expected to increase even more in the coming years, it is estimated that around 1600 hotel rooms need to be built before 2020, in order to accommodate the geyser-seeking visitors. Recently the American news company CNN selected Iceland’s capital Reykjavík as part of its list of winter vacation ideas.

 

A heated debate has now started in Iceland on whether to start charging tourists a fee to see Icelandic nature’s gems. Up until now, access has been free of charge and with the increase in tourism, some of the sights require maintenance. From now on, every adult will be charged a fee of 3 Euros to see the ‘Geysir’ – which is Iceland’s most famous geyser. The money will be used for maintenance of the area, and it is likely that this will be a tendency for other natural sights as well.

 

Mayor of Reykjavik speaks up against Nato

On 21st February, NATO is running an event called The Iceland Air Meet. It is an annual air-defence training event. The event has caused great concern to the mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr as military airplanes will fly past Reykjavík City. His opinion is, that Iceland should not even be in NATO. Iceland is currently the only NATO member, without a standing army. It has become a mission for the mayor to ensure that Reykjavík is ‘a city without an army’. It is therefore important for him that no weapons enter Reykjavík city around the event.

 

Prank bomb threat

Earlier this week a bomb threat was issued regarding an airplane flying in from London. Thirty minutes before the plane was scheduled to land in Keflavík airport a phone call was received and the pilot was forced to land outside of the airport for security reasons. The passengers were evacuated and all luggage was searched. At the end of the day the police investigation came to the conclusion. It was merely a prank call from a 13-year old boy.

 

The Italian Job: Italy’s Employment Emergency

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The so-called ‘brain drain’ aspect of migration has seen a steady increase in the past years and it is affecting many countries in Europe. Among the nations who currently suffer the most is Italy. Irene Dominioni examines the opinion of Italian student media on this controversial issue.

Brain drain isn’t only a cultural or moral concern, as the student’s newspaper Inchiostro reports. It is a problem that affects the economic interests of Italy, a problem worth 1 billion euros a year. Bringing a student from elementary school to university degree costs $164 million to the Italian system, a sum that packs up and leaves together with the skills of those who migrate. Investment in education and research is one of the few truly effective methods to substantially improve the economic status of a country, and it also enhances political involvement. It still remains an Italian achilles heel when the situation is getting worse day by day combined with mass unemployment.

Italy has been choking on an economic crisis for too long, a crisis from which it does not seem to be able to shake off. The student paper Uninformato reports a rate of youth unemployment of 41.6 per cent, which shows an alarming situation. The so-called NEET (Not in Education or Employment Training) are becoming a dangerous reality, counting more young Italians every year who are increasingly discouraged. They don’t work because they are convinced they won’t find a job no matter what, nor do they study because they see university as an effort that will never be paid in return. Those who should be leading the country out of the crisis are the ones who are most heavily hit by it.

Employment emergency

Among the crises that the country needs to face, youth unemployment should be the priority. The young are paying the consequences of a crisis that they have not provoked and the state needs to start looking after them as the first and most durable source of wealth, when resources are drastically reduced and need wise redistribution. Saving its future, Italy must invest in its youth today. It is a waste to provide its citizens with good education and then force them to leave the country because of lack of job opportunities. Furthermore, letting someone else take benefit from their capacities. This does not mean that studying or work abroad should be stigmatised. They should be encouraged instead. The problem is that nowadays for Italians leaving their home country is often not a free choice, but the only alternative not to weigh too much on one’s family.

The feeling of obligation is one of the elements within the critique made by Il Bo, as the results of a study conducted in 2012 on the Erasmus Generation, which emphasises the entrepreneurial spirit of young Italians. The reality is not so bright. According to the study, 46 per cent of the young Italians surveyed are enthusiastic about working abroad. This number however can be read in a different way – that unemployment is what leads them to leave. Moreover, the study reports that a significant percentage (54 per cent) of this generation expresses a desire to work and live in a place close to home or in Italy.

This suggests that Italians would rather not walk away from their roots: a sign that contradicts the apparent wish of moving to a different country. 7.7 per cent would like to run their own business and 12.8 per cent  aim to be freelancers. It is important to note that freelance positions are the only solution for professionals as lawyers or architects cannot hope to be hired in the public system or elsewhere. In addition, 32 per cent aim to work for a multinational corporation and 18 per cent for a major national firm. These numbers reveal that autonomy in business is not a very attractive option for Italian youth. The unconditional praise of mobility in Europe and Italian entrepreneurial initiative needs to be re-conceived in a way that sticks more to reality, a reality which does not appear pleasant.

Is there a way out of the brain drain and desperate unemployment rates for Italy? To invert the tendency it would be necessary to have more people at work for a shorter time and to reduce (instead of extending) the retirement age, suggests Domenico De Masi on Uninformato. But these are adjustments that are not very likely to happen in such a moment of economic crisis. Effective solutions have not been adopted yet, and the future for young Italians remains more insecure than ever. What will come next still remains to be seen, but, if a change has to start somewhere, it should be right where it is most needed: a deceived youth united under collective awareness and concerted action is the only solution to ensure the attention of the nation is on this problem.