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ISSUE #3 Spring 2014

Current Affairs Student Magazine Remembering Tony Benn LUCIAN CLINCH


Shostakovich’s anti-Stalin symphonies JESS ODELL


Medicated kids: a quick fix? FRANCESCA FORRISTAL


The effects of the devastating forest fires in Indonesia NICKY WEST


The 2014 flamboyant fashion forecast JALEH BRAZELL


The Legacy of the Soviet Union Why the world needs a closer examination of the

Viking Exhibition, British Museum Open until 22nd June

state of the Soviet Union, LARA TRITTON writes












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I am relieved that my late nights and excessive coffee drinking will be reserved purely for handing in HW and revising for the rest of the year and hope that the omitting of a summer issue provides all of our writers with more time to concentrate on their studies. Thank you to everybody who has helped create A* by writing, editing and reading and we look forward to you looking forward to (this doesn’t make sense, does it) bumper issue in September where we’ll be focusing on the Scottish independence referendum.

Matt Hankin



I’m so excited that we’ve finished this year’s final issue of A*. I’m really proud of the articles we have in this issue, from Jess Odell’s interesting piece about the work of Shostakovich in undermining the Soviet regime to Ja’s spring/summer trend advice. It’s been really exciting to increase the diversity and creativity of A* by having some brilliant new writers from other schools like Freya Wilson, Alix Hall and Stephen Horvath who have allowed us to explore ideas we wouldn’t have even considered before.





Putting together our final issue of this year has taken a while, but it has meant that I’ve been able to see how the events that were first written about months ago have played out. Every day we keep hearing more about the missing Malaysian flight, yet at the same time none of the news seems to actually reveal anything. It has made me realise can be said about something while so little is known about it. Furthermore, it is staggering that at this point in time, despite is being the ‘age of surveillance’, something as huge as a plane can simply disappear. The other ongoing issue is, of course, Ukraine. With the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, ending talks after no progress was seemingly made, it is impossible to know what will happen to Crimea which is currently annexed by Russia. Lavrov has denied any plans to invade the Ukraine, but with thousands of troops reportedly at Ukraine’s border, it will be interesting to see how the conflict will play out. The other big topic of debate at the moment is the Scottish referendum, which we won’t cover again until the referendum is days away this coming September. I am yet to make up my mind about whether or not I want Scotland leave, but with opinion so divided, it is interesting how people in England feel towards the Scots. There are so many interesting issues going on in the world right now, I hope you enjoy reading all about them!

Phoebe Finn

design and layout by MAX HENDERSON

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Editors’ Picks, March 2014


The people feel ignored – and they are angry 30-03-14, The Daily Telegraph

Labour manifesto ‘should include thing about killing all the rich people’ 24-03-14, The Daily Mash

 Ed Miliband has been urged to ‘be bold’ with the next Labour manifesto including tax reform, NHS funding and putting all the rich people up against a wall. As polls showed the Conservatives closing the gap, left-leaning think tanks told Miliband to be ‘more straightforward’ about threatening Britain’s wealthiest with firing squads. In an open letter published in the Guardian, they said: “Go on, just do it. Everybody hates rich people, so it’ll be really popular. “Also, promise to make all the nice things cheaper. Dead millionaires and cheap nice things. That’s how you win elections.”

Too fat. Too thin. Don’t the rest of us get a look-in?

30-03-14, The Guardian  The chief medical officer worries that obesity is becoming seen as ‘normal’. Let’s stop this focusing on extremes of body shape. Shouldn’t we at least factor this weirdness in, acknowledge that the obsessive focus on the polarisation of extreme BMIs (high and low) is the thing that’s being most “normalised” here? That increasingly, all we see and hear about are the very thin and the very fat, as if these are the only two body shapes available. All of which must surely have an effect – skewing people’s views of what is genuinely fat or thin or, more importantly, healthy or unhealthy. While “normalising the overweight” is indeed a concern, it doesn’t do to presume that this is the only kind of damaging normalisation out there.

Not one leader of a major party has a true connection with ordinary folk. This is dangerous There is a wonderfully gnomic aphorism from the Greek poet Archilochus, made famous by Isaiah Berlin, which goes: “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Polished professional politicians like Mr Clegg and Mr Osborne know many things. But the one big thing that Mr Farage knows may trump them all: the people feel that they are being ignored and they are angry about it. Anyone who speaks for them is permitted to get visibly annoyed on their behalf. Mercifully, all those poll respondents who believed Mr Farage had won the argument have a legitimate, nonviolent outlet for their frustration. They can vote for him and teach the other parties a lesson.

The union belongs to the Scots, it’s at the heart of our cultural identity 30-03-14, The Guardian

The Scottish referendum debate has become a narrow discussion of economics and does no justice to our nation. Scottish culture is not defined by the technocratic tradeoffs between market and state that are contemporary politics. The current Scottish government – which, make no mistake, is popular and effective – nevertheless has no record on culture. Scottish cultural identity is borderless. The British dream is not a confining state, it is a creative and commercial opportunity. Saying no to separation should mean saying yes to a different constitutional settlement for the UK as a whole. That is what all the political parties now need on the table. The status quo is not an option. Enhancement and ratification of the powers of the parliament in Holyrood would allow Scotland to get on with being itself and, with no contradiction at all, to reap the creative potential of a Britishness, which was ours historically and is ours still to make.



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Bob Crow (left), Boris Johnson (right)

Tube Strike

London ground to a halt in late January as tube strikes hampered journeys throughout the city. The strikes came as a result of a disagreement over the cutting of jobs in London Underground ticket offices. The strikes were called and coordinated by the head of the RMT (the Railway, Maritime and Transport trade union) Bob Crow. Crow, a 52 year old resident of Woodford Green described his political stance as Communist/socialist, was portrayed in the media as holding London to ransom, and this statement is not as far from the truth as one might think. The tube carries over 1 billion passengers each year and is a vital mode of transport for many Londoners. To cut services, even for a short period of time (48 hours in this case) can severely hinder journeys. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and Bob Crow have not met in years. Crow did arrive at City Hall seeking a meeting with Johnson, who declined. Utilising somewhat unorthodox tactics, Crow phoned into Johnson’s weekly LBC radio

show. Johnson said, “What I cannot do is sit down and negotiate with you when you are putting a gun to our head.” as he and Crow proceeded to debate on live radio. Just two months later though, the tube strikes had been forgotten as the news spread of Crow’s death. Aged 52, Bob Crow passed away on the 11th of March 2014, having been in charge of the RMT for 12 years. Whilst not always seeing eye to eye on a political level, Mayor Boris Johnson stated that Crow ‘fought tirelessly’ for his members. Crow was an old-style union leader, a man who had principles and stood up to them. He will be remembered by many as a working-class hero, who gave a voice to the thousands of employees he worked for. Finding a replacement to live up to the pragmatic, hard headed example set by Crow will not be an easy job. Bob Crow 13th June 1961 – 11th March 2014.

Immigration Minister Resigns

In an embarrassing story for both the government and the politician, the Minister for

by LU C

Immigration, Mark Harper has resigned from his cabinet post after it emerged that his own cleaner did not have permission to work in the UK. Last month Mr Harper asked his cleaner for copies of her documents, which he then passed on to immigration officials. It appeared that the cleaner did not in fact have indefinite leave to stay in the UK. In his letter of resignation to David Cameron, Harper stated that, although he himself had not done anything wrong or illegal, he should hold himself “…to a higher standard than expected of others” considering that he “…is taking legislation through Parliament which will toughen

Mark Harper up our immigration laws”. Mr Cameron replied, saying that he felt it honourable and loyal for Mr Harper to take such a decision, and that he hoped he would return to the frontbenches “before too long”. Eric Pickles, the Minister for Communities and Local Government entered the debate, saying he was “really sad” to see Mr Harper leave. Harper, before his departure, was engaged in creating a new



Despite his employment of an illegal immigrant, the ex-immigrations minister has received praise for resigning on a matter of principle, a rarity in modern politics.

series of checks that employers would have to carry out. These will force banks and landlords to make sure that overseas employees have the correct immigration status. With a penalty of £20,000 for employing an illegal migrant, the stakes are high, and some have said that the onus on the individual to check their employees is too great. However, Mr Harper himself wouldn’t have broken any rules since the cleaner was self-employed. The coalition cabinet will be disgruntled after this embarrassing mistake; Mr Harper was widely seen as one of the “more competent” ministers. Indeed, apart from this obvious slip, the ex-immigrations minister has received praise for resigning on a matter of principle, a rarity in modern politics. James Brokenshire has taken over as Minister for Immigration.

Privatisation of State Pensions

Due to significant budget cuts at the Department for Work and Pensions, the government has laid out proposals to privatise the state pensions system. This department, headed by the notably right-wing Iain Duncan Smith, is having its budget cut by 34%, down from £9bn in 2010 to £6.3bn by 2016. The DWP Efficiency Review, which is almost 80 pages long, sets out most of the possibilities and proposals for austerity within the government department.


It looks at how the department deals with phone calls, and most importantly how £98bn worth of benefits and tax credits are distributed. At the moment the department runs 10 pension centres UK-wide, in cities such as Dundee and Blackpool. This service employs 7,000 staff, and deals with “£80bn in state pensions, £7.7bn in pension credits, £2.8bn in other pensioner benefits to people living in the UK and a further 1.2m to pensioners around the globe”. In a recent survey 93% of pensioners were content with the current model. Privatisation is, of course, a traditionally conservative idea, with both Major and most notably Thatcher imposing privatisation. In this sense, these proposals are not necessarily so radical. More recent privatisation has not gone to plan, with companies such as G4S and Serco coming under significant criticism for their handling of the Olympics and prisoner security tags respectively. The idea of one of these companies handling both sensitive information and £100bn worth of public money certainly raises potential security and privacy issues. Pensions expert, Ros Altmann, stated that “We’re dealing with a vulnerable group and a massive number of people, so I would be seriously concerned about outsourcing a service like this, which is working well, with a view that it might make some short-term savings”. She went on to say that there were only two possible ways that an outside company could save money: either by reducing wages and working conditions or by reducing the quality of service. This could potentially incur more charges, due to increased customer complaints. With past

outsourcing events going so drastically wrong, Duncan Smith should think carefully about where his priorities lie.

Maverick Benn dies

Tony Benn, the maverick Labour politician, has died aged 88. Benn grew up as a member of the aristocracy, he renounced his peerage and entered the commons aged just 25. He went

winger, and his followers were described as Bennites, believing in a Labour Party that stayed away from middle ground. When Tony Benn’s older brother died, it became clear that one day Benn himself would take on his father’s hereditary peerage, Viscount Stansgate. His father died in 1960, and Benn fought for his right to abandon his peerage, which the Peerage Act of 1963 allowed him to do. He entered the House of Commons later that year, taking the constituency of Bristol South – East. In 1967 Benn became Minister for Technology, in charge of overseeing the development of the Concorde. When Heath’s Conservative government won the 1970 general election, Benn campaigned fiercely against the UK joining the European Economic Community, now of course the European Union. Benn remained fervently

Tony Benn, 3 April 1925 - 14 March 2014

on to be an MP for more than 50 years. Respected in the Labour

Tony Benn will be remembered for being a brilliant orator, an inspiration to many, and a politician of the kind that may never be seen again.

Party, Benn campaigned to become deputy leader in 1981 in what would become one of the most divisive leadership battles of the 20th century. Benn was notable for being a radical left

opposed to Europe, claiming that it was bureaucratic, centralised and dominated by Germany. Interestingly, this debate is back in the political spotlight, with UKIP currently campaigning for exactly the same reasons as Benn. Ed Miliband has led tributes to Tony Benn, calling him an ‘iconic figure of our age’. Indeed, parallels can be made between both Benn and Miliband’s desire for a move towards the left. Tony Benn’s death heralds an end to a political era in which politicians were able to speak their minds, when it was acceptable to criticise your own party as MPs were not

shackled by ‘the party line’ quite like they are today. He will be remembered for being a brilliant orator, an inspiration to many, and a politician of the kind that may never be seen again.

Cameron’s Love for Scotland

David Cameron has used his own Scottish roots to try to keep Scotland in the UK, stating that he couldn’t bear to see the UK “torn apart”. Cameron, in a speech at the Olympic Park, played upon his own Scottish heritage saying the upcoming referendum was “personal”. This was the Prime Minister’s biggest and most partisan intervention into the Scottish debate to date, as he tried to persuade the whole country that Scotland was important to him. Cameron stated that although his name might mean “crooked nose…the clan motto is ‘Let Us Unite’ and that is exactly what we in these islands have done”. The PM said there were four main reasons to save the Union: economic benefits, greater international leverage, connections and the cultural impact of the UK. Before 4 million people vote this September the SNP leader Alex Salmond has called for the PM to “come and debate with me and stop being such a big feartie”. There is an argument that the PM, whose voice will naturally carry further than others, should not have involved himself in the debate so obviously, since the decision must, in the end, be made by the Scottish people alone. The referendum will take place on 18th September 2014.



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Ofsted not working A prominent think tank has declared that Ofsted inspections are not working and need a “fundamental redesign”. It went on to say that the Ofsted inspector’s judgement is so unreliable that “you would be better off flipping a coin”. This has since caused a spat between the Minister for Education, Michael Gove, and the Ofsted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who had complained in January that the suggesting to scrap Ofsted could potentially damage school standards as it would undermine his authority. The Policy Exchange suggested that Ofsted update its approach by using school data more and to have better trained inspectors, as many lack the skills of data analyse or the specialist knowledge to “make a fair judgement”. The report went on to recommend a greater focus on struggling schools and even that Ofsted should be given the power to inspect academies that are usually overseen by an single corporate body. This was a suggestion that the Depart for Education and Michael Gove have repeatedly rejected, despite it being supported by Wilshaw himself. The most drastic proposal was to have more frequent visits, less high-profile visits made every two years rather than every three to five years, combined with an external assessment of the school’s attainment and progress. Tristram Hunt, Labour’s shadow education secretary, urged that Ofsted remain independent and went on to say that, “Michael Gove’s attempts to politicise Ofsted have been well and truly rejected by this report from

Policy Exchange. This analysis is a welcome contribution to the debate.” A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “The secretary of state believes Sir Michael Wilshaw is an outstanding chief inspector and that independent inspection has a vital role to play in school improvement. We look forward to continuing to working with Ofsted to improve the quality of education in England.”

by PH O


of their sexuality - and where they can realise their potential, whether as a great mathematician like Alan Turing, a star of stage and screen like Sir Ian McKellen or a wonderful journalist and presenter like Clare Balding.” The Marriage (SameSex) Couples Act was passed in July last year. Despite this, it wasn’t until the 13th of March this year that couples could register to marry or that couples


and David Cabreza, were keen to wed as soon as the legislation was put into action. Just before their wedding at Islington town hall, McGraith said “We are thrilled to be getting married. It is a mark of significant social progress in the UK that the legal distinction between gay and straight relationships has been removed. Very few countries afford their gay and lesbian citizens equal marriage rights and we believe that this change in law will bring hope and strength to gay men and lesbians in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and elsewhere, who lack basic equality and are being criminalised for their sexual orientation.”

Protests against book bans in prisons

Same-sex marriages At midnight, on the 28th of March 2014, the law changed and same-sex marriages were legalised. Many couples, desperate to have the first gay marriage in Britain, said their vows seconds after midnight struck. David Cameron said that “It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth. It also sends a powerful message to young people growing up who are uncertain about their sexuality. It clearly says ‘you are equal’ whether straight or gay. That is so important in trying to create an environment where people are no longer bullied because

who had married overseas could have their marriages recognised. One couple in particular, Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, having been fighting for eight

Very few countries allow equal marriage rights and we believe that this change will bring hope and strength to gay men and lesbians in countries where they are being criminalised for their sexual orientation.”

years to get the High Court to recognise their marriage that took place in Canada in 2003. Another couple, Peter McGraith

A new rule came into force in November stating that prisoners couldn’t receive parcels from the outside unless they had ‘exceptional circumstances’, (e.g. medical conditions). This meant that books and magazine subscriptions are now prohibited. The poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, protested outside Pentonville prison on Friday the 28th of March, supported by actors Sam West and Vanessa Redgrave, and writers AL Kennedy and Kathy Lette. The recent ban has seen hundreds of writers including Mark Haddon, Alan Bennett, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh, oppose the decision support by the justice minister, Chris Grayling. Lette stated that “Books should not be a privilege: they are a staple. You might as well take away their food and water. If prisons are about rehabilitation, books

FEATURES POLITICS are psychologically, emotionally and educationally nurturing and it is the best way to lift people up out of the rut they are in.” In the face of all this Grayling has remained defiant, writing on the Conservative home page that this is the kind of change the public wants to see, as it is a “regime that is more Spartan unless you do the right thing”. The Liberal Democrat justice minister, Simon Hughes, has said that he supports Grayling’s decision. Despite this, the Lib Dems have said that they will review their support and see if there is any evidence that prisoners are being kept from accessing books that will aid

investigating officer, said that “We always knew this would be a major inquiry but the scale of it, and the sheer number of victims who have come forward, has been a shock.” He went on to confirm that, despite some of these incidents happening 40 years ago, prosecutions will be pursued. The investigation began following the revelation in 2012 that Neville Husband, while working in the kitchens at the Medomsley detention centre, had regularly abused inmates there for over 15 years. He was jailed for eight years in 2003, but his sentence was increased to 10 years in 2005 after more victims came forward. He has

Carol Ann Duffy outside Pentonville prison their rehabilitation. Labour have said that they will abandon the policy if they are elected next May. Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary and MP for Tooting, has said that “Putting obstacles in the way of prisoners being able to read books is ludicrous,” when “Educational levels in prisons are a national disgrace – 40% cent of those behind bars have the reading age of an 11year-old.” 

Paedophile ring uncovered in Durham Police working at Durham detention centre say that they have uncovered a paedophile ring from the 1970s and 80s with potentially up to 500 victims. A 70-strong investigative task force have been looking into historical abuse at the Medomsley detention centre after more and more evidence was discovered surrounding certain individuals. Paul Goundry, the senior

since died. Originally Durham police had thought that it had been an isolated incident, but they are now convinced that Husband was working as part of an organised group of paedophiles at Medomsley detention centre who preyed on vulnerable teenagers who had been in care. Goundry also said that “From the statements, there is growing evidence to suggest there was an organised paedophile ring operating in Medomsley. This will form a major part of our operation and future discussions with the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service].” He went on to say that at the moment, the police are working to encourage victims to come forward, to prosecute surviving abusers and to try and provide victims with after-care.

HS2 Controversies There has recently been a lot of debate about the plans for the £42.6bn investment into the


Medsomley Detention Centre high-speed rail line that would link London to Birmingham by 2026 and to Manchester and Leeds by 2033. Many people argue that HS2 is more than an infrastructure project on a map, but a step towards a hi-tech and creative future for Britain. One of the strongest arguments in favour of the rail line is that it will bring wealth and prosperity to the north and the Midlands. HS2 will serve eight of Britain’s

Steve Scrimshaw, of Siemens, said HS2 was a “once in a generation, transformational oppor-

tunity to reconnect Britain and revitalise our busy rail network.”

ten largest cities and one in five of the British population. If the planned rail line is cancelled, it the opportunity to regenerate the north and the Midlands will be missed and 22,000 skilled jobs would be lost. All

that would happen is that transport links would become more and more overused, and the problem would only have to be solved later. Steve Scrimshaw, of Siemens, said HS2 was a “once in a generation, transformational opportunity to reconnect Britain and revitalise our busy rail network. The advantages of this cannot be overstated and this report points to some of those. That’s why we, along with other business leaders and major employers, fully support HS2.” Archaeologists are also thrilled at the building of HS2 will create a huge trench across Britain, rife with opportunity to discover a more about Britain’s rich history. However, even supporters of HS2 had admitted that the cost to heritage of building the railway will be significant. English Heritage, the government’s advisor on historic environment, have been highly critical of the current plans as Buckinghamshire council have estimated that 7,000 designated heritage sights will be affected.



The Legacy of the Soviet Union by LARA TRITTON Russia, constituting the main and leading member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, has a well-documented and oft-discussed history after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. But what do the 14 other republics, where in most democracy was proclaimed, look like now? Many claimed the ‘triumph of Western democracy’ was ‘the end of history’ - a closer look reveals how tragically far this is from the truth. 15 republics were declared upon the dissolution of the USSR - as seen in the diagram above. The most we hear about these states is probably during Eurovision, where we get annoyed that they all vote for each other despite most not actually being in Europe. They might crop up in the news from time to time, such as the recent protests in the Ukraine. The economies of all entered into severe decline after the transition to a market economy, with the GDP falling by an average of 40%, and in some cases significantly more. The drastic reduction in state spending on welfare, education and other social programs also led to a sharp increase in poverty for

1. Armenia 2. Azerbaijan 3. Belarus 4. Estonia 5. Georgia

these countries. To put this in perspective, after the Wall Street Crash, the lowest the US economy reached was 27% less than its 1928 maximum and unemployment peaked at 25%. Georgia’s GDP in 1994 was 25% of its 1989 value, over 50% of people were below the national poverty line in 2001. However, by 2007 10/15 had overtaken their 1991 GDP. Of the five that hadn’t, the Ukraine and Moldova haven’t yet overtaken their Soviet GDP, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan just have and Georgia’s economy is growing rapidly. So 2 decades on, the countries have recovered. The political situation is not quite so rosy. Only the Baltic States were independent states before being annexed by the USSR in 1940, so declared state continuity. The others were Newly Independent, and have struggled far more. Only the Baltic States are currently described as ‘free’ countries, with parliamentary democracies, free press, a very high Human Development Index, and membership of both the EU and NATO. They have largely turned their backs on Russia and are easily the greatest successes of the post-Soviet

6. Kazakhstan 7. Kyrgyzstan 8. Latvia 9. Lithuania 10. Moldova

11. Russia 12. Tajikistan 13. Turkmenistan 14. Ukraine 15. Uzbekistan

states. There is an interesting correlation between freedom and relations with Russia, excepting the Asian states. Moldova has tried to distance itself and is a parliamentary democracy, albeit with problems regarding political freedom. Georgia has no special relationship with Russia, and is incorrupt with fairly free press and good political freedom. Armenia has close ties with Russia, and is described as a ‘semi-consolidated authoritarian regime’, along with Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Russia, and elections are criticised. The prime example is Belarus. It is a nominal presidential republic, but the 1994 Constitution stated that presidents could only serve two terms of 5 years. The President has not changed since the Constitution was formed. Elections are rigged, opposition members harassed, and even beaten up by police, most agree it’s a dictatorship and there are frequent human rights violations. The country is so close to Russia there are talks of merging. However, the Asian countries can all be classed together as undemocratic, with poor human rights records, unfair elections, and lacking in press and religious freedom, regardless of foreign ties with Russia or any other country. Neither Kazakhstan, Tajikistan nor Uzbekistan have changed leadership since their independence, Kyrgyzstan has had two dictatorial leaders and is amongst the top 20 most corrupt

countries in the world, with political rival factions reputedly linked to organised crime and Turkmenistan’s Niyazov was the communist leader who created a personality cult around himself until his death in 2006. The current President has been in place since 2006 and press

“There is an interesting correlation between freedom and relations with Russia, excepting the Asian states. Moldova has tried to distance itself and is a parliamentary democracy, albeit with problems regarding political freedom.” freedom is the 2nd worst in the world, after North Korea. It has been widely criticised for human rights abuses, there are severe travel restrictions on its citizens and strong discrimination against ethnic minorities. Each radio broadcast under Niyasov began with a declaration that the reporter’s tongue would shrivel if he slandered the President, country or flag. Political gatherings are illegal. It’s fair to say that the legacy of the Soviet Union, with the exception of the Baltic States, has been one of early economic disaster, censorship, human rights abuses and a distinct lack of true democracy, which have all been quietly ignored for 2 decades.



“Shostakovich had turned a cheesy love song, Stalin’s favourite tune, into a protest against the tight control of the Soviet government, and made Stalin look like an idiot. “

Shostakovich, combating the Stalinist regime with music by JESS ODELL “Can you guess, Slava, where I have hidden the theme of ‘Suliko’?” Shostakovich says to close friend and cellist star Rostropovich in the Moscow Conservatoire about the last movement in his new cello concerto. ‘Suliko’ is a Georgian love song, which happened to be simple-music-loving Stalin’s favourite tune. It turns out that cleverly woven into the angry, twisted jig that is the last movement of the concerto, was this pop tune. He had turned a cheesy love song into a protest against the tight control of the Soviet government, and made Stalin look like an idiot. Shostakovich was a fan of such satires. Part of the song is quoted in a cantata named Rayok, which roughly translates as “Little Anti-formalistic Paradise”. The piece which was composed for 4 voices, chorus and piano was an ironic parody of Stalin’s simplistic musical tastes. Rayok is ridiculous in its pomp and pride, making fun of the regulations that had recently been adopted in 1948 by the Soviet government as to how artists should construct their work. This was named the “Anti-formalism campaign” and attacked composers such as Shostakovich and Prokofiev for supposed “formalism” in their work and were labelled

“bourgeois”. What was meant by this was that their art could not be understood by the common man, and so implied that all work should be simple, tonal, patriotic and completely devoid of character. Shostakovich’s love of Russia prevented him from fleeing the country like so many other composers labelled as “imperialistic”, and instead he pushed the boundaries of Stalin’s patience to the limit, and found ever more clever ways to get round the system and make his inventive, witty voice heard. Rayok was never published, for Shostakovich feared persecution, and instead remained in his archives, like many other of his more daring works, until Stalin’s death in 1953. But Shostakovich had been making political statements long before any such policies arose. In 1928 he completed an opera named “The Nose”, a satirical comedy which has been described as “An operatic version of Charlie Chaplain or Monty Python”. It tells the story of a man who wakes up to find that his nose is no longer attached to his face, but has grown to human size and is running around the town dressed as an officer. The opera uses the absurd to show how ludicrous Russian politics was (the man is afraid to approach his own nose because

he is in a uniform). It uses laughter to show the terror of hierarchy present in Russia in a more light hearted and therefore more striking way. The music is a nonsensical mishmash of folk tunes, atonality and popular song, given structure by the use of canons and quartets, which reflects the storyline well. Shostakovich deterred officials from this daring work by claiming that the piece was a satire on the times of Alexander I.

“After the fall of the Soviet Union, what Shostakovich had openly called the ‘Anti-Hitler’ theme in his 7th Symphony was revealed to be entitled ‘the Stalin theme’”

Life in Soviet Russia was far from easy, and certainly not all of Shostakovich’s music is as light hearted and jovial. Reflected in many of his works in the pain and frustration of a nation of people, and many tell the story of historical events. The 7th Symphony tells the story of the siege of Leningrad, and was widely known as a condemnation of Nazi totalitarianism. What was revealed after the fall of the Soviet Union was that what Shostakovich had openly

called the “Anti-Hitler” theme was in fact originally entitled ‘the Stalin theme’; Shostakovich in fact said that the symphony was “not only about fascism, but about our country and generally about all tyranny and totalitarianism”. The 11th Symphony was written in 1958, after the death of Stalin, and told the story of the events in the 1905 revolution, and due to its musical imagery and unusual simplicity, has been referred to as a “film score without the film”. According to his brother in law, the original title sheet is not dated 1905, but 1906, the year of the composer’s birth. This has led to interpretations of the symphony being a requiem for his identity and a lost<?>generation which had suffered under 2 world wars, a civil war, two revolutions, collectivization and the Great Purge under Stalin. Regardless of the interpretation, the Symphony is a tribute and a lament to the enormous suffering of a generation of people. Behind his Harry Potter-like appearance and shy exterior Shostakovich was really a very brave and witty man. He was the only one of the Soviet composers who remained in Russia throughout Stalin’s rule and at the same time kept his originality, boldness and dignity. Спасибо!



» FRANCESCA FORRISTAL explores the life-changing effects of anti-psychotic drugs on the younger generation In the past 15-20 years, a new set of statistics has emerged from the pool of previously disregarded and discontented teens. The National Centre for Health Statistics has found that 5% of American 12 to 19-yearolds use antidepressants, and another 6% of the same age group are currently medicated for ADHD - in total, about four million teenagers. These alarmingly high numbers have in turn provoked an entirely new discussion, both in the worlds of psychiatric science, and indeed moral dispute; are we handing out potentially life-altering drugs too freely, or have they proved to genuinely improve mental stability and wellbeing? Moreover, by pacifying the masses with a pill full of promises, are we avoiding the underlying issues behind the erratic behaviour of today’s teens? At as young as three years old, children nationwide are being diagnosed with ADHD, which is estimated to affect 5% of school-age children. In common conversation, the term ADHD has adopted connotations of anti-social behaviour. Clinically, however, it refers to a family of related chronic neurobiological disorders that interfere with an individual’s capacity to ‘regulate activity level, impulsivity and attend to tasks’ in ‘developmentally appropriate’ ways. Some critics argue that any cross section of society will reveal a bell-curve distribution of wellbehaved, or ‘easy’ children, and likewise those that are more ‘challenging’; thus dismissing the 5% chance of raising an ADHD child as a scientific term for the more rebellious personalities who, 20 years ago, would have been categorised as nothing more that young miscreants. However, I treat this perception with caution. Yes, doubtlessly, we are moving towards substituting the old moral language for a diagnostic language. However, if this allows the parents of that 5% to alter the way they approach their children - perhaps in the hope of guiding them in the right direction and managing this behaviour - is a simple lexical shift such a bad thing?


Due to this lexical shift towards scientific terminology, anxious parents now appear to be creating a distinct separation between an ‘illness’ and their child. This leads to many blindly seeking medical help, but neglecting the behavioural/disciplinary intervention and psychological attention which the NHS itself declares essential; ‘neurofeedback’ treatments, Cognitive Behavioural Treatment, dietary adjustments, and classes to aid the parents’ understanding of how to best deal with difficult situations arising from their child’s condition. The sad reality remains that that the majority of those diagnosed with ADHD will be primarily treated with medication, such as Ritalin or Medikinet – the active chemical being Methylphenidate, which

“By pacifying the masses with a pill full of promises, are we avoiding the underlying issues behind the erratic behaviour of today’s teens?” works by increasing the activity of chemicals called dopamine and noradrenaline in areas of the brain that play a part in controlling attention and behaviour. One cannot simply condemn “lazy parenting” for this reliance on tangible solutions, as some would argue that this spawns from a chronic lack of understanding on their behalf. This begs the question as to whether this is due to a lack of information/initiatives provided by the NHS, or an innate tendency towards seeking the ‘quick-fix’ solution. These facts hammer home the sad truth that psychiatric professionals are obligated to seek the fastest “cure” for the ailment that they are treating, which invariably leads to the distribution of chemicals which produce the most quantifiable, rapid results. Alarmingly, over 6% of adults aged 18-39 use an antidepressant, and more often than not, usage becomes long term. However, worryingly, The National Centre for Health

Statistics reports that less than a engage with one’s own emotions third of patients on antidepres- is extremely interesting, as this sants have seen a mental-health would suggest that far from professional within the past year. being the ‘easy solution’, these When interviewed, one 17 year drugs could be used as a tool old currently taking the antide- to make therapy sessions more pressant Fluoxitine remarked productive, and patients more that “it’s far easier to throw a active in their own recovery. prescription at someone than Perhaps one should not critiit is to emotionally engage and cise the medication alone, nor invest in months of therapy.” rely upon it for a “quick fix”, but Nevertheless, this same teen, instead look towards a treatment although critical of the NHS’s where psychiatric medicine system, openly confessed that and psychotherapy can work in “this time last year I was a synergy – perhaps unrealistic for shell...and since the already pres“Less than a third then I’ve been sured NHS. on quite a high of patients on antideGranted, the dosage for my pressants have seen a use of antideage...which now mental-health profespressants on a I cannot, unforwide scale in sional within the past tunately, imagine young people being without. year: ‘it’s far easier to has immediIt doesn’t make throw a prescription ate results, but me feel good far too little is at someone than it is or “happy” but known about it gives me the to emotionally engage the long term physical motiva- and invest in months of effects of these tion to be active drugs, predomiand productive if therapy.’” nantly because my mood permits it. So it feels not enough time has elapsed like real motivation...not just to begin evaluating their confalse happiness.” This differenti- sequences on grown patients ation between happiness, and an who have been taking the drug ability to physically respond and since childhood. Personally,



kids: a quick fix?

. 5% of American 12 to 19-year-olds use antidepressants 6% of the same age group are currently medicated for ADHD - in total, about four million teenagers

the medication of the young for any form of behavioural or mental disorder - raises tough questions of personal identity; Adults who take these drugs often report that the pills turn them back into the people they were before depression obscured their true selves, but for adolescents whose identity is still under construction, the picture is more complex. Lacking an established perception of what it is to feel “like themselves,” young people have no way to gauge the effects of the drugs on their developing personalities. Indeed, Lara Honos-Webb, a clinical psychologist in Walnut Creek, Calif, fears that these young people may begin to identify themselves as a person with a sickness, and in need of suppression. If they are never allowed to explore an identity without behaviour-altering drugs, instead branded with a dysfunctional label in need of perpetual ‘correction’, it is possible that they will never have the chance to form a distinct personality which is not centred around medication or mental illness. However, the most controversial and least publicised issue

arises when confronting the current use of antipsychotics in young people. Antipsychotics - essentially heavyweight tranquillisers - transformed the treatment of schizophrenia 60 years ago. Interviewing a woman who had received treatment for cocaine-induced psychosis, taking Epilim (an anticonvulsant with antipsychotic properties, used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder), markedly changed my own preconceptions of the drug. Far from condemning Epilim for the ‘zombie-inducing’ effects for which antipsychotics are renowned, she confessed that she invited the “relief” from menacing voices inside her head, and accepted her spate on the drug as the hiatus she desperately needed in order to recover whilst under in-patient supervision. Nevertheless, she was very clear that once she was discharged, life on Epilim would have been impossible – tackling a job, children and large-scale social interaction – as the antipsychotics severely curtailed her ability to operate at her usual high-functioning level. In her case, the treatment’s success speaks for itself, as she is now

an equity-partner in one of the top ten Accountancy firms in the country, and “better than I’ve ever been”. However, the very same drugs designed for a relatively small number of severely disturbed patients are now among the most profitable drugs in the world. Indeed, newer versions of the drugs, such as Zyprexa

“Far too little is known about the longterm effects of these drugs as not enough time has elapsed to begin evaluating their consequences on grown patients” and Seroquel, have become some of the most profitable in history; in the last ten years, prescriptions for antipsychotics in the UK have increased by 67%, filling out nearly 8 million prescriptions in England alone last year. Remarkably, only a minority of these prescriptions will have been for schizophrenia, as antipsychotics are no longer used uniquely for severe mental disturbances, but have broken into the mainstream.

This rapid expansion of their use may be good news for the pharmaceutical companies, but is sometimes not in the best interests of patients; often flippantly diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder in the hope of placating an anxiety-ridden or indeed clinically depressed patient, without a genuine consideration for the effects an antipsychotic can have on a person without mania, or psychosis. Increasingly, Seroquel has been suggested as a preventative measure in young people who are not psychotic, but might be ‘at risk’, and antipsychotics have been widely prescribed to elderly patients with dementia. Scientists have yet to ascertain what the long term effects of these drugs are on young people, as most psychiatric medication has not been adequately tested in children. Certainly, Harvard University’s current research indicates that some drug combinations occasionally prescribed for children - particularly stimulants and antidepressants - have not been fully tested even in adults. With Fluoxetine boasting side-effects ranging from suicidal thoughts and self-harm, to anxiety, insomnia, nausea, headaches and vomiting, one is pushed to question whether it is wise to distribute chemicals, about which we know so very little, so widely and freely? It appears that as we move towards a society in which people are offered a supposed “quick-fix” to potentially deep-seated psychological disorders, we are in danger of neglecting the therapeutic treatments designed to work in conjunction with them. In our haste to achieve functional ‘normality’, are we relying too heavily on science as a substitute for sensitivity?



Crisis, Apologists, and a New Hope? » After years of ‘socialist’ rule allowing tax evasion to run rife, massive fiscal time bombs to accumulate, and the implementation of harsh cuts, does Greece’s left-wing alternative point the way for European anti-austerity movements? by STEPHEN HORVATH The Eurozone crisis and the subsequent austerity era has placed great strain not just on the finances of the state and on ordinary people, but also on politicians on the left who promised that the Eurozone and liberalised markets were good for the working-class. The bitter realisation of the failure of social democrats has prompted a dramatic political change throughout Europe, with the betrayal and failure of the old “left” parties of government becoming clear, and opening up space for radical new movements. Perhaps the sharpest example here is Greece. PASOK (PanHellenic Socialist Movement), the social democratic party that has dominated Greek politics since the creation of the republic in 1974, governing for twenty consecutive years, was ultimately responsible for the development of the modern Greek state. It

“PASOK’s austerity policies signified that a vote for them was no longer one for Greece’s Welfare state or its working people. ” created the National Health System and instituted free education, but now hovers below 10% in the polls as voters wonder how the party that developed Greece’s welfare state can be destroying it with austerity. PASOK committed itself to supporting the EU designed austerity programs in 2010. PASOK successfully put forward

the 2011 set of stringent austerity measures, including the increased taxation on working class families through the lowering of the tax-free threshold from €12000 to €5000 and the cutting of social security by €1 billion in each fiscal year 2011-2014. These policies signified that a vote for PASOK was no longer one for Greece’s Welfare state or its working people. This was not a one-off act of ‘betrayal’, but was symptomatic of an abandonment of any real rooting in the working-classes or trade unions. The party elite undermined PASOK’s rhetoric of equality of opportunity and meritocracy by entrenching a system of nepotism and political patronage. Throughout the ‘90s, positions and contracts were awarded to supporters and friends of the party, with embezzlement so rife that the absence of any real crackdown is incriminating of PASOK. What PASOK’s support for austerity and shifting of the tax burden downwards at last made explicit was that PASOK accepted neoliberal economics. They wouldn’t respond to trade unions, who went on a 48-hour general strike in June 2011, the first since 1974, or Greeks of all sorts, who filled the streets in protest. Ultimately, PASOK stopped pretending to be socialist. When such a break occurs, it opens up political space for more radical movements to reject austerity and suggest a plausible alternative. In Greece, SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) transformed itself from a peripheral opposition movement with 3% of the vote in 2004, to Greece’s largest opposition party

with 27% of the vote in June 2012. SYRIZA built its support amongst traditional left-wing trade union voters, progressive youth and students, as well as attracting large numbers of immigrants wary of being scapegoated. None of that is particularly surprising for a leftwing movement in a country where Marxism has historical

Party (KKE). SYRIZA, already established as a core component of the political dialogue, has matured into a serious party, and could very likely end up as part of a future government. The leadership of Alexis Tsipras has provided a rare youthful face in Greek politics, and he has proved adept at navigating the power struggles within the party, even

Alexis Tsipras speaking on behalf of SYRIZA. pedigree, but what really gave SYRIZA popular support were middle-class state employees hit by wage cuts and small-time entrepreneurs hammered by tax rises. SYRIZA is clearly a committed anti-austerity party, stating that it must “deliver the Greek people from the catastrophic neoliberal memoranda policies that have turned our country into a debt colony.” SYRIZA’s success is not based on its policies alone: its democratic internal organisation, good relationship with activists, and strategy of not alienating opposing voters have been major factors in its success. Indeed, the latter has been vital to SYRIZA not relegating itself to the marginal existence of the highly partisan Greek Communist

successfully converting it to a unified party in July. SYRIZA is still faced with some serious challenges: the radicalisation of around a third of the party, its potential clashes with the Troika over its policy if it comes to power, and a lack of experienced personnel. SYRIZA has managed to go beyond the selling out and bureaucratisation of PASOK, as well as the obscurity of other radical movements, providing an accessible, genuinely leftist platform to a diverse crosssection of voters. SYRIZA is a serious challenger at a time when the existing order is collapsing rapidly in Greece, and may serve as an inspiration for other European anti-austerity movements.



Why Greek mythology doesn’t give an accurate representation of women in Ancient Greek society her, to the extent that when Acteon accidentally saw her naked, she changed him into a stag and had her dogs rip him apart. But even she had some traditional female roles. She was the goddess of childbirth and the protector of young girls.

Artemis by ALIX HALL When you think of women in Greek mythology, who springs to your mind? Perhaps Artemis, who was the goddess of the hunt. Maybe you think of Athene, Hera, Aphrodite or one of the many other female gods with impressive and powerful roles in the myths that we’re all familiar with. Or maybe you think about Antigone or Electra, who were both considered mortal, but did incredible things that you wouldn’t expect such a misogynistic society to write and read about. Although classical Greece varied wildly between citystates and the centuries, it was never exactly great with gender equality. Athens in 5th Century BC, for example, didn’t permit women to leave their homes without their husband or a male relative, and even then they had to be covered up. So how can we explain the disparity between the way the Greeks treated women, and how they wrote about them? Artemis stands out as the most obviously different to Greek expectations. She never married, and chose instead to remain a virgin huntress, surrounded by followers who lived in the same way as she did. She was strong and fierce, and she refused to let men have anything to do with

Athene was the goddess of warfare, courage and the law, and was portrayed in battle armour. Hera is mostly identified by her marriage to Zeus, and the consequential problems. Even so, she was headstrong and powerful and often ended up challenging her husband. She was certainly not the model wife that Greeks expected a woman to be. The same was true of most of the other goddesses; they had stereotypical female roles, but still had characteristics that the Greeks didn’t believe women possessed, and certainly didn’t want in their own wives.

“Greek goddesses were inherently powerful, and didn’t need to look after a household, making them totally different to ordinary Greek women.” The problem with all these examples is that they didn’t have any relevance to the lives of the ancient Greeks. Not because they’re myths, as stories can tell us about societies, but rather that these women were not human, they were immortals. To the Greeks, this meant that they were different, and they couldn’t possibly compare immortal to mortal beings. They were inherently powerful, and didn’t

Hera and Athene, left to right need to look after a household, making them totally different to ordinary Greek women. The story of Antigone is less well known than those of the Olympians, but as a mortal woman her story tells us very different things. Sophocles immortalised it in one of his Theban plays, Antigone disobeyed Creon, the king and her uncle, by burying her brother, which she believed was the will of the gods. She refused to do as she was told, and ended up killing herself after being sentenced to death. Although she went against everything that was expected of a woman, she was still shown as having done the right thing throughout by Sophocles, and the audience would have been sympathetic towards her. Sophocles also wrote about Electra, who assisted her brother in killing their mother to avenge their father. She had a less active role than Antigone, but she was still thought of as having the brain and cunning nature of a man. From these mythical women

and how sympathetic the Ancient Greeks were to them, you might assume that women who acted like this in their own societies would be revered. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The problem comes from the belief that women couldn’t possibly be strong or clever. Any positive or strong traits that these heroines had were seen as masculine, so they thought that Antigone had the will of a man. Ordinary women were just ‘women’ to the Ancient Greek men, they believed they couldn’t have these talents. It wasn’t that extraordinary women were disliked; it was just thought that they didn’t exist. If all women were inferior, then it made complete sense to the Greeks that they had their specific role in society. Therefore strong women that are featured so prominently in Ancient Greek mythology don’t provide us with an accurate representation of the behaviour of real women in Greek society or the reaction to them.



How sexualisation of women affects female participation in politics by MATT HANKIN Third wave feminism saw a greater acceptance of the objectification of women, with the belief that it encouraged sexual liberation and empowerment. In fact, studies from 2011 show that young, educated women are far less offended by the sexualisation of women in the media than those interviewed in 1991. Regardless of the benefits of empowerment, the increasing sexualisation of women in the media has unfortunately been directed at female politicians and could be a factor in the decreasing number of women being elected to Congress in 2010, something which hasn’t happened since 1970. This is because objectification dehumanizes women and makes them less appealing to the public, decreasing the amount of votes they get and thus their representation in politics. Despite consistently rising levels of female MPs in the UK, only 4 out of 22 ministers in The Cabinet are female. This is due to institutional sexism in political parties, particularly within the more ‘traditional’ Conservatives who are less likely to see women as being ripe for prime political positions. Perhaps it’s even the case that women don’t want these positions when they see the ridiculous scrutiny that senior female political figures are subjected to as they move closer and closer towards the limelight. There’s

even a worry within parties that having senior female figures will lead to them being taken less seriously, since a shocking statistic from 2010 found that a quarter of the population still don’t see women as being suited to political positions. But surely this problem shouldn’t still exist in the 21st century? Haven’t we moved past this? Unfortunately, the 21st

“Perhaps it’s even the case that women don’t want political positions when they see the ridiculous scrutiny that senior female political figures are subjected to as they move closer and closer towards the limelight.” century has actually made things worse for women. The sexualisation and objectification of women has increased massively, from advertising to the modelling industry, through TV and films where women are increasingly portrayed in a sexual light. Far from being a positive influence, it means that women aren’t taken as seriously by their parties and by the public, instead they’re seen as sexual objects that are there for the entertainment of men. The most popular website in Canada for 8-11 year old girls is called ‘Do you look good?’ and involves children uploading photos of themselves and being

peer-rated. With objectification on the rise, a woman’s appearance becomes the main subject of scrutiny, not her actions. If a woman is seen as ugly, or deemed to have bad taste ,then the media will happily criticize her appearance; an example of this is Cristina Odone’s rant in The Telegraph: ‘Theresa May, what did you think you looked like in that strapless dress? Please stop!’ The most worrying part of the ‘article’ was the conclusion ‘a fashion faux-pas is bad enough at our age, but for a politician it can kill a career.’ What Odone meant is that if a female politician doesn’t dress in a ‘flattering’ manner, one that society deems correct for a woman of a particular age, then her reputation is worsened. It is incredibly worrying that a fashion choice made by an extremely talented and clever woman should receive so much media attention and have a negative impact on how the public view her. Theresa May’s political standpoints consistently receive less attention than her ‘racy kitten heels’ or ‘bold fashion choices’ with tabloids and broadsheets alike commenting on her clothing and appearance. This is incredibly damaging as it undermines the public’s view of her credibility and doesn’t allow them to understand her political work or see her as a serious representative of the country. On the other had, if a woman

is seen as attractive then we experience the ‘Sarah Palin phenomenon’, where a whopping 14% of all media attention was focused solely on her appearance. Palin became a sex symbol, noted for her days as a beauty pageant contender, and became nicknamed ‘Malibu Barbie’. This meant the media could categorize her as a pretty, ditsy female, with any of her political blunders being associated with her appearance and typical ‘Barbie’ behaviour. The increasing sexualisation and objectification of women has not had a positive impact on the representation of women in politics. Objectification leads to increased focus on the appearance of a woman and not on her actions, sexualisation leads to a woman being taken less seriously and being associated with lower intelligence and ditsy behaviour. Comparatively male politicians’ appearances are rarely commented on, I have never seen an article on Ed Miliband’s new loafers in any newspaper (not even The Daily Mail), because the media sees men as proper political figures and therefore offers them more protection. If we are to stop this distressing decline in female participation in politics, it’s crucial that we reject the media’s objectification and sexualisation of women along with the notion that being seen as a sex object can be empowering.



Why we need Proportional Representation by FREYA WILSON o this is our democracy. Parties who get a majority percentage of votes are instituted as temporary overlords bound to defend us from megalomania/Godfrey Bloom. The majority of citizens are represented in government and no one looks at us askance in the UN. Huzzah, democracy! Porcupines weep at your majoritarian-centric beauty! But given that the UK is increasingly moving towards multi-party coalitions, we’re beginning to examine other political systems to determine who makes up our Parliament. Chief among these is proportional representation, a system dominating the voting process in 85 countries by which parties are accorded a number of seats in parliament that corresponds to the percentage of the vote they got. In 2014, minority parties barely register in mainstream politics. Their disengaged supporters become increasingly less likely to contribute to the voting process in the future. They perpetuate their own under-representation in government. This cycle is even more problematic when societies are divided by sectarian or ethnic conflicts, as in Northern Ireland. If insular minority communities vote on grounds of affiliation with a particular ethnicity/sect, they’ll never be in a position to topple a majority government. Their voices are wallpapered over with enlarged photos of white men’s chins. But proportional representation is different: even if a party gets just 5% of the vote, its 5% stake in seats might be sufficient to prevent the passing of a piece of discriminatory legislature. Co-operation between parties with hugely disparate aims becomes necessary to avoid government shutdown. Parties can hold sway on issues or territories dominated by members of their group. Minority representation abounds. But it doesn’t always work like that. Governments elected under proportional representation keep finding ways to demean


“FPTP has a ‘winner’s bonus’ which essentially means that the party with the largest percent of the votes gets a disproportionately large percentage of the seats.” smaller parties. This is often done through the formation of coalitions, for example Germany currently has a coalition between the 2 largest parties. This makes it super hard for smaller parties like the greens to block or introduce legislation – this is similar to the problems found in FPTP (First Past The Post). This is designed to stop government descending into a Trenzaloreminus-Truth-Field-style stalemate, but it significantly hampers minority parties’ capacity to push through new legislation. Governments can also institute this thing called an electoral threshold. Here parties

“Elective dictatorship means that one party with a majority in the House of Commons can essentially pass whatever legislation it wants.” have to obtain a certain percentage of the vote to be accorded seats. And governments can engineer the threshold so it precludes parties representing certain minority ideologies/ demographics from influencing politics. Take Turkey: its 10% threshold precisely targets the parties representing its 10% ethnic minority population. If we instituted a threshold in the UK

at ~5%, who’d be excluded? Sure, the BNP would be out, but also multiple region-specific parties governing local councils, and, in numerous previous elections, the Green Party: moderate, nonneon-meat-cleaver-brandishing parties with support across the nation. If PR was introduced, the electoral threshold could be a really powerful tool to control who can enter parliament. Elective dictatorships can prove super problematic, one party with a majority in the House of Commons can essentially pass whatever legislation it wants, and that can make opposition really difficult. However the scenario under PR isn’t particularly great either. FPTP has a ‘winner’s bonus’ which essentially means that the party with the largest percent of the votes gets a disproportionately large percentage of the seats. This means that barring a few exceptions (including 2010) Britain almost always has a government with a majority in the House of Commons which can therefore effectively pass legislation. Under PR where the winner’s bonus doesn’t exist, we’d see far more minority governments or coalitions, which both rely on support from other parties and end up wasting lots of their time making concessions/compromises and

not enough time making vital changes to the country. For the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition to function, the conservatives had to agree to the Liberals’ completely pointless alternative vote referendum in 2011, and they’re still struggling to accommodate both parties’ needs. In countries like BosniaHerzegovina where politics is divided along lines of ethnicity rather than policy, political representation provides unprecedented opportunities for minorities to enter government. In conflict-ravaged nations like Germany and Northern Ireland, proportional representation incentivised the collaboration of new parties who were able to regenerate broken states. But PR’s reliance on the formation of coalitions could leave us with more weak governments *coughs* our current government *coughs*. So proportional representation in the UK begs a number of questions. Do we institute an electoral threshold similar to Germany’s 6% and keep Nick Griffin in a cupboard carving Mussolini moustaches in immigrants’ shoes, but risk excluding the Greens and other small parties? Can Britain actually have coalitions able to form an effective government?



North America


On January 1st 2014 Colorado legalised the selling of cannabis. Residents aged 21 and over can now buy 1oz, while those from out of the state can purchase up to 0.25oz. Cannabis can only be smoked on private premises, with the permission of the owners. Large numbers of people turned out on 1st January, dubbed ‘Green Wednesday’, to see joints, cannabis pastries and confectionary, and even marijuana-infused soaps, oils and lotions, on sale at licensed shops. Supporters of the law say that State officials expect to raise $67m in annual tax revenue, a percentage of which will be used for school construction. However, those more concerned with the new law say that it sends the wrong message to young people and fear that it will lead to serious health and psychiatric problems. However, three months on, there has been little report of serious problems. While it is still early days, this is a good sign for the future. 


As spring approaches many Americans still can’t shake the winter off of the, A blast of Arctic air gripped the vast central regions of the United States for most of January, delivering the coldest temperatures in two decades. This caused at least 30 deaths, forcing businesses and schools to close and cancelling thousands of flights. Meteorologists now believe it was caused by the polar vortex, a weakening in the prevailing wind pattern, allowing the cold air to pour down across Canada into the USA. Temperatures were around -25C in parts of Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. It was estimated that 200 million people were effected over approximately a fortnight. The closing of airports, schools and shops led to an overall economic loss of about 5 billion dollars. While this is not a significant percentage of America’s 15 trillion GDP, it has still is the largest weather-related impact since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which claimed 65 billion.


9 months after cancelling her trip to China and therefore sending the wrong message to the Chinese public, Michelle Obama and her two daughters are taking a trip to make amends. It will give her the opportunity to shine in a country where opinions of her vary. This ability to try and repaired and make good is just another example of the grace Mrs. Obama carries herself with. Apart from being the first ever First Lady to have a


Twitter account, she has been at the forefront of philanthropy, fashion and mentoring the young. Helping millions of women who struggle against sexual violence, discrimination and poverty. Michelle, born into a working class family, overcame racism and at one point was even making more money than her husband. She is herself an inspirational role model for many women who have not previously seen their class or colour reflected in America’s First Lady. 


The United States prepared on March 3rd to impose sanctions on highlevel Russian officials involved in the military occupation of Crimea, as the escalating crisis in Ukraine prompted turmoil in global markets, causing the value of the Russian ruble to fall, while driving up energy prices. The USA fear that the falling ruble will have a large impact on the economy as 52% of Russia’s GDP comes from their energy exports, meaning that the sanction could be lethal. However many people in the USA feel this is the most appropriate way to deal with Russia’s “inexcusable” behavior. They do not want a fullblown war, but nor do they want to sit back idly.


After Justin Bieber’ DUI (driving under the influence) arrest in Miami 23rd January, nonBeliebers out there have already got 40,000 names on their petition asking the White House on their We The People portal to deport the singer back to Canada by revoking his green card. It takes 100,000 names for President Obama even to think about addressing the issue. The petition begins, ‘We the people of the United States … would like to see the dangerous, destructive, and drug abusing Justin Bieber deported and his Green Card revoked’. There has been outrage against Bieber after he was hit with not just a DUI, but also a resisting arrest charge and being cited for driving without a valid driver’s license. Bieber’s defense attorney, Roy Black, has confirmed that prosecutors haven’t offered a plea deal, and “The case is set for trial and we are preparing for it”.



South America


In the o v e r crowded cell Block B of Modelo Jail, a fight broke out between the inmates and guards resulting in 12m high flames and took seven fire engines to extinguish. Gen Saul Torres, the head of the prison system in Colombia, explained the conflict began due to a cell search that resulted in the finding of drugs, phones and weapons – all of which are against the prison rules and therefore had to be confiscated. The prisoners were naturally angry about loosing their possessions and therefore attempted to attack the guards forcing them to fire tear gas in self-defense, at which point the fire started. More than 40 inmates were taken to hospital with severe burns. 10 have been pronounced dead since. There are currently 200 police officers and 100 guards surrounding the jail to prevent convicts from fleeing.


On January 30th the former Ecuadorean police commander, Edgar Vaca, was arrested in Washington for kidnapping and torturing three left-wing rebels in 1985 during President Leon Febres Cordero time in power. Vaca denies all charges. The crimes were committed by 10 retired police and army officers, but have only been investigated since 2007 when left-wing Rafael Correa was elected President of Ecuador. After the three victims gave their account of the traumatizing incident at a landmark trial in Quito, Chief prosecutor Galo Chiriboga stated the three rebels: Susana Cajas, Luis Vaca and Javier Jarrin were ‘tortured, beaten, and submitted to particularly sadistic forms of torture, including electric shocks to their genitals’. Currently an international arrest warrant has be issued for Mr Vaca and he is being extradited back to Ecuador.


Water sanitation expert, Carmen Yee-Batista, stated that “70 per cent of the residual water we use in the region [Argentina], is not treated.” This is a huge cause for concern in Latin America as 80% of the population live in urban areas which are close to contaminated rivers, such as the polluted Rio Plata River near the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires.


Although governments in Latin America are becoming more conscious of the issue, reports of dirty water coming out of taps are still common and 32 million Latin Americans still do not have access to clean drinking water. In Uruguay alone, a study conducted last December found that 94% of the country’s rivers are contaminated. An effort needs to be made on a continental scale in order to ensure sewage and industrial waste are no longer put back into rivers or other water sources.


200 miles west of Caracas in an area called El Cambu, Venezuela, a divorced couple were found murdered in their car after it broke down on a motorway. Early reports suggest the couple sought for refuge in their car where they were shot after initially putting up resistance. The family of three, including the couple’s 5-year old daughter, were on holiday in Venezuela, the country where Mr. Berry grew up and his exwife, Monica Spear, better known as ‘Miss Venezuela’, was born. Mr. Berry was shot once in the chest while Ms. Spear was found with multiple gunshot wounds around her body. Their daughter, Maya, having been forced to watch the brutal event, is recovering in hospital after being injured, although is not in a life-threatening condition. Venezuela is one of the world’s most violent countries, with 79 homicides per 100,000 in 2013, compared to the UK’s 1 per 100,000.


On 26th January, a crowd of 2,500 protestors gathered on the streets of São Paulo in Brazil in order to fight for the cause of “Operation Stop the World Cup”. A violent group known as the Black Block joined the middle class dominated protest, which resulted in 128 arrests. Although the country has won the world cup five times, citizens are bitter about the amount of money being poured into the event so paraded banners around the central business district reading “Fifa go home”. Riots like these are a cause for concern for the safety of the footballers, as they are due to arrive in Brazil in June. This is particularly due to the ‘worst organised violence’ since the dictatorships in the 1980s that happened last year during the Confederations Cup, the prelude to the World Cup.



Western Europe



Despite the past three bitterly cold winters in Växjö, Southern Sweden, residents have not been complaining. New ‘passive houses’ have been built to achieve Sweden’s aim of becoming CO2 neutral by 2050. The houses have wooden frames and thick walls, keeping cold air out and human-generated heat (including from appliances) in. Each building contains an attic ventilator that returns heat to the apartments. Växjö’s ‘plus-house’ supplies the city grid with extra energy as it generates more energy than it uses. Växjö is predicted to become the world’s first fossil-fuel free city and has already reduced its emissions by over 40% in the past decade. Hanna Begler, leader of the sustainable cities program, hopes that when other countries in the EU see what is possible they will follow suit. However, problems still remain such as finding places for people to stay whilst renovations are made, especially for those on smaller incomes. 


Unrest is growing among some French radio listeners as the French Higher Audiovisual Council admits they are struggling to meet the percentage of French songs they are legally required to play to ensure that British and American music doesn’t take over. The Toubon Law forces radio stations to devote 40% of air time to French songs. However the number of francophone albums has dropped from 718 in 2003 to 158 in 2013 as a growing number of French artists, such as David Guetta and Daft Punk, are choosing to ‘express themselves’ in English. To beat the quota radios simply replay the same French artists such as Johnny Hallyday and Vanessa Paradis: 90% of music on French radio is just fifteen songs. As a compromise songs containing some French lyrics, such as Blondie’s Denis Denis, are allowed to count as French.


Australian history may need rewriting after an image of a small red kangaroo was found nestling inside a 400-year-old Portuguese illuminated prayer book. Until now the Dutch are considered to be first Europeans to reach Australia, in 1606. However, the manuscript, for sale in New York, was copied in Portugal between 1580 and 1620 and contains a small drawing of an animal resembling a kangaroo or wallaby. The dates suggest that images of Australian animals were circulating in Portugal at the turn of the 17th century and thus researchers

believe that Portuguese fleets may have reached Australia before those from the Netherlands. Laura Light, a researcher at the gallery Les Enluminures, says that Portugal was secretive about trade routes which might explain the mystery. The book was owned by a nun called Caterina de Carvalho whose name is written inside, and has been valued at around £10,000.


A major problem facing the new Italian government is the high level of youth unemployment. Over 42% of Italians aged 1524 have no job, more than double the UK rate and five times that of Germany. Though hugely popular among older voters, new Prime Minister Renzi attracts scepticism from Italy’s youth, ‘What do I think of Matteo Renzi? I don’t trust his face’ said a young chef from Calabria. Renzi plans to attack youth unemployment by tax-cutting but this will take time to show results and pressure is building for action now. However, as Italy’s economy continues to weaken and the cost of servicing Italy’s huge debt soars it is difficult to see what can be done to reduce such high unemployment quickly. Former premier Letta maintains the problem is not restricted to Italy alone: ‘Europe has to provide answers on youth unemployment.’ Increased flooding is threatening Venice. Half of the city was under water in February: nobody lives on the ground floor in Venice any more. However, politicians have been bickering over the costs and impact of Project Mose, designed to protect the city from flood damage. Despite being under construction for ten years, only 4 of its 78 flood barriers have so far been installed; authorities hope the remainder will be completed by 2016. In normal tidal conditions the gates are under water; when a high tide is forecast, compressed air is pumped into the hollow gates, expelling water and raising them, preventing water from entering the lagoon. A gap allows cruise ships and fishing boats to get through. Four thousand people have been employed in constructing the €5 billion gates, which can hold back tidal surges of 3 metres. The highest tide yet recorded was 1.9 metres so the city should be well protected from the floods that have increased exponentially due to rising seas and Venice sinking. 



Eastern Europe & Russia



The question of homosexuality has again come to the forefront in Russia following remarks made by Anatoly Pakhomov, Mayor of Sochi. In a BBC Panorama special investigating allegations of corruption related to the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in the city this summer, Mayor Pakhomov remarked that homosexuals were indeed ‘welcome’ at the games, given that they ‘respect Russian law’ and ‘do not impose their habits on others’. The laws alluded to by Pakhomov include the controversial legislation passed in June 2013 banning promotion of ‘non-traditional’ sexuality to minors, which is widely considered to be an attack on gay rights. The Mayor continued to claim that there were no gay people in the city of Sochi. When challenged by BBC reporter John Sweeney, who had the previous night visited a gay bar in the city, Pakhomov responded bluntly: ‘I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them.’


A Warsaw court has ruled that a gay Chilean man should not be allowed the right to buy a flat in Gdansk with his partner. Polish law dictates that noncitizens must ‘demonstrate ties with Poland’ in order to buy property in the city. The Chilean man, whose civil partnership with his partner was gained in the UK, first submitted his application to buy the flat in 2013, and claimed to be a member of the Polish ‘family’ due to this civil partnership. However, Poland’s law does not recognise civil partnerships, and as a result, the man’s right to purchase property in the Baltic city has been denied. The man then took the case to the Regional Administrative Court of Warsaw, backed by the Helsinki foundation for Human Rights, and plans to approach Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court if he is still denied this basic right. Prime Minister Donald Tusk attempted to legalise homosexual civil partnerships last year, however such plans were prevented by the prominent conservative element of the centre-right party Civic Platform Party.


Leader of center-right opposition party GERB, Dimitar Glavchev, has warned that if the government does not call early elections Bulgaria could potentially slip into a situation

comparable to Ukraine’s current position. Glavchev’s remarks follow the latest in a series of student-led protests against the unpopular socialist-led government. Students of Sofia University initiated an occupation of their university campus on Friday 24th of January, and similar acts have sporadically appeared across the country since June 2013, when the appointment of media baron Delyan Peevski as head of the National Security Agency was met with widespread anger. Glavchev has urged all anti-government groups and parties to unite against the government in order to achieve a lawful transition in the shape of early elections. The GERB leader warned that if the government did not grant this request, the currently peaceful student protesters may adopt more violent methods of protest.


Following t h e movement of Russian t r o o p s beyond the Crimean border, Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, said that there was a “real danger” Moscow would seize further territory following the Crimean referendum. Ukrainian aircraft and paratrooper forced the Russians out with no shots fired. Ukraine’s acting foreign minister, Andriy Deshchyta stated that Ukraine must resist Russia’s “provocations”, as they have “studied the experience of Georgia very well”. Deshchyta said that he was prepared to discuss greater autonomy for Crimea, but only under legal circumstances, as he described the Crimean referendum as “totally illegal”. The UN security council seemed to agree, as thirteen nations voted that the Crimean referendum was invalid. The only country to vote no was Russia, who vetoed the motion. On the 13th of March, Russia’s foreign ministry stated that Moscow retained the right to “protect” ethnic Russians in Ukraine.


A church in Montenegro has attracted controversy by featuring political figures Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx and communist Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito on its decorative walls. The Church of Resurrection, recently constructed in the capital, Podgorica, depicts the figures suffering in the fires of hell. The works of Marx and Engels were required reading during the communist rule of Yugoslavia. A church leader, known only as Dragan, claimed the inclusion of the communist figures was intended to ‘personify communist evil in the Balkans’. Dragan went on to defend the unidentified artist, saying he should be ‘allowed freedom to see things as he wishes’. This is not the only holy building in the country to depict 20th century political figures on its walls: Lenin, Tito and Hitler are depicted alongside Judas on the walls of a monastery in Ostrog.



Middle East & Western Asia SYRIA

Syria’s military has regained the last rebel stronghold on their border with Lebanon, assisted by militant Hezbollah fighters. It comes as part of an offensive launched by forces loyal to President Assad in midNovember, with the aim of securing key supply routes from Lebanon. The towns of Qara, Deir Attiya and Nabak, along the Damascus-Homs highway, have also been captured as rebel fighters begin to be ousted from the Qalamoun mountains in the region. Evidence of the taking of the town was provided by Hezbollah, who posted videos of Syrian soldiers marching through the deserted streets of the town; however opposition sources have said that the army is not in absolute control in the town, with some extremists, willing to fight to the death, still holed up in the town. The latest army victory comes as the conflict approaches three years, having claimed over 100,000 lives and displaced 9 million ordinary Syrians.


Scarlett Johansson, named the world’s 15th Hottest Woman by Maxim in 2013, has quit her role as an ambassador to Oxfam after she refused to end her endorsement of SodaStream, an Israeli carbonated drinks company that operates within the West Bank. Israeli settlements in the West Bank are ruled illegal under international law and about 500,000 Jews currently live in 100 Israeli communities there. In a statement Oxfam said ‘While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador. Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.’ Johansson issued her own statement saying that she had ‘respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years’ and that she ‘is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam’. A bill that removes exemptions on Israel’s national service to ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary service has passed in the Israeli parliament by 65 to 1. Exemptions were granted to seminary students when Israel was created in 1948, but at that time there were only 400 such students; ultra-Orthdox Jews now make up 10% of the country’s 8 million population. The bill was passed amongst some resentment within Israel’s secular community, who not only see the military exemptions as unfair, but are also aggrieved at the amount of state support that the Orthodox Jews rely on. Due to their


religious studies, most ultra-Orthodox men are unemployed and subsequently live off of the state and their wives’ wages. However, unsurprisingly, the move has not gone down well with the ultra-Orthodox community who say that military service would stop them from devoting themselves to religious study, a pillar of Jewish life.


A new al-Jazeera documentary has claimed that it was Iran, not Libya, who ordered the December 1988 Lockerbie bombing. 270 people died when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the southern Scottish town. It is claimed that Iran were retaliating to the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes five months prior to the Lockerbie incident. The news organisation quotes a ‘former senior Iranian intelligence official’, Abolghasem Mesbahi as saying ‘Iran decided to retaliate as soon as possible. The decision was made by the whole system in Iran and confirmed by Ayatollah Khomeini’. The program also quotes various US intelligence sources that claim Iran instructed the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLPGC) to carry out the attack. The documentary comes amidst fresh calls from the family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man to have been convicted of the attack, for a posthumous appeal.


Six Egyptian soldiers have been killed in Shubra al-Khayma, a northern Cairo suburb, by gunmen, who also left two bombs that were later defused. Islamic extremists have killed hundreds of police and soldiers since Mohammed Morsi was ousted as President last July. His Muslim Brotherhood party were blamed for this latest attack by the military, but deny responsibility, reiterating their commitment to peaceful campaigning. The multiple shootings came only two days after another soldier was shot dead on an army bus in the capital. The Muslim Brotherhood were designated a terrorist organisation in December by the military regime that currently rules Egypt; thousands of their members have been put on trial, including Mr. Morsi. He is currently in prison, facing four charges including the killing of opposition protestors, espionage and conspiring to commit acts of terror.




The religious conflict in the Central African Republic started on the 13th of April 2013 after President Michel Djotodia, the country’s first Muslim leader, took over. Djotodia has since resigned from presidency, on the 10th January 2014, causing widespread revenge attacks on Muslim civilians. Following these attacks, on the 20th January 2014 the National Transitional C o u n c i l chose Bangui mayor,  Catherine Samba-Panza,  as interim president. On the 13th of January 2014 in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, a Christian man, Ouandja Magloire, otherwise known as “Mad Dog”, ate the flesh of a Muslim man in a public. This demonstration of cannibalism was in order to get revenge as Muslims had killed his pregnant wife, his sister-in-law, and her new baby. After 20 youths had dragged this Muslim man off a bus, Magloire violently stabbed him in the head, burned him and ate his leg down to the white bone.


Oscar Pistorius’s case started on the 3rd of March when he stated that he had shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, thinking that she was an intruder. In the court the security guard said that after he had heard 4 shots, he called Pistorius who reassured him, “Everything is fine”, but a few minutes later he rang him, crying. The cricket bat Pistorius used to bang down the toilet door could have been perceived as gun bullets to the surrounding neighbours. He said that he put on his prosthetic legs before doing this; however, forensics believe that the height of the marks on the door indicate he was in stumps. Pistorius claimed that the pair had been in bed several hours before the incident, but Reeva has eaten only 2 hours before her tragic death. In the past, Pistorius had shot a gun in a restaurant and fired from his car sunroof after becoming angry



with the police, implicating anger management problems. __ SUDAN The South Sudan conflict began on the evening of the 14th of December 2013 when President Salva Kiir, who comes from an ethnic group called the Dinka, accused his exdeputy Riek Machar, who is a Nuer, of plotting a coup. The rebel leader, Riek Machar, denied these allegations and wanted 11 of his allies, who were jailed over the alleged plot, to be released before agreeing to peace. On the 8th of January thousands of people fled the city of Bentiu fearing that the government may try to recapture the oil-rich areas from rebels as oil production has dropped by 20% since the conflict started. On the 14th of January, near the town of Malakal, 200 fleeing civilians in overcrowded ferry on the Nile, drowned. On the 11th of February 2014 a report said thousands have been killed, many are facing famine, 723,000 people have been displaced internally and 145,000 have fled to nearby countries, especially Ethiopia.


In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan signed a law banning same-sex marriages, gay groups and the show of same-sex public affection. The law has been criticised and disputed by gay and human rights groups. In Uganda a bill was passed by parliament which would allow greater punishments for gay people and for those who do not turn them in, but President Yoweri Museveni has opposed this for now. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York both wrote to the presidents of Nigeria and Uganda, and to all the heads of national churches in the Anglican Communion worldwide, criticising legislation that is penalising homosexuality. Recently a young Nigerian man received 20 lashes, in public, outside Sharia court in the northern city of Bauchi after being convicted of a homosexual act that he allegedly committed seven years ago.





A stabbing a t t a c k on the 1st March at Kunming Station in the southwest province of Yummen has left 29 people dead and at least 140 injured. 4 perpetrators were also killed by the police, with one woman arrested at the scene and a further 3 people have been arrested in connection with the stabbings. Witnesses say the attacks, which began at around 9:20 pm local time, were carried out at random by men dressed in all black. Within hours the state news agency Xinhua announced that these had been terror attacks, carried out by separatist Uyghur Muslims from the north-western Xinjiang province, who have long history of disharmony with the Chinese government. The police also found a hand-painted East Turkestan flag at the scene, again linking the attacks to Xinjiang province.


Overturning a 2009 Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising homosexual acts, article 337 of t h e Indian Penal Code, which refers to homosexuality as an ‘unnatural act’ was reinstated on the 11th December 2013. The punishment under this article for same-sex intercourse is a 10-year imprisonment. Judges saw that this law, which dates from the colonial era, can only be formally overturned by lawmakers and not the courts. The 2009 ruling, and the court’s decision that article 337 restricted human rights, was met by outrage from conservative and religious groups, seeing a rare alliance from Christian, Muslim and Hindu leaders, who argued that homosexuality was a sin. The move has been condemned by international LGBT groups, such as the US group, The Human Rights Campaign,


who called it a ‘disturbing step backwards’. Lawyers and supporters of LGBT rights have vowed to continue fighting until the law is removed.


On the 8th March 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumper to Beijing, carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers from 15 countries. So far, any attempts to find the plane or its remains have proved fruitless. It has since been discovered that the plane’s communication had been purposely switched off, but that satellites continued to receive signal from the plane four hours after air traffic control lost contact, implying that it remained airborne. This information, alongside a statement from Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, stating that the plane’s ‘movements are consistent with the deliberate action of someone on the plane’, have led to the conclusion that the plane’s disappearance was intentional, possibly the work of hijackers. The investigation as of the 16th of March is focused on the role of the pilots in the plane’s disappearance. Search efforts are currently focused on two corridors, one stretching from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and another from Indonesia to the Indian Ocean.


J a n g S o n g - t h a e k , the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jongun through his marriage to Kim Jong-il’s sister Kyung-hee, has been killed. The former second most powerful man in the country was accused of plotting to overthrow the regime, which he admitted to on state television, among a long list of other crimes, and was thus executed on the 12th December 2013. There have been various rumours surrounding the nature of his execution, including that he was stripped naked and eaten alive by 120 dogs, an accusation denied by the North Korean authorities who maintain that he was shot to death. South Korean news stations have recently reported that since the beginning of 2014 the purge has been extended to Jang’s relatives, including his children.



Lately, in the Riau Province on the island of Sumatra, massive peat and forest fires have spiked to levels not seen since June 2013’s south-east Asian crisis. Nearly 50,000 Indonesians have suffered respiratory damage due to the toxic smoke being emitted from the bogs and woods where t h e fire has taken hold. The blazes have crippled the essential logging industry of the area. Widespread concern has been expressed owing to the oddity of such large fires so early in the year, and as the droughts and the fires continue to wreak havoc with industry and the population of Sumatra, many say that the media coverage is unacceptably low in the context of the damage being done. However, Indonesia seems to have been lucky owing to favourable winds taking the carcinogenic smoke away from cities like Singapore.


Massive controversy has arisen in Australia lately over plans to dredge ocean floor sediment and deposit it within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to allow for the construction of coal and gas ports on the Queensland coast. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) recently gave the go-ahead to a plan for the deposition of three million cubic metres of ocean floor inside the Marine Park’s boundary to provide easier transport to the rich fossil fuel reserves in the nearby Galilee Basin. Questions have also been raised over a possible conflict of interest inside the GBRMPA. ABC’s recent 7.30 report revealed that certain board members had ties to the coal industry. As both eco-campaigners and the World Heritage Committee rail against the project, Australia’s most iconic natural landmark has become the new battlefield for the war between environmentalists and industrialists.


Six people have already been reported missing and three dead as Tropical Cyclone Lusi has hit the Pacific nation of Vanuatu causing widespread destruction. Disaster officials assessing the damage caused by the storm, which is heading south towards New Zealand, say that the full extent of the deaths has not yet been confirmed while Shadrack Welegtabit,



the director of the National Disaster Management Office, says that ‘[They] are still collecting information.’ On the Vanuatuan Santo Island, a landslide caused by the rain has resulted in six people, among them three children, to go missing and a search and rescue team is currently trying to find any signs of the missing people. Many in the Central Islands of Vanuatu are still in evacuation centres and, though it seems that the worst of the storm may be over, the damage left in the Cyclone’s wake will take international co-operation and a considerable quantity of aid donation to fix.


In a devastating outbreak of dengue fever, 11 have been killed and 10,000 have been infected, but more are feared to be suffering as some estimates put the total at 15,000 carrying the virus. The outbreak was first detected in mid-December 2013, but now that the problem has become so widespread the government has implemented a program to eradicate possible breeding areas for infected mosquitoes, which, owing to their large numbers, cause the dengue virus to be so infectious and fast moving. There is no known cure for dengue fever, so the Fijian government has told its citizens to protect themselves against mosquitoes by wearing insect repellent and ensuring that they inform the authorities if they see any form of mosquito nest. The Australian government has, in response, donated $170,000 to address the outbreak, but there are still worries that this record-breaking epidemic might result in even more casualties if more is not done to control the situation.


Breast cancer, the disease which affects 1 in 8 women, has been the subject of much research by Otago University, the oldest in New Zealand, and the findings are promising. The goal of the study is the production of a cost-effective drug that attacks the cancer tissue but not the body, instead of chemotherapy, which attacks the regular cells as well as the corrupted ones. The Breast Cancer Foundation has invested $100,000 in the ground-breaking research, which is investigating a drug that suppresses the growth of cancerous tumours, and clinical trials will start in two years. The treatment will specifically attack the especially aggressive type of breast cancer known as ‘triple negative’ which accounted for 1/5 of the breast cancer diagnoses in 2012. Though definitive results are far away, and a cure far from certain, this research could change the way we see cancer forever.




Bionic eye terminates degenerative blindness camera, at the end of the finger or in dark spectacles, transmit optical information wirelessly to the brain implant. The process allows the patient to see objects as several solid dots- artists, think Seuratproviding a definable outline. Unlike the Terminator’s ocular A cure for blindness is literally at our fingertips with a recent scientific advancement: a bionic eye. Biotechnological research has reached the stage where a prototype is to be released within the next four mounths for human trial. What’s more, the science behind it is pretty simple too: the visual cortex that inteprets images is condensed into a small chip, which is placed at the back of the head. Images captured by an external

“Biotechnological research has reached the stage where a prototype is to be released within the next four mounths for human trial.” abomination, the bionic eye would entail a restoration of near-normal visual capabilities without excessive headgear.

Below infographic produced by HONOR MYERS

Malnutrition tug-of-war in third world countries Figures reveal that currently over 900 million people in LEDCs suffer from obesity; simultaneously, starvation continues to be a pressing health issue in the developing world. The rise in obesity rates has been most prominent in Western Asia, with China seeing them double within the last three decades. This increase has wideranging health implications and financial burdens, as developing countries lack the infrastructure to deal with the increase in patients with chronic diseases. A greater consumption of cholesterol, sugar and salt can lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer, and as the Third World increasingly modernizes, millions have adopted the ‘Western Diet,’ consisting of highcalorie processed foods. Not only are these foods cheaper than healthier alternatives, but exacerbate the sedentary lifestyles

“The rise in obesity rates has been most prominent in Western Asia” which have arisen with improving living standards. Attempts have been made in the West, where bariatric services work under great pressure, to tackle the obesity epidemic. British health experts have called on the processed foods industry to decrease the sugar content of their products by 30%, whilst Amsterdam’s health service has recently classed sugar as an addictive substance.



The Floodgates Open: will immigration drown the NHS? by HONOR MYERS As border controls are relaxed, concerns have arisen over the predicted influx of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants. In particular ‘health tourism’, where individuals come to the UK in order to obtain free NHS care that due to EU legislation, they are entitled to, has proven to be a divisive topic, given that immigrants will be now be permitted by law to receive care from GP’s. Whilst there has been assurance that immigrants will be obligated to pay in order to access primary care- such as prescriptions, dentistry and eye appointments- the proposed monitoring system will have adverse effects on the role doctors play, likened by Lord Hunt, Labour Shadow Minister to ‘surrogate immigration

officials’. With 0.2% of the health budget lost in the provision of healthcare to immigrants, the government has been looking for ways in which the attractive pull of the NHS can be controlled. Official plans for the checking and monitoring of patients’ residency are to be disclosed in March 2014, but it has already been suggested that A&E visitors should be charged, and NHS numbers should be provided before hospital admission. However, not only do these monitoring solutions prove to be highly inefficient, but they could cost the service more in the administrative charges than could be obtained from detecting abuses. Institutional racism could also result from such monitoring

systems, with doctors forced to resort to basic racial profiling when determining a patient’s British residency. Furthermore, in requiring doctors to deny care to immigrants too poor to cover the costs of treatment, the most fundamental principles held in the Hippocratic Oath are questioned.

“The proposed monitoring system for immigrants will have adverse effects on the role doctors play, similar to surrogate immigration officials.” The primary role of the NHS is to provide British citizens with free, yet excellent, healthcare. Should we demand free

healthcare in the host migrant countries we provide for? While some may say that the expenditure on health tourists is minimal, any influx of immigrants into the country is going to pressurize the health services that have been weakened due to a struggling economy. The health services can barely provide for the British people they are meant to serve, so the further relax of controls is more than likely to result in greater inefficiency. While immigrants may aggravate the possibility of the complete collapse of the NHS, with the amalgamation of hospitals and the closing down of the A&E services, they cannot be the deciding factor. Are we using health tourists as a scapegoat for the failings of our service?

Impending polio epidemic in war-torn Syria In the midst of a civil war, it is sometimes easy to forget that most deaths are not caused by gunfire or chemical weapons, but by a lack of basic healthcare. For although Syria managed to eradicate polio 14 years ago, the lack of vaccination coverage in recent years due to conflict has led to a both domestic and international failure to control this life-threatening epidemic, leading to 10 confirmed cases of polio, and many more on the horizon. Polio is a highly contagious viral infection that is transmitted via infected faecal matter. In areas with poor sanitation, the virus can spread via

contaminated food and water or by direct contact with an infected person. Symptoms of the infection include paralysis, breathing problems and in worst cases, death. Whilst vaccination exists, polio is still incurable.

“Door to door vaccination campaigns are not enough to immunise the ½ million children at risk from the infectious disease.” A previously medically self-sufficient state, producing 70% of its medicinal drugs locally, Syria has been forced to out-source

entirely for its pharmaceutical necessities. Furthermore, the lack of fuel and electricity has exacerbated pre-existing problems with hospital care, such as in Homs where 70% of the hospitals are now out of service. The absence of transport has forced many patients to emigrate over the border to seek service; they follow in the footsteps of thousands, including the medical professionals vital to solving the health crisis. It becomes increasingly difficult for WHO to provide curative expertise as the health system fragments across the country. Door to door vaccination campaigns are

not enough to immunise the ½ million children at risk from the infectious disease. The crisis transcends the Syrian border however, as Lebanon and Jordan become increasingly more at risk. Over 200,000 unvaccinated refugees have migrated to Lebanon, housed in congested tent settlementsprime conditions for pathogenic transmission. Already Lebanese services are overburdened, and with no global response as of yet, it is becoming increasingly difficult to prevent the 4,000 Syrians that leave their home country per day from propagating the epidemic.



“To boldly grow where no man has grown before” by ROSA THOMAS For years science fiction writers, scientists and little children in their back gardens staring at the sky have speculated what it would be like to live on another planet. For these reasons when the human race first started properly exploring and theorising about our celestial neighbours, one of the first things they pondered about, other than potential existence of the elusive and still absent little green men, was whether water, nitrogen, oxygen, and other things that make our existence possible, were abundant in other planets. Essentially, they wanted to discover whether our seemingly close neighbours could become a new home for the human race. Unfortunately, our friends in space appeared to be little more than inhabitable rocks or balls of gas. However, NASA has recently embarked upon a program to see if we can take a step further towards being able to survive on other planets. NASA has announced its immediate plans to start growing plants on the moon in order to begin the long journey to colonising our solar system. Taking plants up to the moon will be useful in several ways; firstly, plants take in C02 and release oxygen so are adept

at creating an atmosphere mirroring ours. Furthermore, they are also a useful test of whether

we could survive. Although you may think we are very different from plants the truth is that our genetic material tends to respond to harsh conditions in similar ways. Therefore by sending up plants we can note the effects that long-term lunar

“Plants take in CO2 and release oxygen so are adept at creating an atmosphere mirroring ours. Furthermore, they are also a useful test of whether we could survive.” exposure may have on humans. NASA says “If we send plants and they thrive (in their artificial habitat), then we probably can,” Clearly NASA can’t just fly to the moon, throw the seeds out of the window and fly back home; however, it is also logistically impossible to send a lunar gardener to tend for the seedlings. To deal with this problem NASA will construct a small, lightweight, self sustaining habitat that can house the lunar-destined vegetables. The habitat can support 10 seeds each of turnip and basil and 100 Arabidopsis seeds. It will utilize natural lunar sunlight and contain enough water for 5-10 days. During this time the plants will be monitored, photographed and compared with controls back on earth, the habitat itself will also be monitored to evaluate whether it could be scaled up for humans. The biggest obstacles of the program once at its destination are the radiation risk and the partial gravity on the moon, but of course to even get to that stage the issue of the cost must be dealt with.

In order to save money NASA plans to hitchhike on another space voyage instead of launching their own. They plan to deliver the habitat and plants on a commercial spacecraft named the “Moon Express Lander”, a craft competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, a prize which promises $20million dollars to the first team that is able to send a robot to the surface of the moon, travel five hundred meters around it and beam photos back to earth. The final masterstroke

but as far as space exploration goes this mission is comparatively frugal. Admittedly, as far as space exploration goes it is neither the wildest nor the most exciting plan. Growing a turnip on the moon is no terraforming extravaganza and to “boldly grow where no other man has grown before” is certainly a less inspirational tagline than that of past missions, but often one small step forward can bring the greatest innovation and long term benefits. Space ex-

An example of a lunar plant habitat of this project though is NASA’s plan for the control experiments. NASA plans to send duplicate habitats with plants into schools around America. Not only does this save huge costs as the control experiments will be monitored for free, but it also serves to inspire the next generation of astronauts. Personally I think this is a beautifully resourceful, creative and simple plan. In the past NASA has past been criticised for its profligacy,

ploration alone is exciting and exhilarating enough. Planning to live on Mars is a fantastical ideal but space exploration must be careful of spending its efforts on cheap thrills and premonitions, it is thrilling enough on its own without exaggeration or unrealistic endeavours. It must always be careful to set real and tangible goals if it wants to achieve in the future and demonstrate to the young people of our world what its true potential is.



The 2014 flamboyant fashion forecast

Dolce and Gabanna Roman/Modern mashup


thought anyway, according to the Louis Vuitton collection. It’s interesting, after all, to see designers not only turning their backs on the clean-cut, minimalistic look of the last few years, but burning it at the stake with unrelenting glee. Perhaps it is a sign of the times; fashion clientele are tired of the strict rules of silhouettes and are sick of ‘classy’ being almost synonymous with ‘boring’. These new collections reflect that restlessness. Goodbye austerity, hello go-hard-or-go-home mentality. So here comes cowgirl chic, embellishments, and feathers to give fashion new life and propel the population into a collection of tassel-flaunting, shiny birds of paradise. For a few years now, slick tailoring and smooth shapes have been the look of sophistication and sartorial elegance, but 2014 looks to scribble all over that preconception with sharpie. ‘FUN!’ is the buzz word of the day. The Sophisticated Woman will no longer look like she has been cut out of paper, but will be transformed into a Prada Football Official look



the football-official look is, well, official. Thought bras should be worn underneath clothes? Wrong again. The same show saw these not-so-under undergarments residing brashly over fullyclothed outfits. Thought Roman coins belonged in Latin textbooks and not anywhere else? Nuh-uh. Dolce and Gabbana’s spring 2014 show flaunted huge belts made out of Roman cameos, saturated in gold and exhibited skirts printed with Roman ruins. It sounds clunky, but combined with jovial black and white polka dots, the Classical feel me stu Co n ca eri Chanel Native Am looked…modern. Dallas show So make like a football-playing, bra-over-clothes wearing by JALEH BRAZELL Metella this year and you’ll be Fashion’s message for 2014, bang on trend! broadcast to the rest of the world And yet 2014 seems to herald in the universal semaphore of new horizons for the fashion tall, slim girls walking down long, world, broader than what a few thin, feline paths, is actually de- hockey socks and inapproprilightfully simple. It contains ate underwear layering suggest. no elaborate ideas for the high Chanel’s Dallas show was awash street to grapple with – despite with tassels and skirts that, its name, the high street does quite frankly, looked like woven sometimes struggle with high- rugs; gone was the ‘classic’ unconcept - and yet it presents a derstated chic, and in came multitude of problems. Because decadent white feathered Native the message is this: forget every- American costumes. Every inthing you know, people, we’re fluential designer seems to have moving on. cranked the ostentatious factor up to 100%, left ‘brazen’ on boil, “2014 looks to scribble and imagined new concepts with all over past preconcep- reckless abandon. And while tions of elegance with a this new plethora of style might not be for everyone, it certainly sharpie. ‘FUN!’ is the buzz grabs attention. word of the day.” Every idea has been cast to the very extreme; clothes can’t Thought socks-and-sandals be a little bit sparkly, they need were the most heinous crime to be mesh bodysuits embroianyone could ever commit? dered with black jewels, and Not anymore. The Prada show oh, throw on a feathered headwas a playing field of knee- dress as well, because why not? high sports socks, worn with That’s clearly what Marc Jacobs open-toe high heels. That’s right;

hippy, dropped in glitter – and what could be more interesting than that? Yet all this could come to nothing, since even the wisest

fashion veterans cannot foresee which trends will take off and which will be left rusting on the runway. You can covet Chanel tasselled gloves all you want, but if Primark isn’t selling them for 99p you’re unlikely to get anything like them. And that is exactly the problem with a complete turnaround on the catwalk; the high street will be reluctant to pick it up. Because as lovely as a country full of tasselled, bejewelled women would be, people are in fact very conservative about their clothes, and mainstream shops mirror that unwillingness. If the same old parka and beanie combination will sell, there is no reason for it to change in a hurry, even if Gucci is miles ahead with bright blue mohair jackets and train-driver caps. Normally the high street can get away with the most outrageous trends (see PVC skirts in Topshop at the moment) simply via hypnotising repetition. Tartan used to be the pattern of choice for Scotsmen and punks only, now every second woman you pass is flaunting it, because she has been bombarded by it in the shops all year. This is perhaps more reflective of herd instinct than fashion-conscious decision making, but you get the drift. I hope the 2014 fever catches on, because a country of swaggering, feathered cowgirls would really be a sight to see.



Crossrail: Colaboration and Construction for the Future by IAN KEGLER For those of you who don’t know, Crossrail is a capacity enhancement rail project centred around London. It involves the laying of a new 118km rail track from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. The project will allow an additional 1.5 million people to travel between London’s key business districts in just 45 minutes. The £16bn project was originally scheduled for 2017 opening, but has been delayed until 2018. This project has been promoted by Cross London Rail Links, a joint venture company formed by Transport for London (TfL) and the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), the latter now redundant and its role assumed by the Department for Transport. Naturally, in a venture of this magnitude, cutting edge design software has been required. But

more than that, cutting edge design processes have been just as instrinsic. The project is made up of over 25 main design contracts, 30 advanced works contracts and over 60 logistics and main works construction contracts. With all of these separate contributors, it was essential to make any upates or breakthroughs accessable to all the parties involved. This was achieved by using a centralised set of linked databases. This meant whenever a designer updated their individual contribution to the project as a whole everyone else’s information was automatically updated. As a part of using this innovitive kind of cetralised system, the Crossrail

project has also endorsed a rapidly growing construction technology movement called Building Information Modelling or BIM. BIM also allows an additional level of intelligence to the model, beyond this evolving, updating, database of 3D information. Along with the spacial information of the constructed 3D design, each component involved also carries further relative intelligence. This further dimension of data can include anything from time to materials to construction sequencing. What this creates is a model which can be used to greater effect during the construction phase as well as well after the building phase is completed. On a project this big the ability to coordinate drawings between disiplines in a three dimensionable environment is invaluble. It allows a diversified team to collaberate with an efficiency previously unavailable. These

breakthroughs in communication and collaboration can save time and money, which are both valuable resources in a construction project. “The project is made up of over 25 main design contracts, 30 advanced works contracts and over 60 logistics and main works construction contracts.” The Crossrail project also involves the construction of 21 kilometers of twin bore tunnels. Digging tunnels with an exterior diameter of 7.1 meters, whilst negotiating London’s diverse geology and over populated subterranian landscape, is a huge feat of engineering and it

was done with Tunnel Boring Machines. TBMs come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. The ones used in this project, Ada and Phyllis, Victoria and Elizabeth and Mary and Sophia, are each 148 meters long and weigh 1000 tonnes. There are two kinds of TBM. Earth Pressure Balance TBMs were used to tunnel through the clay to the west and Mixed Shield TBMs were used in the chalk underneath the River Thames. The main difference between the two systems, apart from their cutter heads, is that Mixed Sheild TBMs are designed for waterlogged conditions, using bentonite to support the cutting face rather than the cut material. The large circular cutter, as pictured, is mounted on the front of the head of the machine. It is turned by hydrolic motors as it cuts away at the rock. In Earth Pressure Balance TBMs the removed material is confined in a cavity behind the cutter, resulting in equal pressure either side of the blade. The pressure in the cavity is dictated by the rate at which the wheel is turning and the rate at which the waste material is removed by a rotating screw conveyor. This material is then transported down the tunnel on a series of conveyor belts out to the surface where it is used productively to increase the footprint of a nature reserve in the Thames estuary. The construction of the tunnel can be split in to two phases; the dig phase and the build phase. In the dig phase the rotating

head is forced up against the rock by hydraulic rams pushing on the cement tunnel lining which is made up of segmented rings. Once the head has moved forward approximately one and a half meters, the drilling stops. The build phase consists of adding another ring of concrete to the tunnel lining. This process begins by three of the rams being retracted from the end of the tunnel. One of the segments making up the new ring is then inserted into place using vaccum plates mounted on the rotating hydrolic placement assembly. The rams are then replaced on the segment and the process repeates again around the ring until all the segments are in place bar the key stone. Once the key stone has been inserted, and the whole thing bolted into place, the dig phase begins again. The key machinery and personnel are kept safe during this process by a cylindrical casing which maintains a tight seal with the outside of the tunnel as the entire head advances. Each cement segment of each ring is manufactured specifically for each dig, corresponding to the required course of the tunnel. This project is the largest of its kind in Europe and has inspired thousands of people. It will increase the efficiency of transport around central London substantially and will affect the lives of millions of people. All this made possible by progressive means of collaboration and cutting edge technology.



Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy doubles the standard framerate of films in cinemas, and has been criticised for being “too realistic”

Digital Love » Technology in Film by MICHAEL HAJIANTONIS On the 28th of December 1895, the French brothers Louis and Auguste Lumiere had their first film screening in a café in Paris. It featured 10 films ranging from 38 to 49 seconds long, including such entertaining epics as Workers Leaving the Lumiere factory – which was pretty selfexplanatory. Unfortunately the Lumiere brothers did not see the potential, and rejected cinema as “an invention without any future”, refusing to sell their camera to others and choosing to experiment in colour photography. Film has come a long way in just over 110 years and continues to innovate, most recently in the form of higher frame rates. Peter Jackson’s latest venture into Middle Earth with his Hobbit trilogy is being screened in select cinemas in 48 frames per second, as opposed to the traditional 24 frames per second. This higher frame rate (HFR) means more detail; slow motion, camera moves and action scenes all look smoother, plus CGI looks more realistic, but all of this comes at a compromise. Some movie goers complained that the scenes looked too realistic, as we are more used to seeing frame rates above 30 on TV, not in film, and that by upping the frame

rate the movie has lost that “film look”. But regardless, all of the downsides can be put down to our lack of time to adapt, and that HFR is the future for film. We can probably expect the number of frames per second to get even higher, and the number of cinemas offering the experience to rise too. There is another reason Peter Jackson is plugging HFR so much. That’s right, money. The studios and the cinemas need to give their audiences a reason to go out to watch their films instead of streaming them or catching them on DVD and by offering the best experience money can buy, they aim to do just that. Money motivates every move the studios make, after all it is a business. They constantly look to make films in the cheapest way and to make the most money. So along came digital. “In nearly all areas film greatly surpasses digital and only the most high-end of high-end cameras can even get close.” In the ‘80s Sony coined the term “electronic cinematography” in order to sell their more

high end cameras. This was idea transformed to “digital cinematography” in ’98 and digital film-making in the main stream became a reality. George Lucas shot some of Star Wars Episode 1 on high end digital cameras, and liked it so much that he decided to shoot the rest of the sequels on a digital format. An obvious advantage to shooting on digital is that the producers cut the cost of celluloid, which can be incredibly expensive, especially when you look at a movie like Apocalypse Now that went into the editing suite with 1.1 million feet of film. Plus it’s easier to distribute - on a simple hard drive to cinemas with digital projectors. However, a lot of directors don’t like it for quite a few reasons. Diehard fans of celluloid like Tarantino and Nolan dislike everything from the inferior resolution to the lack of a proper grainy look, even the fact that it is harder and more expensive to store as opposed to a reel of film. In nearly all areas film greatly surpasses digital and only the most high-end of high-end cameras can even get close. But there is one thing that digital has over film; accessibility. Smaller, more manoeuvrable cameras produce footage that can be edited by almost anyone with a computer, and not just someone with a whole room

dedicated to the process. This poses another problem for the big-shot directors and that is that now almost anyone can make a film, not always a good film, but something resembling one none the less. “It is the directors who choose to embrace digital technology that push it forward, which can only be good in the long run, for digital innovations still have a long way to go.” Not every director is opposed to digital. The great British director Danny Boyle made the first film shot almost entirely on digital to win an Academy Award for Cinematography, Slumdog Millionaire. It is the directors who choose to embrace this technology that push it forward, which can only be good in the long run. For unlike film that has reached the end of its innovations, digital still has a long way to go. So in a few years’ time, will directors like Nolan look as short-sighted as the Lumiere brothers in their rejection of the newer tech, or will digital crumble into the dust? We will just have to wait and see.



The Runaway American Dream by HARRY STOVIN-BRADFORD Fitzgerald has captured our generation. He holds it by the throat. Glitz, prohibition, “the most hopeful man” we will ever meet in literature and the most overawed narrator since the writers of the gospels. In traditional story form we see the creation of the modern “In traditional story form we see the creation of the modern American Dream, the self-made man taking on the blue blooded elite, all for love.” American Dream, the self-made man taking on the blue blooded elite, all for love. A mirage of America is what Fitzgerald shows in Gatsby. Underneath it all is the crime and bootlegging that makes “East Egg” possible. After a time, something happened and America’s forward march stopped. The

“raw vigour” of Jay Gatsby gave way to the true American novel, in which “people are afraid to merge on Freeways in Los Angeles”. “Less Than Zero” by Bret Easton Ellis is arguably the novel you need to read. Gatsby’s illusion of society with a suggestion of violence simply doesn’t capture our generation. Sadly a girl “strangled”, mutilated and “found at...the drive in, hanging upside down from the swing set” does. The story of parties, where people watch videos of murders rather than listening to jazz or where kids shoot heroin instead of pool, is rawer, more powerful and a world you almost want to be realised more than Fitzgerald’s Fairy Tale of New York. Teenagers may dress up for Gatsby parties (I know I’ve done it....) but I would seriously argue the book of our generation is Easton-Ellis’ masterpiece. Maybe the average kid will never experience this world, but it’s more real and visceral and just much more entertaining to read than anything else that claims to capture the zeitgeist. What I’d really like to know though is at what point the American dreamer kind of woke up and saw America as it is: Selby’s “Requiem for A dream” is my guess. Selby, whose literature arguably created the ultra-realist camp within American novels, wrote in a vernacular style. The same choice of language, really emphasising how the characters talk individually, rather than simply seeing them as part of a

grand story, certainly suggests the shift towards the minimalist era. The overarching philosophy stopped mattering with Selby, the people became king. His destruction of the American dream, by showing a section of society completely failed by the nation, must have been something that inspired Easton-Ellis’ novel. For that I thank him. This is a real study of what it means to live right now. America imposes itself on the rest of world’s culture, and I think you can really see a lot of parallels from Easton-Ellis’ work in our lives today. There’s a palpable unease. Clay, the main character, begs for a miracle at one point, just to prove anything is real. In a world filled with so much suf“His destruction of the American dream, by showing a section of society completely failed by the nation, must have been something that inspired Easton-Ellis’ novel.” fering, one still sympathises. The floating between parties, the monosyllabic answers to monosyllabic questions just seems like the people you know, written in a way that I sincerely hope that people can and do still write in. I’m not claiming I don’t like Gatsby. But what I think I am trying to say is that it needs to stop being idolised 100 years on. Those people aren’t us. And I think Easton-Ellis shows that that is okay. The fact nothing changes is okay. The fact Clay

sees the most hideous things and feels nothing, is okay. We are children in the most modern world humanity has created. We are the pinnacle, and the way that pinnacle is shown in “Less than Zero” is nothing short of art. So to all you dope fiends, child soldiers and party goers who read the A* go out, my minions and beg, borrow or as I’m sure that the characters would approve of- steal a copy of “Less Than Zero”. Then please, completely disagree with me. I hope the American Dream is alive and that jazz and champagne still flow. I just honestly believe that “Less than Zero” seeks sadly more convincing as to what our generation is about. I hope that rather than getting in your boats and beating on “against the current borne back ceaselessly into the past” that you might instead look “up from the asphalt” and get blinded by what you see.



Chocolatines by LIVVY RADCLIFFE


genoese sponge 40g butter 3 large eggs 75g caster sugar 65g self-raising flour 1 tablespoon corn flour

crème au beurre chocolat 50g granulated sugar 4 tablespoons water 2 egg yolks 175g softened butter 100g chocolate (39%Cocoa solids)

to finish: Toasted chopped mixed nuts

Preheat the oven to 180c/160fan/gas 4. Grease a shallow 7inch square tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment


To make the sponge, gently melt the butter in a pan, and then set aside to cool slightly. Measure the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk at full speed until the mixture is pale and mousse-like, and thick enough so that a trail is left when the whisk is lifted from the mixture.


Sift the flours together in a bowl. Carefully fold half the flour into the egg mixture being careful not to knock out the air. Then pour half the melted butter around the edge of the mixture and fold that in. Repeat with the other halves and pour into the tin (try and do this as close to the tin as you can to avoid losing any air)


Bake for 30-35 minutes (although it took only 20 in my oven) until well risen; it should spring back when lightly pressed. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a cooling wire to cool completely.


To make the crŃ?me au beurre chocolat start by gently dissolving the sugar and water in a small pan over a low heat. It is important not to stir the sugar as this may cause it to crystalize. Once dissolved, boil for 2-3 minutes - it is ready when it forms a slim thread when two teaspoons are pulled apart.


Break the egg yolks into a bowl using a fork. Pour the syrup in a thin stream on to the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Once combined you need to continue whisking constantly until it makes a thick mixture and is cold (this can get quite tiring on the old arm muscle). In another bowl, cream the butter until very soft then beat in the egg mix, adding it gradually. Then stir in the cooled melted chocolate.


Cut the sponge in half horizontally and sandwich the slices together with a thin layer of the chocolate butter cream, then trim the cake edges and cut neatly into 5cm squares. Spread the top and sides of each cake with most of the remaining chocolate butter cream and press the chopped, toasted nuts around the sides. Finish the tops of the cakes by piping tiny rosettes around the sides.


Crossword 1










10 11 14


12 15





20 21




25 21


26 28



31 32




Sudoku Easy

1 – Artifical (6) 4 – Type of whale (8) 9 – Dog-like (6) 10 – Artistic (8) 12 – Omit (a vowel etc.) (5) 13 – Precious stone (8) 15 – Glimmer (3) 17 – Famous (abrv.) (5) 18 – Find (6) 22 – Free from, spared (6) 24 – Ancient treasure (5) 26 – Alchoholic beverage (3) 27 – Italian dessert (8) 30 – Surpass, outdo (5) 32 – Otherworldly (8) 33 – Provoke, cause trouble (4,2) 34 – Whatever (8) 35 – Dreamlike state (6)


1 – Pastry with fruit (6,4) 2 – Prudent (8) 3 – Firestarter (9) 5 – Take over (5) 6 – Throw (5) 7 – Northern lights (6) 8 – Unit of mass (4) 11 – Safe haven, sanctuary (6) 14 – Mobile computer (3) 16 – Revelation (10) 19 – E.g. Lime (6) 20 – Bringer of pain (9 21 – Elementary particle (8) 23 – Tree (3) 25 – Complicated, awkward to do (6) 28 – Christian denomination (5) 29 – Member of an extinct empire (5) 31 – Table mountain (Middle English) (4)


Answers will be posted on A* social media pages (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter)

A* Magazine - Issue 3 Spring 2014  

A* is a current affairs inter-schools student magazine that aims to provides an essential outlet for student opinion, creativity and argumen...

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