Turkey, which over the last year could hardly be described as an incubator for civil liberties, has this past year been engulfed in political chaos. It’s reputation which it has tried hard to put forward as a secular, moderate gateway to the east from Europe, and a viable member of the EU, is almost completely in tatters. It currently holds the unpleasant title as the country with the most imprisoned journalists on the planet, it is ranked 154th in the press freedom index, and it has what can only be described as a selective historical memory when it comes to Armenians. This nation has over the past year been involved in what can only be described as a governmental crisis. This crisis, which stems from a corruption probe which has sunk its teeth into the heart of governmental power and authority has threatened various power brokers nation wide. This is an on-going and real tale of political intrigue within one of NATO’s most valued countries; including foreign backers, shoeboxes full of dollars and the constitutional limits of power which keep a leader in check.
Net Neutrality is a bit like economics: it’s something that affects the core of how we interact with the world today but also seems incredibly dull and apparently irrelevant to the majority of people until something gets shaken up. And it just so happens that things were shaken up a couple of weeks back when Tom Wheeler the chairman for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US proposed changes to the future of regulation online. This is something that is being heavily lobbied and supported by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) whilst simultaneously being decried as a death knell for the internet as we know it by the companies of Silicon Valley and a huge amount of people online. Whilst this particular proposal only directly impacts the US, its effects would certainly be felt globally and on top of this there are forces at work attempting to impose similar regulation in Europe.
I visited Ukraine for several days back in 2010 and although the Ukraine I saw was very different to the one flooding news and social media streams in recent weeks, there were signs of the factors that brought the country to a boiling point over the last few months. Of the week I spent in the country, during a peaceful summer, one thing that stood out even then was that it was a divided country. The divide I noticed didn’t seem like a clear cut case of the Ukrainian people vs a pro Russian government as has largely been reported by various news outlets up until the tail end of this week. The divided country I experienced was a cultural one, it included the two sides that have been presented to us time and again on major news outlets, and also many other groups both large and small in the middle ground and on the extremities of the political spectrum.
Hello. My name is Sean and I have a problem. I have a problem with Irish drinking culture. The prominence of #neknominations in recent weeks has really made me think about the level to which drinking obscene amounts of alcohol and glorifying it to each other and the world is acceptable.
But it also alerted me to the fact that most people of my age only grudgingly adhere to the mantra that “drinking makes you cool”. Through the magic of the Book of Faces, I saw a lot of angry friends who seemed to only complete their challenge out of a perverse sense of duty. Maybe it was for fear of being cursed in the same way that breaking every other stupid chain-letter threatens. But at the same time it makes me wonder why most people still engage in similar behaviour in their ‘local’ or in a nightclub, and yet there are no tabloid headlines or editorial pieces for that. Only very seldom will an article be written about the prominence of underage binge drinking in a “will-someone-please-think-of-the-children” tone, while not really asking or answering the salient questions about our drinking culture.
The first night of the Sleep Out went by relatively uneventfully, of course we had a few visitors through the course of the night, some praising our efforts amid drunken slur, others just up to a bit of tipsy mischief, it was about 5am before things really calmed down and most of us settled down to make an attempt at sleeping as best we could. I managed to get about three to four hours of solid sleep under my belt, which although getting that much sleep isn’t always the norm on the Sleep Out, I wasn’t exactly energetic this morning.
Today is the first day of a three day Sleep Out I’m taking part in , in aid of the homeless of Dublin. For those that don’t know the Sleep Out is an event run by students, past and present of Belvedere College, and held annually to raise both awareness for homelessness in our capital and three homeless charities (Focus Ireland, Peter McVerry Trust and Home Again), all of which are trying to counter its growth. It involves a group of us staying out on the streets from the morning of the 22nd until the evening of the 24th of December each year to fund-raise for this event.
Being the first day there’s not all that much to write home about yet, speaking from experience however it is the next 48 hours that will prove the most eventful.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke with a young Mauritian man by the name of Rohan who has been living, working and studying in Ireland for the past six years. However in the near future it looks likely that he will be forced to leave the country, along with his wife, his brother and her sister as their visas have not been renewed since the start of the summer and their future in the country is in bureaucratic limbo. This has come around because of a change in policy regarding Immigration and Visas for non EU citizens in Ireland that was brought into effect at the beginning of 2011.
Greece in 2012 is a nation of economic and social despair. Between 2009 and 2011 the economy shrank by 11% due to this quality of life for the average Greek citizen has fallen dramatically. The minimum wage has been cut by more than one fifth (22%), more than 30,000 civil servants have been suspended and are only on partial pay with plans to reduce the overall amount of public servants by 150,000 before 2015, unemployment is at a staggering 26% as of August of this year which is up from 7.2% in 2008, mass privatization of public assets and services are due to happen with €50billion being the target of capital raised and also €300million being cut from the pension bill this year alone. This too comes with the recent findings that Greece is ranked as the most corrupt country in the EU and 94th world-wide.
The United States and Ireland have apparently always maintained what political figures on both side of the Atlantic term in unison cliché, “a special relationship”. As with all clichés there is of course a remnant of validity. Ireland’s history of mass emigration to the United States has germinated a rich Irish-American culture that continues to this day and in reciprocation the United States represents the second largest tourist market to our own island. However the United States is far from monogamous in its bilateral love-ins. U.S. governments have always spoken of their special relationships with Britain and Israel amongst others and it is the company of these bedfellows that should lead us to wonder if it is in fact a relationship worth having.
An intriguing journalistic venture has been launched this week with the aim of promoting and facilitating independent journalism, free from government and private interference. Entitled the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the non-profit will act as a conduit for funding independent journalistic organizations heavily involved in exposing the corruption and abuse of power, both corporate and governmental.
The project was conceived as a response to the shutdown in funding of the independent news outfit Wikileaks that occurred following the refusal of the major credit card companies Visa and MasterCard, as well as PayPal, to facilitate public donations. This amazing confluence of government and private power cost Wikileaks 95% of its funding overnight and went largely without critique in the mainstream press.