The European Commission v Alex McDonald – Home Win (and why that’s not the point)

The European Commission v Alex McDonald – Home Win (and why that’s not the point)

It was late September 2013. I had been a member of the Editorial Team of the 99% Campaign for a couple of weeks. My main contribution in that time had been to make some vaguely articulate comments about hate crime at a conference we held in a youth centre in South London. Naturally, it was decided that the next logical step for me would be to attempt to reform the European Union.  Specifically, I was asked to enter a competition being run by the European Commission, as part of “EU Single Market Week“. Citizens from across Europe were encouraged to send in suggestions on the best ways to reform the EU. The author of the “best” idea would have an opportunity to promote it at the EuroNews studio in Strasbourg. My entry, which can be seen in full here, was, put simply, a plan to have the EU regulate healthcare for its member states.  Things started off well. Roberta Antonaci approved of my “great idea”. Della Law was much less impressed though, opining that “UK regulator PHSO does not regulate! So an additional layer could give some protection. People here are suffering from lack of honesty, resolution and closure.” This rattled me a little, not least because I wasn’t sure what the “PHSO” was. However, with a little research and a little help from 99% Campaign HQ, I was able to answer her concerns satisfactorily.  Having thus dispatched Ms Law with poise and finesse, I was about to face a far more dangerous critic. JohnR entered the picture. JohnR had a blue avatar, which meant his words carried the...

Teen Violence Report

What is teen violence? Teen violence refers to harmful behaviours, whether physical or emotional, which affect young people. The young person can be an offender, a victim or a witness. Some examples of teen violence include, but are not limited to: domestic violence, relationship abuse, gang violence, bullying (including cyber bullying) and hate crime. In the UK, there is no set definition of teenage domestic violence. However, the definition of domestic violence in general was changed in March 2013; the age range was lowered to 16, and there is now an explicit mention of “coercive control” (Guardian, 2012). What causes teen violence? The causes of teen violence can vary, and many people disagree on which factors have the biggest influence. We can use research data to determine links between teen violence and other variables, however it is not always possible to know which variable is the cause and which is the effect. For example, research conducted by Queen Mary, University of London found that 85% of screened men in gangs had a personality disorder; it might be that young men with a personality disorder are more likely to join a gang, or that witnessing violent crimes causes the “mental disorder”. The charity Family Lives suggests that bullying is caused by low self-esteem, which in turn might also be as a result of similar factors. The NSPCC (2009) found a number of patterns in occurrences of domestic violence: A young person who had experienced a lot of violence in their family growing up was more likely to perpetrate domestic violence A person whose peer group frequently engage in violence was...
American Government Shutdown

American Government Shutdown

As President Obama signed a law re-opening the federal government, the world breathed a sigh of relief. The weeks of closed government were seen as an embarrassment for America with potentially disastrous consequences as the debt ceiling deadline, October 17th, grew ever closer. The stalemate in Congress was centred on the issue of whether to fund Obama’s flagship policy – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – which was signed into effect by the president in 2010 after being passed by both Houses of Congress.  Republicans, compelled by the conservative Tea Party Caucus, decided to use question of extending the budget (which would prevent the debt ceiling being reached) as an opportunity to re-fight the battle on the Affordable Care Act. The signing of debt deal on October 16th symbolised a Republican defeat – or at least, a temporary defeat, until the next budget deadline in January. While both parties have received a decrease in support as a result of the shutdown, much larger questions loom for America: what does the shutdown mean for American democracy? And what does it mean for America’s long-term global standing? American politics is becoming increasingly polarised over the question of government interference in markets and the lives of its citizens – with Democrats favouring Obama’s moderately socialist proposal for universal healthcare and with the Republican Tea Party Movement, the cradle for modern right-wing conservatism, gaining momentum and influence at a national level. This is pushing American politics into a Catch 22 situation. A growing inefficiency and inability to reach consensus could stunt the ‘tradition of progresses’ often attributed to American governance, not...
An Unacceptable Truth: The Mental Health of Young People

An Unacceptable Truth: The Mental Health of Young People

The recent controversy concerning Tesco and Asda halloween costumes perhaps tells us more about the challenge of combating mental health than anything else. While it is true that most people will have the common sense to realise that these images are grossly exaggerated stereotypes, on reflection it has clear potential to make it harder for those with mental illness to seek help, for fear of being called derogatory names like lunatic and makes pre-existing attitudes and stigma harder to eradicate. Is it right to complain if a work colleague had a heart attack and hadn’t turned up for work? Of course not. So what makes it different than, say, depression? This is a question that, it appears, too many people don’t want to face. Mental illness is more similar to physical illness than first appears. The only difference that it is often hidden and therefore, arguably, more prone to misunderstanding. I suffered my own form of anxiety during my first year of studies at Cardiff Metropolitan University. This was due to entering a drastically new environment that made it harder than ever to make new friends, something I have always found difficult. I struggled to admit I was severely depressed to my student services. For young people there are other unique pressures; family breakdown, academic pressure, pressure relating to body image. The suicide of teen Hannah Smith is a tragic case in point of how vulnerable young people who suffer mental illness are and how, often several factors combine to produce deadly consequences. In Hannah’s case cyber-bullying only made her existing depression worse. Perversely, her online abusers used their...