Will Scotland Choose Independence?

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GLASGOW, Scotland -- The Scottish referendum on independence will take place 18 September 2014. If 40% of the population in Scotland vote in favor of separation, Scotland will be an autonomous nation once again, following 300 years of political fusion with Great Britain.

The movement is spearheaded by the opposing 'Yes Scotland' and 'Better Together' campaigns, which advocate Scottish independence and United Kingdom solidarity, respectively. The First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond is perhaps the most visible spokesman for the 'Yes Scotland' outfit. Allistair Darling is a longstanding member of the British parliament and heads the Better Together movement.

According to the 'Yes Scotland' and 'Better Together' factions, social problems in Scotland need to be addressed. But the two camps are at odds over whether these changes can take place with London in the driver's seat. According to Alex Salmond, the power dynamic between the UK and Scotland are among the most unequal in Europe.

Poverty, drug abuse and suicide affect Scots at much-higher rates than their British or Irish neighbors. Recent studies conducted throughout the Highlands find that Scottish men have a suicide rate 73% higher than males throughout the rest of the UK. The same study found that female Scots committed suicide at twice the rate of women throughout the Kingdom.

Wealth inequality has fluctuated over the past decade but remains a serious problem in Scotland. Throughout the population, one in five children are living below the poverty line. A study published by Child Poverty Action Group finds that in many Scottish communities, one in three children are currently impoverished. The 'Yes Scotland' campaign believes that with increased autonomy, Scots will be able to address problems in their communities, without relying on representatives in Westminster as middlemen.

The agriculture industry in Scotland is particularly invested in the outcome of September's referendum. Currently, Scottish farmers receive subsidies through the European Union. The EU allocates a lump sum to the UK, and stipends are generated to English and Scottish farmers from these funds.

Pro-independence farming coalitions believe that farmers in Scotland are undervalued in these calculations. They argue that an independent Scotland would receive greater allowances from the EU. Opponents of Scottish independence claim just the opposite, stating that the UK has greater lobbying power in the EU debates, and Scottish famers are wrong to think they could collect larger subsidies as a small, independent nation.

One of the largest controversies in the debate over Scotland's future is centered in massive oil reserves located in UK waters, off Scotland's coast. Alex Salmond has claimed that £1.5 trillion in natural gas deposits lie within Scotland's jurisdiction, but this figure is largely disputed. The veracity of the estimate is unclear, and both sides have much at stake with regards to the amount and ownership of the deep sea oil in question.

Scots are still widely divided on the issue of independence, but the international community is not so unsure. In recent weeks, President Barack Obama has come forward in support of UK solidarity.

In September Scotland will make its voice heard. Preliminary polls show that Scots are within reach of the votes required to pass the referendum. If Scotland splits from the UK, the dispute over Scottish identity will only intensify. Arguments over currency, citizenship and the economy are guaranteed to draw conflicting viewpoints between officials.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

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Chicago Teen Fatally Shot After Obama Gun Violence Speech

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Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 12:53 p.m. EDT, 21 February 2013

Chicago Child Mourns Gun Violence Victim, Photo by Ashlee RezinCHICAGO, IL. - Hours after President Barak Obama gave his Inaugural speech, in which he pushed for tighter gun control laws; a young woman was fatally shot only one mile from the President’s Chicago home.

The victim was 18-year old Janay Mcfarlane. Earlier that day, McFarlane’s 14 year-old sister witnessed the President’s Inaugural speech, after he was sworn in on 21 January 2013.

Mcfarlane was shot in the head at approximately 11:30 p.m., Friday, 21 January 2013, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The victim had a 3-month old son, and was visiting friends and family in a North Chicago suburb. McFarlane’s mother said the bullet that killed her daughter was meant for a friend.

Police are questioning two suspects who are believed to be in connection with McFarlane’s shooting; however, charges have yet to be filed. Media spoke with Mcfarlane’s mother, Angela Blakely, as she grieved for her daughter, expressing, “I really feel like somebody cut a part of my heart out”.

Just one month ago, another fatal shooting involving 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton shook Chicago residents. The honor student was killed last month in a South Side Chicago park. According to Chicago police, it was a case of mistaken identity, and two suspects have been charged. Not only have there been more than 40 homicides in Chicago during the month of January alone, this makes the death toll the highest in 10 years.

Mcfarlane was affected by Pendleton’s death, as she often expressed to her mother how she felt bad for the victim’s family. Little did she know, she would also be a victim of gun violence. This case, as of many, is still open. Each day action is not taken regarding gun laws, the United States must hear another story such as this one. The media is focusing more on the fact that Mcfarlane’s sister was at President Obama’s gun violence speech. In order to stop reporters like me and others from having to write stories out like this, more than platitudinous speeches need to be delivered.

The fault does not lie entirely with President Obama, but with a society that believes that the right to bear arms/guns, especially those which exceed what is required for protection, such as automatic assault weapons, trumps all other concerns. This thinking, coupled with the powerful and deep pocketed lobbying on behalf of the National Riffle Association (NRA), makes the task of addressing this problem at a granular and thus meaningful level nearly impossible despite evidence that tighter gun control laws do result in decreased rates of gun homicides.

In the United Kingdom firearms are tightly controlled by law and it has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world with 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010 compared to the United States' 5.1 (over 40 times higher). (Source: Wikipedia)

The numbers speak for themselves, and if we hope to one day stop reporting on this type of violence that unfortunately appears to be on the rise in the U.S., then each American must take a hard look at our values, our voice, and our responsibility. There are hundreds of thousands of Mcfarlane's across America, and but for her connection to President Obama's speech, she would be just another anonymous victim of gun violence in a poor, urban area. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe
 

Oil for Silence Fuels Bahraini Torture Deaths

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:49 PM EDT, 23 May 2012

Bahraini Torture Victim, Photo by Nabeel RajabMANAMA, Bahrain — The call for democracy that began during Bahrain's Arab Spring has fomented into a full-scale revolution in response to the ruling Sunni monarchy's persistence in maintaining power by refusing to acquiesce to Bahraini citizens' demands for democratic elections.

External human rights groups have charged the monarchy with gross violations but lack sufficient access to the country to allow them to fully investigate. Internal investigations have confirmed that the Bahraini monarchy is guilty of gross human rights violations and have published their findings on several websites and papers found at the end of this post.

The latest victim of this dictatorial regime could be Yousef Mowali, 23, who was found dead of an apparent drowning earlier this week. However, Al Jazeera reported that autopsy results indicated evidence of torture, and if the allegations are proven true, then Mowali could be latest Bahraini to have died from torture while in the custody of Bahraini military police.

In testimony before the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), representatives of the monarchy continued to assert that all individuals in detention are being treated humanely as their cases progress through the justice system. They have also vociferously denied any culpability in the deaths of Mowali and others.

The ruling Sunni monarchy has politicized the human rights abuses occurring in their nation by claiming that the violence is the result of sectarianism instigated by the Shiite minority and covert Iranian operatives who seek to overthrow the monarchy.

According to the monarchy, the suppression of 'sporadic' violence in which some people may have sustained injuries is justified to maintain law and order and to protect the sovereignty of Bahrain.

Many countries in which martial law has been instituted under the guise of suppressing 'subversive elements,' find that once law and order is restored the military often refuses to relinquish power even after the crisis has passed.

In Bahrain the military could prove just as dangerous to the monarchy as they are to the protesters. This possibility is bolstered by images of wanton violence, destruction, and undisciplined behavior by a police force seemingly out of control.

The military in Bahrain has been responsible for the disappearance of hundreds of people, they have maimed, killed, and disappeared thousands more, and a growing number of women have been assaulted and raped by policemen.

Though human rights abuses have been substantiated through empirical evidence, it is the videotaped footage of police brutality that refutes the monarchy's claims of benevolence and a desire for sincere reform.

In late 1990 "some of the most egregious offenders included Ian Henderson, a former colonial officer employed in Bahrain who was accused by multiple witnesses of torturing prisoners. Adel Flaifel, a notorious security officer identified by many detainees as having overseen torture, both of whom were given immunity under Royal Decree 56 of 2002.

The torture described by many human rights reports was widespread and systematic. Up to 1866 who made up 64% of detainees reported being tortured during this time period by members from three government agencies, namely the Ministry of Interior, the National Security Agency, and the Bahrain Defence Force. (Source: Wikipedia)

Victims claimed that representatives from each of these agencies were actively involved in interrogating detainees in relation to the unrest leading up to Bahrain's Arab Spring uprising.

Though, as one commentator noted, these figures hail from a 'distant' past, the fact that allegations of torture and abuse persist nearly twenty years later signifies a pattern of systemic and despotic governance. These abuses which have occurred over a long period of time have only become more visible because of the uprising, and the legislative reforms ratified by the BICI look good on paper but do not seem to have translated into real change.

At the grassroots level people are still suffering abuse at the hands of those who are charged with protecting them, and like the civil rights movements which occurred in other countries like South Africa, United States, and India to name a few, it was because of the sustained will of the people that these governments eventually had to bring their governance inline with the human rights legislation codified in their constitutions.

Most troubling about Bahrain's 'Bloody Spring' is the fact that both the United States and the United Kingdom, two countries that present themselves as the enforcers of global justice and the arbiters of human rights abuses, have remained silent on this grave issue. In fact, both governments have recently announced their support of the Bahraini monarchy during official state visits apparently out of fear that a rift between the two nations could adversely impact national security interests and oil supplies.

For more in-depth coverage of this issue view the news reports below, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, the video footage of the brutal crackdown and its victims presents undeniable proof that the Bahraini monarchy is unwilling to entertain democracy and will not go 'gently into that good night.'

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias