Why we need to think again about suicide since Robin Williams’ death


Richard Butchins, an award winning documentary maker and author, tells his painful story of suicide

Taking your own life is not easy. I know I’ve tried, and obviously failed. When you commit suicide you haven’t lost a battle with depression or illness or whatever it maybe. No, you have won – you have taken the final step away from an insoluble problem.

Depressed-personOne day, I’ll take my own life and that’s ok. It’s mine to take (unless I were to hurt others in the process). I am a disabled man with little if anything to look forward to in life; apart from increasing ill health and poverty in a society that’s shown itself to be virulently anti old-age.

My lover took her own life last year, she, like Robin Williams, hung herself. She left no note but I found out from reading her diaries that she felt that life had come to a full stop for her. That there was in her words “No way out”  and that she did what she did out of bravery not cowardice or desperation but a reasoned and logical, albeit a bleak logic, choice.

I have no information around Mr William’s death other than what’s already in the public domain but I suspect he knew all to well what having Parkinson’s disease entails and perhaps that factored into his choice.

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Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses

With the threat of IS are we Chamberlain or Churchill?


Islamic State are clearly a threat to the West, argues Edisa Korugic and Robbie Travers, but the question is what do we do about it?

The problem we face today in Iraq in the form of the hydra-like monstrosity of ISIS is not a direct product of the invasion of 2003. In fact, ISIS‘ predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, was an extremely weakened and marginal force in Iraq by the end of the last decade due to the Surge by Western coalition forces and the Sunni Awakening. There was no space for al-Qaeda to gain a foothold in Iraq, thus some within al-Qaeda were desperately waiting for an opportunity to regain strength.

ISIS ncrjIt was the Syrian civil war, which offered al-Qaeda a safe retreat and training ground to re-group their forces and gain battleground experience as well as weapons, money and fighters. Assad targeted alliances and groups of moderate, secular and more democratic Syrian rebels while sparing ISIS groups, which led to ISIS growing into the formidable terror army they are today.

From 2011 onwards, al-Qaeda in Iraq morphed into the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS), culminating in a split between the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri and ISIS leaders in Syria. Al-Zawahiri, very sceptical about the ambitions of ISIS in Syria, urged the ISIS fighters to return from Syria and fight the battle in Iraq. For their part al-Qaeda disowned ISIS for their extremism and disloyalty.

What makes ISIS so dangerous is that they are a prototype for a new form of terror state, which uses a mix of sophisticated methods to subjugate the domestic population. On the one hand they try to win hearts and minds by providing humanitarian aid and security within their tightly defined rules, and on the other they talk freely of ethnic cleansing and genocide to punish those who aren’t willing to bow to their demands.

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Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , | 17 Responses

Alex Salmond’s oil predictions aren’t so slick after all


Has Alex Salmond wildly overestimated the part of oil in his independent utopia?

Further significant doubts have been cast over the economic basis of an independent Scotland.

Not as slick as originally felt.

Not as slick as originally felt.

The latest developments come during an interview given by Sir Ian Wood, who was responsible for transforming the fortunes of the Wood Group, an oil company. Sir Ian, originally from Aberdeen has also previously undertaken extensive work for the UK Government on offshore oil and gas recovery and its regulation.

Speaking exclusively to the industry publication, Energy Voice, Sir Ian has cast substantial doubts over the assumptions made in the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence about oil production.

According to the SNP administration, there remains enough North Sea oil reserves for 24 billion more barrels of the black gold. According to Sir Ian this remains a wildly optimistic scenario. He explained:

“Based on the research and conversations within my review, and across the industry, I believe, that even with a more sympathetic tax and regulation framework, the likely best outcome, without new hydrocarbon regions being discovered, is between 15billion and 16.5billion barrels.”

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Posted in Clean Politics | Tagged , , , | 2 Responses

Private rents are soaring: is it time the state stepped in?


Market fundamentalists say to leave the market, it will fix itself – but that experiment has been tried and it has failed. We need more statecraft to fix the problem.

At the start of the week a YouGov survey for the Times found that of the 52 per cent surveyed who thought the coalition deserves credit for the recovery in the economy, nearly two-thirds said it should go to the Tories, while only 35 per cent said the Lib Dems.

Houses 3But if George Osborne deserves to take the lion’s share of the praise, should he not also be subject to the flak for a poor recovery that has resulted in few people feeling the benefits of the economic upturn?

Today the flat and house share website Spare Room release data suggesting that tenants are struggling as their rents rise faster than their incomes, which ends up impacting on their overall budget. What does recovery mean if people are feeling no benefits in their pay packet each month?

The research finds that since 2009, UK rents have risen by 10 per cent while tenants’ accommodation budgets have fallen by 0.5 per cent. According to ONS data the average earnings of a UK worker is only rising by 1.7 per cent per year, and yet average rents are rising by 5 per cent annually.

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Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses

It’s time to turn the words into action on Christian persecution


While the UK has form condemning barbaric acts inflicted on Christians because of their faith. It is time now to turn the words into action. 

In April, the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair courted controversy in delivering a speech that called for much greater efforts to tackle radical Islam.

Christian cross ncjSpeaking to Bloomberg in London, Blair declared:

“For the last 40 to 50 years, there has been a steady stream of funding, proselytising, organising and promulgating coming out of the Middle East, pushing views of religion that are narrow minded and dangerous. Unfortunately we seem blind to the enormous global impact such teaching has had and is having.

“Within the Middle East itself, the result has been horrible, with people often facing a choice between authoritarian government that is at least religiously tolerant; and the risk that in throwing off the government they don’t like, they end up with a religiously intolerant quasi-theocracy.”

The more we see and hear from the Middle East, the more difficult it can become to argue against Blair’s thought provoking speech.

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Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , | 12 Responses

The video of James Foley is an escalation: what should the UK response be?


With last year’s vote on Syria in mind there will be a lot of attention given to what the Labour response will be today – while we need caution and pause, the response from the Labour party must reflect the severity of the situation now.

The video published last night which appears to show the beheading of photojournalist James Foley provides a shocking insight into the lawlessness of parts of the Middle East right now. And while the Prime Minister David Cameron is on holiday it surely won’t be long until serious talks are had, in the UK and internationally, about what the response to the escalation of violence in Iraq and Syria (from where Foley was last heard) will look like.

FIn a very important article for Foreign Policy Magazine, Peter D. Feaver spelt out the five questions by which the world should judge President Obama’s decision to return US forces to combat.

One of the questions he asks involves the plausibility of whether inaction could meaningfully lower the desire of Islamic State (IS) to attack the US. This raises an interesting, and ongoing discussion about what we know about the wider, global aims of IS.

While Feaver says members of Obama’s team are sold “on the view that IS had and has geographically limited ambitions: establishing a new caliphate in the Middle East” – what all governments in countries with regional partners and allies in the Middle East need to be asking is whether they can be sure this is true. Limited ambitions, for now, but what about round the corner? Read More »

Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , | 13 Responses

The Caliphate Delusion: the political construct that bears no relevance in the modern world


Ghaffar Hussain, the Managing Director of Quilliam, historicises the Caliphate to show what little relevance it has in the modern world

I first came across the term Caliphate or Khilafah back in 1992 when, as a young teenager, I attended a lecture organised by a local Islamist group. The term was a reference to a global Muslim empire that would have a single ruler for life, referred to as Caliph, and implement a single interpretation of shariah. This empire would also be expansionist and seek to aggressively stretch its borders through warfare until the entire world fell under its domain.

Islamist-extremists-on-campusThe Caliphate, it was argued, was necessary because, theologically, it was an Islamic obligation and, politically, only such an entity could protect Muslims around the world, under siege as they are from non-Muslim enemies.

Furthermore, the return of the Caliphate was foretold in scripture and had existed up until 1924 until it was destroyed by European imperialists who felt threatened by Muslim unity and power. Prior to 1924, it was argued, a thriving Caliphate had ushered in a golden age of Islam in which science, art, philosophy and economic prosperity flourished as Muslims implemented a divine ruling system.

At the time it was a compelling narrative, especially since it weaved theology, geo-politics and grievances young British Muslims were experiencing at the time. It also had a feel-good factor to it because essentially it blamed all the contemporary failings of Muslim societies around the world on Western conspiracies and the lack of a Caliphate. Read More »

Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , | 25 Responses

Salmond needs to spell out his Plan B on currency


All three parties likely to form the next government are clear on where they stand with Scotland and the currency issue – Alex Salmond needs to spell out his Plan B, and fast.

In a month today the people of Scotland will go to the polls to make one of the most momentous decisions in the country’s history.

Scotland economyjAs they prepare to do so however, what is becoming clear is that on the central issue of what currency an independent Scotland would use Alex Salmond and the SNP more widely have and continue to be found wanting.

Speaking  yesterday to Radio Clyde, the First Minister admitted that he could have made his position clearer in respect of the currency during his first television debate with Alistair Darling, and said he hoped to shed more light on the issue when the pair debate during the BBC debate a week today.

For the Yes campaign however, it is not so much clarity that is needed as a full plan B that they should now explain to the people of Scotland.

Whatever the bluster, the reality is clear: all three of the political parties in Westminster likely to form the next Government have made crystal clear that they would not entertain the idea of an independent Scotland remaining in a currency union with the rest of the UK.  It is opposition echoed by Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones and one suspects also by Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson. Read More »

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses

1-in-800 young British Sunni men are fighting in Syria/Iraq – this should concern us all


Too many young Muslims are going abroad to fight with ISIS – but we should talk about this without posturing or point-scoring. 

In June, shortly before ISIS’s take-over of large chunks of northern Iraq, British Muslim commentator and journalist Sharif Nashashibi wrote:

“One would be forgiven for thinking there is an exodus of British Muslims going to fight in the Middle East. This is far from reality. The government puts the number at about 500 – that constitutes less than 0.02% of the 2.7 million Muslims in this country.”

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Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , | 23 Responses

What Philip Hammond ought to tell the Ecuadorian foreign minister about Assange


The Ecuadorian foreign minister wants to talk to Philip Hammond about Julian Assange – this is what our foreign minister should tell him. 

In a very well attended press conference yesterday in the Ecuadorian embassy in Central London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange revealed that he would soon be leaving the place he has called home for more than two years.

Julian-Assange-300x200At a cost of around £7m to the taxpayer, Assange has been self-imprisoned since avoiding extradition on account of allegations made against him involving a 26-year-old (known as SW) in Enköping and a 31-year-old (AA) in Stockholm.

However it was reported last night by the Telegraph that Assange appears to have muddled his reasons for leaving, suggesting law changes regarding extradition. In a comment that speaks volumes about Assange, it was assumed by him that recent changes in the law reflected a realisation that, in his own words, “abuses of my rights” had been carried out.

The Home Office has now clarified that changes in the law will not affect Assange since they are not retrospective.

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Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Responses
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