BLACK GOLD: THE KEY TO SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE?

North Sea Oil Rigs

By James Kim
Contributing Writer

It is no surprise that gaining independence from the United Kingdom is no easy task. The United States had ten years of anarchy before ratifying the Constitution; India suffered a violent partition that divided her into two (eventually three) separate nations; and several newly formed countries of the developing world underwent and continue to endure civil wars and unstable governments. A referendum for Scottish independence has been scheduled for a vote later this year. Even though Scotland is a well-developed region with the highest per capita income in the whole of the U.K., that fact will not give her an exception from the difficulties of self-determination if the referendum passes in September.

However, there is a commonly held view among supporters of the independence movement and the Scottish National Party that petroleum would ease the troubles in the early days of home rule. Aberdeenshire, where most of the Scottish oil industry is headquartered, serves as a major SNP voting bloc and even forms the constituency for First Minister Alex Salmond, the main proponent for independence. Scotland’s petroleum reserves are located in the North Sea, which it shares with Norway. The Norwegian success with its lucrative resource has become a rallying cry for the independence movement, as unlike their prosperous Scandinavian neighbor, the Scots have no control over the tax revenues of the North Sea petroleum industry. London instead has the final say in wealth redistribution, leaving the Scots with only a fraction of their rewards. Relationship with the Westminster Parliament is becoming more contentious due to the domination of the Conservative Party, a political group long mistrusted by the majority of Scots. The Tories’ move to privatize the British postal service and even the NHS has frightened the socialist leaning Scots, who fear that their taxes would only be used against them. Thus, the rise of the independence movement is a response to the urgency of making sure that Scottish resources stay with the Scots.

Yet, oil cannot be viewed as a panacea to Scotland’s economic woes. OPEC recently released a statement that the discovery rate of new wells in the North Sea is at its lowest in three decades, initiating fears that production may have already reached peak capacity. To make matters worse, the Westminster Parliament stated that it would veto Scotland’s retention of the pound, a significant blow to the region’s financial security since oil is traded in American dollars. Losing a currency that has more value than the American greenback will create more obstacles than solutions for an independent Scotland.

Having a natural resource that everyone needs does not necessarily make a nation independent. While it does lead to a spirit of nationalism due its huge role in the local economy, oil also carries the risk of attracting foreign powers that want to possess all of its rewards. England knows that it will lose its tax benefits if Scotland gains full control over its own resources; a potential loss of billions of pounds forces Westminster to urge both the Conservatives and Labourers to hinder the SNP’s attempts at separation. However, Scotland also realizes that remaining in the union would prove to be a zero-sum game, as the price of the union means gambling with a hostile right-wing political party that has a sour history with the Scottish people. Despite the importance of black gold, it alone cannot break the stalemate between a compromised union and an uncertain independence.

Images by Berardo62

A SUMMER IN SWITZERLAND

By Natasha Azevedo
Contributing Writer

This is the first article in our 2014 Week of Photo Journals: Changing Perspectives. Check back each day this week to see more beautiful photography and travel accounts from UC San Diego students.

A Sunny Day on Lac Léman

A Sunny Day on Lac Léman

The Swiss Alps frame Lac Léman (commonly known as Lake Geneva) on a bright July afternoon. Trains in the southwest of Switzerland run along the lake, making stops at small lakeside cities such as Montreux in the Canton of Vaud. Known for its charming jazz festivals and scenic walkways, dozens of docks line the French-speaking city, serving as ports for local fishermen and sailors. I captured this photo on a three-hour walk along the lake with friends from Moldova and Ukraine.

Sunrise at Rochers de Naye

Sunrise at Rochers de Naye

During a summer internship in Switzerland, I hiked a well-known mountain called Rochers de Naye in the Swiss Alps. While tourists normally ride a train to the top of the mountain, my fellow interns and I decided instead to hike for six hours to reach the top before sunrise. With an overly-eager Romanian friend leading us and a single iPhone flashlight to light the way, my four friends from Egypt, Germany, China, and Thailand joined me as we hiked through forests and rocky cliffs in the pitch black. After a few bloody knees and breaks to watch the stars, I captured this photograph at the summit just in time for the sunrise.

Fribourg, Switzerland

Fribourg, Switzerland

After taking a train to Switzerland’s capital I decided to make a pit stop at a small city called Fribourg. This quiet city has dozens of picturesque scenes such as the one captured here. Houses are built into the mountains and charming wooden roofs sit atop shops lining the Sarine river. The city is small enough to walk through on foot and provided a nice contrast to the bustling streets of Bern as the town seemed less privy to tourists. Rather, it exuded authenticity and quietness; a hidden gem along Switzerland’s borders.

Caux Palace at Sunset

Caux Palace at Sunset

This photograph captures the Caux Palace, often referred to as the ‘Mountain House.’ It is situated near the top of the Alps overlooking Lake Geneva and is said to have inspired the castle in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Every summer it hosts a conference for Caux: Initiatives of Change where global leaders, diplomats, NGO coordinators, and international economists gather to discuss global conflict and cooperation. A subsidiary of the United Nations, the European Union-affiliated organization hosts a seasonal internship where 36 interns from across the world participate in global leadership programs. I had an opportunity to live and work as the youngest intern and only American at the Mountain House for the summer and spent evenings trying to capture the beautiful sunsets near the castle.

Big Ben at 6:18

Big Ben at 6:18

This image captures one of London’s most iconic landmarks. During one summer in the UK, I captured the clock tower surrounding Big Ben in Westminster. I took this photograph from a boat on the Thames at dusk. The clock tower is one of England’s largest tourist destinations.

Bern at Bird’s Eye

Bern at Bird’s Eye

After climbing 300 steps up a small tower in Bern’s largest cathedral, I was able to capture Switzerland’s capital in a new light. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the city was once the workplace of Albert Einstein and is the home of the attractive yet controversial “Bear Parks.” Bern is a primarily German-speaking city and has been ranked as one of the world’s top cities for a positive quality of life.

All images by Natasha Azevedo, Prospect Contributing Writer

INFANTICIDE: A DISCREET GLOBAL TREND

Image of Pregnant Woman

By Jubilee Cheung
Staff Writer

On October 17, 2013, 17-year-old Tiona Rodriguez was stopped by Victoria’s Secret staff for attempted shoplifting. A store employee, detecting a foul odor coming from Rodriguez’s shopping bag, discovered the corpse of a nearly full-term fetus among its contents upon conducting a routine inspection. Rodriguez claimed that she had suffered a miscarriage six months into her pregnancy, but tests have since proved that the fetus was alive at the time of its birth. Though evidence at present leads police to believe that the child was smothered, current test results remain inconclusive in regards to the manner of death and autopsy results are not yet available.

Though Rodriguez’s commission of infanticide may strike one as a singular, grotesque incidence that can be disregarded as exceptional, it is actually a highly relevant topic and widely occurring phenomenon. Statistics have generally been indicative of a downward trend in abortions performed, particularly in the United States (as of 2011 the United States averages about 1.06 million abortions a year, down from 1.29 million in 2002 and 1.31 million in 2000). But they fail to take into account the babies that are delivered full-term and then subsequently killed by their mothers. This practice is taking place under the table, not just here in the United States but globally as well.

In Thailand on June 4, 2013, a dog discovered a white bag in a dumpster containing a still-living baby girl. The dog, named Pui, brought the bag to his owner, effectively saving the girl’s life. Pui went on to be lauded as a local hero.

On May 2, 2013, after giving birth in a bathroom stall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 19-year-old Cherlie Lafleur attempted to flush her dead baby down the toilet. After encountering numerous difficulties, she instead opted to throw it away in an adjacent trash can. Custodial staff discovered the baby later. Autopsy reports went on to reveal that the baby had been anywhere from 27-29 weeks old at the time of its death.

In the United Kingdom, on June 20, 2013, Iraqi-born Jaymin Abdulrahman confessed to throwing her infant daughter down a 44-foot garbage chute, after initially claiming that robbers had broken into and attacked her household. The baby sustained critical head injuries, and examinations revealed that she was showing signs of developing cerebral palsy, likely as a result of the head trauma she suffered. Abdulrahman blamed her actions on a lapse of mental stability caused by post-pregnancy hormonal imbalance. She was eventually found guilty not of murder, but of causing “grievous bodily harm with intent,” and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.

On August 28, 2013, Amanda Catherine Hein gave birth to a living baby boy in the bathroom at Starters Pub in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She then proceeded to stuff him down the toilet before returning to watch a sports game outside with three friends. Employees of the pub later found the baby dead. Hein had not told anyone that she was expecting throughout the duration of her pregnancy.

If abortion continues to exist as a viable option for women experiencing unexpected pregnancies, it is strange that so many would still voluntarily go to illegal extremes to avoid it – and yet ultimately arrive at the same conclusion. Exceptions to abortion availability do exist of course – for example, abortion is illegal in Thailand, except in cases of rape or to protect the mother’s health. The mother of the fortunate baby girl, rescued by Pui, did not have the ability to consider abortion as a possible course of action for her pregnancy.

However, in nations where abortion is legal, one has to speculate what could lead these young women to turn to such extreme measures as infanticide. Until recently, abortion has been something of a societal taboo. It has only just begun to appear in the entertainment industry as relevant subject matter in television and other media (chief examples include medical dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy). Still the term ‘abortion’ has mostly continued to carry with it a negative connotation; even those who are pro-choice regard it with implicit condonation at best. While ever-changing social standards may eventually lead to a general tolerance of abortion, it is unlikely that society will ever reach a point where the process is definitively encouraged. Thus it is possible that women experiencing unplanned pregnancies may be unwilling to consider it a valid option, given its currently ambivalent reputation.

Even if this is true, this recent trend of post-delivery infanticide ultimately brings about the same result, as it ends the life of the baby in question; the only difference is that doing so leads to possible charges of homicide. In this respect, abortion can arguably be viewed as a more practical solution, in spite of its ambiguous morality. The only way to truly escape this conflict of ethics would be to trace the problem at hand back to its root cause. That is, in order to reduce the occurrences of “DIY” abortions, it is imperative that we facilitate a reduction in unplanned pregnancy. Increased availability of education and contraception would teach women at risk of unexpected pregnancy that they have other options. This would contribute to the elimination of post-delivery disposal of babies by decreasing the number of unwanted babies in the first place.

Awareness is often the simplest and most effective solution to social issues, as it tackles a problem at its roots. In regards to the women who have attempted to get rid of their babies post-birth, their disturbing choice of action is simply a new take on a classic problem; an old virus that has developed into a new and morbid strain.

Image by Beatrice Murch