Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Macron: Taking Off the Training Wheels

by Philippa Noble

Emmanuel Macron, after being elected in 2017 to bring about change in France, has since implemented his unemotional and self-described Jupiterian style through a long list of reforms. Recent examples include changes in pay for Air France employees, higher taxes on pensions, and changes in university applications allowing universities to select students on academic grounds. Yet none of these wide-ranging and provocative reforms have created half the reaction that reforms to SNCF have stirred up. In aiming to tackle the huge debt and excessive benefits of SNCF (the French train network), Macron provoked a three month long strike which has interrupted (so far) 20 days of travel. On the 50th anniversary of the infamous May 1968 protests, how can Macron justify such a controversial reform and how will he pull it off?

Even in Macron’s campaign title “En Marche!”, he reflected his goals for his entire presidency, ending France’s stagnation with a new party and drastic change.  His long list of reforms has only gone to reinforce this with edits of the beloved Code du Travail and cuts to public sector spending, amongst other policies. A more SNCF-specific goal, however, is to reduce the company’s debt - totalling at around 46 billion euros at the latest count. Increasing productivity, reducing factor costs (for instance, through cutting the benefits for employees of SNCF), and pushing for an efficient use of funds will all create a more competitive and efficient company, something that is crucial for its viability in the future. The reforms proposed by Macron aim to fulfill all these goals by limiting benefits for new employees and privatising the company in the not-so-far future. Opening up the train network to other companies will create a need for a more efficient use of funds and capital to keep up with a growing market - hopefully avoiding failures such as ordering 2,000 new trains that were too large for station platforms in 2014. Competition will also push the market price of train tickets down, creating a better outcome for the public. With SNCF reforms, it could be argued that Macron is following Lewin’s Model of Change. Despite being an organisational model, its base argument holds when applied to an economy. Small changes often fail as it is too easy to revert back to the old system. Using this model to unfreeze the status quo, change what is necessary, then freeze the organisation or society into the new status quo allows change to be cemented in place. Macron here has unfrozen society with his entire “En Marche!” campaign, gained his mandate for change, and is attempting to cement it in law. Although complete change will not be fully secured until the last of the current cohort of SNCF workers are out of the company (as this reform is gradual, applying only to new employees), the shift in policy will be signed into law and will hold until the next radical change.

What Is The Fastest TV Cancellation Ever?

by Nicholas Lemieux

Cancellation: Every TV show’s worst nightmare. On the one hand, a show’s cancellation could mean it’s a good thing; if it gets the chance to wrap up its storylines, give a final farewell to its characters and go out on its own terms, chances are it’ll be remembered fondly as a show that didn’t outstay its welcome, droving on endlessly like an undead zombie (Season 30 of The Simpsons coming this September!). However, in other circumstances, a show may end up cancelled too soon, potentially ending with a tantalising cliffhanger and untied ends that end up leaving many a fans frustrated until the end of their life. In light of the many recent cancellations of various shows, most notably police procedural sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine getting cancelled by Fox and shortly afterward revived by NBC all within less than 36 hours, I’ve decided to investigate and find out the fastest a show has been cancelled.

Regarding cancellation, there are many a shows that instantly come to mind, and some of which were also revived. Cult sitcom Arrested Development had a great tale, cancelled after three seasons and then seven years later revived by streaming service Netflix (Season 5 premiering May 29!). Sci-Fi western Firefly, despite inheriting a massive cult fandom, was cancelled after one season of fourteen episodes, most of which were aired out of order, until briefly returning with a one-off theatrical film Serenity. Even Netflix, revered for giving cancelled shows another chance, received a mass fan outrage after cancelling Sci-Fi series Sense8 after only two seasons, until they were eventually compelled by to bring the show back for a two-hour series finale.

Among my investigations, I also encountered various obscure shows that were cancelled after only airing one episode. Perhaps the most infamous one I found out was Heil Honey I’m Home!, a short-lived sitcom revolving around Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva dealing with and getting into many antics with their Jewish neighbours. The pilot episode involves Hitler trying to keep his neighbours out of the way whilst Neville Chamberlain comes to dinner. Suffice to say, eleven episodes were produced and only one was aired (later episodes planned to include Joseph Stalin and Hermann Goring as guest stars).  However, in spite of all this, I was still wondering, was there ever a show so bad, so horrible to watch, it couldn’t even air the entirety of one episode, a show cancelled in something of a state of limbo, incomplete and unfinished. The answer, bizarrely, and to my eventual shock and horror, is yes.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Photography: Bomber in the Camber

by Tony Hicks

Is there a place for Geography in a ‘post-truth’ world?

by Lewis Wells

“Meeting the needs of today’s population without compromising the needs of future generations”

One would think it would be easier to do, or at least work towards, than ever before. May that be through our technological advancements, encouragements and creations of geographical leaders in areas from Agriculture to the facilitation of active communities, our scope of involvement in the development of our world has accelerated in our effort, execution and thus progress.

But we’ve hit an unusually abstract stumbling block.

Notice the emphasis upon “we”, because it seems not only as if this so-called phenomenon has been able to impact a great number of people, it has been provoked by us both intentionally and unintentionally also. Introducing, the very selection of the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2016 as “post-truth”. The selection identifies a surge in post-truth behaviour, such conduct. In 2016, the majority of the participating electorate in the United Kingdom made the decision to leave the European Union, a union set up during the 1960s, purposely for trade, emotionally for peace. What since has such a promising-sounding Union become? Such digression is important to consider. However, the focus is on how the decision made was influenced by a plethora of accusations, evidence and information. From the outset, one would assume all information provided is, as it always claims, factual and truthful. But the presence of political favouritism, desperation for victory, but more importantly, the presence of opportunity to manipulate people more easily than ever before, worked to shake this natural conception.

Information was manipulated in unseen manners in order to incite action and participation for the respective “Remain” and “Leave” campaigns- resulting in a country arguably more divided since the Troubles, political uncertainty during the 1970s or even in the wake of the Second World War. Such ‘post-truth’ behaviours during the referendum have left the country reeling
to this precise date. The analysis of content, may that be intentionally manipulative or blatantly incorrect, wages on. We may never know why, or how, some comments came to be
apparent, where they originated from, and to what extent they served an influential purpose.
But they nonetheless did...

Review:Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' (Bridge Theatre, London)

by Alex Porter

The Bridge theatre which can be found overlooking the River Thames and Tower Bridge, is the first commercial theatre to be built in central London since 1973. It was set up by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, in October 2017 who wanted to open a large theatre that was not in the West End of London. The theatre is very adaptable and it allows productions to be performed in ‘promenade formats’, with reduced seating.

Over the Easter break I was lucky enough to go and see an amazing contemporary production of ‘Julius Caesar’ at ‘the Bridge’ where David Calder (Julius Caesar) David Morrissey (Mark Anthony) and Ben Whishaw (Marcus Brutus) performed brilliantly. 

The production was particularly special as the audience were the crowd/mob in the play and we had to hold up posters, cheer loudly, lie on the floor and also pass a huge sheet of red cloth over our heads when Julius Caesar was arriving triumphantly at the Senate unaware that Brutus and his conspirators were waiting to kill him. Although the production used Shakespeare’s original script, Julius Caesar wore a red baseball cap and Mark Anthony had a track-suit with his name on it which also made the characters mingle with the crowd. Platforms were rising and falling all the time throughout the performance so the crowd had to move as the platforms changed and simple props and clever stage changes were also used so you really felt part of each scene. The production was also very noisy as it had loud sound tracks and explosions throughout; it lasted two hours (without an interval), although the time seemed to pass quickly as the audience had to be so involved in it all. 

The NHS at 70: a comparison of British and American healthcare.

by Emily Stone

            In this week's edition of the British Medical Journal, the magazine celebrates 70 years of the NHS, with an article entitled ‘Vote for the greatest achievement of the NHS at 70’. The full list can be found here: https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2121 . However,  in light of this, I would like to highlight the three achievements I consider to be the most important, and then contrast them with facts and statistics about the healthcare in the United States. If this does not generate feelings of gratitude towards our healthcare system, then nothing will.

            The first achievement is that of the the founding principle of the National Health Service and the basis upon which it was raised; the idea that healthcare is based on need and free at the point of delivery. It was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. This has remained consistent since 1948, with the exception of some charge, such a prescriptions, optical services and dental services. This means that the 64.6 million people living in the United Kingdom have access to a healthcare system whatever their economic or social background. In contrast, the average American spends $10,500 a year on healthcare, with that figure looking to reach $15,000 by 2023. A study in 2013 indicated that, despite spending well in excess of any other countries looked at, the United States achieved worse outcomes in rates of chronic conditions, obesity and infant mortality. The countries studied were Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

            Not only was the U.S Government spending around double per person on healthcare in the US compared to the UK, that money was only for Medicare and Medicaid benefits for disadvantaged and aged people. In almost all aspects, the United States charged more for tests and procedures. There is a discrepancy in that this study was undertaken before the invention of Obamacare. Obamacare may have been a catalyst for improvement in the United States healthcare system, however what was one the the first actions of Donald Trump on achieving office? Scrapping Obamacare.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Review :'Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino' by the Arctic Monkeys

by Henry Percival

A week ago, at the time of writing this, the Arctic Monkeys released their 6th album. Having not released an album since 2013, it is clear to say that the hype and anticipation for the Sheffielders latest work was very high. But did the album actually deliver? For me, yes. I reckon Alex Turner and the gang did a pretty good job.  

Upon initial listening to the album, I was sceptical as to whether I would like it. This is mainly due to the whole atmosphere of the album being significantly different to the Arctic Monkeys I am used to. The whole album is much slower than your average and, as the title would suggest, tranquill than their previous albums. This grew much criticism from the broader public, simply due to it is not what they expected. However, upon re listening to the album later, I warmed to this new style. For me, if they had simply released an album that was similar to AM or Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, there would have been just as much complaint. Possible complaint may have come from the fact that they were not willing to try new things. However, this change in tone and atmosphere is a positive thing. It shows that they are willing to try new things, regardless of what the public reception may be. To be honest, that sums up Alex Turner’s approach to many things.

The title of the album refers to what Neil Armstrong said upon landing on the moon. In July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon. The journey had started four days earlier in Florida, and culminated with the two astronauts landing at a prearranged site Armstrong named ‘Tranquility Base’. And this moon setting is present in some of the songs in their album, notably the title song Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, as well as my personal favourite Four Out Of Five. The former of these songs explores the idea of having a hotel and casino on the moon. The latter explores the idea that there has been an exodus from Earth, and that people have started to gentrify Clavius, which is a crater on the moon. Basically this means that people have departed Earth and started to renovate and improve Clavius. This whole idea of Tuner writing about leaving the Earth to colonise the moon is an interesting thinking point, which he makes seem like a good idea through the songs.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

UEFA Champions League 2018: Everything You Need To Know Before the Final

by Sudeep Ghosh

As one of the most surprising and thrilling UEFA Champions League competitions nears its end, only two teams remain. Liverpool FC and Real Madrid FC will battle for the coveted trophy that determines the best team in Europe on 26th May 2018, in Kiev. Real Madrid FC are the current reigning champions, winning in 2017, as well as 2016, and are now aiming for an incredible three successive trophies. Los Blancos are the most successful team in the history of the competition with an unprecedented 12 wins. Liverpool are the most successful English team in the competition, and third overall, with 5 wins.

Bookmarkers currently have the somewhat struggling Real Madrid side as favourites against a recently developed and inexperienced Liverpool team. However, the Reds should not be written off just yet. Liverpool have scored the most goals in this year’s competition with 40 goals - 10 a piece for feared threesome, Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, meaning that the trio currently occupy the joint-second spot for most individual goals this year. First place, of course, is being held by the greatest goalscorer in Champions League history, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 15 goals this year. Many fans are excited to see the battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Salah - both of whom are favourites to take home the Ballon d’Or, a trophy awarded to best football player of the season.

Real Madrid have been nowhere near their best this year. They are a shadow of the team that won La Liga and the Champions League last season. With that being said, they have had the more competitive opponents compared to Liverpool on their way to the final, which has included some nail-biting finishes. They quickly dispatched high-spending and dangerous Paris Saint-Germain, 5-2 on aggregate. They then beat 2017 finalists, Juventus FC in an exhilarating and controversial match, which ended with a 97th minute penalty after the scores were level. Real Madrid also struggled in the semi-final against 2013 winners, Bayern Munich FC. The German side had more shots, more passes and more possession over the two legs. Somehow, the result ended 4-3 in Madrid’s favour.
Liverpool, in comparison, have faced less competitive opponents. Their first real challenge came during the quarter-finals when they faced one of the favourites to win the competition, Manchester City. The deadly trio of Firmino, Salah, and Mane came to Liverpool’s aid, as they were all able to get their names on the scoresheet to topple the English champions in a huge upset victory. Their most recent fixture, against Roma FC in the semi-final, ended in a goalscoring galore with 13 goals scored over the two legs. A ridiculous end to the match saw Liverpool’s lead of 7-3, become 7-6, with Roma looking more dangerous by the minute. The Merseyside club were able to hang on, and set up the unexpected final against Real Madrid in Kiev.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

English Summer

by Grace Acklam

In the midst of one of England’s rare heatwaves, it seems only right that the mutual hatred
and love of the sun should be addressed. We seem entirely unequipped for any temperature
above 15 degrees, and the majority of us frazzle within minutes of stepping out the shade. It
can also be duly noted that when the weather forecast predicts sun for an entire day, without
light showers or some cloud, the flip flops, sundresses and hairy topless chests make an
appearance. We as a country do not know how to react to the heat, other than continually
complaining to our friends that were “sweating like pigs.” Yet every year, there is a heat
wave, and history repeats itself, so it poses the question, if the same thing happens every
year, why is British summer time our biggest battle?

As a country, we spend two thirds of the year in hibernation, with our heating on, and hiding
under piles of blankets. The weather during this time ranges from single figures to minus
figures, and there is no margin beyond or below that. The winter sun begins in September
and only ceases in April, half way through the supposed “Spring”. It seems as if the Winter
will never end. When Winter does end, however, for the four golden months, we receive heat
wave after heat wave, and when they disappear and are replaced by rain for one weekend
each month, we all sigh and ask what more we could expect from rainy old England. This is
not entirely accurate though, because it is not just a heatwave, it is Summer.
When this realisation finally does sink in, we all take it upon ourselves to throw on the the
dodgy sun hats and barely there shorts, and spend every day lounging around in every
possible place, ignoring the many mosquito bites, and despite complaining about the mere
18 degree heat, escape to exotic places and bathe in 35 degree heat for a week. Not only
that, but we then complain profusely about the burn we brought upon ourselves by wearing
only SPF10 and tanning oil, in order to “make the most out of the seldom sun” that we saved
all year for. Whilst short and not at all like the long hot summers they experience in places
like America, it cannot be argued that we don’t make the most out of the limited heat that we
are gifted with, because if anything, we take it for granted. We wish it away, start asking for
the rain and the cold, both of which are soon handed back to us.