Sunday, 25 February 2018

Photography: Starfish on Southsea Beach

by Emma Bell

Starfish, Southsea Beach. A Saturday in February.

Is the NRA's Power Finally Under Threat?

by Eleanor Williams-Brown

Americans own 35-50% of all civilian guns in the world. Even more worryingly, 3% of Americans own half of the civilian guns in the US and the top 3% of guns owners have more than 25 guns each. The National Rifle Association for America, (NRA), is the most prominent group who lobbies for Americans’ right to own guns, and challenges any gun control legislation. It is the main scapegoat for the continual failure of gun legislation, which considering its enormous influence on Washington, is justified.

The NRA, is a tax-exempt non-profit organisation that appears in the news with increasing frequency as the worrying number of school shootings rise each year. The group was founded in 1871 to “promote and encourage rifle shooting” and began political lobbying in 1934 when it started mailing its members information about upcoming firearms bills. Then, in the 1970s, it began to direct funds to legislators, even forming a new lobbying section - the Institute for Legislative Action. The problem with the NRA today is not just over its staunch opposition to any gun regulations, but also to how a small number of incredibly motivated people are pushing an agenda that does not fit with the views of much of the US population.

There have been eight US school shootings resulting in injury or death in 2018 alone, and 18 times when a gun has been fired on school property. The latest happened in Parkland, Florida. On Valentine's Day, 17 people were killed by a former pupil and the surviving students are taking a stand calling for changes to American gun legislation. Powerful and emotive speeches from the pupils, notably Jaclyn Corin,  have been circulated across all forms of media. Moreover, these pupils have organised a ‘March for Our Lives’ on March 24 in Washington D.C., with the aim not to ban guns completely, but simply to create regulations on semi-automatic weapons.

What is really drawing media attention with these students was when Cameron Kasky, one of the students from Parkland, asked Marco Rubio, the junior Senator for Florida, asking if he “can tell [him] right now that you [Rubio] will not accept a single donation from the NRA”. At Kasky’s question the crowd immediately stood up and cheered, which is unsurprising due to the highest number of Americans supporting stricter stricter gun control laws than ever. But, Rubio is one of the top ten career beneficiaries of NRA campaign spending - receiving many millions of dollars - and, unsurprisingly, said no, he would not start to refuse their money.

With Kasky saying he would have “asked the NRA lady... how she can look into the mirror considering the fact she has children”, it raises questions of whether the NRA truly has, as people believe, “a chokehold on Congress”, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, or does the influence truly come, as Rubio claimed, “not from money… but the millions who agree with the agenda”.

Photography: Cormorant Having Breakfast on the Camber

by Tony Hicks

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Universal Basic Income: The Right Thing to Do?

by Harry Spirit

Universal basic income (UBI) is something that is being increasingly debated by governments, and the concept is gaining considerable momentum. At the World Economic Forum recently held in Davos, its case was argued by the economist Guy Standing, and many developed countries are now trialling it in multiple locations. But, what is UBI, and could it ever work on a large scale?

UBI is a non-means tested payment of cash to all adult citizens, regardless of their financial standing or employment. It replaces all other forms of welfare with one, universal system in which everyone is given a set allowance every month from the government, even, for instance, billionaires. In other words, you are paid for existing. This allowance is usually set just above the poverty line, which in the US currently stands at $12000 (£8500) a year.  By this point, comparisons to communism are not uncommon and cries abound which target the socialist impulses of the left. Nonetheless, this is the biggest issue with UBI: that it is pedaled not for its economic merit, but on ideological grounds. Whilst it may support what you believe in, that point has no standing in an economic argument. And so further analysis, finally, has emerged which looks at the practical implications of the scheme.
A UBI experiment held in Manitoba, Canada, in the 1970’s which gave residents £11,500 a year, found that employment did not fall in the area when the basic income was given, showing how people don’t just simply choose to give up work when given a hand out. Many other studies are now being carried out, with one in Finland giving 2,000 people £500 a month over a 2-year period. Now, finally, economists and nations are looking for the facts surrounding UBI and not just how it fits into their ideology. Whilst it may not be the right thing to do, though it must be remembered that no nation has ever implemented it on a large scale, it would be wrong to not even test its merit, as it has great potential to address some of the worlds most pressing issues.  This includes the advent of artificial intelligence, which will eventually be able to do what most humans do, but better. Research at the Oxford Martin School estimates that over the next 20 years up to 47 per cent of US jobs, around 40 per cent of UK and European jobs and a higher share of jobs in many developing countries including China, could be replaced by machines. Here, one of the biggest political and economic crisis awaits patiently, with little we can do to prevent it. However, we have the ability to prepare, and UBI seems to be one of the most feasible options, hence why some of the world’s greatest minds, who have considerable knowledge in the field, have come out in support of it, including Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Stephen Hawking.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

'Freedom Now' - Using Art to Raise Awareness of Exploitation

Pupils and staff at PGS have taken part in Guria's 'Freedom Now' campaign to "raise awareness of human trafficking and to encourage individuals to actively pursue a more just and plural world through the healing and transformative power of art." If you would like to take part in the campaign, please contact Ms Hardisty or Mrs Williams.

Guria is an NGO (non-governmental organisation) based in India, fighting exploitation of women and children, especially forced prostitution and sex trafficking: "We strongly believe that through grassroots and prevention work it is possible to end this modern form of slavery." 

Below, we showcase some of the art produced by PGS pupils and staff in support of the 'Freedom Now' campaign. The originals are currently on display in the corridor outside the lunch hall.

Alice Collins:

Jasper Dreyfus:

Ms Hardisty:

Eleanor Ingram:

Mr Llewellyn:

Isaac Mead:

Photography: Female Black Redstart by the Hot Walls

by Tony Hicks

The black redstart is a small robin-sized bird that has adapted to live at the heart of industrial and urban centres. Its name comes from the plumage of the male, which is grey-black in colour with a red tail.

With fewer than 100 breeding pairs in the UK, the black redstart is on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern. Is is also listed as a Schedule 1 species on The Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Monday, 19 February 2018

I Come From Poems

Laura Burden writes: On Thursday 8th February, celebrated author Juno Dawson visited the school and Year 10 pupils were given the opportunity to take part in a writing workshop. Juno asked us to write in a single word where we come from and then add more words and phrases, relating to the senses, favourite restaurants/takeaways and feelings. Here is what some participants produced. We had about fifteen minutes and nobody has had a chance to edit their work further.

I come from Portsmouth, born and bred.
I come from my mum and dad, a teacher and a lawyer.
I come from the smell of dog burning my eyes
Pulsating through my blood
I come from Sunday roasts and towers of chocolate ├ęclairs
I come from rain and darkness
But when we switch the lights on, we are home, the darkness is gone.
I come from Indian takeaways on Saturday nights
I come from family snuggles on the sofa
Packaged in to the loose small crevices sit the needy
Dogs belly and George hoping for a cuddle.
I come from the warmth of my bed.
I come from the numerous cups of milky tea, frequently spilled
As I charge up the stairs.
I come from a healthy, happy family that loves me.
                                                                                                       Libby Rhodes

I come from a freezing environment, a synonym of England
I come from thick white Debenhams bed sheets to heal my frozen fingers
I come from a savoury lifestyle, with carrs water crackers as my default snack.
I come from white company winter candles, used to mask the smell of burnt eggs.
I come from Sunday roasts, a method to fit in with a traditional English family.
I come from perfectly shaped bay trees, which act as a magnet to nosey southsea mothers.
I come from binging gossip girl, in a way to blend real problems with fictional ones.
I come from Earl grey tea, which always seems to get too cold through excess amounts of milk
I come from endless Einaudi piano pieces, in which I am never able to achieve the right tempo
I come from loving parents who set way too high expectation of old fashioned romance in Dublin
                                                                                                         Tara Bell

I come from England
From my family’s fiery nature.
I come from the warmth of my bed.
I come from the tasty oven made fish and chips which lingers from the week before.
I come from the cosy bus ride home from school on a Friday.
I come from the noisy bustling of walking ten minutes late on a Monday morning
I come from the horrid frozen mist that haunts me when waiting for the bus
I come from the biscuit which has broken off and now dissolves in the sea of brown

                                                                                                            Sarnaz Hossain

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Photography: Black Redstarts (Male and Female)

by Tony Hicks

According to the RSPB, there are about 19-44 UK breeding pairs left. They are on the red list for endangered.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Review: Menashe at Cinema No. 6

by Naeve Molho

On a recent trip to No.6 cinema in Portsmouth, I encountered the film Menashe, by documentary film-maker Joshua Weinstein.  This movie drama delves deep into the heart of New York where one father will face a gruelling battle, against tradition and religion, in an attempt to regain his child. 

The film is set within the secretive Ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish community, which resides in Brooklyn’s Borough Park district, well known for their ‘religious conservatism and social seclusion’. Formerly described as an ‘insular and close-knit’ society, they allow G-d and the Talmud (code of Jewish law) to dictate every aspect of their life from Food and Love to Education. 

The story of Menashe, who is a grocery shop worker, presents the consequences of being a single father within this strict community.  After the death of his wife, Menashe is forced to lose his son to his brother in law, due to the laws of Talmud which dictate a child must grow up in a two-parent household.  If Menashe wishes to remain within his community and have custody of his son, he has no choice but to find another wife through the help of a Yenta (Jewish matchmaker).  Menashe is portrayed as a lazy and sometimes egotistical character who will come to the eventual decision of sacrificing the last ounce of his freedom for his only child.

The film explores what it means to be a member of the Hasidic community and how hard it can be to abide by the strict set of rules alongside non-Jewish societies who are judging.  It highlights not only the imbalance of wealth globally, with many members of the Ultra-Orthodox  living in cramped apartments with huge debts, but also represents a place where the movements of feminism and equality will never happen.  During one scene, Menashe faces a female date who finds the idea of women driving a ludicrous thing, alongside his rabbi constantly reinforcing the misogynistic ideas of the Talmud in which ‘the key to happiness is threefold: nice wife, nice house, nice dishes’.

Unfortunately ultra-orthodox Judaism embodies a mantra of sexism and injustice which to an unreligious audience may seem deeply offensive and controlling; however, it is important to understand this is their Tradition, a tradition that the majority of this community will be born into and die in.     

Sunday, 4 February 2018

An Extraordinary Debut for an Extraordinary Player

by Sudeep Ghosh

Ronaldinho, one of the greatest football players of all time, has now officially announced his retirement. In a hugely successful career, he was able to become a two-time FIFA World Player of the Year (2004 and 2005) and lifted the World Cup trophy in 2002.

Born in Brazil, he moved to France in 2001, to play for Paris Saint-Germain. He quickly attracted the attention of the world after winning the 2002 World Cup, and received offers from Manchester United and a struggling Barcelona side. He opted for the latter, in a move that would soon help him become the best player in the world.

However, his illustrious career often shadows his strange beginning at Barcelona FC. After he won his first match, the world was excited to see his debut match at Barcelona’s renowned home stadium, Camp Nou - the largest stadium in Europe. Unfortunately, his debut coincided with his match for his national side, Brazil. As both matches were to be played on Wednesday evening, Barcelona desperately tried to move the game to Tuesday night. However, Sevilla FC, their opponent, were adamant that the game be played on Wednesday - hoping to play against a weakened Barcelona side.

Barcelona finally agreed to play on Wednesday. However, in a cunning plan, the Barcelona President revealed that the match was to played on Wednesday at 0:05 a.m, meaning that Ronaldinho would be able to play for his club as well as his country. This meant that Barcelona were now faced with another problem - keeping the crowd awake until midnight.

So how do you keep a crowd entertained for that amount of time?

The Lasting Effects of the American Civil War

by Philippa Noble

As the American Revolution and the Constitution that followed left societal scars on America that last to this day, the American Civil War has certainly left its mark on how the US has developed both socially and economically.

The most commonly referenced long-term effect of the civil war is industrialisation and, therefore, the US coming to the front of the global scene. Following the North’s (or Unionists’) victory in 1865, premature industry in the northern states developed into a much more sophisticated version of itself. The South, having suffered heavy blows to its economy during and after the war (with blockades, rapid inflation, and a sudden loss of capital), was left at a severe disadvantage against the North. This led to northern states becoming dominant and spreading their values (including mechanisation and the evolution away from agriculture dependency). In 1862, Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act which reinforced this shift with ameliorated transport links, supporting interstate trade and increased production. The encouragement of patents and protectionism insured that the united economy could grow, including the developing industries inside. The number of patents issued jumped from 7,653 in 1860, to at least 15,000 annually in the post-war period, to 45,661 in 1897. Patents increased security and encouraged innovation, while protectionism increased tariffs on foreign imports as industry grew and agriculture expanded westwards. This protective wall nurtured the economy as a growing population (both American-born and immigrant) expanded the work force and ultimately productive potential. This led to a flourishing period of industrialisation and, by 1913, the US produced a third of the world’s total industrial output. A crippled South submitted to industrialisation, as they could provide no means of opposition (especially with increasing Northern majorities in Congress). However, they were mainly left out of this expansionary period, remaining heavily reliant on agriculture. As a cause of this, northern and middle states became much more populous than their southern counterparts as their industry thrived with new opportunities and rapid growth. Industrialisation was the main characteristic of postbellum America and remains prominent, ranking in the top 20 for highest GDP per capita and first in highest nominal GDP in the world.

Discord between states is another short-term-turned-long-term effect of the war. Dating back to the early War of Independence, the disunity of states dictated strategic areas of British focus (i.e. Southern, Middle, and New England colonies). It was also evident by the differences in economies: whilst Southern colonies were reliant on tobacco, rice, and indigo, Northern colonies relied on shipbuilding, iron works, and cattle and grain. Obviously, economic activity evolved over time, but still maintained and even exacerbated differences with focuses heavily set on agriculture in the South and the beginnings of industrialisation in the North in the lead up to the civil war. These eventually manifested in war, yet at the same time the American Civil War was much more sinister than just a cumulation of differences: it was cementing this discord in history. This led to centuries-long contention, immortalised by constant reenactments and “state pride”. As an example of this, the Confederate Flag still flies in many Southern States; it’s still even a part of five southern state flags. It represents for many Southerners history and pride, yet for Northerners racism and the glorification of slavery - just another way that disagreements have been perpetuated since the civil war. As was mentioned earlier, the divide between North and South wasn’t solved by the war or even after. Economic growth was focused in the developing North while the southern economy floundered. Beliefs on slavery were muddled, with the southern states being left to effectively govern themselves in that respect, brought by the end of federal interference. Overall, discord between states had been an issue ever since they were created as colonies, but neither the colonists nor the statesmen managed to fully bridge the divide and they still haven’t succeeded yet. The war’s contribution to this matter was to create a monument for it, forever perpetuated by denial and glorification.

Poem: The Eagle

The Eagle

(inspired by ‘The Moth’s Plea’ by Elizabeth Jennings)

I am the metaphor of a metropolis,
And the symbol of a nation.
You hear fables of a great beast
But it’s all a fabrication.

But then you see a conflicted country,
Full of discrimination.
Some fifty states, judged by their race,
A sea of consternation.

I envy the birds who have no expectation.
I am laureled, yet laden with the realisation that
I never asked for the delegation
Of all this segregation.

I am the eagle.

You try to take a picture of me caged in a city from afar,
But I’m yearning to once again fly free in the canyons of Utah.
The responsibility of a country shackled in chains –
Have you ever thought what it’s like to be
The face of so much disdain?
They could’ve picked any other animal than me,

To be the image of this country.

                                                                       Samuel Lewis

#MeToo...How Should Women Respond?

by Georgia McKirgan

Last October Ronan Farrow set off a chain of events that will change how we live. While there had been many high-profile cases of workplace sexual assault before then - Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump - the article that Ronan Farrow wrote in The New Yorker, detailing the experiences of 13 women who had been sexually assaulted by the Hollywood movie producer, set off a tidal wave of sexual harassment claims that show no sign of letting up. Already, the careers of Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C. K., James Franco, Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Piven, Damien Green and Al Franken are effectively over or damaged and more will follow. Most of the cases so far have been in entertainment or politics but no-one thinks these two occupations are the only ones where this is a problem. The recent undercover reporting by the Financial Times of the President’s Club dinner in the City shows that finance may be an equally guilty sector of the economy.

A common feature of the cases so far has been men taking advantage of positions of power to force themselves on women to whom they are attracted. Some defenders of the men accused say that it is wrong to judge men for things they did many years ago by the standards of today. My response is, these kinds of behaviour were never ‘right’, we just used to put up with it. Much of the current discussion is about how we punish the perpetrators. Clearly, rape and sexual assault are crimes that need to punished but for less serious incidents, what justifies someone losing their job and career? Where do we draw the line? What are the appropriate punishments for different levels of offence? The junior minister Mark Garnier has kept his job after admitting asking his PA to buy sex toys for him but Damien Green obviously fell on the other side of the line for behaving inappropriately towards the journalist, Kate Maltby. Important as these issues are, my concern is looking forward. The landscape of sexual relationships has changed, and it is never going to go back. Women’s voices need to be heard.

As valuable as efforts are to educate men, particularly young men, about appropriate behaviour towards women, I think women are missing an opportunity if we sit back and let this be a discussion about how men should behave. A good example of the minefield we are now in and the role women can play is the recent case described in an article by a woman who had a bad experience with the actor/comedian Aziz Ansari. Ansari is a big star, having recently won a Golden Globe award for Best Performance  in a TV Comedy. The article by “Grace” describes events after she went back to Ansari’s apartment during a date. Clearly, he behaved badly and tried several tactics to persuade her to go further, more quickly in their relationship than she was comfortable with, but a discussion about what he should have done differently without recognising her agency is deeply sexist. While men like Ansari need to learn how to behave appropriately towards women, women like “Grace” need to learn to be more vocal and take more control of these highly-charged situations. At any point, she could have been much more forceful in making it clear what her feelings were. At any point, she could have left the apartment...this situation in particular was never physically abusive. He was clearly behaving badly but if we leave the discussion there, we are accepting that women are completely passive in these situations. This is not about ‘victim-blaming’. Men are still totally responsible if they put a woman in a position where she feels uncomfortable, I’m just making the point that women have some agency in the situation and we should help all women feel empowered to exert more control over these situations.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Autism and Anorexia: Possible Links

by Eleanor Barber

Autism and anorexia are both stigmatised in society. When a society is quick to judge and condemn those who are different, it leads to damaging and lasting effects on both the individual and society. However, there are many people and organisations that are focused on helping people and finding more about these disorders. Interestingly, there are links between these conditions that we are missing, which could be beneficial to the wider community. Despite initial thoughts that autism and anorexia are not linked, it seems that there are specific traits in each that make suffering both almost unbearable to live with.

Many psychologists point to modern Western culture, with its high beauty standards for both genders, to explain anorexia. However, early genetic studies in the 1990s suggested that anorexia is strongly heritable and tends to run in families. There are other theories which link anorexia to personality traits like, anxiety, perfectionism and a tendency to get stuck on certain thoughts or ideas. A small  trait of autism is the inability to deal with change and being obsessive, which links with one of the personality aspects associated with anorexia.

In the early 2000s, Nancy Zucker wanted to better understand the social and cognitive difficulties of her patients with eating disorders. She noticed that, although they tended to be empathic, they found it hard to recognise the impact of their behaviour on other people. “They can be very empathic and have a great desire to be accepted by other people, but they also seem a bit impervious to how their starvation affects others” Zucker says. This is very similar to those with autism. In 2007, Zucker and her colleagues outlined potential links between autism and anorexia in a article which revealed how similar the conditions can be. The review pointed to many studies of people with anorexia who have rigid thinking and behavioural patterns, which is a trait commonly associated with autism. Neurocognitive studies have showed that people with anorexia have problems with switching between tasks, which again is commonly associated with autism.

Janet Treasure [2014] did a study that found that, while only 4% of 150 girls receiving outpatient treatment at a London clinic, 1 in 4 patients scored above the cutoff for autism on a screening questionnaire. A previous study done by Treasure in 2012, found that anorexia seems to increase the autism traits that clinicians and researchers see. Even after recovery many women continue to struggle with social issues, although less than when they were ill.

Photography: After the Deluge

by Tony Hicks

Can We Prevent Another Financial Crash?

by Harry Leggett

A financial crisis is a disturbance to financial markets, which has effects right through the financial system meaning that the market cannot efficiently allocate capital. In 2008 the US housing and mortgage market fell through, the effect of this on all other markets was that there was a liquidity crisis and people referred to it as a “credit crunch”. This then led to a. Banking crisis which created a sovereign debt crisis. The recession was at its worst in 2008-2009 however it took a while for a lot of countries to rid the burden of the debt. Prior to the 2008 financial crisis there had been years and years of low interest rates, dangerously low to zero and also excessive risk taking and leverage of the banks, particularly within the sub prime lending, hence the collapse of the sub prime mortgage market. There were lots of social risks that were a result of the financial instability, for example the taxpayers had to pay the bailout costs, the shareholders lost equity and employees lost jobs. The banks were lending out too much money which led to an asset price bubble and the banks could not afford to cover their losses their make, causing bank insolvency. This is shown by Northern rock who suffered a run on the bank, meaning their was a large amount of cash withdrawals by account holders due to a drop in confidence. Due to the banks handing out risky loans and mortgage the banks liabilities on their bank balance sheet far outweighed their assets. Systemic risk is is the risk of collapse of an entire financial system or entire market, as opposed to risk associated with any one individual entity, group or component of a system, that can be contained therein without harming the entire system. The behavioural economics of people reacting to other peoples worries ultimately led to people having low confidence in the banks and causing a run on multiple banks.

After the 2008 financial crisis the government made certain interventions into the financial market which attempted to stop a future financial crisis. These policies are called macro-prudential regulations, they attempt to mitigate risk to the financial system as a whole which is often referred to as systemic risk.

The aim of a bank is to help people look after the money, they provide loans and oversee costumer transactions. After the 2008 financial crisis the banks were in an awful state. Two banks had been bailed out by the taxpayers, causing uproar within the economy. In years gone by the owners would pay, however in 2007 the government had to use tax payers money to bail out the banks. Now a bank would pay in a far less destructive way than before. The shareholders and creditors would have to pay instead of the tax payers. The users of the bank have an insurance that they can have up to £75,000. People were worried about the safety of their money, if it could happen to northern rock could it happen to my bank? To prevent a liquidity crisis occurring within any of the main banks in the UK the government intervened within the market and created new laws and regulations in order to stop the banks abusing consumer trust. The government implemented strong regulations so that stop an imbalance between liquidity and capital within a bank. The bank balance sheets are now controlled and monitored so that the bank cant go into liquid insolvency. Capital is not borrowed money; it takes the form of funds raised by banks selling shares or profits retained from earlier trading periods. Capital can help a commercial bank to mitigate losses (loss bearing) incurred in its trading - for example if the holders of unsecured loans default on repayment. If a commercial bank incurs losses and does not hold sufficient capital, it may not be able to repay its creditors. Capital also avoids the need to make payments at times when a commercial bank is not profitable. Payments to shareholders depends on the profits generated by the business, and the use of past profits involves no ongoing payments. If the bank is not profitable, it does not have to pay dividends to its shareholders, whereas it would have to pay interest on loans, It is not unusual for commercial banks to suspend the payments of dividends during profitable periods. Other implementations made by the government were the government made an attempt to reduce public and private sector debt to reduce solvency risks. The effects of the government intervention was very dramatic. Interest rates plummeted to a low and quantitive easing was at a very low level. The effect of this on the economy was that zombie. Businesses, Businesses that are only just surviving, were held up by the low interest rates. Low interest rates mean there is little incentive to save and more incentive to spend, and also it is cheaper to borrow within the economy, therefore meaning that companies can borrow in the short term to hold up their business. This led to a worry from the government that the economy was becoming dependent on low interest rates. This is dangerous in the long term as low interest rates will tempt banks into taking greater risks, some have said that the brutally low interest rates have led to secular stagnation, where there is little or no economic growth in the short run.

Photography: Blue Moon, Blood Moon, Super Moon

by Tony Hicks

Blue moon, super moon and blood moon the first time since 1866. It looks white to me; I can't see blue or red.