17 year old in critical condition after another ‘Mortal Kombat’ incident

By Martha Shardalow

Perhaps as proof that new club licensing laws are yet to solve the problem, last night a 16 year old boy was battling for his life in intensive care after taking what is understood to be the same lethal ecstasy tablet that killed 17 year old Regane Maccoll in Glasgow last month.

Partick Hill overlooking Glasgow. The city at the heart of recent ecstasy drug scares. Credit - Martha Shardalow

Partick Hill overlooking Glasgow: the city at the heart of recent ecstasy drug scares. Credit – Martha Shardalow

The 16 year old is said to be in a critical “but stable condition” in Monklands District General Hospital in Airdrie, after apparently consuming illegal drugs at a house party on Saturday night.

Tests have also been carried out on a 17-year-old boy also at the party in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, after both teenagers fell ill and were submitted to hospital.

Police Scotland have issued a statement confirming that they believe the drugs included ecstasy and “possibly” a Mortal Kombat tablet.

A spokeswoman for NHS Lanarkshire emphasised: “Anyone who has taken ecstasy – particularly the one described as Mortal Kombat, and who is feeling unwell, or who knows someone who has taken this type of drug in the past few hours, should attend or contact their local hospital for treatment and advice.”

This official stance has reminded people to avoid illegal drugs at all costs; a warning that users can never be certain of what precisely they are taking. This is especially directed at those taking ecstasy pills, which are often cut with multiple substances that are proving fatal.

The news comes after The Arches nightclub in Glasgow raised its minimum age admission to 21 last month. The venues decision came as a direct response to the “tragic events of 2nd February” when 17 year old Maccoll collapsed on the premises and later died in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Police later linked her death to the ecstasy-like ‘Mortal Kombat’ tablet – a distinctive red pill believed to be stamped with a dragon.

Today these warnings have been renewed with repeated vigour.

Pressure at The Arches - the venue which has now changed it license to over-21s only after 17 year old Regane's death on the premise.

Pressure at The Arches – the popular venue which changed its license to over-21s after 17 year old Regane’s tragic death.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Livingstone of Coatbridge police office, said: “We are continuing to work with our partner agencies, including health officials and medical staff, in connection with this investigation. At this time our priority is to ensure that everyone who was at the house party is safe and well, and officers are carrying out extensive enquiries to trace everyone involved.”

“Further to previous warnings, I would again strongly advise people to avoid illicit drugs as their exact content is unknown and can contain dangerous chemicals. Users must be aware of these dangers and understand the devastating effect they can have.”

Dr Neil Howie, NHS Lanarkshire consultant in emergency medicine, restated the weight of an immediate response to flag up symptoms. “Early warning signs include a feeling of agitation and distress and it is important that people are seen as early as possible.”

As another week arrives with ecstasy pill-related illness forming headlines, fresh debate on Scotland’s Drug Policy is taking place across multiple forums. A Thousand Flowers bloggers urge the government to adopt a new approach based on education, decriminalization and the introduction of drug testing kits in order to “help save lives and turn the tide on dodgy pills.”

As this incident surfaces, a teenager has been arrested in connection with alleged drug offences. He is expected to appear at Airdrie Sheriff Court today.

These are undeniably testing times for Scotland’s recreational drug users and the appropriate way forward for UK drug policy remains uncertain.

UK Uncut Fight Fuel Poverty On The Streets

By Martha Shardalow

Yesterday morning on the day winter death statistics were released, hundreds of people took action against the ‘Big Six’ energy companies in central London.

Man braves the cold Tuesday to fight for pensioners heat this winter in London’s financial district. Credit: FT Photo Diary, UK Uncut

Anti-austerity groups taking direct action against fuel poverty, including UK Uncut, Fuel Poverty Action and Disabled People Against Cuts, held an ‘outrageous, creative and inclusive’ protest at the London office of the German energy giant Npower.

Susan Barett of UK Uncut said: “The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal.”

“This government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to get away with murder, which is why we are fighting back.”

Additional protests took place in Oxford, Lewes and Bristol as over a thousand people took to the streets across the UK.

UK Uncut, started out as a hashtag in 2010 the night before the groups first protest at Vodaphone’s flagship store  a week after George Osbourne announced major government cuts.  This hashtag trended around the UK and yesterday the protest also went viral as #justicenotjumpers and #heatoreat were re-tweeted across the internet.

The campaign groups met at 11.30am at Royal Exchange by Bank Tube Station and marched on to npower – the UK’s most complained about energy company. Npower have paid no corporation tax for the for the past 3 years despite reporting a 34% profit rise of £413 million last winter due to price hikes. An estimated 30,000 people were pushed into fuel poverty.

Joseph Murphy of DPAC said: “Another harsh winter will mean more disabled people will find themselves isolated in their homes, unable to heat them, or cook properly. The energy firms continue to sit in government departments writing energy policy, in buildings where the heating is paid for by the very people who will die of cold this winter. This is a disgrace. We ask all disabled people to take action, and to show this government, and these companies, that we wont take this and will fightback.”

On Monday Ofgem released figures of the combined earnings of British Gas, Npower, eOn, EDF, Scottish Power and SSE. These earnings have multiplied five-fold since 2009, to more than £1bn whilst “excess winter deaths” rose by almost a third last winter in England and Wales.

Joseph Blake, a local freelance journalist, joined the protest in defiance yesterday. He said on Twitter: “On way to fuel poverty protest with @UKUncut @FuelPovAction at #bank. Basic necessity of keeping warm should never of been privatized.”

Activists carried a coffin full of energy bills through London’s streets, symbolizing those who died last winter.

They placed blame on politicians and the ‘Big Six’ alike as ‘people power not npower chants rang through the city!’

Boycott Campaigns send G4S Off Campus

By Martha Shardalow

It’s another bad week for security firm G4S as two UK universities choose not to award them control of on-campus services.

Kings College London Action Palestine initated a campus campaign against G4S after criticising the company for their role in the Middle East.

image source: KCL Action Palestine Committee 2013-14

image source: KCL Action Palestine Committee 2013-14

G4S has an explicit part to play in providing security and equipment to Israeli prisons, settlements and checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. KCL Action Palestine launched a protest on campus and over 500 students signed their petition.

University of Southampton Students for Palestine followed suit and succeeded in their efforts not to award G4S a contract to provide security on campus. Previously, G4S had been a favourite to win major contracts at both Kings College London (KCL) and The University of Southampton and had already provided services to these universities.

Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) enacted much the same fate for the company back in 2011 – a major victory for the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. G4S no longer provides security services for Edinburgh University Library made possible by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) who forced the university to tear up its contract with the firm.

The Boycott Israel Kings College group released a statement that the decision was due to “a continuous effort of resistance and support by the KCL students and staff.”They successfully passed a motion in the student union in support of the campaign, asking the union to commit and lobby the university against G4S.

Southampton students joined in celebration after their petition and public statement received overwhelming support by students and student societies. The petition was signed by 24 student societies from the Marxist society to the Taekwando Club.

 Juman A, co-founder of Students for Palestine Southampton, voices her concerns to to exclude ethically corrupt companies from student circles. She said: “We believe that no one should be allowed to profit from their wrongdoings. We take a firm stance against G4S’ complicity in the occupation and its discriminatory malpractice in the UK and elsewhere around the world.G4S is complicit in the Israeli occupation’s flagrant violations of human rights and its breaches of international law.  The boycott movement stems form the root of the Palestinian struggle and we, as students, are committed to one cause – that is justice.”

The weight of these developments are growing in momentum as part of an international campaign against G4S. This wider movement has seen public  bodies, nongovernmental organisations and financial institutions across the world terminate their contracts and boycott G4S.

A growing number of universities are joining the pack with student campaigns in the UK continually taking force, including The University of Birmingham.

Due to their complicity with Israeli apartheid, G4S have also been excluded from the contract tendering processes at universities in Oslo and Bergen in Norway. These two institutions have called for the express exclusion of all such companies on their campuses and, alongside London and Southampton, do not deny this as a vital step towards strengthening the boycott movement globally.

 

Why Iceland’s Evolution Matters to Scotland

By Martha Shardalow

‘This little member of the European Union should have a dialogue in the Scottish Independence debate’

Two nations overlap

Two nations overlap

You might think someone must have gone completely mad to compare an independent Scotland to a country that fell flat on its face (literally) during its bankruptcy in the 2008 financial crisis. Then again, the Independence debate is big on madness and perhaps if the north is to place economics and democratic politics at the forefront of its concerns, then Iceland may still stand as an important example.

Figures show that despite Iceland’s debt being equal to 200 times its GNP in 2003, by 2007 it was 900 percent. Now whilst its future was bumpy – as the three key Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Glitnir and Kapthing crumpled and the Kroner lost 85 percent of its value with respect to the Euro – this little, volatile country has presented a shining effigy that participative processes in a time of crisis can work. It also quietly hands us an alternative to IMF austerity and privatization – and an alternative to the sale and sell-out of the public sector. This last point we must associate with; at the hands of drastic public sector cuts and the rising cost of living in an equally fragile UK.

Shunned already as just another ploy by the SNP to gain supporters – this pure neoliberal system today stands arguably as one of the richest nations in the world. The road to participatory democracy and the same road to a brand new constitution, was painful by all means but resulted in strong outcomes. Much like a similar crisis on British soil, the notion that citizens had to clear up (and pay up) for the grave errors of a financial monopoly, the belief that an entire population must be taxed, and taxed again – received public outcry and an uncertain introduction. The monumental difference though, was that in Iceland it was stopped in its tracks.

The relationship between institution and citizens drove Icelandic leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, made a brave move that despite international hostility began to pay off. In accepting calls for a referendum that took place in March 2010, 93 percent voted against repayment of the debt – Iceland’s revolution was yet to be deterred even as Great Britain and Holland increased the pressure. The IMF, of course, quickly froze its loan.

The British government believed it was time to freeze savings and checkings accounts. The government of Iceland barrelled on. The people of Iceland elected 25 citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least 30 citizens. This document was written on the internet. As Deena Stryker, writer for the ‘Bella Caledonia’, stated, “The constituents meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape.”

Back in 2008, Salmond was ridiculed as his North Atlantic “band of prosperity” shattered simultaneously with Iceland’s demise. In 2012, he cited Sweden, Denmark and Norway as the new role models for Scotland’s future. The kind of boom economy he hoped to replicate – the kind of strong single democracy he believed this inspired – should still be cited in Iceland today.

It is important that the media consider this nation. It is important that the public consider it, too. The stakes are high, but the rewards are there. Its important that Scotland learns from what Iceland has to offer.

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