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Archives for August 2012

The Batman Shootings - Amal Fashanu

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Amal Fashanu Amal Fashanu | 14:25 UK time, Friday, 17 August 2012

Presenter Amal Fashanu

Three weeks ago I boarded a plane to Denver to report on the Batman killings and find out what this shocking incident tells us about America’s attitude towards guns.  With 12 dead and over 50 seriously injured in the suburb of Aurora I thought I would find a city in shock and its people up in arms about the amount of guns in circulation in the country.   On the first point I was right - many were affected by the tragedy, knowing someone who was killed or injured.  On the second I was wrong. Even after the massacre, this part of America is still in love with its guns – and that’s what surprised me.

Most of the images we see of the USA over here are of the East and West coasts – New York, Hollywood, San Francisco, maybe Boston, Miami or Seattle. It’s easy to forget that there is a vast amount of America in between - often Republican, usually evangelically Christian, invariably in love with country music - and strongly pro-gun.  And Colorado belongs firmly in that tradition, as I was to learn.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon we headed off to a picturesque old mining town called Leadville, high in the Rocky Mountains to watch their annual Boom Day parade. It was a fun family day out with floats, costumes, food, dancing and music – just like you’d find at a summer fete in any number of English villages.  But I was surprised to find that the star attraction that afternoon was a gun display from a re-enactment society. As they marched down the high street shooting off round after deafening round, I was confronted by the reality that guns are very much a part of American culture and history.   As the afternoon progressed they even staged a mock shoot-out on the high street, and the watching crowds loved it.  I chatted to young people in the street afterwards and was surprised to find that most of them were strongly in favour of guns, and many owned guns themselves. In this part of the world, it’s normal – and it seemed the events of Aurora hadn’t changed it one bit.

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The next day I visited the memorial to the Aurora victims. It’s on a dusty patch of ground opposite the cinema where the massacre took place.  Here, amongst the tributes, the flowers, the tears and the supportive hugs, I chatted to young people paying their respects.  I expected to find that here, of all places, they would be strongly opposed to guns and might want to make them a little less accessible, but once again I was surprised. Though many people had been directly affected by the tragedy, having lost friends or family, the feeling wasn’t as strongly anti–gun as I expected.  Yes there should be restrictions, said some, and yes, we should keep guns away from people with mental health problems, but even here quite a few still thought that gun ownership was an important part of being an American. It was a fundamental right which should be defended.

Denver is a city which has witnessed massacres before – the Columbine shootings of 1999 were only 15 miles to the South West of the city. That tragedy didn’t fundamentally change the country’s attitudes towards gun ownership, and somehow, I doubt if Aurora will do so either.    


The Batman Shootings is on Sunday 19th August at 9pm


Free Speech - Live in Edinburgh

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James Emtage James Emtage | 15:44 UK time, Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Tonight we're coming LIVE from Edinburgh!

Up for debate is Scottish Independence, so to throw some insight into the argument we sourced two of our Free Speakers who regularly contribute to our Twitter debates to answer this question:



Contributor - Alex O'Neill

Alex O'Neill, 24, from Glasgow: YES

The recently departed Gore Vidal said that "the Scottish Parliament can only lead to independence”. I agree that it is the natural progression following the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Since then, more powers have been devolved and to stop now would not only be cowardly folly, but, also disastrous for both Scotland and her partners in this Union. One cannot shove the contents of Pandora's box back in, we must empty it completely and allow Scotland to walk on her own two feet and reach her potential.

The Midlothian Question has for over three decades exposed a major crack in our union. MPs from my native Scotland can vote in matters effecting only England and Wales, but, not vice versa. An independent Scotland can finally end this bizarre scenario; allowing the remainder of the union to steer her own course, and Scotland hers.

Some of my fellow Scots suggest that Scotland is too small, too weak, too poor. I can't accept that a country that has given the world so much could be any of those things.  

It's time to move on.


Contributor - Scott Edgar

Scott Edgar, 18, from Renfrewshire near Glasgow: NO

I have lived in Scotland my whole life and for me independence is not the way forward for us.  

It is inevitable that if there is a 'NO' vote in the upcoming referendum for Scottish Independence, then Scotland will be granted more powers for its devolved parliament, and I feel this is the best way forward.

A stronger Scottish parliament operating within the UK and alongside Westminster and other devolved chambers is the best set up. The idea that Scotland can’t exert great influence on the UK from within is nonsensical.  We tried the smoking ban first and it was soon adopted nationwide, and we have recently been the first to legalise gay marriage, knowing the rest of the UK will follow suit soon.

As part of the UK, Scotland enjoys great influence in the world, a fantastic welfare scheme, security and valuable business opportunities from other parts of the UK.  Why break away from this?


So where does that leave you? Do you think Independence is the way forward for Scotland?

That’s just one of the debates being covered tonight, with the others including Higher Education, same-sex marriage and the death penalty. To help move all of these issues forward is a top-tastic line up of panellists:


Panellist - Shappi Khorsandi

Shappi Khorsandi – an Iranian comedian with a panache for making a point about freedom of speech through her unique blend of humour.



Panellist - Humza Yousaf

Humza Yousaf – A Member of Scottish Parliament for the Scottish National Party, who are campaigning for Scottish Independence.



Panellist - Milo

Milo Yiannopoulos – a journalist, broadcaster and outspoken gay Catholic with clear views on gay marriage.



Panellist - Ruth Porter

Ruth Porter – a media, Government and financial bigwig with award-winning knowledge of Educational Policy.



But this show is not just about HEARING what these people have to say. It’s about TELLING them what you think about what they have to say, by using our twitter-tastic Power Bar. As they're talking add a #YesName to your tweet if you agree with them, or a #NoName if you don't, then watch the Power Bar change in real time on the show. So for these guys the hashtags are:

Shappi: #YesShappi or #NoShappi

Humza: #YesHumza or #NoHumza

Milo: #YesMilo or #NoMilo
Ruth: #YesRuth or #NoRuth


Power bar


And as ever you can leave your comments below, or hop on to Facebook or send us a Tweet > your view could be read out live on BBC3 by Jake and Michelle. Which would be awesome. 

It’s going to be a great debate, so make sure you’re ready to get involved at 7pm tonight. See you there. 


Free Speech is on at 7pm tonight

Free Speech - Higher Education - Is it worth it?

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James Emtage James Emtage | 11:52 UK time, Friday, 10 August 2012

University Graduates


Hummm. It's that time of year again. Results.

For thousands of young people across the UK, this week and next is crunch time as the Scottish Highers and A-Level results come out. To uni or not to uni, that is the question.

News just in is that university applicants have fallen by nearly 9% as the new academic term will see fees rise to £9,000 per year across some parts of the UK.

To debate this, we're focusing our next Free Speech on Higher Education, and will be coming live from Edinburgh on Wednesday 15th at 7pm.

Kicking the debate off, here's three young people in three different positions answering this question:

Higher Education. Is it worth it?


Contributor - Craig James

Craig James, 25, finished school with GCSEs and is now a successful office worker in London

Is Higher Education worth it? Only if you will use it for your career!!!

50% of jobs do not require Higher Education. This is a target by the Government to keep unemployment figures down. Too many people are going on to Higher Education for the completely wrong reasons. They are told to either carry on in Higher Education or fail in life. It's that drastic.

You should only do A-levels and a degree in something you want to do as a career. The taxpayer should not pay for your hobby! I am worried that in 10 years' time we will have a new class system: the good degrees, the bad degrees, and the no degrees.

It is also creating a false pretence that a Higher Education gives you a right to an entry level £25k job; it doesn't! And people are starting to realise that now! And what does the taxpayer get? A more educated dole queue.


Contributor - Ellen Coyne

Ellen Coyne, 21, Journalist Student, University of Glamorgan

It's unfortunate that so many employers in certain professions, like journalism, insist on people having a degree. It can sometimes seem like nothing more than a very expensive line on your C.V.

I would prefer if fewer students felt obliged to go to university, as an aptitude for academia is hardly ever indicative of a person's ability at their chosen profession.

However, it's hard to imagine another scenario where I'd have as much time to take on work placements, start-up projects like a student paper and focus on blogging and freelancing.

At the end of three years, the best thing on your C.V. shouldn't be your degree. If you use your time wisely and grow-up, university can be the making of you. But that's based on your work as an individual; not based on the course you're doing or grades that you get.


Contributor - Stefan Difinizio


Stefan Difinizio, 16, about to start AS Levels in Bath

With the rise on university fees, young people are increasingly asking themselves if it is worth going or not. I have yet to make a decision. I have just finished my GCSEs and am starting my AS-levels, but I know I'm going to have to think long and hard about what I want to do.

I have just completed a weeks media work experience, which Free Speech helped me get after watching the show in Bristol back in May. Reflecting on that week, I have seen how successful you can be even if you didn't go to university, and the company founder was a good example of this.

However I realise that it is still important to go through education. I will probably go to university as I think it is important to have a degree, but I will also make sure I have lots of work experience to set me apart from the other people in an interview.


Free Speech is not just about listening to what other people have to say though. It's about YOU having YOUR say. And if you've not yet seen a live show, or got involved with the debates online, then maybe now is your time...

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So hop online to Facebook, Twitter or use the comments below and tell us whether you think Higher Education is worth is.

See you on Wednesday at  7pm.


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