What is this?

Hi! My name is Ulrik, and this is my student blog. My posts will be based on tasks and subjects given to the class by my English teacher Ann. I am currently in my third year at Sandvika High School, Norway.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Cameron ministry

On the 11th of may 2010 prime minister Gordon Brown and his Labour government resigned, giving the Downing street nr. 10 keys to  the new Conservative PM David Cameron.

With 36 percent of the votes, Cameron did not form his government alone. Being the first since Churchill, he formed a coalition government; he did so with the 23 percent Liberal Democrats.

Foreign policy

The Cameron ministry has, as most conservatives governments, a pro-NATO attitude, and has taken part in all NATO operation during the four years they have been in office. Cameron has stated that they believe in foreign intervention in order to spread "democracy and freedom", and that the terror-threat must be defeated by power.

The conservation wanted to intervene in Syria, but the Liberal Democrats voted against it in parliament, a major defeat for Cameron; one of the problems of a coalition. After the defeat Cameron stated that "I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons ... It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly."

The ministry is against a full EU-membership, but Cameron believes some of the policies (fishing, military) are good for the UK. Overall they have a conservative attitude on foreign policies, with NATO being an exeption.

Economomy and climate

Some of the Cameron administration’s most important economic goals are reduction of employment and wealth tax. The administration views this as something important because they think this will boost English companies’ ability to compete in the international market. The administration does also wish to increase tax on flying for people who uses air transport a lot as well as remove tax for people who don’t use air transport that often, the administration wish to do this to make people fly less and in that way decrease the total amount of CO2 emission in the UK.

A economy policy that the Cameron ministry focuses on is enviroment. Cameron has descibed himself as "passionate about our environment" and believe that it is our "social responsibility to the next generation". Some of the reforms Cameron would like to introduce is a fair fuel stabilizer which will keep the oil prices stable. As the price of oil goes up, the taxes will decrease, and if the price of oil goes down, the taxes will also increase. Another policy is the taxation cut. The ministry promised to reduce tax on alcohol, corporations and small businesses, as well as increasing the inheritance tax exemption.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

6th June 1944; D-Day

This year is a year with many anniversaries; 100 years since the Great War, 25 years since fall of the Berlin wall, and 70 years since the Allied landings in Normandy, D-Day.

The Invasion of Normandy

In June, 1944, Nazi Germany was crumbling. For five years they had fought against nation after nation, laying most of Europe under occupation. Against them stood the Allied forces; mainly the US, UK, Canada, Australia and exiled troops from the occupied nations- such as Free France.

For several months, the Allied commanders had been planning the biggest military operation in history; the invasion and liberation of Europe, beginning with France. Codenamed "Operation Overlord", the invasion was to take place in Normandy; landings on the beaches and from the air. On a single day, 160.000 allied soldiers were to be put ashore, making way for over one million allied soldiers the following days. The goal of the first day? secure the beaches, crossroads and small towns near the coast- creating what is known as a spearhead. Name of the day? Operation Neptune, Delivery-day.

The operation was postponed several times due to bad weather, but soon the date was set; 6th of June. For a year, allied troops had been training in England, and the scale of the whole thing was meant to surprise the german forces.

The germans was of course expecting an invasion, but exactly how big and where was unclear. With hard fighting both on the Italian, African and Eastern front, the amount of german forces placed in the West was modest. The fortifications along the beaches was however heavy, and "Festung Europa" would not be easy to invade.

American soldiers, first wave, landing at Omaha.
Part of "magnificent eleven",
taken by Robert Capa on the beach.
Notice the falling soldiers.
On the night to the 6th of June, the allied forces crossed the channel. The same night, a number of airborne troops was dropped over inland Normandy
to destroy long-range artillery zeroed in on the beaches. In the morning, the german soldiers placed at the beaches codenamed "Utah", "Omaha", "Gold", "Juno" and "Sword" sounded the alarm, and prepared their positions. In the horizon, as a german soldier told in an interview; "there were more ships than we had men".

At 0630, the landings took place, and especially at Omaha the US-troop met severe resistance. With heavy incoming machine-gun fire, sharpshooters and small-artillery, Omaha became a living hell. In few hours, 3000 american soldiers lost their lives before before they managed to secure the beach. On other beaches the fighting was easier, but still with a high casualty rate. Overall there was at least 10.000 allied casualties on the first day; and the goals of the first day was not accomplished before D-Day+3. German casualties on day one lies at ca 4000.

Remembering D-Day

War cemetery for American soldiers in Normandy
This year, being 70 years since the invasion, is an important year for many people; especially those who was there. Many veterans are still alive, and this is probably the last anniversary with so many attendants. A huge ceremony took place on the 6th of june this summer, with state officials from all the nations involved.
French president Hollande speaking to veterans
during the ceremony

Robert Edlin fought on Omaha with the 2nd ranger battalion. This is an extract from his accounts in the book "The voices of D-day":

"...there were bodies from the I I6th floating everywhere. They were facedown in the water with packs still on their backs. They had inflated their life jackets. Fortunately, most of the Rangers did not inflate theirs or they also might have turned over and drowned.

I began to run with my rifle in front of me. I went directly across the beach to try to get to the seaway. In front of me was part of the II6th Infantry, pinned down and lying behind beach obstacles. They hadn't made it to the seaway. I kept screaming at them, 'You have to get up and go! You gotta get up and go!' But they didn't. They were worn out and defeated completely. There wasn't any time to help them.

I continued across the beach. There were mines and obstacles all up and down the beach. The air corps had missed it entirely. There were no shell holes in which to take cover. The mines had not been detonated. Absolutely nothing that had been planned for that part of the beach had worked. I knew that Vierville-sur-Mer was going to be a hellhole, and it was.

When I was about twenty yards from the seaway I was hit by what I assume was a sniper bullet. It shattered and broke my right leg. I thought, well, I've got a Purple Heart. I fell, and as I did, it was like a searing hot poker rammed into my leg. My rifle fell ten feet or so in front of me. I crawled forward to get to it, picked it up, and as I rose on my left leg, another burst of I think machine gun fire tore the muscles out of that leg, knocking me down again..."

The Scottish independence

On the 18th of September, the Scotts have to make a daring choice. The last weeks a ballot has been sent out to every citizen of Scotland over the age of 16- on it there is a straightforward question; "Should Scotland be an independent country?" yes or no. For many people this will be an easy answer. A scotsman we skyped with in class said it like this; "should you vote with your brain, or with your heart?"- his answer was of course the heart.

What does it take?

So, let us start with a scenario where the Scottish people declare independence; how will this be done? Who will be citizens? what about the currency? The army? NATO? EU? The questions are many; it is not easy declaring independence.

To gain independence, they have to have over 50 percent of the votes; at the moment being, they are somewhere between 30 and 40 percent- meaning that there in reality, despite the voting of the heart, is a slim chance of an independent Scotland. However, all the plans are made by the Scottish government, and everything is prepared, just in case of a majority voting yes. 

For a start, the Scottish government is planning on keeping the GBP- hopefully within a british currency-union. If not, things will become interesting. Everyone born in Scotland, or living in Scotland, will be able to become citizens; it is worth mentioning that Scotland only has 5,3 million citizens- they are in need of people. Government calculations suggests a standing army of 15.000 men, with a active reserve force of 5.000 (similar to Norway). When it comes to the possibility of a NATO-membership, the government is divided. The question really lies on nuclear weapons; the UK uses scotland as a base for NATO nuclear-weapons, and according to the british army there is no other place to place them- the Scottish government would like to have them removed (with or without a NATO-alliance). The case is that those for independence is looking towards Norway and the other scandinavian countries. No EU, perhaps NATO, it's own foreign policy and basically just being an independent nation. 

The arguments of the no-side, is that many big corporations etc is threatening to pull out of Scotland, and that it really is a hassle; especially the healthcare and supplies of medicine is a big concern for many people. There are clearly plenty of those wanting independence in their heart, but still to many believing that Scotland is better of as a part of the UK. 

My expectations

So, I'm a bit late on writing this post (my fault), anyways; This year I have Social Studies, and my expectations are great! It's a follow-up course from last years International-English, but with more focus on politics, culture and history. In other words; it's perfect!

I will once again write posts on a weekly basis, covering subjects ranging from Scottish politics to the first world war.  I hope you enjoy!