A Christmas Carol

by Otis Shaw

dcp_0022As I sat in the Senso-ji Temple gardens in Tokyo, desperately trying to find a plausible connection between the colonial adventures of Lord Jim and the `inconvenience` of Japan`s homeless. I was startled by the sounds of reindeer bells. I closed the chapter on Lord Jim and looked up to see a short, swollen, women, dressed in ill-fitting clothes. The bells were embedded in the tinsel that bound her dress. Layers of nylon and wool protected her from the winter chill, held tight against her body like the layers of an onion. Her body armour displayed colours only to be found in a children`s department store. The size 8, hooded top was adorned with green men from outer space. The word “alien” held aloft in a speech bubble. Her lime green woollen hat, identified her as `one of them`.

Struggling under the weight of her garments, her buckled feet, squeezed into abandoned trainers, the old women rocked to and fro, as she weaved in and out of the temple benches. An imaginary maze set up to constrict her daily routine. From her dry, chapped lips, she delicately whispered a prayer. The words were repeated over and over, like a sweet Christmas carol, closing the doors to all those others and protecting her from harm.

japanese-homeless-stylish-homes2Those unfortunate people who awake from their cardboard hell every Christmas, hidden away amongst the maze of shopping malls in Asakusa, seek refuge during the day in the Senso-ji Temple grounds. Japan`s aristocracy stroll past these vagrants, their eyes filtering through these woollen outcasts and focusing on the many food stalls encroaching the entrance to the temple.

Thousands upon thousands of visitors pour into the main hall in order to catch a glimpse of the sacred Boddhisattva Kannon statue and whisper a prayer to themselves before disgarding any loose change into the offerings box.

As I sat in the corner of the hall, visitors, local and foreign, bounced of each other, never really experiencing physical or eye contact, finally departing through the exit. I couldn`t help but think of the giant pinball arcades, filled with erogenous slot machines, that line every major city in Japan. A plaque at the side of the inner sanctum was almost completely ignored by thirsty revellers. It read;

Over the years, Buddhism, which originated in the fifth century B.C.E., diverged into two main branches: Hiinayaana which holds that adherents should faithfully follow the teachings of founder Buddha Shakyamuni, to reach enlightenment themselves, and Mahaayaana, which teaches that the faithful should not only seek their own enlightenment, but also help the suffering … Believers in Buddhism gave these figures concrete forms, creating sculptures of them, which they worshipped. Boddhisattva Kannon is one among many Bodhisattvas, and since early times has been widely worshipped by Japanese in particular. Bodhisattva Kannon is also the most merciful of the Bodhisattvas, sent to relieve human misery on Earth.

avalokitesvara

Many Japanese believe that their hopes and pleas will reach this deity. In particular, the Bodhisattva Kannon worshipped at Senso-ji has been an unparalleled source of benefits and miracles over the centuries, and has saved and protected countless people since its appearance in this world. Faith in the Bodhisattva Kannon, which has supported Senso-ji and drawn many people to this temple, consists of opening one`s heart and living by the merciful spirit of Bodhisattva Kannon and at the same time showing mercy to others in daily life. We hope that visitors to Senso-ji will join their hands in prayer, receive the merciful spirit of the Boddhisattva Kannon into their hearts and pray that they can bestow that mercy upon others.

On that note, the popular front, continuing to overspend at Christmas, pray that Santa has slipped another blank cheque-book into their stocking. As the world economy skates on thin ice, shouldn’t we be building more cardboard boxes before we fork out for another plasma television?

Arigatou gozaimasu.

Santa

By Lucy Harvey

We spoke to the kids in Edinburgh and Santa to find out what everyone is wanting for Christmas.

Listen here:


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Edinburgh trams latest

Edinburgh councillors are deciding today whether to close Princes Street for most of next year.  Under the proposals, the capitals main shopping street will close to all traffic from the middle of February until the end of November 2009 to allow all the tram tracks to be laid.  Many people fear though that closure will lead to further traffic chaos in the city centre.

Steven Brykajlo spoke to some concerned members of the public there this morning:

Meanwhile, tram work is also continuing on Leith Walk.  Shop owners are complaining that their businesses are suffering badly because of the works and want action.

Ashley Anderson has this video package:

Football league adopts ‘home-grown’ rule

By Graeme Macleod

The Football League in England has voted to introduce a ‘home-grown players’ rule from the start of next season.

At an extraordinary general meeting in Derby, the majority of league clubs voted in favour of the rule’s introduction.

The new legislation will mean that a minimum of four players in a club’s 16-man matchday squad must have been playing domestic football in England for at least three years before they turn 21-years-old. These players can be of any nationality.

The new scheme is likely to come into force at the start of the 2009-10 season. It is in line with UEFA recommendations, but not FIFA’s proposed ‘six plus five’ rule.

Football League chairman Lord Malwhinney told Sky Sports: “League clubs are at the forefront of developing young playing talent for the domestic game.”

“As a result of today’s vote, those players being developed will have a greater chance to demonstrate their talent at first-team level.”

Backlash to teenage oral sex plans

By Gary Philp

The Christian Institute have hit out at Scottish Government plans which will legalise oral sex for 13 year olds.

On their website they make it clear they are against the plans.

If it goes ahead, it will legalise over ten types of oral sex scenarios involving teenagers aged between 13 and 16 that are currently considered unlawful.

Dunedin Napier News asked students at Napier University what they thought.

Michelle Green, 19, said: “They can’t do that, it will lead to them having sex at that age. We shouldn’t be encouraging teenagers that young to start having sex.”

Robert McDonald, 24, said: “It shouldn’t happen, but, will making any sex act legal or illegal actually have any impact on what teenagers do? It’s not like they take any notice of the law anyway.”

Devolution 11 years on

By Craig Hamilton

ON this day in 1997, a bill was unveiled to give Scotland her first parliament in over three centuries. Eleven years later, we talk to political parties and the public about the impact of devolution.

Listen To Ian Mckee:

Ian Mckee website; http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/MSP/MembersPages/ian_mckee/index.htm

Listen To Michael McMahon:

Michael McMahon website; http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/MSP/MembersPages/michael_mcmahon/index.htm

Public opinion:


It would seem Parliament is gearing up for the big anniversary next year: the tenth anniversary of the Parliament opening, on July 1st. A series of programmes to celebrate and encourage public engagement with the Parliament include a How the Parliament works conference; partnerships with underrepresented groups in Scotland; and a party for the birthday itself with 10 year olds who share the 1st July birthday invited along to the Parliament for the event.

Chief Executive ‘fish-slapped’

Chase Hoffman bought himself an early Christmas present yesterday – the chance to slap a chief executive repeatedly in the face with a 7kg Scottish salmon.

Hoffman, from Austin, Texas was the top bidder to ‘fish-slap’ Jay Nguyen, boss of Sweemo.com, as part of a stunt to show that anyone can buy a ‘unique moment’ from the online auction site.

The slapping cost £401 and took place on Trafalgar Square early yesterday morning, in front of bemused onlookers.

The American dressed in a Blackburn Rovers shirt with ‘fish’ on the back and struck the executive approximately ten times across his cheeks.

Hoffman, in a show of fair play, allowed the executive to slap him back.

All proceeds from the stunt went to the Marine Conservation Society.

Longer sentences for Scottish killers

Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini told the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday that Scotland’s worst criminals should get ‘whole life’ sentences.

In what has been called a controversial intervention, Ms Angiolini stated that the minimum term served before being eligible for parole was too short.

Judges use a range of between 12 and 30 years as a minimum sentence to be served when given life.

Ms Angiolini believes that in extreme cases, life sentences should actually be life and the 30 year maximum rule should be abolished.

She said: “The range of sentences considered to be appropriate should be uplifted and raised beyond the perceived 30-year maximum…it would be competent to consider a whole life order as a maximum sentence in highly exceptional cases.”

Her intervention came at the same time as two Scottish murder cases came up for appeal.

Bryan Boyle and Greig Maddock, both convicted of murder, were ordered to serve 15 and 12 years minimum under their life sentences. Robert Kelly, also convicted of murder, received a life sentence serving a minimum of twenty years which was later lowered to fifteen years because he pleaded guilty to all charges.

Donald Findlay QC said that enough trust should be placed in the judge and the appeal court to sentence criminals. He said: “This is [the intervention] in effect political interference and I will be arguing it is political interference.”

Lothian and Borders drink driving crackdown

Lothian and Borders police caught twenty-seven motorists in the first week of their annual Christmas crackdown. Inspector Jill Kerr enforces the message that it is always dangerous to drive under the influence of alcohol, even if it is just the one glass.

Subaru withdraw from World Rally Championship

Photo courtesy of www.freefoto.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.freefoto.com

By Ashleigh Morris

The world of motorsports has been dealt another blow with Subaru’s announcement that it is withdrawing from the 2009 World Rally Championship after 20 years in the sport.

The decision was in response to the economic downturn and follows Suzuki’s decision to withdraw the previous day.

Tom Morris, former winner of the Scottish Tarmac Championship told Dunedin Napier News: “Now Subaru have pulled out there are only two main players: Citroen and Ford. If anyone else pulls out the championship is finished. Ford are in financial difficulty in America. If they are forced to pull out I don’t see a future for the whole sport.”

But Gavin Miller from The Inside Line, a public relations company for the motorsport industry, remains optimistic about the future of the WRC. “It’s disappointing to see. Subaru are an iconic brand associated with rallying. But the championship is in a strong position to move forward. 2009 will be tough but the new super 2000 rules will allow for cost reductions in 2010. This will make World Rally an economically viable platform for manufacturers to promote their products. It will be possible to run a car at one tenth of the cost of a Formula 1 car.”

The FIA offices in France were closed when we tried to contact them and the International Motorsports Association Limited refused to comment.

BAA to lose Edinburgh airport?

By Greg Lorraine

BAA, the owners of Edinburgh Airport, may be forced by the Competition Commission to sell the operation. The Spanish-owned company, which runs seven airports in the UK, have been told the decision is necessary in order to improve airport services. BAA also face losing their Gatwick and Stansted airports. It is hoped that separate ownership of the three main London airports and the two main Scottish ones would see more competition in the areas, with each operator having a greater incentive to meet the needs of their customers. The Commission has based the decision on figures showing that only about one in 20 flying from Glasgow is from the East of Scotland, with one in 25 who use Edinburgh coming from the West. Gordon Dewar, managing director of Edinburgh Airport, said there is still time to show the move should not be made and believes passengers will not benefit from it. The Commission also said it was proposing measures at Aberdeen airport, which is also owned by BAA, to promote investment linked to rebates on charges. Experts predict there would be considerable interest in buying Edinburgh Airport, which is the largest and most profitable in Scotland.

Don’t cross the boss

COMMENT by Graeme Macleod

Aiden McGeady’s recent spat with Celtic manager Gordon Strachan has confirmed one of football’s unwritten rules – don’t cross the boss.

The Republic of Ireland international has been fined two weeks wages and banned from all first team activities for a fortnight. That will rule the winger out of next week’s Old Firm derby, arguably Celtic’s biggest game of the season so far.

teamtalk.com

Aiden McGeady could be on his way out of Celtic after his recent fall-out with boss Gordon Strachan. Picture: teamtalk.com

He may be regarded as the best player in the Parkhead squad, but an alleged foul-mouthed rant at manager Gordon Strachan after last week’s draw with Hearts could have cost McGeady his Celtic career.

McGeady is only 22-year-old but he seems to feel he is immune from criticism. He wasn’t the only player given a rollicking during the alleged bust-up last week. Experienced internationals like Gary Caldwell and Georgios Samaras were reported to have been on the receiving end of some rough criticism from the boss before the alleged row with McGeady. But both took it on and chin like men and were wise enough not to answer back.

It’s not the first time McGeady has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. Earlier this season, the wide man was caught up in violent scenes on a night out in Glasgow, with allegations that the player’s arrogant attitude was at the heart of the problems.

Being arrogant enough to answer back to the manager during the course of a verbal dressing down rarely does a footballer’s career any good. But it seems to be an underlying problem with young professionals in Scotland.

Earlier in the week, former Dundee United manager Jim McLean recalled the story of when a 19-year-old Duncan Ferguson had been omitted from the Scotland squad. It was 1991 and McLean said the striker was upset. The following Saturday, Ferguson played for United in front of watching Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh and had performed poorly in the first half. McLean reminded his young forward it was the perfect chance to prove the Scotland boss wrong. Ferguson, McLean says, replied with “I don’t have to prove myself to anyone.”

More recently, with Rangers struggling under the tenure of Paul Le Guen, midfielder Charlie Adam was interviewed about life as a footballer. The then 20-year-old replied that he found it hard to occupy himself after training each day, which lasted just two hours. With his side well out of the title race at the time, a young player anywhere else in the world looking to improve the fortunes of himself and his team may take it upon himself to put in a few extra hours each day on the training ground. Not in Scotland it seems.

And his Rangers teammate, Allan McGregor, is now almost as famous for his bedroom exploits as his goalkeeping saves. The shot stopper has seen his form dip this season and his playboy lifestyle has now been criticised by supporters.

Arrogance may be the reason why Scotland cannot produce world class stars like in yesteryears. Gone are the days of Dalglish, Law and Jordan. And unless young footballers in this country adopt a hard-working ethic and take on board what they are told by their experienced managers, it could be a long time before another Scot is capable of gracing the world stage.

And in the case of McGeady, he isn’t the first player to fall foul of his manager and face the consequences. Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United is renowned for moving on high-profile stars who don’t toe the line, most notably David Beckham.

And it proves that when a player and the boss cross swords, there can only be one winner.

Santa’s science secret

BY Sven R. Houston

Every year millions of children ask the same question: Just how does Santa do it? Well the answer may be less magical, and more scientific than you think.

According to American professor Larry Silverberg, Santa Claus delivers presents to every child in the world on Christmas Eve by simply exploiting the ‘space-time continuum’. By using loopholes in time he can stretch time itself and therefore what seems like one night to us, is actually six months worth of time for Santa himself.

“In our reference frame it appears as though he does it in the wink of an eye and in fact there have been sightings of Santa, quick sightings, and that’s in our reference frame, but in Santa’s reference frame he really has six months,” Silverberg told Reuters.

Santa - a time stretcher. Photo from www.emagine-travel.co.uk

Santa - a time stretcher. Photo from http://www.emagine-travel.co.uk

Larry Silverberg, a professor of mechanical aerospace engineering at North Carolina State claims Santa does his job by utilizing advanced scientific technology, as opposed to sheer magic as once thought.

“He understands that space stretches, he understands that you can stretch time, compress space and therefore he can, in a sense, actually have six Santa months to deliver the presents,” Silverberg said.

That may explain his timekeeping tricks, but how does he fit all those presents into his sleigh? According to Silverberg, he doesn’t. Instead he uses ‘nanotechnology’ that enables him to use items such as candy canes to grow presents in a ‘reversal process’.

“He puts them under the tree and actually grows them in a reverse process to create the presents, wrapping and all,” he said.

Silverberg also revealed that Rudolph and the other reindeer are genetically bred to fly and that Santa receives radar signals that indicate which girls and boy’s have been behaving all year.

“We believe, that there are large antennas miles long under the snow up at the North Pole and we think the grid-spacing is in the order of millimetres so that you can receive radar-type signals,” said Silverberg.

Santa around the world..

Despite being able to stretch time and grow presents, Santa still can’t escape those dreaded parking wardens.

A warden in Brooklyn, New York decided to put a damper on Santa’s spirits by fining him $115 for double parking whilst he was handing out presents on a horse-drawn carriage.

Chip Cafiero says he’ll challenge the fine given to his SUV, which he claims wasn’t blocking traffic.

Meanwhile Christmas cheer appears to be lost on rival Santa gangs in America, where fierce arguments have broken out on their online internet forums.

Online forum ElfNet, used by Santa’s to purchase and discuss their suits, has become the centre of controversy after one member was accused of ‘unethical behaviour’ for taking $25,000 in booking fee’s for over two hundred fellow Santa’s.

The fighting is between rivals gangs the Fraternal Order and The Red Suit Society. The row has been ongoing for the past year, with members gate crashing rival events and websites being forced to close down.

Laughing in the face of the credit crunch

The Stand Comedy Club appears to have bucked the recession trend, with audience figures actually up on last year.
By Jen Lavery

Political parties row over 48 hour working week

MSPs discuss European plans

MSPs discuss European plans

Labour MEPs have voted against Gordon Brown over the scrapping of Britain’s opt-out from the maximum 48 hour working week.

The European Parliament voted to remove Britain’s opt-out meaning the new resolution could be in place by 2011.

Labour MPs and MEPs disagreed on the move, with MEPs voting down the opt-out by 421 to 273.

Listen to working week:

The SNP have sided with the Prime Minister, arguing that the opt-out is necessary to retain the integrity and flexibility of many public services, particularly in rural and island areas.

SNP MEP Alyn Smith told Dunedin Napier News:  “Some MEPs are trying to hoodwink people into thinking that this is somehow a victory for the rights of workers.” He added:  “It is rare I find myself in total agreement with the UK government but when I do, as does my own government in Scotland, I’ll work with them.”

The issue has had increased pressure due to the economic downturn, with many member states wanting the option to exceed the 48 hour week.

A number of rural organisations, in particular the retained fire-fighters union, fear that some 321 of Scotland’s 391 fire stations will be drastically affected by this decision.  NFU Scotland is similarly concerned over the position of farming workers.

Supporters of the resolution argue that it provides sufficient short-term scope for working longer hours if necessary.

“Scottish workers, like those in the rest of Europe, have a right to common decent working and living conditions”, said David Martin, Scottish Labour MEP.

He concluded: “And the new 12-month averaging of working time, as opposed to the previous four-month average, offers great flexibility for work time planning.”

But opponents said it should not be up to the EU to determine the working patterns of different employment cultures in the member states.

Alyn Smith said: “I fundamentally disagree that working time should be regulated across 27 different states from the Algarve to the Arctic Circle. The impact of this decision, if actually implemented, would be quite unworkable for vast swathes of the country. It might look good in a centrally heated Brussels office but it assuredly will not do what it says on the tin.”

The dossier will now enter a  conciliation process where Member States will negotiate the minutia’s, meaning continued legal uncertainty for Europe’s workers.

Wright choice for Scotland?

Ipswich Town defender David Wright has revealed on the club’s official website that he would jump at the chance to play for Scotland despite being born in England.

David Wright. Courtesy of www.itfc.co.uk

David Wright. Courtesy of http://www.itfc.co.uk

Ipswich Town Official Website’s story.

Scottish supporters have reacted to the news.

21 year old Andrew Crawford, who regularly goes to Scotland games, told Dundedin Napier News: “It doesn’t really bother me as long as he’s decent and actually has a Scottish parent.

“I suppose there are a lot of full-backs but Graeme Alexander has not got long left.”

Tom McAllister from The West of Scotland Tartan Army told us: “It will just be like Nigel Quashie playing for us because he has got a Scottish relative.”

A Star-Studded Royal Variety show

Take That performing for the Prince of Wales, image courtesy of www.brandrepublic.com

Take That performing for the Prince of Wales, image courtesy of http://www.brandrepublic.com

By Dionne Abolghassem

A host of celebrities and performers alike came together for the 80th anniversary of The Royal Variety Performance, held in the iconic London Palladium last night.

Headlining for this year’s show were pop heart-throbs Take That, who have enjoyed a comeback success with their new album and gave a terrific performance.

The Pussycat Dolls also took to the stage  to perform a medley of their raunchiest hits, proving a hit with The Prince of Wales in particular and an audience that included Their Royal Highnesses and The Duchess of Cornwall.

Welsh soul songstress, Duffy, along with Rhianna and Leona Lewis, were the top stars of the night.

Comedians of the night included the nation’s much-loved Peter Kay, as his winning alter-ego Geraldine McQueen, and Jimmy Carr.

Legendary Queen guitarist, Brian May, also put in an appearance with a stunning live performance.

Disney’s The Lion King performed a dazzling theatrical show, along with Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, the ballet troupe with a difference, who completed the show’s line-up.

The event continues to draw in huge audiences, with 7.5 million viewers tuning in to last night’s show, according to unofficial overnight figures.

News in brief

By Nichole Guthrie

  • Troops out of Iraq by summer

On a visit to Basra yesterday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that British troops will end combat operations on May 31 2009, although they will provide a two month stay of grace before the majority of the 4,100 troops will withdraw from Iraq.

  • Dentists overcharging patients

NHS dentists are under the spotlight for allegedly overcharging patients to the tune of £109 million. The Conservative party states that dentists are finding loopholes in the system to charge patients twice.

  • Church of England to split from state

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams thinks there are benefits from being detached from the state. He said there would be a “certain integrity” to decisions in the church not being run by parliament first.

  • Millionare sex romp at Gleneagles

Millionaire property tycoon Philip Anderson was arrested along with his girlfriend after being aggressive towards the people complaining of their drunken behaviour at Deseo restaurant in Gleneagles.

  • 20 year Lockerbie bombing anniversary

The 20th anniversary of the bombing of  PanAm flight 103 this weekend sees the locals planning a low key ceremony running parallel to a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC. Steven Spielberg is also planning to make a film about the tragedy.

  • Glasgow bomber jailed for life

NHS doctor Bilal Abdulla was jailed for life to serve a minimum of 32 years yesterday. He was convicted of terrorist attacks on London and Glasgow.

  • Rwanda genocide killer jailed

Former senior defence official Theoneste Bagosora has been convicted and sentenced to life in jail for plotting the 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 people. This conviction marks the first time Rwandan courts have convicted anyone for the killings.

  • Sky 3D television

Satellite broadcaster Sky has revealed it’s trying out a new 3D television platform that could see viewers watching the 2012 Olympics in this new dimension. Viewers will have to wear polarised glasses and have a 3D enabled television.

Get Your running shoes on!

By Greg Lorraine

Entries to the 2009 Albert Bartlett Edinburgh Marathon are expected to close this Friday due to the huge demand for places.

The event, taking place on May 31, has already seen its entry limit increased by 20 per cent. Usually standard entries close on January 15 or when they reach the 11,500 limit. It is the first year that entries have been open on a first-come-first-served basis.

Damien O’Looney, marketing manager for the marathon, said: “The Albert Bartlett Marathon is one of the ‘must run’ races in the UK and attracts all levels of runners. It brings thousands of people to Edinburgh from all over the UK.

“In just a short time, it has grown in popularity, with the number of people wanting to enter increasing every year. It’s great that so many people are taking part.”

The event takes runners past some of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks and tourist attractions, including Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle.

It is the seventh year the event is taking place, with runners raising almost £3million in this year’s marathon for a number of different charities.

If you feel up to the challenge, all 26.2 miles of it, then go to http://www.edinburgh-marathon.com/ for more information.

Christmas surprises? Unhappy? Take them back!

By Fiona McIlwraith
Have you ever got a Christmas present that you did not like? It can be a problem when you open ‘surprises’ on Christmas day, but should you ask for the receipt to exchange the gift? This year you might not have to!

Should I stay or should I go….?

img_11062

New York City

By Greg Lorraine

Searches for flights to the US are down by 15 per cent in the run-up to Christmas, according to flight search engine Skyscanner.

It is a time when us Brits usually make the trip to places like New York and Los Angeles to pick up holiday bargains.

The current economic climate and the stronger dollar are said to be the main factors putting people off.

A spokesperson for Thomson Travel said: “People don’t appear to be put off spending money on holidays, in fact I think they actually want to get away more than ever before to relax and take time out from the stresses of everyday life.

“However, the current exchange rate for dollars and the Euro aren’t as good as it has been in recent times. Because of this, people are thinking more about getting the best deal on a holiday and looking closely at how much money they will have to spend once they reach their destination.”

Places such as Turkey, Thailand and Croatia are among the places proving most popular for holidaymakers.

Weekend sport preview

Graeme Macleod looks ahead to the weekend’s action

Football:

Scottish Premier League

It’s derby time in Lanarkshire as Hamilton Academical welcome local rivals Motherwell to New Douglas Park in Saturday’s early kick off. It is sure to be a feisty encounter between the SPL’s bottom club and Mark McGhee’s men. Both clubs are looking to bounce back from 2-0 defeats in their previous outings.

sportinglife.com

Csaba Laszlo will be looking for his Hearts side to cement third place in the SPL with a win this weekend. Picture: sportinglife.com

In Edinburgh, Hearts take on Dundee United in a the clash of third against fourth in the table. Csaba Laszlo’s men are the form team in the SPL at the moment and are unbeaten in six games. Both sides recorded credible draws against either half of the Old Firm last week. The winner of this match will surely emerge as an early favourite to claim a UEFA Cup spot.

Another match that has all the makings of a classic is the north derby between Inverness CT and Aberdeen. The Dons lost to Caley at Pittodrie on the opening day of the season and Jimmy Calderwood’s men will be keen to avenge that defeat. Craig Brewster’s side have a torrid home record though and will be looking to win only their second home game of the season.

Hibernian take on Rangers at Ibrox as they look to build on last week’s home win over Hamilton. The Hibees have a good recent record in Govan and are the Scottish team to have beaten Walter Smith’s men on their home patch.

Elsewhere, Kilmarnock entertain St Mirren at Rugby Park.

Snooker:

UK Championship

Ali Carter is through to Saturday’s semi finals after victory over Mark Williams. He will take on Marco Fu – who disposed of Joe Perry in the last eight – for a place in the final.

In the remaining quarter finals, Shaun Murphy will take on Stephen Lee while in the all-Scottish clash, Stephen Maguire faces two-time world champions John Higgins.

The final of the controversial tournament – where Scot John Burnett’s first round loss to Macguire is under investigation after irregular betting on the match – will take place on Sunday.

Darts:

PDC World Championship

The PDC World Championship gets underway on Friday as the Alexandra Palace hosts another fortnight of first class arrows. Top seed and 13-time champions Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor was handed a seemingly easy passage to round two when he was drawn against the unseeded Steve Grubb in the first round.

Meanwhile, second seed Raymond van Barneveld takes on Mark Stephenson. ‘Barney’ is the second seed this year and third seed James ‘The Machine’ Wade has been drawn against Brendan Dolan. Fourth seed John Part entertains Bill Davis.

The final is scheduled for January 4.

Boxing

Evander Holyfield vs. Nikolai Valuev

wikipedia.org

Evander Holyfield makes another return to the ring on Saturday. Picture: wikipedia.org

Evergreen ring master Evander Holyfield makes yet another comeback as he takes on Nikolai Valuev for the WBA Heavyweight Championship.

The 46-year-old will be seeking a fifth world championship success when he takes to the ring against the Russian on Saturday.

Holyfield will become the oldest man to hold a heavyweight title if he wins the fight in Zurich against the tallest and heaviest man to ever lift a world title belt.

Valuev is a 35-year-old, 7-footer who has lost only one of 51 professional fights. He first claimed the title in 2005 with victory over John Ruiz. After three successful defences, he lost the belt to Ruslan Chagaev in his only professional defeat to date. When Uzbekistan fighter Chagaev pulled out of the rematch, Valuev again defeated Ruiz for the vacant title. This match will be the first defence of Valuev’s second stint as champion.

Meanwhile, Holyfield has suffered nine losses in his 53-fight career, including a 1999 loss to Brit Lennox Lewis in a unification.

Scottish fishermen under threat

BY Sven R. Houston

Up to two thousand Scottish fishermen could lose their livelihood under a new EU proposal.

An annual summit is to be held in Brussels to determine the fishing restrictions for 2009, which aims to ban the fishing of cod, haddock and whiting off Scotland’s West coast.

Fishermen in the region agree that stock levels are alarmingly low and that actions must be taken, however, they insist the method being proposed could force them out of work.

Under the new proposal all boats will be required to use a ‘separating grid’ on their nets, which would essentially ensure that threatened species could escape the nets.

Uncertain future. Photo by Tina Norris/Rex

Uncertain future. Photo by Tina Norris/Rex

Bertie Armstrong, chairman of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation, insists the smaller boats used in the region are incapable of accommodating such equipment:

“The proposal for separator grids for the fishery, which is the bread and butter of the West coast fleet, will effectively close fishing down on the West coast. This would be politically and economically unacceptable and will be opposed at industry, Scottish and UK government levels.”

Armstrong has instead called for a more ‘sensible’ approach that would still allow the threatened species to escape. He points to past stock-conserving initiatives by Scottish fishermen:

“We are calling on the EC to give due recognition of our efforts and to accept our alternative conservation proposals.”

A new plan also to take effect is aiming to sustain the cod levels, with the main feature being increased fishing quotas in return for a reduction in ‘discarding’. In other words, fishermen are being forced to severely cut down the amount of fish they throw back into the sea. This too, is met with concern by Armstrong:

“These recently agreed cod recovery measures will prove a major challenge for the Scottish fleet in 2009. We are committed to reducing discards but it is vital that the new rules are capable of practical application.”

Unemployment soars

By Dionne Abolghassem

THE closure of the retail giant Woolworths is just the beginning of the struggle for Britain’s retail sector in the economic downfall.

Over 27,000 employees of Woolies are set to lose their jobs after the company announced they would have all 807 outlets shut down by January 5th.

The failure to find a buyer to rescue the popular franchise before it reaches its one hundredth birthday, is another sign of economic hardship for the UK.

Tony McNulty, Employment Minister, said: “This month’s Labour market figures are very disappointing and we will do all we can to give real support to people during these tough times.”

Almost 100, 000 people are claiming Jobseeker’s allowance as turmoil in the economy forces many into unemployment.

Scotland’s unemployment rate has reached its peak with over 20,000 Scots out of work, the highest levels in nearly 34 years.

Diet drink

vitamindeal.com

Picture courtesy of: vitamindeal.com

By Ashleigh Morris 

Recent pictures have revealed Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan looking svelte after her various stints in rehab. But could her weight loss be down to more than healthy eating and exercise?

A picture featured in Grazia magazine shows Lohan clutching a bottle of VPX RedLine Fat Incinerator – a product designed to help bodybuilders ‘shred’ body fat and to provide energy. But how good can this be for your health?

VPX RedLine contains extremely high amounts of caffeine and is designed to shred fat through the body’s shivering response. The shivering process burns body fat for energy to keep the body warm. VPX also causes the body to sweat. The formula, also available in a capsule, claims you can feel the effects within five minutes. The drink is only available for purchase in the US, however UK residents are able to buy it online.

Superintendent pharmacist Evelyn Mackenzie told Dunedin Napier News: “The caffeine is bad for your heart, it’s probably one step down from using speed. Your body needs time to recover and it’s certainly not advisable long term.”

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