SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

By Margarita Dimitrova

In a second rally for this week called by Stop the War Coalition hundreds are to gather both in Edinburgh and Glasgow in solidarity with the people of the Middle East.


Founded 10 years ago, Stop the War Coalition is a UK-wide campaign that calls for the support of the British public to the people of the Middle East, and an end to UK foreign policy that supports and arms dictators.

 

On Tuesday this week over 200 people gathered together in Edinburgh to show their solidarity, while in a parallel protest in Glasgow the number of participants was doubled despite the short notice for the event.

 

Organisers explain that although a lot of people are strongly against British and US foreign policies, many of them feel like there is nothing they could do personally to change the situation. But with the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt people all over the world have started to believe that their voice can be heard and make an impact.

 

Participants in today’s protest in Edinburgh point as an achievable and realistic goal for them to make clear that people in this country are not in support of the government’s foreign policy and allowing the sale of arms to tyrants who use it against their own people.

Depending on the impact the protests will have today, the Stop the War Coalition has confirmed it is planning more in the following weeks.

 

The changing face of news

by Patrick McPartlin

According to Henry Jenkins’ book Convergence Culture, we are experiencing constantly reforming modes of communication and media content, which are “changing the way we create, consume, learn and interact with each other.” [Read more...]

Six Nations proves trying for Scotland and Ireland

By Shane de Barra

It’s game on at Twickenham in two weeks time when England and France, the only sides still able to claim a Grand Slam, clash in what has the potential to be a Six Nations title decider.

England disposed of a sorry Italy at the weekend 59-13, just a week after putting Wales to the sword in Cardiff. Rugby League convert Chris Aston was England’s star man, claiming four of his side’s eight tries and in the process becoming the first English man to score four tries in a Six Nations game.

Reigning champions France came through a much tougher in test in the battle of the last two Grand Slam winners, when they took on Ireland in Dublin in the first Championship game to take place at the new Aviva Stadium. Despite being out-scored by three tries to one, Irish indiscipline gifted the French some easy points and last gasp defence at the death was enough to see the champions home 25-22.

Wales made the journey north to Edinburgh to take on Scotland at Murrayfield and it proved to be a satisfactory trip. A first half try by winger Shane Williams set the Welsh on their way, although they did have to defend with only 13 men for ten minutes when indiscipline saw both full-back Lee Byrne and second-row Bradley Davies sin-binned.

The Scots could not take advantage however, and created nothing in a performance that has set alarm bells ringing north of the border that a return to the bad old days of recent years in nigh. The second half was a scrappy affair with both sides bereft of both imagination and direction. In the end the game was settled by a neat grubber kick by Wales centre Jonathan Thomas which Williams was again alert to, collecting to score his second try.

But there was to be no heroic Scottish comeback as they limped to a 24-6 defeat.

Police rapped over 999 tardiness

By Tony Garner and Shane Barry

A short video report on criticism of Lothian and Borders police for failing to respond quickly enough to a 999 call-out.

Roses are red, violets are blue, cooking for singles is on the menu

By Ray Philp and Jen McClure

Valentine’s Day has a sorry history of prescribed gestures of love. Cards, flowers, chocolates, champagne, kissograms; none rise above the flotsam of generic sentiment. Redblue Introductions offers a life-raft for singles searching for a more personal touch to their quest for love, by offering cooking classes for singles.

Redblue Introductions, in partnership with New Town Cookery School, host a cooking school for up to 16 people. Upon arrival, singletons are encouraged to socialise before entering the kitchen to begin cooking. While men are tasked with preparing the ingredients, females mingle between prospective partners/chefs/househusbands and take turns to assist. Once the meal is served, singles dine together to enjoy their meal with a glass of wine.

Annabel Latto, director of Redblue Introductions, says that the cooking classes offer something unique to singles with busy lifestyles, and those who opt out of online dating.

“A lot of people are disillusioned [by online dating] and want to go back to a traditional way of meeting people, which is why introduction agencies are doing really well at the moment.”

Latto emphasises the benefits of a personalised service, saying that face-to-face dating services such as cooking classes are an effective way of ‘vetting’ dishonesty more commonly ascribed to dating websites.

“Our clients are professionals, they don’t really have the time to meet people or they’ve tried online dating – [they] meet someone and they look completely different.”

One thing is for certain: whether you’re a dab hand with a chopping board or you don’t know your parsnips from your elbow, things are sure to get steamy in the kitchen.

For more information, visit http://www.redblueintroductions.co.uk

And the BAFTA goes to… exactly who we expected

by Sandra Juncu and Anne Mackie

There were no surprises at the BAFTA Awards last night, with The King’s Speech, Black Swan and The Social Network crowned the biggest winners. As many expected, Colin Firth went home with the award for best actor, for his portrayal of King George VI, and has increased his chances to win an Oscar later on. But not all is perfect for Britain’s new favorite male lead, with some saying that The King’s Speech owes its overwhelming success to being the best of a bad bunch.

Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman, offers a peek behind the scenes of ballet show, insisting on the dedication and commitment necessary in preparing a role. The film reminds us of Michael Hanake’s La Pianiste and Michael Powell’s Red Shoes but, as critics commented, lacks their degree of controversy and drama.

The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg as founder Mark Zuckerberg, charts the rise of Facebook, in a story about friendship, betrayal and the quest to make internet history.

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Football Round Up

By Tony Garner

After Wayne’s lunchtime wondergoal you could be forgiven for thinking that no other football took place over the weekend.

But, bicycle related hyperbole aside, it was a fairly standard two days of action both north and south of the border.

In Scotland, Celtic turned over the challenge of Dundee United with a 3-1 win to restore their five point lead over Rangers, who romped to a 6-0 win over hapless Motherwell, whilst there were wins for both Hibernian and Hearts against Kilmarnock and Hamilton respectively. St Mirren and Inverness Caledonian Thistle played out an entertaining 3-3 draw.

In the Premiership, Arsenal kept up the chase on Manchester United with a 2-0 victory against Wolves at the Emirates stadium. With Chelsea not playing until Monday night, Spurs took advantage and moved into fourth place with a win away at Sunderland.  Alex McLeish’s gritty Birmingham nicked a crucial win over Stoke in the final minute of stoppage time.  Apart from that, a series of draws meant it was largely ‘as you were’ in the lower reaches of the league.

All eyes are now on the Champions League matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The big game of the week is Arsenal taking on Barcelona in a rerun of last year’s second round game where the Gunners were cruelly dispatched by a four goal salvo from Lionel Messi.

iPhone app for Fashion?

By Ryan C. Gavan

Dressing by Diva is an app that helps women pick out clothes

A new iPhone application has been launched that aims to help women choose the clothes they should wear. “Body Shape” by Diva Dressing, is available on the Apple AppStore for £5.49. It says it will give a clear depiction of what clothes suit them based on their body shape.

Sally Inkster, the owner of Dressing Diva says, “Beauty only shows through when women are confident.”

“The way to achieve self-confidence is to wear an outfit that truly compliments your body shape”.

It works by women inputting their vital statistics such as height and hip measurements. Once these are recorded it calculates what clothes they should wear and which to avoid.

It is being dubbed ‘the style guide for your pocket’. It is continuing the debate on the amount people are relying on technology. This comes in the wake of a report over the weekend that mums are spending too much time on social network sites and not with their children.

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Cameron: Passion versus duty over “The Big Society”

Speech analysis by David Walsh

Podcast by Katy Docherty and Emily Glass

‘The Big Society’ could be compared to ‘The Big Bang Theory’ in many ways. It may make a loud noise with the promise of creating something, but is the new rhetoric for old fodder merely just smoke and mirrors to save face in a time of economic difficulty?

PM David Cameron is answering questions over his "The Big Society" (Image: BBC)

Prime Minister David Cameron has stressed the need for social as well as economic recovery. In his address to assembled London social entrepreneurs this morning, the Premier outlined just what his vision of “The Big Society” was. ”It is actually social recovery as well as economic recovery, and I think we need social recovery because as I’ve said lots of times in the past, there are too many parts of our society that are broken,” he explained.

Perhaps the speech was wasted on an audience who would be potentially considered core Conservative voters and those less directly affected by Cameron’s latest crusade in social politics. Preaching to the converted, and all that. Critically, Cameron needs to assert his faith in the concept on the lower sorts on the economic rungs; to Mr and Mrs Everyday whose lives will be hardest hit by a compacting economy and spending cuts, not the section of society most financially cushioned from a fall.

Stating that it was his ‘passion’, he went on to describe that reducing the budget deficit was only his ‘duty.’ Such a conflict of interest has been noted by critics of the government who have panned the concept as being “too vague”. Mr Cameron did acknowledge this in the speech this morning, saying that he agreed it was vague in the sense that there was no single initiative being rolled out nationwide but “a stream of things that need to be done.”

What exactly is “The Big Society”? In a nutshell, it is taking emphasis off central government action and empowering local communities to organise their lives more effectively and harmoniously. The bitter irony in this rhetoric is that it will be handing power to the people who are in the firing line of his double-barrel tirade in calling for people ‘act more responsibly’.

”Whether it’s broken families or whether it’s some communities breaking down or whether it’s the level of crime, the level of gang membership, whether it’s problems of people stuck on welfare unable to work, whether it’s the sense that some of our public services don’t work for us, we do need a social recovery to mend the broken society and to me that is what the Big Society is all about,” he said. If it is the handing down of power from the government to the people, would one want to be giving control to broken and lawless communities?

So, is “The Big Society” merely being ground out the the ConDem coalition policy mill to paper over the cracks in public spending? It would seem that in having to reduce the country’s budget deficit and therefore withdrawing key public services, the government believes that the public should also do it’s duty in meeting the government halfway. As he stated, government action can only ever be half of the answer and wanted to make it easier for people to volunteer in society.

What of the voluntary sector we have? Although much funding of charitable and local government-funded schemes will dry up in the current financial drought, Mr Cameron has unveiled a £100m transition fund, christened as the Big Society Bank,  to aid voluntary organisations. Critics say this is not nearly enough to help finance the number of volunteer groups in operation in the UK, many of whom have benefited from government coffers in the past.

And what will “The Big Society” mean for communities in Scotland? Well, in Edinburgh for example, £90m will be axed by the City of Edinburgh council in its budget over the next three years. Glasgow city council will need to find £101m over the next two years. In real terms, this will mean a lull in public service provision and is leaving local councils across Scotland searching for an alternative. Is David Cameron’s “Big Society” the answer?

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Demonstration for inspiration

Blog by Kirsty Tobin. Audio by Tina Charon

Protesters in Place du 1er Mai (AP Picture)

When President Mubarak stepped down on Friday, everyone knew that this would mean big changes for Egypt. What people didn’t necessarily expect was the knock-on effect this victory for democracy would have. The Egyptians are now in the process of nation-building, with calls coming for the country’s military rulers to provide better pay and conditions. Yet, even without a resounding conclusion, the successes of Cairo seem to be inspiring similar scenes of protest in the Algerian capital. The Algiers protests kicked off hours after demonstrators in Tahrir Square achieved what they had been fighting for over the past two weeks – Mubarak’s resignation, a new government and a new chance at democracy.  The Egyptian demonstrations, teamed with the on-going Tunisian protests, can most certainly be seen as a direct influence on those which have just begun in Algiers.

The cycle of inspiration is becoming more and more clear. Just as the Egyptian protesters showed their support for their neighbours by waving Tunisian flags in early demonstrations, many parallels can be drawn between the protests in Egypt and those in Algeria. Perhaps, though, the influence is even stronger in this case. Mustapha Benfodil, an Algerian writer and journalist, has said that it is hoped that the these demonstrations will turn Place du 1er Mai (1st of May Square) into an Algerian Tahrir Square.

The similarities are already becoming glaringly obvious. 1st of May Square has become the focal point for the protests, and is set to continue as such, truly becoming the Algerian Tahrir Square. The protests themselves are eerily similar to those which were taking place in Cairo just a few short days ago. Protesters were vastly outnumbered by police with estimates in France’s Le Monde newspaper placing 2,000 to 3,000 civilians facing down up to 30,000 members of the police force. According to eyewitness accounts, the police, like those in Cairo, seemed bent on disrupting the demonstration. Dressed in full riot-gear they acted as an oppressive force, a force that, arguably, is still acting as the unthinking hand of a government the people have long-since lost faith in: violent supporters of President Boutefilka entered into the square with the cooperation of the police. All of this almost mirrors the manner in which events in Cairo proceeded, the situation before the worst of the violence broke out. And yet the protesters remained unfazed, risking beatings and arrests to stay and shout slogans. “A free and democratic Algeria.” “Government out.” And most tellingly, “Yesterday Egypt, today Algeria.”

It would appear that the concept of democratic rule is infectious. Opposition groups are pledging to continue demonstrations until changes are made, until the state of emergency that the country has been under since 1992 is lifted. It seems as though the successes in Cairo have shown the Algerian people that they should not take no as an answer. Democracy is proving to still be the inspirational, driving force that it’s always been. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that there are still countries fighting for the basic civil freedoms and rights which we take for granted. Easy to forget that there are still countries where democracy is less than a pipe-dream, where it is in fact widely frowned upon. But seeing the passion with which those in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Algeria, are fighting for it, and inspiring it, it’s obvious that the call of democracy is alive and well. But who will be next to answer?

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