New Pinhole Exhibition Invites All to Get Involved


The Botanic Gardens have today unveiled a new festival focusing on pinhole photography. The event is scheduled to run for two weeks, and is designed to be accessible to both professional and amateur photographers, as well as interested members of the public.

Kenny Bean organised the exhibit and has been working as a photographer for 25 years, branching out into pinhole photographs around 5 years ago. He described how “film cameras and digital cameras are quite strict in the photography that you do – you can see the image come back so you know its going to work, whereas pinhole photography is very random. You’re not sure what you’re going to get so it’s more of a surprise and it’s a different challenge to get a picture out of a pinhole camera than a digital camera.”

The festival includes works by Jason Cornell, an artist who places a pinhole camera in his mouth and photographs everyday objects, as seen from the back of the throat. Minnie Veiss, another proponent of the art, uses a Camera Obscura set-up in conjunction with pinhole techniques.

The Stills Gallery and the Camera Obscura building are also involved in the project, with the gallery hosting a reading room where people can learn more about methods and techniques. The Camera Obscura is hosting children’s workshops where kids can make a working camera obscura, which they can then take home.

The festival is open every day from 12 till 4pm, and features an open dark room for visitors to use as they wish. For complete novices, Bean explains that they are running “a beginners workshop, 2 till 3 o’clock every afternoon, so they can come and learn…how to take photographs with biscuit tin cameras…and then once they’ve learned how to do that they can come back…and just carry on working in the dark room themselves.”

Lothian buses hike prices again

Bus passengers in Edinburgh are facing a new round of price increases this week. This marks the second price rise by Lothian Buses in 12 months.

As of the 4th of March 2012, single fare prices are rising from £1.30 to £1.40, while day passes are rising from £3.20 to £3.50. There have been no changes to student, child, or concession fares. The last price rise was in April 2011, when single fare prices rose from £1.20 to £1.30.

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A Sunday of British football

Alessandro Brunelli talks to us about what happened yesterday in English and Scottish football.


Sunday March 4th Fixtures:

Premier League

16:10 Tottenham 1 – 3 Man Utd White Hart Lane
14:05 Fulham 5 – 0 Wolves Craven Cottage
12:00 Newcastle 1 – 1 Sunderland Sports Direct Arena

Edinburgh set to celebrate its remarkable women

March sees the annual return of International Women’s Day (IWD) with events planned throughout Edinburgh to mark the occasion.

For over 100 years, the world has celebrated the achievements of women and their contribution to the arts, sciences, medicine and numerous other fields. On and around 8th March the celebration continues as countries around the world host their own events.

Beginning life in 1909 as National Women’s Day in the United States the day was instigated by the Socialist Party of America. It soon spread overseas to socialist countries in Europe before being recognised as an international event in 1911.

The UN’s theme for this years IWD will be Empower Women: End Hunger and Poverty. The United States have also planned a Women’s History Month to coincide with IWD and Google will change its search engine icon to show their support.

Founder of the internationalwomensday.com, Glenda Stone explains why IWD has become so popular, “Activity on International Women’s Day has skyrocketed over the last five years. This is due to the rise of social media, celebrity involvement, and corporations taking on the day sponsoring and running big events. Our twitter.com/womensday community with around 10,000 followers is phenomenal for sharing videos, information and news as it happens. Offline large scale women’s rallies have become even larger through the use of social media. It would be hard to find any country that did not celebrate the day in some way.”

This year, Edinburgh will recognise IWD with a calender of events kicking off this evening at Surgeons Hall with a series of talks acknowledging women often overlooked in Edinburgh’s medical community. The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh University and the Film House will also play host to events and talks.

For more information on these events click here.

New wave of library cuts hang in the balance

Tonight at 6.15 pm the McDonald Road Library in Edinburgh will become the place of a communal discussion following recent plans by the Council to save money in library services. Edinburgh East Save Our Services, Greater Leith Against the Cuts as well as members of Unison will hold a public meeting to discuss changes which would include reduction of opening hours and certain venues closing on Thursdays.

Campaigners are worried the Council’s plan will threaten the functionality of Edinburgh’s libraries, and mean that some facilities would be left short staffed which would have an adverse effect on the quality of service provided to the public. .

Edinburgh based writer Ken MacLeod told STV local: “Free public libraries have been important to me all my life. Any cut in library services is a hit on the self-education and self-directed entertainment of everyone, and particularly on those who can least afford to lose them.”

The meeting tonight is a response to those issues and is open to the public.

UK parents can’t afford to lend money to their children

Disturbing figures reveal that a quarter of UK families with children under 16 have no savings at all, compared to a national average of 19%.

People in their late thirties and those who are divorced are also among the ones left most financially vulnerable as they bear the brunt of family responsibilities.

The numbers show that a quarter of Britons aged 35-44 years old have no savings at all, with 73% of these people saying they have no money available to save. Although they do have some savings, 39% of people who are divorced and living alone are currently failing to save anything at all, noticeably higher than the national average of 32%.

“Although these groups aren’t mutually exclusive, what we can discern from the research is that all the points in this ‘Risk Triangle’ have significant family responsibilities. We can see that family giving has risen exponentially, but this is clearly unsustainable.  It begs the question, that without taking steps to provide, how will they help their children in another five years through education or onto the property ladder?” commented Iain McGowan, Head of Savings and Investments at Scottish Widows.

According the latest Scottish Widows Savings & Investments Report, the average amount of money UK parents can afford to lend to their children is £12,846. This number has increased by almost a third since the financial downturn in the last five years.

A further trend shows that over half of Britons are saving for the short-term, or not at all.

Explaining this short-term attitude, Mr McGowan said: “We are increasingly seeing people fail to plan properly for the future. When a life stage – whether having children, buying a home or planning for retirement – is so far away, we tend to not take it into account, preferring to focus on the here and now instead. However not only is this misguided, this short-sightedness will cost the current generation dearly, and deliver a huge savings shock further down the line.”

Mild winter boosts hydro power

Scotland’s hydroelectric power stations have received a boost from a warm and wet winter. Energy production in Hydro plants was revealed to be the highest since records began in the 1930s.

This data come from energy company SSE, who run more than 50 hydroelectric schemes across the Highlands, Perth, Kinross, Argyll and Bute.

The high rainfall over winter and the rapid thaw of snow were perfect for hydroelectric production. The previous record for hydroelectric production over a year was 3,890 gigawatt hours (GWh) but the figures for 2011/12 look set to pass the 4,000 GWh mark.

The winter was especially warm; temperatures in Aberdeen airport went as high as 17.2C last Tuesday.

Paul Smith, SSE managing director for generation said that the weather conditions “ensured the continuing success of hydro power as a valued source of renewable energy.”

Michael Jackson music stolen

Sony music confirmed today that a number of Michael Jackson tracks were stolen when their website was hacked.

The security breach occurred in April last year, and Sony announced that as many as 70 million PlayStation Network users’ details may have been stolen. The theft of the Michael Jackson tracks came shortly afterwards, but was not revealed until now.

Sony will not confirm which or how many tracks were taken. The music company paid Jackson’s estate £158million for the rights to his remaining songs, some of which it released in the album Michael in December 2010.

It has not been established whether or not tracks from other artists have been affected by this hack. Two British men are due to stand trial for computer misuse in January 2013.

MP’s critique Cardinal’s gay marraige slurs

The Catholic Church’s most senior figure in Britain has been accused of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘whipping up gay marriage fears’ after hitting out at the Government’s plans to legalise gay marriage.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, was told his comments were ‘unacceptable’ and MPs warned of him fuelling prejudice on an already sensitive subject.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the cleric said that the coalitions proposals were a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and the idea of redefining marriage, would “shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world”.

Tory MP Margot James, the first openly lesbian Conservative MP, condemned O’Brien’s use of ‘apocalyptic language’, while Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said the government’s consultation on gay marriage was not aimed at forcing religious groups to endorse same-sex marriages.

He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “We’re not seeking to change religious marriage and we’re not seeking to impose it on religious groups.What we are saying is that where a couple love each other and they wish to commit to each other for their life then they should be able to have a civil marriage irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, a former equalities minister, said she thought it was right to have same-sex marriages.

She added: “I don’t want anybody to feel that this is a license for whipping up prejudice. What you’re talking about is individual people and their personal relationships, their love for each other and their wanting to be in a partnership or getting married. I think we should support that.”

‘Controversial comments’

O’Brien has a reputation as a robust defender of traditionalist Christian teaching and in Sunday’s column said: “Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.

“Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.”

He added: “Imagine for a moment that the government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that ‘no one will be forced to keep a slave’.

“Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right?”

The Cardinal has become the latest of several senior clergy to denounce what he calls the “madness” of the government’s backing for marriage to include homosexual couples.

He accused ministers of attempting to “redefine reality” and “dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage”.

In January the Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, also insisted governments did not have the moral authority to redefine marriage.

‘Civil marriage debate’

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone will launch a consultation later this month on how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples.

She has said she wants to challenge the view that the government does not have the right to change marriage traditions.

“It is the government’s fundamental job to reflect society and to shape the future, not stay silent where it has the power to act and change things for the better.”

Many church leaders believe gay marriage would represent a further significant step in marginalising traditional religious values in society.

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004 to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples, but the law does not allow such unions to be referred to as marriages. Civil partners are entitled to the same property rights, the same exemptions on inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits as married couples, but do not have the same status under English law.

Until now it has been banned for civil partnership ceremonies to include religious readings, music or symbols and forbidden for them to take place in religious venues, regardless of the views of the building’s owners. In Scotland, which has its own legislation, some church parishes offer blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Pinhole Photography Festival

Today Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens starts hosting the Pinhole Photography Festival. It’s the first festival of its kind in Edinburgh and celebrates the art of photography without using a lens.

The simple technique works with a tiny hole in the camera, which replaces the lens. Light passes through the hole; an image is formed in the camera. The festival gives current pinhole photographers a chance to showcase their work.

The festival is designed for beginners and people who are unfamiliar with this art as well as experienced photographers. Daily workshops and discussions are offered to give an introduction to this simple but effective kind of photography.

Visitors can go see the free festival until 17th March.

Farm subsidy scam

Unused farmland costing tax payer millions in scammed subsidies

An agriculture subsidies scam, which is reported to be costing UK tax payers millions, has been exposed in a new investigation.

Under the current system farmers receive subsidies for each hectare of land they own, this money is intended as a stimulus to aid the production of crops. However an investigation into the process has revealed that groups operating outside of the farming industry have been purchasing agricultural land in order to benefit from these government subsidies.

The individuals participating in this lucrative scheme have been coined as “slipper farmers”; they rent land in order to make themselves eligible for the subsidy rights, then collect an annual cheque, whilst contributing nothing to agricultural production. The rewards can be considerable and have prompted people to register as farmers and buy into the stimulus scheme solely as a business investment.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead told the BBC that he had already identified the problem and had invested a lot of effort to “persuade Europe to Change the legislation”.

But Dacian Ciolos, the European Agriculture Commissioner said they had already granted the powers for individual member countries to scrap the loophole back in 2010.

To stop the system being exploited, the Scottish government will have to change the definition of farmers that are eligible for the subsidy to prevent those who are not contributing to farming from benefiting.

Paul McBride, QC (1963 – 2012)

One of Scotland’s top criminal lawyers, Paul McBride has represented clients in some of the country’s most high-profile cases.

Son of George and Mary McBride, he was educated in Glasgow. At just 19, McBride graduated from Strathclyde university with a degree in Law. He was called to the Bar in Scotland in 1988 and in 2000 he became the youngest QC in the UK at the age of 35.

Known for his uncompromising style in court, McBride learned early on that the legal world would be challenging, “You have to have faith in your own ability to up your game and when you fall off the only thing to do is get back on again.”

Involved in politics throughout his career, McBride made a high-profile defection from the Scottish Labour party to the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party in 2009. He later left the Conservatives accusing them of being, “divided and dysfunctional” and “a bunch of unreconstructed morons” .

Among the successful cases of his career were the acquittals of Gail Sheridan on perjury charges in 2010 and of Human Rights lawyer Aamer Anwar on charges of contempt of court in 2008. McBride also represented Celtic FC and was targetted along with Neil Lennon when they were sent parcel bombs in April 2011. The trial of the men accused of sending the packages, Neil McKenzie and Trevor Muirhead, is currently ongoing, with McBride due to appear to give evidence.

Lawyer Derek Ogg QC, payed tribute to his colleague and friend on BBC Scotland programme, Good Morning Scotland, “He was so much his own man, and so much a person who would speak his own mind. As all the journalists I’ve talked to know, Paul would go off the script and give a straight and honest answer whether or not that was what he was meant to or not.”

McBride had been a Celtic fan all his life. Former Celtic chairman, Lord Reid payed tribute to him, “He was a great colleague and friend and will be sadly missed well beyond his own family. My thoughts are with them.”

McBride is survived by his partner, Gary Murphy and his parents.

Tesco announces the creation of 20,000 jobs

Tesco

Tesco Metro

After recent criticism over presumed employee exploitation in Tesco, the supermarket giant published some good news, announcing plans to create 20,000 new jobs in the next 2 years.

Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed the plan, which he hopes will provide a boost for Britain’s struggling economy. In a statement he complimented Tesco on their announcement:

“Their commitment to creating jobs and opportunities for young people at what is a difficult time for the economy is fantastic news for the UK as a whole and for those people they will help into work,” he said.

Tesco plans on using the new staff primarily in customer service, but the programme will also focus on refreshing the appearance of existing stores and opening up new ones.

Richard Brasher, Tesco’s UK CEO said: “With youth unemployment at record levels, we’re determined to target many of our new jobs at young people currently out of work – so that in this difficult jobs market those who need help the most will get it.”

Recently Right to Work activists targeted Tesco as being part of the governments work experience scheme, where people on benefits work full-time for free. This scheme was criticized for taking advantage of free labour and undermining workers rights. However Tesco put this negative press down to a misunderstanding over the technicalities of the initiative.

An early season of dangerous weather

The weather in the United States has quietened after a chaotic weekend of severe storms and deadly tornadoes.

The most recent chain of storms have killed at least 39 people across 5 states, this is on top of deadly storms earlier in the week, bringing the total deaths this week to nearly 52.

According to Jonathan Erdman, Senior Meteorologist at weather.com the preliminary count from the National Weather Services for tornadoes, on 2nd and 3rd of March, was 79 twisters that touched down. Once the final damage reports are conducted, this could prove to be the largest March outbreak on record.

This is only 8 less then the 10-year average of 87 tornadoes in the whole of March.

These tornadoes are coming unseasonably early this year. Tornadoes are most common during the spring and summer months, typically from April to June, however the weather requirements for a tornado can happen at any time of the year.

The latest death came last night as the 15-month toddler, Angel Babcock, who was found in an open field was taken off life support last night at an Louisville,Kentucky hospital. The toddler died of intensive head and neck injuries, which had kept her in critical condition since Friday.

Weather reports for the week have predicted a quiet start to the damaged area, but with thunderstorms rolling in at the end of the week, though these storms should be without the damaging winds and weather patterns experienced in the past week.

Top Scottish lawyer found dead in hotel room

One of Scotland’s leading lawyers was found dead in a hotel room in Pakistan at the weekend. Initial reports suggest Paul McBride QC had died in his sleep.

It has been said that Mr McBride felt unwell in the lead up to his death and his body was discovered by friend and colleague, human rights lawyer, Amaer Anwar.

Mr McBride’s Twitter was updated to read today:

Paul McBride – Tonight I will be gone from your twitter screens forever in your hearts and memories #RIPPaulMcBrideQC it’s been a pleasure!

Other tributes have been flowing in on Twitter from people who knew him in some capacity and others who didn’t.

Gerard McDonald – Had the pleasure of meeting #paulmcbride twice in my capacity as a taxi driver. He was a sound guy and a great Celtic fan. #celticfamily

Scottish Fashion Publicist Tessa Hartmann – Devastated to hear about the tragic death of #PaulMcBride QC – deepest sympathies to Gary and his family. A huge loss for Scotland.

Writer and Actor, Stuart Hepburn – Shocked at the death of #PaulMcBride. He gave me a great deal of support on script research in the past. A great loss.

Graeme Tait – Sad news about Paul McBride. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family! #paulmcbride

Celtic Football Club, Chief Executive Peter Lawwell issued a statement on their website with their condolences to his family.

“This is tragic news. Paul was a very good friend of Celtic and someone who cared passionately about the club. His passing is clearly a great loss and he will be sadly missed.

“The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Celtic are with Paul´s family at this very difficult time.”

Mr McBride was one of three people who had been sent petrol bombs to their home between 1 March and 15 April last year. Celtic manager Neil Lennon and former MSP Trish Godman were also sent packages. Trevor Muirhead, 43 and Neil McKenzie, 42 who are accused of conspiring to murder McBride, deny the charges against them.  The court heard last week that a postman had become suspicious about a parcel being delivered to the lawyer when he noticed that it smelt strongly of petrol. When investigated by police officers, the parcel was found to be a device which contained nails, a bottle filled with liquid and wires leading to a timer. It is alleged that the devices were capable of exploding.

The trail continues.

Read more about Paul McBride: http://edinburghnapiernews.com/2012/03/05/paul-mcbride-qc-1963-2012/

Parra kills Irish dreams of grandeur in Paris

Ireland 17 – France 17, Six Nations Match report

By Alessandro Brunelli

Blood, sweat and tears were all spilled at the Stade de France yesterday, with Ireland leaving Paris with a hard fought draw and a bitter taste of disappointment at having so close to taking the win.

A spirited approach by the Irish side in the first half had led even the most sceptical fans to dream of a final score which could have gone down in History.

On the 17th minute a lack of concentration on the Bleus side had allowed an opportunist Tommy Bowe to pierce a French defense which initially looked far from its usual strength.

It was far too easy for Bowe to intercept a pass from Rougerie and run in between the posts for the first Irish try, which was followed by a conversion from Jonathan Sexton.

Bowe’s effort was then accompanied by a solid defensive display by Declan Kidney’s men, which only let the French score from penalties in the first half, while Sexton punished the French indiscipline with another kick.

There was yet more Irish sparkle to come before the half time whistle, as on the 37th minute Bowe again went deep through the French defense like a hot knife through butter, chipped the ball past Mazier and scored an impressive try which pulled the curtains on the first half, with the Irish deservedly leading 17 to 6.

You could never blame the French for lacking pride, and a great deal of pride is what they drew upon to make a spectacular comeback in the second half.

There was urgency in the way France tried to gain territory, an attitude which was awarded with a penalty scored by Morgan Parra on the 47th minute.

This was followed only three minutes later by a stunning run from Wesley Fofana, who got a hold of the ball just past midfield and went all the way to score a try which cast doubts over the Irish ability to hold the lead until the end.

As another kick from Parra on 58th minute led the 80-thousand strong stadium behind the Bleus to the tune of the Marseillaise, Irish hopes looked even dimmer.

But that was, in an overall disappointing second half, the time the men in green regrouped and managed to desperately defend a score for the whole last quarter of the match.

Although all during the final period they never looked dangerous in the French half, and this will mostly be remembered as a wasted golden opportunity, Ireland should still feel some pride in coming so close to sealing a victory in this year’s most feared away match.

Government funding for Highland and Moray Colleges

A grant of £1.95million has been given to colleges in the Highlands and Moray to help tackle youth unemployment.

The funding is to be split between Moray College, North Highland College and Inverness College, which form part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The money, which comes from the European Social Fund, is the latest round of such funding, following the £5.3million announced in February to help aid economic growth. It will go towards funding training programmes and full time places in order to boost employability for young people in the area.

On a visit to Inverness College, the Minister for Youth Employment, Angela Constance said that not having training or education “can be highly damaging to the life chances of Scotland’s young people and can seriusly dent their ambitions.”

She stated that the Scottish Government has “guaranteed every 16-19-year-old a place in education or training” and that the funding will “build on that activity and help us nurture the potential of our young people, provide routes into work and harness their ability and creativity to contribute towards future economic growth.”

The December 2011 figures show that at the numbers of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Highlands, Moray, Argyll and Bute grew towards the end of last year, and was up to 7,500 by the start of 2012.

National Museum of Scotland reborn

Since it reopened last Summer, the National Museum of Scotland has been the most popular UK attraction outside of London according to new figures. Its £47 million refurbishment has boosted visitor numbers by 141%, one of the largest boosts in visitors for UK attractions according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

Bernard Donoghue, director of the ALVA claims this is due to brave decision-making.

“The Scottish government, local authorities, the Scottish Lottery Heritage Fund and the attractions themselves have had the courage to invest in a difficult economic climate but their investment has been entirely justified.”

Other Scottish attractions have had more visitors over the last year, such as Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Director of the National Museums of Scotland, Dr Gordon Rintoul, claims that they have created a “truly world-class visitor attraction” which will bring “huge benefits to the country’s tourism economy”.

Putin wins presidential election

Vladimir Putin has won the Russian presidential election, reclaiming his former position after operating as Prime Minister for the last term of government.

Results indicate a landslide win with a majority of 64%, in what Putin declared was an “open and honest battle”. However opposition groups dispute the fairness of the election, claiming the contest was “clearly skewed in favour of current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin”.

In a statement Tonino Picula, the spokesman for the Organization for security and Co-operation said “The point of elections is that the outcome should be certain…This was not the case in Russia. There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt.”

Putin has been at the top of Russian politics since his first term as prime minister in 2000. As a former KGB agent, he has always been criticized for his association with private business particularly the oil sector and accusations of corruption have been prevalent throughout his political career.

Following allegations of corruption in previous elections, measures were taken to improve accountability and accuracy. Camera’s were set up in polling stations to prevent vote rigging and foul play. However Putin’s opposition have already declared these measures as ineffective, amid claims of inaccuracies and the falsification of results. Alexey Navalny an anti corruption campaigner accused Putin’s part of organizing carousel voting, where bus loads of individuals toured several polling stations in order to cast multiple votes.

Edinburgh Distillery granted £27 million boost

Whiskey Stills / Photo courtesy of Bern Altman

An Edinburgh based distillery has been granted £27 million by RBS as part of a flexible funding package.

Founded in 1898, the BenRiach distillery currently employ 80 people over their 2 sites. In 2008 the company bought over the GlenDronach distillery in Aberdeenshire. This latest investment could expand the company even further. New acquisitions as well as investment in stock and facilities are being considered.

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