Gas leak in North Sea

A typical oil rig (not Elgin Platform) picture provided by Manchot sanguinaire

A gas leak at the Elgin platform, 150 miles off the coast of Aberdeen has been ongoing since Sunday.

238 workers have been evacuated from the platform and the nearby Rowan Viking drilling rig as well as Shell have moved personnel.  A three mile safety zone had been put in place but it has been increased to a five mile radius by the Unite union.

Greenpeace are concerned with possible wider implications of the gas leak in the North Sea.

Total Oil Company owns the platform and claim the leak has not been caused by human error. The company believe the leak is coming from a rock formation above the main reservoir, at a depth of 4,000m.

It has been regarded too dangerous for anyone to return to extinush the blaze but the company claim there is no danger of the flare igniting the gas cloud beneath the rig.

Total has been evaluating the sitution by fly-overs in the area and are currently considering drilling a relief well which could take months.

Five Sisters Zoo appeals for donations for rescued bears

Wojtek the soldier bear knew many tricks as it was claimed he was tame. Picture by Imperial War Museum

The West Lothian zoo is appealing for £60,000 to be raised for three former circus bears.

Carmen, Suzi and Peggy are currently in a holding pen in Belgium where they have been held in cages barely bigger then themselves.

For the last 20 years they have been transported around Europe as part of a circus act. The small zoo hopes to raise enough money to bring the bears to Scotland so they can live out their lives in space and peace.

This brings new debates over the laws of circus animals in the UK. While no animal circuses can be based in the UK, it does not stop others touring. There is a fear that tighter laws will come into force in England and encouraging some of them to also come to Scotland.

Four Famous bears:

Sooty has been making children laugh for generations and is a household name. Presenting his own TV show, along with Sweep, and performing magic the small bear has appeared in both children’s and adult’s programmes alike.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang the Giant Pandas who found fame in Scotland as they are the only Giant Pandas in the UK. They still have a waiting list at Edinburgh Zoo.

Paddington Bear is perhaps the oldest bear on our list and is famous for his love of marmalade. Paddington has become a cultural symbol for Britain and can be found in many tourist shops.

Wojtek the Soldier Bear – While the Polish army were travelling to Iran the soldiers came across a bear cub in the mountains. The soldiers took the cub in and he became part of the 4th Platoon where he developed a taste for beer and cigarettes. He often wrestled many of the soldiers, though few dared take him on. After the war in 1945 many of the soldiers settled in Europe, Wojtek moved into Edinburgh Zoo where his picture can still be found on the reception wall.

Ashes found in charity shop

A vase picture by Hohum. Not vase found in charity shop.

“They thought I was joking when I said what I found. It has been the most unusual thing we have ever been given in the charity shop by far.”

Ashes from a cremation have been found in charity shop Arthritis Research Campaign in Midlothian. They were found after chairwoman, Lena Skilbeck, handled the vase and spilled the ashes in the Bonnyrigg shop.

The ashes have been sent to Barclays Funeral Services to be determine whether they are human or animal remains. They will be kept in the town’s funeral parlour until they are claimed.

When they were originally found, Lena had a difficult time convincing the other staff members she was being serious. “It was about 18 inches across and quite heavy so only a wee bit fell out, but I sweept up as much as I could and hoovered up the rest.”

“I was going to sprinkle them, but my husband said the owner might be looking for them, so I phoned the undertaker instead.”

The results to determine whether the ashes are human or not will be released until next week. The charity shop are still trying to find the owner, Lena says “I reckon they’ll come back in”.

Updated Penrose Inquiry ends today

Blood donation. Picture provided by Waldszenen

The legal representatives of the ongoing inquiry are due to make their closing statement today.

The inquiry is looking into how hundreds of people in Scotland received contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the first evidence session earlier this month Lord Penrose heard from patients and relatives in a closed session so they could give evidence anonymously.

Many in Scotland are thought to have received the blood contaminated by Hepatitis C.

At the end of the session no conclusions had been drawn and while Laura Dunlop, one of the four advocates thanked many involved, there is still a long way to go.

The evidence has now been collected and now time must be taken so there is time to reflect on the value of the material.

The victims will be given an explanation after a conclusion is drawn but it is a controversial issue and the number of people who have been affected need to be established.

There is a serious tone underlining the session with the closing statement claiming “they will not be happy to reach a final conclusion without all the stones unturned.”

What’s in the Queen’s handbag?

Queen Elizabeth II enjoyng the sun. Picture by Bill Ingalls

Although it may be a challenge to guess what is in any woman’s handbag, it is safe to assume we all carry the basic essentials; phone, purse and keys. But what if we didn’t need to carry money, there was no need for us to own a phone or even house keys? That is the everyday life of HRH Queen Elizabeth. So what exactly does Her Majesty carry in her handbag?

The Diamond Jubilee will celebrate 60 years of the Queen’s reign. Although it will not be officially celebrated until June, there have already been some occasions, competitions and discussions over the event.

Her Majesty earned approval with the locals by restoringPerth to city status earlier this month, but there has still been much debate over her keynote speech. Given last week to a large audience including the current and two previous prime ministers, the Queen avoided the topic of Scottish independence. Speaking instead on the “spirit of neighbourliness and celebration of own communities” and of the “resilience, ingenuity and tolerance” of the British people. HRH went on to state she would remain as head of state and joked of her dealings with the past 12 prime ministers.

In the run up and during the Diamond Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will be touring the UK, along with her infamous handbag.

There have been plenty of guesses over time, and even a book, which pieces together many clues and hints over the contents of the bag. ‘What’s in the Queen’s handbag and other royal secrets’ by Phil Dampier and Ashley Walton claims the Queen carries everything with her from good luck charms given to her by her children to family photographs.  It even goes on to claim there is a secret language conveyed for the Queen to comminute with her staff.  If the Queen places her handbag on the table at dinner it signifies she wishes the event to finish for example. One of the most popular claims, both inside the book and out, is a hook the Queen carries especially for her handbag; this is designed to keep her bag from ever touching the floor.

From the mouths of babes:

To help investigate this mystery I ask primary school pupils aged between seven and eight what they think is in the Queen’s handbag. The most popular answers were money, make-up and an iphone2. However, others believe HRH carries; a spare hat, a shiny crown and even her favourite corgi, while one boy believes the Queen “doesn’t need any money in her purse cause she can have anything she wants.”

Top Five Facts you didn’t know about the Queen:

  1. The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign, starting with Susan who was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944. Her Majesty currently has three corgis – Monty,Willowand Holly.
  2. In 60 years, The Queen has undertaken 261 official overseas visits, to 116 different countries.
  3. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have sent approximately 45,000 Christmas cards during The Queen’s reign.
  4. Over the reign, Her Majesty has given regular audiences to 12 Prime Ministers. Ranging from Winston Churchill to the present David Cameron.
  5. Unusual live gifts given to The Queen on foreign tours include: two tortoises given to The Queen in the Seychelles in 1972; a seven-year-old bull elephant called “Jumbo” given by the President of Cameroon in 1972 to mark The Queen’s Silver Wedding, and two black beavers given after a Royal visit to Canada.

Read the Queen’s complete keynote speech here

See all the pictures of the Queen and her audience during her speech here

More tram works, yet the end is in sight

Yet more traffic disruption: Edinburgh trams. Image: geograph.org.uk / cc.

The next set of tram works are due to begin this weekend.

The existing tram works at Shandwick Place and Haymarket are now being extended to cover West Maitland Street.

The works are set to take place from 5’oclock tomorrow morning with other traffic divisions being put in place.

Edinburgh Council has thanked the local businesses, people and commuters for their patience with the ongoing works and all their disruptions.

The City of Edinburgh Council warns of traffic disruptions and journey delays as a result of the ongoing tram works.

The works, which many feel are taking over the city centre, are feared to be a danger to businesses in the area. Apart from the general traffic disruptions the works are feared to bring a negative image to commuters and tourists coming from the nearby Haymarket train station.

The council offers an ‘Open for Business’ budget, in which £175,000 will be invested. The programme was created to encourage visitors to Edinburgh and sustain footfall in the city centre.

Yet many criticise the council for their lack of help with diverted walk ways and in particular, pointing pathways though the maze of road works for customers. The tram works stretch from Haymarket to the West End and Princess Street t oWaverley Bridge but they are due to be completed in June this year.

New cafes open on Morrison Street

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Edinburgh Napier News speaks exclusively to two of Edinburgh’s newest cafes. Sarah Turnbull reports.

Listen here:

Caffeine addiction takes over Morningside

With 57 coffee shops within a one mile radius in the Morningside area, the local community are angered by the news of Costa trying to open a branch making it the 58th coffee shop in the area.

Costa Coffee wishes to move into the current bathroom store at 14 Morningside Road – only a 10 minute walk away from the nearby branch in Bruntsfield.

‘The Caffeine Mile’, running from the bottom of Comiston Road to the Bruntsfield Hotel, has the Morningside Traders Association fighting the plan. But some have managed to remain light-hearted and have even suggested to rename Holy Corner as ‘Coffee Corner’.

The Morningside Traders Association is against the type of business rather than the chain itself. Anne Williamson, who runs Houseproud of Morningside and is chair of the traders’ group, argues: “It’s all about balance. Imagine if we had 57 banks or building societies within a one-mile range on our high street.”

There is also a fear that the independent stores that are well known in Morningside and Bruntsfield are at risk of being squeezed out by the volume of coffee stores.

Costa has been criticised in the past for being commercially aggressive; the popular chain has increased the number of shops in the UK from 158 to 1,375 over the past year. And while the rest of the UK is suffering from the recession, Costa sales have gone up 24.4 per cent – a rise that the chain attributes to the opening of new shops.

Whitbred, the global owner of several popular hotels and coffee shops, says that the additional 20 coffee shops in Scotland are creating an estimated 200 jobs.

Listen here:

Listen to what Brenna from Starbucks thinks:

Listen to what Rachel from Luca’s Cafe thinks:

The message in Freddie Mercury’s silence

World Aid Day raises awareness around the globe. Photo: Courtesy UNAIDS

“Goodbye everybody – I’ve got to go, gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.”

These are some of the lines from one of the most famous songs in music history and looking back they seem hauntingly accurate. The song, written by Freddie Mercury, reached number one for the second time in 1991, staying there for five weeks following his death.

Mercury was a larger than life character and shocked the world by publicly announcing he was HIV positive one day before he died.

The legendary icon died at 45, from a type of bacterial pneumonia brought on by AIDS. He died in London, 20 years ago. Mercury is still well known for his flamboyant stage presence, powerful vocals and talented songwriting that has inspired millions.

With the anniversary of his death today, and the upcoming World AIDS Day next week, there are even more reports and research being published to raise awareness of the virus.

The purpose of World AIDS Day is to remind people around the world of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. It has been 30 years since AIDS was first reported, and it is estimated that today 34 million people are living with HIV around the globe.

World AIDS Day 2011 has a ‘looking forward’ theme with a focus on 2015.  The organisation, UNAIDS, which is a joint United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS, is leading the campaign with what they call ‘Getting to Zero’. The organisation claims “we have three main targets which are: zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths by 2015”.

UNAIDS is promoting a “smarter, faster, better campaign” to raise awareness of these targets. They may seem ambitious but with the global statistics of HIV and AIDS decreasing it might not be  impossible.

The total number of Scots with HIV is now 6,845 with 72% made up of males and 28% females. The main spread of HIV is mainly due to drug use and the sharing of needles and syringes.

The Scottish charity, Positive Help, has created services to help those who are affected by HIV and AIDS in the Edinburgh area. They provide a transport service, home support service and a children and young people befriending system. The befriending system is aimed at children from three to eighteen who are HIV positive, or have parents that are.

Angus Mackenzie from the charity claims, “the befriending system is very helpful to both children and teenagers, but also their parents.”

“There was one little boy we took to a festival and his reaction was just mind blowing, as if he’d never seen anything like it before.”

One of the biggest issues with HIV and AIDS is the embarrassment and taboo that still surrounds the virus toady. Mercury himself remained silent about his illness until one day before it killed him. Many suffer discrimination and feel restrictions in relationships with friends and family. This is what the befriending systems aims to prevent.

Despite the advances in life expectancy, Positive Help claims that those influenced by HIV still suffer physically, mentally and socially. Mental health issues are a problem with the virus as it can lead to ill health, depression, isolation and agoraphobia.

Green spaces can improve your quality of life

As the Woodland Trust says: "life is better with trees." Photo: Sunny Johnson

Plant a tree, save a life.

That’s the idea behind the Green Gym charity. With the help of the Dunfermline and West Fife Community Health Partnership, they aim to improve the lives of patients at Lynebank Hospital by planting trees.

The Green Gym charity encourages communities to work together to enhance their local areas by creating a green space. The aim of the scheme is to create a garden area at the hospital to promote positive health and wellbeing among patients, staff and visitors.

The charity running the Green gym claim a daily walk in a park can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes by 50%, cut breast cancer by 30% and Alzheimer’s by 25%.

They received a free 240-tree pack from the Woodland Trust. The environmental organisation has received over 1,000 community packs resulting in more than 200,000 native trees being planted all over the UK.

The Woodland Trust is supporting this project as it coincides with its main aims “we want to see no further loss of woodland and the creation of new native woodland.”

But the community packs are part of a bigger project. The Jubilee Woods scheme has a target of planting six million trees by the end of 2012.  It is one of a few projects in the UK that carry’s official Royal approval, with HRH the Princess Royal as its patron.

The charity’s aim is to raise awareness of the importance of parks. Over 33 million people in the UK choose to use their green spaces. Statistics show that the more often a person visits open green spaces the less often he or she will report stress related illnesses.

The Woodland Trust and Green Gym feel it is important to encourage people to take part in creating green spaces. This is because the local authorities are not legally required to provide, invest or maintain public parks and green spaces.

The Green Gym project will run for ten weeks in total with volunteers coming every Tuesday from 10am – 1pm. The initial five week period will finish on Tuesday 6th December. But it will pick up again on Tuesday 17th January until Tuesday 14th February.

The marketing and communications manager for Love Parks Week states “the Love Parks week is definitely the biggest public campaign”.

Thousands of students protest against Spanish education cuts

by Natalia Rodríguez Domínguez

Just three days before the Spanish General Elections, thousands of students and teaching staff from  Spanish Universities have taken to the streets
in order to protest against education cuts, difficult working conditions and educational reform which is to be implemented by the government in 2015.

Spanish students have chosen the International Student’s Day,  which is 17th November, as the perfect date to call for a day of protests and teaching strikes across Spain. In Madrid, hundreds of students have been occupying teaching rooms at the five main public Universities since the 14th November.

This movement has been organised by several student groups which have encouraged action against the increasing state cuts in public education and the expected increase of fees which will take effect in 2015. All across the main Spanish cities, students have skipped classes today to show their indignation.

In Barcelona, a number of teaching stuff have joined the students’ demonstrations across the city.  Some faculties also started the day under occupation by students. A group of radical protesters has demonstrated in the middle of some main roads and the city bypass. This has forced the traffic to stop for a few hours, until the demonstrators were removed.

This evening more demonstrations are expected as students and teaching staff plan to take part in localalised protests. They are demanding better quality higher education and an improvement in access to higher education regardless of family income.

How a boy I didn’t know helped me choose to become an organ donor

The sticker on the back of Sarah's license lets people know her status as an organ donor.

Sarah Turnbull reflects on her decision to become an organ donor:

“I joined the organ donor register a few years ago but I understand how people can have doubts.

At first I didn’t like the idea. I feared the doctors wouldn’t try as hard if they knew I was part of the organ register; a fear I no longer have after assurances that the doctors wouldn’t ever give up on a patient if they were struggling for their life.

My next concern was my heart. I didn’t like the idea of somebody else having it. They could have anything else, just not my heart.

I know I won’t need it after I’m dead but there was something about the idea of being buried in the ground without a heart that I didn’t like.

But then I read a news story about a seriously ill ten-year-old boy signing up for the donor register. He had a fatal illness and there was no cure. A couple of days later he died and his organs and skin were donated. That one little boy saved 30 people.

That story changed my views. I no longer have any problems with signing the organ donor register. Now I know after I die someone else could be given a new life.”

New Call for Opt-Out Organ Donation

by Sarah Turnbull

“Three people will die unnecessarily every day in Scotland” said Professor John Forsythe,
lead clinician for NHS Lothian. This is because more than 700 people in Scotland are waiting for an organ transplant.

While 90% of the population in Scotland are in favour of the idea of organ donation, only 37% of people have actually joined the register to become a potential donor.

The Scottish Government has decided to invest money into a television advertising campaign to promote registering as an organ donor.  Some people, though, are calling for a more extreme system to increase organ donation.  Termed an ‘opt-out’ system, this scheme would mean that everyone is automatically added to the Organ Donor Register. In order to remove oneself from this list, a person would be required to notify NHS.

Dundee MSP Joe Fitzpatrick supports this system. He  recently signed a petition to persuade the Scottish Government to change the current system of organ donation to the ‘opt-out’ system. Mr. Fitzpatrick claims “this system is supported by the British Medical Association and major charities including the British Heart Foundation and Kidney Research UK.”

This system has been suggested before and has been met with some controversy.

Scotland has the highest percentage of people donating organs in the UK, with 37% of its population on the register. Forsythe, however, said that this is not enough. “We urgently need more people from across Scotland to join the Organ Donor Register” he said.

It seems the top factor preventing people from joining the register is fear.  According to the NHS, one of most frequently asked questions about organ donation is “how do they know when you are really dead?” The organisation assures people that a doctors confirm the organ donors are dead in exactly the same way as those who are not on the register.

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