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.

First leaders debate aims to gain young votes

Party leaders were held accountable by Scottish Youth Parliament members on Saturday 12th of March, at Inverclyde Academy in Greenock.

Political journalist David Torrance hosted the first leaders debate of the Scottish election. Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) quizzed the politicians on behalf of Scottish young people.  First Minister Alex Salmond and Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott pulled out of the event at short notice, leaving Angela Constance MSP and Ross Finnie MSP to debate in their place amongst Labours Iain Gray MSP,  The Conservatives Annabel Goldie MSP and Greens Patrick Harvie MSP.

Prior to the event Hamira Khan, Chief Officer of the Scottish Youth Parliament said: “This debate is an opportunity for senior politicians from all Scotland’s parties to engage with the views of Scotland’s youth.

“These young people are worried about debt, and oppose the introduction of University tuition fees. They are concerned Government cuts will impact unfairly on young people. Most of all, they are the generation who will have to deal with the consequences of the choices politicians make now – and this debate will provide a chance for MSYPs from across Scotland to engage with MSPs on these vital issues.”

The aim of the debate was not only to inform young people about party aims, but also to encourage young people to vote. Before the debate there was a presentation on voting by the Electoral Commission’s Sarah Mackie, she said: “I think there is a responsibility on organisations like the Electoral Commission, local councils and other groups working with young people to make sure they have the information they need to be able to participate in democracy.

“However, once they have that information it is for parties and candidates to inspire people to actually vote through their election campaigns. One of the reasons young people give for not voting is that they don’t know enough about party policies so hopefully this may have helped to plug that gap.”

The debate brought not only politicians, but also publicity to Greenock in Inverclyde. Leader of Inverclyde Council Councillor Iain McKenzie said: “Inverclyde is proud to welcome the Scottish Youth Parliament… These are challenging times for us all – politically, economically and socially. It is vital the younger generation have a platform to express their views and concerns and for the politicians who make the decisions to listen.”

The debate was part of the youth parliaments sitting, and manifesto launch. It was a highlight for the parliament and the climax of their manifesto process. Chair of Scottish Youth Parliament Derek Couper said: “in the run up to both the Scottish Parliament election and the SYP elections, members felt it would be desirable to have an event to discuss and debate issues with Scottish political leaders. Also, with the launch of our manifesto we thought it would be good to start working with political leaders.

“I think the youth parliament is already full of inspired young people so I think what the debate achieved was to allow members to think about issues party’s stand for rather than the person they want to vote for. The debate was successful but I think the members had the classic reaction of feeling that the answers weren’t properly answered.”

First Minister, Alex Salmond did not turn up to the debate, letting the Youth Parliament know at the last minute. Derek commented on this: “It was disappointing that he did not turn up, and not only that, but he only sent as his replacement Angela Constace, the newly appointed Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning. I hope that that isn’t reflective of the SNPs attitude towards young people.”

Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament comment on the leaders debate:

Laura Gorman (19): “I did not think they were very convincing, they didn’t make me want to vote for one of them. The answers were far too long. They used too much jargon. t was good to hear from Patrick Harvie as you don’t really hear much about the Greens normally”

Jodi McCoy (18): “They weren’t that good. They didn’t seem to give honest answers, they tried to divert the question and tried to confuse us.”

Liam Beattie (20): “I felt the most convincing leader was Patrick Harvie. I believe he was the only leader that was willing to speak out and tell voters that there is a real alternative this election. Overall it was a good debate and I’m pleased they came and spoke to us.”

Connor Mcneil (18): “Some of them did make an effort to answer from a youths perspective. I will be voting, they didn’t really make me change my mind though”

Gina Clark (24): “I thought they were good but not good enough to help me make my mind up for who to vote for.”

Rae Cahill (19): “I was really convinced by Iain Gray and Patrick Harvie. Both really engaged with the questions asked and didn’t falter under scrutiny. I particularly liked the living wage campaign that Iain Gray was supporting, as I think the young people who are lucky enough to have jobs would benefit greatly from a rise in minimum wage.”

International News Round-up

By Adam Bergin

Caribbean:

The crash killed all of the 68 people on board

A passenger plane in Cuba has crashed in the centre of the country, killing all 68 people on board.

The Aerocaribbean aircraft had been flying from the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba to Havana when it crashed in mountains near the town of Guasimal.

A Civil Aviation Authority statement said that among the casualties were 40 Cuban residents, including the seven cabin crew, with the other 28 passengers coming from many countries, including Argentina, the Netherlands and Germany.

It is not yet clear if bad weather was a reason in the crash, but a tropical storm warning had been issued in Santiago de Cuba province where the plane took off.

A hurricane is growing in strength and heading towards Haiti, it is feared, threatening earthquake survivors living in temporary sites.

Hurricane Tomas is packing winds of 80mph (130 kph) and the US National Hurricane Centre says the eye of the hurricane will pass near western Haiti later today (Friday).

Aid agencies are rushing to get emergency shelters ready before the hurricane arrives, having already killed 14 people in Saint Lucia.

North America:

The Democrats have won the close race for the US Senate seat in Washington state in the mid-term polls.

Senator Patty Murray was twice joined by President Barrack Obama when campaigning in the run-up to the polls.

The result means the Republican surge was not enough to stop the Democrats who still have a slight majority, with 51 seats in the 100-member Senate.

The Tokyo male wore a prosthetic mask to board the flight

Authorities in Canada are investigating “an unbelievable case of concealment” after a Tokyo male boarded an Air Canada flight disguised as an elderly man.

The incident, which occurred on a flight from Tokyo to Vancouver last Friday,  is believed to be an attempt to gain refugee protection.

Air Canada Corporate Security today said: “The passenger in question was observed at the beginning of the flight to be an elderly Caucasian male who appeared to have young looking hands. During the flight the subject attended the washroom and emerged an Asian looking male that appeared to be in his early 20s.”

South-east Asia:


Indonesia‘s Mount Merapi has erupted overnight killing at least 64 people, doubling the death toll since it became active again last week.

Hospital officials said more than 70 others were injured today suffering burns and respiratory problems, with many in a critical condition, after a gas cloud hit villages with even greater force than previously.

The latest eruption began late on Thursday but the location of today’s casualties was declared a safe zone until today.

Europe:

In Ireland, the cost of borrowing has hit record levels again after plans to slash €6bn (£5.2bn) in the upcoming budget, twice what was predicted three months ago, were announced.

Ireland’s cost of borrowing rose for the eighth day in a row hitting an historic high of 7.77%, with concerns rising that the country would seek a bailout in the new year

Finance minister Brian Lenihan conceded the cuts were worse than expected but allayed fears, stating the action was “deemed necessary and will underline the strength of our resolve and show the country is serious about tackling our public finance difficulties”.

Scottish MPs wait to learn of cabinet position results

By Steven Robson

Ed Miliband is currently deciding the key positions of his shadow government, including three Scottish MP’s who were elected into the cabinet yesterday. Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Ann McKechin join former work and pension secretary Yvette Cooper who gained a vote winning 232 votes, 40 votes ahead of second place John Heatley and former education secretary Ed Balls.

All the elected individuals of the new shadow cabinet were members of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown’s cabinet, including former Scottish secretary Jim Murphy, who expressed his delight on Twitter when he declared: “lets get at these Tories and their little Liberal helpers.” He gained 160 votes from the 258 Labour MPs who voted, placing him 6th out of the 49 candidates.

Nevertheless, he added that he was “really sad some great people didn’t win.” Ben Bradshaw, Shaun Woodward and defeated leadership contender Diane Abbot did not gain the right to occupy the 19 available cabinet positions. Additionally, former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain missed out by three votes yesterday, but Miliband has  since hinted that he may require a Welsh MP to take-up the role, suggesting that Hain may re-occupy his role when the Labour leader announces his cabinet later today.

Former secretary of state for international development, Douglas Alexander will also sit at the cabinet table with the other elected members. The Labour MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South has said that he was “delighted to be elected as part of a strong shadow cabinet team.”

A requirement of the Labour cabinet  election was that every person should vote for at least six women- Ann Mckechin was just one of eight women elected into the shadow cabinet. The former secretary of state in the Scottish office said that she was “delighted that there is a great showing from Scots and I know that Jim, Douglas and I will be at the heart of decision-making in the Labour Party.”

The Labour Party always host cabinet elections in opposition. Labours first outing, is to put up a fight in Prime Ministers Questions next Wednesday, with the cabinet of elected members having been assigned their various roles.

  • FULL RESULTS OF THE LABOUR CABINET ELECTIONS
  • Yvette Cooper- 232
  • John Heatley- 192
  • Ed Balls- 179
  • Andy Burnham- 165
  • Alan Johnson- 163
  • Jim Murphy- 160
  • Douglas Alexander- 160
  • Tessa Jowell- 152
  • Caroline Flint- 139
  • John Denham- 129
  • Hilary Benn- 128
  • Sadiq Khan- 128
  • Mary Creagh- 199
  • Ann McKechin- 117
  • Maria Eagle- 107
  • Meg Hillier- 106
  • Ivan Lewis- 104
  • Liam Byrne- 100

Students protest censorship

A protest poster

Students at Edinburgh Napier University are to hold a series of protests this week over the removal of a student newspaper from all campuses.

The protests will be held every day this week, both on campus and at the Scottish Parliament.

The row centres over issues of press censorship and began after independent student newspaper The Journal published an article detailing dissent, and a possible vote of no confidence against the current president Kasia Bylinska, at the Napier Student’s Association.

Current NSA president, Kasia Bylinska

Current NSA President, Kasia Bylinska

The article stated that allegations of six counts of  unconstitutional behaviour had been made against Ms Bylinska and that eight programme representatives had signed a motion for an emergency meeting to enact a vote of no confidence in the president.

The NSA responded by removing all copies of the publication from the university, which has prompted accusations of press censorship by members of the student body.

Rik Carranza, who ran against Ms Bylinska in last year’s election, said: “This action taken by the NSA is disgusting and shares more in common with censorship in China than creating an equal playing field for election candidates which the elections committee is trying to justify.

“I am a proud member of the student union movement and have been for many years now and let me tell you, I have never seen such a flagrant disregard for freedom of speech in my time in NUS. The NSA has infringed basic human rights and they should not be allowed to continue”, he continued.

Edinburgh Napier University said: ” The University does not condone the decision of the NSA to remove copies of The Journal from its campuses.”

Shirley-Anne Sommerville, MSP

The campaign has earned support from SNP MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville. She said: “Freedom of the press is integral to any democratic society. The Journal is a valued resource in the city, keeping students up to date with student issues and wider current affairs – it is a respected paper and provides valuable experience and employment to…… those interested in the field of journalism. I hope that this current dispute is concluded as soon as possible.”

The protesters are also hoping to gain enough signatures on a petition for an emergency meeting for a vote of no confidence in Kasia Bylinska. This would over-ride the need for programme representatives to lend their support. The petition currently has over 200 signatures after just a few hours of campaigning.

Christopher Pilkington with campaign material

Christopher Pilkington with campaign material

Christopher Pilkington, one of the most active members of the protest and a programme representative for the Business Management with Marketing course, said: The idea of a university – a place that is intended to shape young minds – being actively censored is intolerable.

“We cannot be brought up to accept a censored press, particularly when the organisation doing the censoring is refusing to be held accountable to the students it claims to represent.”

Following the publication last week, all copies of The Journal have been removed from Napier campuses. The NSA have yet to issue a statement regarding the reasons for the removal and have so far declined to comment on the Journalgate protests.

Kenneth Dale-Risk, Law lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University said he did not believe the original Journal article to be defamatory stating that it was “an article of fact.”

Protesting students outside the NSA building at 12 Merchiston Place, Edinburgh

_________________________________________________________________

Protests:

Wed: 11 – 5 at Craighouse

Thursday: 11 – 5 at the Scottish Parliament

Friday: 4 onwards sit-in at Craighouse Campus

Follow the row on Twitter – just search #journalgate

‘The Audacity of Clothing Me': the Sarah Palin story

by Michael Fern

palin1

The inspiring rise from the beauty pageant stage to the vice-presidential debating platform is the stuff best-sellers are made of. This is the belief of Sarah Palin, who may be set to write her memoirs.

The story of the maverick but wholesome family-minded hunter is one expected to chime with the public, according to a number of publishers and talent agents currently courting Governor Palin.

Stuart Applebaum of US publisher Random House said to the New York Post: “Several of our imprints are eager to talk to Governor Palin.

“She clearly has a constituency and we know books by conservatively centred politicos usually sell very, very well.”

Mrs Palin has never been considered an avid reader by the public, struggling earlier this year to name a single newspaper during an interview, but she could use a memoir as an opportunity to counter a number of stories which dogged her during the campaign, from the cost of her wardrobe to her role in the “troopergate” scandal.

Palin’s book would be in good company if she follows through on her idea of running for President in 2012. Every candidate for the presidency in 2008 had penned a memoir with Barack Obama writing two, the personal Dreams From My Father and it’s more politically minded sequel The Audacity of Hope.

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