Sam-Hein Witch Pardon Petition

TODAY Justice Secretary Jack Straw was presented with a petition calling for a posthumous Royal Pardon of those men and women who were executed as witches. The petitioners are calling for Britain to follow the example set by the Swiss government earlier this year when they pardoned Anna Geoldi, the last witch to be executed in Western Europe.

The petition, which has been organised by Angels Fancy Dress, calls for the official pardon of the over 400 people who were executed under accusations of witchcraft in England and more than 2000 in Scotland. Even after the witchcraft laws were changed in 1735 those accused of being practitioners of the craft faced prison under the fraud laws.

Emma Angel, head of Angels Fancy Dress, says: “We decided to launch this initiative because we felt that it was time that the sinister associations held by a minority of people regarding witches and Halloween were tackled head-on – children and adults should be permitted to dress-up as witches without being stigmatized… We were gob-smacked to discover that though the law was changed hundreds of years ago and society had moved on, the victims were never officially pardoned”.

Historian John Callow- who specializes in 17th century politics and witchcraft and has backed the campaign-says: “ The figure of the witch still has the power to inspire and repel in roughly equal measure – a terror to some, a sadly misunderstood heroine to others.

“Crops failed, butter failed to churn or cattle sickened and the blame was often settled on witches…Against such a background judiciaries across the British Isles were compelled to act.

“Of course, today we are well aware that these individuals were neither capable of harmful magic nor in league with the devil… After the passage of some 400 years, it seems time to recognize the witch trials as fabrications of the most dangerous – and tragic- kind.”

This is not the U.K’s first witchcraft pardon petition; earlier this year a petition was given to the Scottish Parliament, asking for the last witch who was imprisoned to be pardoned. You may be forgiven for thinking that this trial took place in the 16 hundreds or even farther back, but Helen Duncan spent 9 months in Holloway Prison in 1944 for fraud. It now appears that Mrs Duncan had stumbled across military secrets and was silenced and discredited in the easiest way available.

Fritzl’s Mother Also A Prisoner

Josef Fritzl (right), his daughter Elisabeth (left) and her prison (below).
Josef Fritzl (right), his daughter Elisabeth (left) and her prison (below).

Josef Fritzl, the infamous Austrian who kept his daughter imprisoned in his basement, has now admitted keeping his mother locked in the attic.

It has emerged that Fritzl, 73, kept his mother in the bricked up room for years until her death in 1980 as revenge for her treatment of him as a child.

Fritzl, who is currently awaiting trial for the crimes against his daughter has claimed that he suffered severely at the hands of his mother while growing up: “I never received any love from her. She beat me and kicked me until I was lying on the floor bleeding. I had a horrible fear of her. She kept insulting me and told me I was a Satan, a criminal, a no-good.”

The allegations emerged after a report by forensic psychiatrist, Dr Kastner, was leaked to the Austrian press. The information was gained from six sessions with Fritzl in which he gives an insight into his twisted mind: “I locked my mother up in a room at the top of the house, I then bricked up the window so that she never saw daylight again.”

Fritzl’s mother had worked as a servant while raising him alone after an acrimonious divorce. Fritzl had continued to live with his mother and moved his wife and children into her home.

During his mothers incarceration Fritzl had already begun building the cellar in the basement with the purpose of imprisoning Elisabeth, now 42. He lured his daughter into the dungeon in 1984 and she remained trapped there until she became seriously ill last year when he relented and agreed to take her to hospital. Doctors then learnt of her predicament and contacted police.

It is estimated that Fritzl raped his daughter 3000 times during her captivity after losing interest in his wife when she gained weight. He father seven children with Elisabeth, one of whom died shortly after birth, and believed himself to be a good family man: “I always took very good care of all of my offspring,” he told the physchiatrist, recalling taking games and toys to the dungeon. “When I was with them we would all sit together and talk or watch television or cook together. We celebrated birthdays, Christmas and Easter.”

Prosecutors are to demand that Fritzl be tried and sentenced as clinically sane but then be confined in an instution for the criminally insane for the rest of his life on the basis of Dr Kastner’s report.

He faces charges of manslaughter, in relation to the baby that died, as well as rape, coercion, incarceration and incest.

Flight from Glasgow skids off runway this morning

An Air Europa flight that departed from Glasgow this morning, slid off the runway when landing at the airport at Lanzarote.

The passengers had to be evacuated from the aircraft when the plane went off the landing strip just moments after touching the ground. It finally stopped moving close to the airport perimeter fence down a small embankment close to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Boeing-737 was carrying 74 passengers, including dozens of Scottish holidaymakers. Luckily, no one was harmed in the accident, but the Lanzarote’s Arrecife airport was still closed for several hours after the dramatic landing at about 7 am.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook, who chartered the flight said: “Thomas Cook staff were on hand at the airport to assist all passengers and can confirm that all guests are now en route to their holiday hotels”.

Air Europe has not given any explanation as to why the plane left the runway and have only stated the fact that there was a problem during the landing. Some passengers have said that they felt a strong vibration from the wings just before the plane hit the ground.

To watch a video from the aftermath of the accident click here.

Love Street Closure After 115 Year History

Love Street set to be Demolished
Love Street set to be Demolished

St Mirren will open the gates at Love Street for the last time against Hamilton on the 27th of December after a celebrated 115 year history at the stadium.

The club sold the ground to supermarket giants Tesco (who now plan to scrap their initial plans to create a new supermarket in favour of selling the area for housing) in April last year for £18 million and will move to their new 10,000 seater stadium in nearby Greenhill Rd, Ferguslie Park.

Although viewed as a good deal for the club financially, after they wiped out debts and liabilities, the loss of the stadium that has hosted some of the club’s most historic moments will be missed by fans and players and managers both past and present.

Love Street, or St Mirren Park, opened in 1894 and has played host to several special occasions for Saints, including the European tie against Feyenoord in 1983, when St Mirren plaed against a team of superstars including Ruud Gullit and Johan Cruyff; the 1977 Scottish cup tie against Dundee United and Scotland’s 2-0 win over Wales in 1923.

The club was also managed by talismanic Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the 1970s and they are the only club in his managerial history to have sacked him. It is widely believed that, had Ferguson remained at Love Street, he would have driven them to massive success both at home and in Europe as he did with Aberdeen in the ’80s

As a mark of respect for the club’s history it is believed that the housing association purchasing the area are obligated to create a Fitzpatrick Way or Fitzpatrick close, in celebration of Love Street legend, Tony Fitzpatrick, who not only managed the club twice, also made a record 351 club appearances between 1973 and 1989.

The club has also released a DVD in commemoration to its history at the ground, entitled “Love Street – The Movie” – a celebration of 115 years at Love Street Stadium, Paisley, available at a retail price of £10.

Metropolitan Police Did Not Shout To Menezes


by Chisanga Malata

Controversy still rages on around the shooting of jean-charles-de-menezes28jul05 by London Metropolitan Police in July 2005 at Stockwell station.

Eyes witnesses to the shooting of the Brazilian who was mistaken for a terrorist by the Metropolitan police claimed that the marksmen who killed Mr Menezes did not identify themselves as police officers before they opened fired on the innocent electrician.

Evidence given by passengers travelling in the same carriage as Mr Menezes contradicted the statements given by the Metropolitan police. Both of the officers who shot Jean Charles to the inquest that they said “armed police” before shooting the Brazilian 7 times in the head. But yesterday 3 witnesses said that there was no such shout made by the marksmen.

The testimonies given by the witnesses backs the accusation made by Michael Mansfield QC representing the Menezes family that the metropolitan police have in particular the officers who shot Mr Menezes have “embellished”, “exaggerated”, and have “lied” during the inquest to the shooting.

Witnesses Ralph Livock and girlfriend Rachael Wilson were sitting opposite Mr Menezes on the tube carriage the inquest heard. Mr Livock recalled that the departure of the train was being held up and then four men casually dressed walked onto the train with guns and proceeded to shot Jean Charles 7 times in the head at point blank range. Asked if whether the four men identified themselves as police officers Mr. Livock said: ‘No certainly not”

“And I remember that specifically because one of the conversations that Rachel and I had afterwards was that we had no idea whether these were police, whether they were terrorists, whether they were somebody else. We just had no idea.”

When Ms Wilson was asked, “Did you ever hear anybody shout ‘armed police’?” she answered, “If I had heard that, I would have thought they were police, so no”? Asked the same question later, she again insisted that no one had shouted “armed police,” adding: “That’s one of the things I recall the most – the silence.”

The couple said they initially thought the officers were pranksters playing a game. Mr Livock said: “One of my initial thoughts was it was all a game and they were a group of lads who were just having a laugh – a very bad taste laugh, but just having a game on the Tube, because they were just dressed in jeans and T-shirts but with firearms. The thing that made me realise it wasn’t a group of lads playing around or something else happening was when the first shot was fired.” Ms Wilson added: “I thought they were messing around. Then I thought they were terrorists and it was only when I left the carriage and somebody moved me gently out of the way that I figured they must be good guys. Apart from that, I just didn’t know who they were.”

Mr Mansfield has said the officers who killed Mr de Menezes did not “honestly and genuinely” believe the Brazilian electrician was an immediate threat at the time they pulled the trigger. He says they are embellishing their version of events in statements and evidence in order to convince people that they believed Mr de Menezes was a suicide bomber.

Police on Hallowe’en Crack Down

By Claire Buckie

Police in London are fearing that teenagers are using Hallowe’en as an excuse for violence and antisocial behaviour.

New figures show that teenagers are more likely to commit crimes at this time of year as they are dressed in disguise.

In the lead up to and on the 31st of October itself there seems to be a rise in robbery, violence and antisocial behaviour. The British Transport Police (BTP) this year are focusing on gathering information on teenagers who may be carrying knives around this period. More than 70 police officers have been patrolling major railway stations this week in a bid to crack down on knife crime.

The new operation involves an sms system in which youngsters can anonymously text police rather than speaking to them in person if they have any information at all on where there may be gangs and more importantly who is involved. Inspector Graham Urry of the BTP said: “This is secure, private and confidential.” The BTP began the search on Monday and since then there have been 90 arrests and 5 knives have been seized.

Hallowe’en is also the time where youngsters dress up and take to the streets trick or treating. Many of the vulnerable older generation feel the need to answer the door to them and ultimately give them money or sweets. This year, posters are being made available for residents who wish to be left in peace on all hallows eve.

The posters simply tell unwanted trick or treaters “No Trick or Treat, please enjoy your night without disturbing ours.” There are also posters for shop owners to display in windows which read “We reserve the right not to sell flour and eggs to anyone under 18. Have fun, be safe and respect others.” Supermarkets such as Sainsburys have already clamped down by refusing to sell eggs and flour to any suspicious looking teens.

In the past there have even been incidents involving broken property and graffiti on peoples doors and walls. Hallowe’en is supposed to be harmless fun but unfortunately some vandals find that this is the time to intimidate and distress others by for example, egging houses and cars as they are least likely to be caught at this time of year.

Drinking during pregnancy results in calmer tots.

Light drinking during pregnancy can result in calmer babies it is claimed.

Recently the government and doctors have been giving conflicting advice to pregnant mothers about the safety of light drinking (one to two glasses of wine per week) during their pregnancies. However, a major study has found that some babies born to mothers who drank a little during pregnancy had calmer toddlers.

The government has advised pregnant mothers and women trying to conceive to avoid alcohol. Whereas doctors are convinced that drinking in moderation cannot harm a baby in the womb and new findings have shown that it can actually result in a more positive mental growth in toddlers.

Heavy drinking during pregnancy in the most serious of cases can lead to ‘foetal alcohol syndrome’. However research into the effects of light drinking done by The University College London Team has shown that a little alcohol has positive effects.

Dr Yvonne Kelly of the London college assures pregnant mothers that “light drinking does not increase the risk of behavioral difficulties.

Those born to light drinkers were less likely to have problems compaired to children with abstinent mothers.”

This study which has been published in the International journal of Epidemiology looks at the behavior of babies who were born to mothers who drank moderately, lightly and those who avoided alcohol completely during their pregnancy. Female babies born to mothers who drank lightly during their pregnancy were shown to have 30% less emotional problems than those born to mothers who avoided alcohol completely.

The study also showed that boys born to mothers who drunk lightly during pregnancy were 40% less likely to have conduct problems and also 30% less likely to suffer from hyperactivity in comparison to the boys from mothers who avoided alcohol completely.

However Dr Vivienne Nathanson of the British medical association is worried that this research “may lull women into a false sense of security and give them the green light that there is no problem with drinking during pregnancy.”

Water Wars

Water is a basic necessity of life. It is simply something we all need. With out it we die . Many people throughout the world have to make do with very little water or water which is so dirty and contaminated that it will eventually kill those who drink it. How far would you go to guarantee clean water for your family to drink?

We, in the affluent west, take access to clean, safe water for granted, but, according to resent research around one sixth (that is over 1 billion) of the world’s population are without drinking water of a reasonable standard.

Good quality water is a necessity of life, and various groups will fight to gain access to it. This is one of the reasons why the U.N’s Millennium Development Goals have set out to reduce the number of those who are suffering due to a lack of drinking water and basic sanitation by half by 2015.

The lack of safe drinking water leads to a catch 22 for a huge proportion of the world population: drink and get sick and quite probably die a long drawn out death, or don’t drink and defiantly die a long drawn out death. Obviously this leads to rising tensions between various groups, but could this lead to civil war in the more arid regions? Or even full blown international war? Many analysts say that it already has.

A lack of access to clean water has been cited as a large contributing factor to existing conflicts in some of the poorest regions on earth. Competition for access to safe water supplies between rival groups has been blamed for the Darfur Crisis by analysts. Can it be doubted that it will continue to be a driving force of violence into the future?

According a quote attributed to Geologist and director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing, Farouk El-Baz: “Much of the unrest in Darfur and the misery is due to water shortages. Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, will help the peace process, and provides the necessary resources for the much needed economic development in Darfur.”

This statement holds true for many other places and not just on a local internal level. International tensions may be mounting over shared rivers and reservoirs, though by and large international relations tend towards sharing water supplies amicably.

In India a massive joining of two of the main rivers has been suggested, which would improve the supply of water to drought prone areas in the south but may also greatly affect the water supply to Bangladesh and other neighboring states. It has been suggested that this could destabilize the region farther, forcing some of the world’s poorest people farther into poverty.

There is a direct link between water, poverty, and war. For peace to be possible, poverty needs to be ended. For Poverty to be ended there needs to be significant economic growth. For economic growth there needs to be a sustainable workforce. For a sustainable work force to exist, they need access to the necessities of life like clean water to drink.
But while extreme poverty is partly to blame, there are other factors in the wars caused by water.

In regions such as the Middle East, which is rated as “Lower middle income” on’s economic map of the world, where interstate tensions are already high, water is seen as a ‘strategic’ resource. This means that countries will jealously guard their own supply, and during conflict will attempt to gain control of the enemy’s supply. This is why almost all of the past peace agreements have involved water and its distribution.

A quote attributed to former Secretary General of the UN Boutros Boutros Ghali says: “the next war in the Middle East will be over water”.

There are many charities and organizations committed to helping bring an end to water related strife throughout the world such as water aid and end water poverty. If you feel that the UN’s Millennium Goal of halving the number of people affected by a lack of safe water is worthy then please visit the websites and lend your support. With enough pressure on governments world wide to supply a free, clean source of water to their own people, we can take water out of the war equation.

Will the U.N’s Millennium Goals lead to world peace? No, but they might just help to remove one of the issues that lead to war and take us that one step closer.

Dance School Bring Home 21 Medals

By Claire Buckie

A group of 16 dancers from Falkirk have done themselves proud after winning a total of 21 medals at the European Festival of Dance and Performing Arts at Eurodisney in Paris last weekend.

The group of girls aged 9 to 16 from Central Scotland Ballet School travelled to Paris last Friday to compete in the competition which was held in Disney Land itself. The girls faced a tough competition as they performed solo and group routines in Ballet, Modern and Tap against other dance schools from all over Europe. The girls won 21 out of the 27 medals that were on offer and left their parents and teachers beaming with pride.

Central Scotland Ballet School principal Jacqueline Clark said: “The girls had an absolute ball, the weekend was fantastic and everyone is just so proud of them. They certainly set the standard for the other girls.”

The young dancers swept the board by winning medals in every category they performed, gaining firsts, seconds and third places. Teacher Samantha Clark said: “The girls have done extremely well, we are so pleased with all the hard work and the effort they put into their performances.” The troupe also took part in a workshop with Kylie Minogue’s choreographer, Tim Noble after which 16 year old Rebecca McPhee said: “I feel like I learned so much from the workshop with Tim. It was such a good experience.” Speaking about the weekend as a whole, Rebecca said that winning 3rd place for senior ballet was the best 16th birthday present she could ask for!

This is not the only success that this group of talented youngsters have experienced. In July 2006 they left passengers onboard cruise ship MSC Opera, which toured the Mediterranean, in awe of a spectacular Scottish routine and an energy filled upbeat disco routine. They impressed organisers so much so that they have been asked to travel again in Summer 2009. The group not only have their trip across the seas but in January they will take to the stage of the Theatre Royal in Glasgow to perform in Peter Pan and April 2009 they are to fly to Spain to dance with Ballet West and Guitart School of Performing Arts.

For such young girls they certainly seem to be aiming extemely high and by the look of things it is paying off. The dance school already has two of its former students, Vicki Paterson, 18 and Katie Deacon, 16, training as full time ballerinas at Central School of Ballet in London and with the way they are going there could be several more following in their footsteps.

Charities In Crisis

The voluntary sector in Scotland has been trying to weather the storm of the current financial crisis this past week.  The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation’s Chief Executive, Lucy McTernan, has met with the Secretary of State for Scotland to discuss the issue of Icelandic bank deposits.

Ms McTernan said: “The voluntary sector in Scotland is facing troubling times, demand for its services is rising while income is uncertain and reserves continue to fall.”

The meeting was positive, with Jim Murphy expressing an interest in the voluntary sector and pledging to discuss the issues that had been raised with Westminster.  Murphy sits on the new National Economic Forum in Westminster and has a major role to play in guaranteeing voluntary sector deposits which have been lost in Icelandic banks.

SCVO have also called on UK and Scottish Ministers to implement a four point plan which will help charities and voluntary organisations survive the turbulent financial climate.

The plan includes asking the UK Government to guarantee all voluntary sector bank deposits, which will ensure that charities can continue to operate with confidence.  It also calls on the government to alter the rules around Gift Aid, a move which could mean a significant cash injection for charities.

Lucy McTernan is backing the plan: “I believe it is right that the UK Government give assurances that the assets of charities and other voluntary organisations will be fully protected from the economic downturn and I believe that the Government ought to take any action which will increase the funding going to charity, such as altering the rules for Gift Aid.”

The four point plan further asks that the UK Government use its new influence within major banks following their bail out, to ensure that their charitable foundations will continue to provide vital funding for good causes and that corporate social responsibility remains a high priority for the financial services industry.

SCVO are based in Edinburgh but operate throughout Scotland.  They provide many services to the public including helping local people recover from drug and alcohol addictions and integrate back into society, they also assist people of all ages in gaining employment.

SCVO will be holding a meeting in November to evaluate the impact of the economic downturn and to look at ways in which voluntary organisations can collaborate to help each other through this difficult time.

A ‘Dooking’ World Record Attempt

Locals in Peebles are to attempt to break a seasonal world record this weekend.

 Around 200 people are expected to turn up at The Gytes Leisure Centre on Saturday to ‘dook’ for apples. The event is hoped to form a new world record for most people bobbing for apples.

 The local businessman who came up with the idea, Euan Carr, said: “This event is for everyone to have fun and we hope to put Peebles on the map.”

 Entry is free and those coming along are asked to bring a bucket with them. The event is not reliant on the weather as the forestry commission have supplied tarpaulins and plastic sheeting for it to be held inside if necessary. The community have also been pitching in and donating apples for the event.

 The event is one of a series in which it is hoped to raise enough money to purchase Christmas lights. Mr Carr said: “The day is also to raise money for the town’s Christmas lights and we need about £4000. This payment means that the lights will belong to the town and we will not have to pay such a large sum in future years. We have been leasing them for the past three years but now it will only be the cost of erection and taking them down.”

 There is no current record for mass apple dooking and a spokesman for Guinness World Records said: “We do monitor a category for ‘most people apple bobbing’ but there is no current record. There is a record held for ‘most apples bobbed by an individual in one minute’, it is 33 and is held by Ashrita Furman of New York and was achieved on 19 February 2008.”

 The record attempt will be held at 5pm on Saturday 1 November at The Gytes Leisure Centre, Walkershaugh, Peebles. Although entry is free there will be a silver collection so donations are appreciated. Everyone is welcome, so go along and have some fun.

Life outside Glasgow?

Curly's Heroes in action
Curly's Heroes in action

By Brian McLaughlin

In a week that has seen music fans shell out £45 to see Oasis at Murrayfield, it’s refreshing to hear of a promoter that really is all about the music.

Renfrewshire-based J.S. Promotions, set up in late 2007 by Renfrew teenager Jamie Size, is crusading against perceived high ticket prices in nearby Glasgow by staging shows in and around Renfrew for as little as £1 entry in hope of helping local bands develop a strong fan base.

J.S. Promotions chief Jamie Size said: “The Glasgow music scene is all about money, they don’t care about the acts. My aim with J.S Promotions is just to help local bands get a good following, and to show people that it is worth coming out of Glasgow once in a while to hear good music.”

Although none of the acts on J.S. Promotions’ roster can claim to be musical heavyweights, what they lack in fame (or infamy, as the case often is with musicians) is made up for in raw talent and potential.

Engage the Enemy’s brand of driving metal is reminiscent of early Metallica, while Size’s own band, Curly’s Heroes, bring the spirit of punk to 21st century Renfrew through their rag-tag sound and DIY attitude, and they are just the tip of an ever-growing iceberg.

This, it would appear, is only the beginning for J.S. Promotions, as Size is in the process of setting up his own recording studio to provide low-cost use of equipment that would normally only come at a premium. On this, Size said: “I’m excited about the recording side of things. It gives me a chance to use my passion for music in another way, helping the bands record demos that might get them signed.”

All of this brings J.S. Promotions closer to achieving their aim of bringing life to the Renfrew music scene, and proving there is such a thing outside Glasgow.

Final bell to ring for world’s worst boxer

By Adam Bergin & Michael Heggie

One of very few victories
One of very few victories

A 256 times defeated boxer will bow out this Friday with his last fight in Birmingham.

Peter Buckley has lost more fights than any other boxer in the world. His victors included 42 future World, European, British and Commonwealth Champions.

He said: “I’ve had my eye on the 300 mark for a while, and it’s a little milestone I want to achieve, but I don’t want to fight on.

“People keep saying to me that I’ll get a call in a few weeks’ time offering me a fight and I’ll say yes, but I mean it when I say this is it.”

He was a talented super-featherweight who won the Midlands area title. Then he discovered a more lucrative calling, as an opponent for boxers with hot prospects.

Buckley has sometimes boxed so often, and unsuccessfully, that he has turned up with a black eye before a bout. Though the governing body continues to send him for medical tests, Buckley continues to pass them.

Throughout his career, he has kept himself in a constant state of readiness, ready to lose a fight at a moment’s notice anywhere in the country.

For his last bout, at the Aston Events Centre, Buckley has been given the rare treat of advanced notice and home-town advantage, and there is even a chance that he might win.

He added: “I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s all over on Friday, but I’d love to stay in boxing in one capacity or another. Boxing has been good to me over the years. When I was a youngster I was in trouble with the police, a really wild kid. But the sport has given me a focus in life.”

Lufthansa to take over BMI

It was announced today that German company Lufthansa will buy 50% of BMI’s shares giving it a 80% control of the British airline combined with the stake in the company it previously owned.

This take over will now make Lufthansa the second largest airline running flights from London’s Heathrow Airport, second only to British Airways, which should prove some competition to the flagship airline, however the deal will have to be overseen by trading standards in line with EU business competition regulations. The deal is expected to be completed mid January but Lufthansa have not announced the bid price.

There has been much speculation that Lufthansa will join forces with Virgin on long and short haul flights to dominate Heathrow Airport, providing some stiff competition for British Airways, who have recently teamed up with American Airlines. Lufthansa have not yet released any statements however regarding the takeover and their intentions for BMI’s future.

This is the second large investment in rival airlines Lufthansa has engaged in this year. Last month Lufthansa bought a 45% share of Brussels Airlines parent company SN Air-holding for e65m with the option to buy the remaining shares between now and 2011. Although the company has had two large investments this year it reported a 75% drop in profits this summer. Its profits in the last nine months is reported to be e984m.

BMI’s Chairman Sir Michael Bishop, who owns the 50% BMI shares Lufthansa is making a bid for, is believed to have forced the sale under a long standing agreement with the German airline that was originally signed back in 1999 which stated that if he ever chose to sell his shares Lufthansa would make the purchase. There is also speculation that other areas of BMI’s business could be sold off although no job cuts will be made.

BMI operates 54 aircraft, flying to 209 destinations and currently controls 11% of take-off slots at Heathrow Airport. Despite this net profits fell last year from £29.7m to £15.5m. Passenger numbers did rise however by 1% in the last year. This drop in profits was written by Lufthansa as part of a previously agreed partnership.

President Bush declares a “new chapter” in international relations in the face of expanding Visa Waiver Program

By Marii Stoltsen

On October 17, President George W. Bush played host to the representatives of seven countries as he declared their inclusion into the United States Visa Waiver Program (VWP) starting November, 17. Under the law, the citizens of these countries – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea – will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without visa for up to 90 days, finally receiving the same privilege they have accorded to US citizens for years.

President Bush accounted for the delay by stating that after the events of September 11 the US “could only expand travel opportunities if [they] increased security measures at the same time.” The countries joining the VWP in November have agreed to implement the Electronic System for Travel Authorization [ESTA] for screening passengers that requires them to register online at least two days ahead of their visits to the United States. In addition to this, anyone wishing to travel to the States must own a tamper-proof biometric passport.

This announcement marked the first step of success in the Administration’s effort to modernise the VWP, as well as the realisation of the President’s belief that “the best foreign policy for America is one that lets visitors get to know this great country firsthand.” The representatives of Bulgaria, Cyrpus, Greece, Malta, Poland, and Romania also attended the press conference as the members of the six countries currently participating in the “visa waiver road map” process.

Currently there are 27 countries included in the VWP and these new additions set high hopes for other countries seeking to solidify their alliance to the United States. With one of the most isolationist nations opening up to all parts of the world and extending trust, a new chapter in international relations has indeed begun.

Censorship – A Delicate Balancing Act?

By Lauren McKenzie and Joanne Ogilvie

When comedy mavericks, Jonathan Ross, 47, and Russell Brand, 33, were suspended from the BBC yesterday, after targetting the 23- year- old grand daughter of veteran actor Andrew Sachs- an army of opinions were heard throughout the nation.

Live on Brand’s Radio 2 Show, the duo called Sach’s answer machine and rather contentiously made a comment about engaging in sexual relations with Georgina Baillie; grand daughter of the 78- year old actor, famous for playing the part of Manuel, in the BBC’s Fawlty Towers.

Both Brand and Ross are well-known for their flamboyant personalities and outlandish opinions, regarded – for their ability to stand out from a crowd. Now TV bosses have decided that this stray towards “deviance” is grounds for suspension.

How far is too far when differenciating between opinion, prejudice ranting and freedom of artistic expression.

This is a question which is posed time after time to Ofcom, who’s job it is to ensure the UK Communications Act of 2003 is being followed by individualists of the mediasphere. It could be argued that censorship should be an individual’s choice of moral stance or is it in fact becoming clear that mediates can be trusted by themselves?

It would appear that Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross may be taking more than their fair share of the blame. Brand added: ” It would be silly of me to speak without thinking because thats caused all this trouble in the first place”.

The show was pre-recorded and was not live, hence it could have been filtered and was given the chance to  be screened by BBC Director of Audio and Music, Tim Davie – who should have not allowed the programme to be aired knowing full well that it would have caused distress.

Tim Davie has yet to comment.

In recent years the word ‘censorship’ has been thrown around in a not-so-subtle way by bosses petrified of offending ethnic groups and minorities. In a mission to keep Britain completely neutral on the religion front, any allegations towards specific ‘races’ were taken overtly seriously: causing employees over the UK suddenly facing the risk of losing their jobs. Now the forgotten pandemonium has crawled its way back into the limelight.

This latest ‘scandal’ has surely been completely over-rated. Whatever happened to commedianes doing their jobs? The idea of a joke has now been stretched far across over the line of chilvary to the point where our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has felt the need to comment dubbing the pranks “unacceptable”.

The arts have always been loved by the mass audience and now this over-protective censorizing is ruining the sanctity of the comedic value. Lighten up viewers, even Georgina Baillie is using this scandal for her own  personal gain – by shamelessly selling her story and Andrew Sachs himself has not complained to Ofcom who are personally launching the investigation.

It is time for a new generation of viewing compassion, a little more consideration to those at the receiving end of a joke but also a little more consideration to those telling the jokes. They are constantly in competition to push the barrier up a notch, shouldn’t we as consumers move through with them.

Pornography Legislation Threatens Free Expression

By Alicia Warner

There are artists that have made a career of depicting the sexual nature of humans and have always received objections to the level of controversy. However, a proposed legislation against pornography will mean that one day these artists could be seen as ‘criminals’ in the eyes of the law.

The proposed legislation, under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, reflects how much we may be losing our right to free expression.

The change in the law was set up intended to target those that view illegal porn websites, ultimately shifting the criminal responsibility from the producer to the consumer. Initially proposed to rid of porn that depicts sexual violence, the law in fact concerns itself with much more.

Artists such as Ben Westwood, son of the famous fashion designer Vivienne, are fighting in a campaign against the attack on pornography, as his line of photography is famous for depicting erotic imagery that explores human sexuality. His 2005 publication, “F**k Fashion” depicts images of women bound and gagged. Although the women in the photographs are all consenting models soon those that are found in possession of the book would effectively be breaking the law. Arguably soft porn, Westwood proudly concerns himself with the art world and fights for his position.

Westwood has joined the campaign Caan – the Consenting Adults Action Network – to fight alongside those that fear for their careers. If the legislation is passed the likes of Westwood and Tracey Emin will be in the same league as thieves and fraudsters; everyday criminals, only because of what their artwork expresses.

It is difficult to draw fine line is between ‘arts’ and ‘porn’ and it’s easy to understand why some would want to be protected from the world of explicitly sexual media. However, it seems absurd that artists should be called ‘criminals’ as a result.

Horror at Lesser Hampden

Chick was in agony
Hacked: Chick was in agony

By James Davies

What was supposed to be a friendly kick about between Holyroods main men, and a team of sports journalists had to be abandoned when violence kicked off.

MSP’s were branded ‘foul mouthed thugs’ after the referee was forced to blow the whistle on the friendly match just 10 minutes in to the second half. The ref had no choice but to bring a halt to the match after TV Pundit, Chick Young, was brutally hacked by Labours John Park, following a series of other childish antics.

The MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife hacked down the 57 year old pundit in what was described as an ‘over-the-top challenge’ which resulted in chick getting carried off the pitch on a stretcher.

The politicians squad was made up of Labours Mid Scotland and Fife MSP John Park, Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh, Former Sports Minister Frank McAveety, MSP for East Kilbride and former Government Minister Andy Kerr, Glasgow Labour Councillor Gorge Redmond and SNP’s Central Scotland representative Jamie Hepburn.

The Bank Of Scotland sponsored match was abandoned after 55 minutes when pundit Chick Young was carried off the pitch on a stretcher with what he initially thought was a broken ankle. He blasted the politicians and said: “they were a team of thugs.

“Some of the tackles and comments were shocking. They are the people who are running the country and they were a team of thugs. It makes you think about who is actually running the country. One of the MSPs was giving the ref pelters. His language was awful.

“This was supposed to be just a kick about but it was out of order. I thought I had broken my ankle. The guy came in with a straight leg and with his studs up. I was in agony. Even while I was lying on the ground someone tried to stand on my fingers. I’ve been playing friendly matches for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Mr Park – who was substituted after his violent tackle – said: ” It was a bit of a late tackle on Chick. It was a bit rash. I wasn’t sent off, it was more of an enforced substitution. I didn’t see what happened at the end.

” I was already in the showers and the next thing everybody was wandering in and saying the ref had abandoned the match. I wouldn’t have said it was out of order. Although, I do remember the referee telling us to grow up and pack it in.

Even before the match started, there was tension in the air when Glasgow Councillor, George Redmond, screamed ‘let’s get these c***s’ in a raging battle cry. Mr Redmond,40, accused the Journalist team of being too soft: “I wouldn’t say it was out of order. I think the journalists were frustrated because they were getting beat”.

The match was abandoned with the politicians leading 6-2 after a punch up between nine people. Shamed politicians say no blows were exchanged, but are now having to face the rough times ahead.

Pinkston Residents Lose Fight

Hundreds of tenants are set to be forced from their homes after Glasgow City Council opted to demolish their houses against residents will.

The people of Pinkston, Sighthill, in the north of Glasgow lost the fight to keep their homes as of the 31st of October 2008, when the conclusion to a meeting at the city chambers was to “comprehensively regenerate” the area.

The conclusions drawn from the meeting were published to the council’s website which stated that they would attend to “the rehousing issues in relation to the demolition of multi storey properties in Sighthill.”

This will come as a blow to locals, who formed the pressure group “Sighthill – Save Our Homes” in 2005 when the estate was first shortlisted for demolition without the consent of locals.

The estate, which is made up of ten 20 storey tower blocks is split equally into two areas: Pinkston and Fountainwell.

SSOH found at the time that 80% of residents in Pinkston opposed demolition while 72% of Fountainwell residents were against their homes being razed. Demolition in Fountainwell began in July but residents in Pinkston were still hopeful of keeping their flats.

The pressure group were unavailable for comment.

Scottish Comedy Stands Strong

Colleen Reid

Possibly the snuggest venue for comedy in Edinburgh, The Stand Comedy Club plays host to a weekly night of amateurs known as Red Raw. Expect laughs, unbelievable life stories and heckling all for the cost of a pint.

The ever popular Red Raw gives eight acts the chance to debut on the comedy scene whether for the first time or on a weekly slot. To ease the night along resident comedian JoJo Sutherland has the crowd in stitches from kick off with stories about drinking, middle age life and her teenage sons.

Following her lead, comedy newbies, mixed in with The Stand legends such as Vladimir McTavish, take to the stage to try their hand at tickling the audience. Obviously not always as successful as the acts hope. One fresh act let nerves(and poor material) get the better of him and as he started mumbling on about necrophilia his set was promptly cut short.

Vladimir McTavish
Vladimir McTavish

McTavish’s set however, was as strong as ever as he touched on the issue of the Scots and binge drinking. The crowd was in uproar as the self proclaimed love child of Oor Wullie and Aggie MacKenzie easily polished off two pints and a nip of whiskey in his five minute set. During which, he proved that office workers are to blame for binge drinking when they invite each other out for ‘just the one’ after work

Each Red Raw night is headlined by an up and coming comedian from the UK and last night was no exception with London born Marlon Davis. Davis had the crowd in stitches with a hilarious take on his recent breakup, from falling in love to his final and quite worrying sexual encounter. Previously described as the Chris Rock of Britain, Davis is definitely one to look out for.

The effortlessly funny night was a well craved change from the usual pub scene and is recommended to everyone whether your taste in humour is dry, light or just plain wrong.

Red Raw, every Tuesday from 8pm at The Stand Comedy Club.

Wrong diagnosis

By Nicola Dick

A 14-year-old school boy has died after being diagnosed the wrong acne tablets. Shaun Jones from Wales is suspected to have suffered from an allergic reaction.antidepressant

This is not the first case of innocent people being prescribed the wrong medication from their GP. Only recently local woman Jody Dick, 26, found she has been on the wrong tablets to help with depression for two years. This has caused herself and her family unneeded pain and fear:

“It is advised not mix alcohol with all anti-depressants, which like myself, most people will chose to ignore. In my case though, the tablets which were prescribed to me were the worst ones to drink with. They caused me to lose control and become very aggressive. I was very confused. My doctor knew of my drinking and aggression but never linked the two.

Jody found that because she was prescribed the wrong medication, she now has a criminal record and feels she has lost a year of her life:

“Before starting the tablets I had never been aggressive towards any family member or friend when under the influence of alcohol. I feel my GP has caused unnecessary pain and stress for my family. I did not know what I was doing and honestly thought I was going mental.”

A GP from the same surgery also diagnosed Jody’s Mum as having the flu. She died a few days later from cancer. Her younger sister described the grief this caused their family:

“I still can’t believe someone who is meant to be a professional doctor can mistaken cancer for a common flu. He turned up at our house and he was there for at least 10 minutes. I don’t see how any doctor could have made a proper diagnosis from such short a visit. It was clear to me that she needed to go into hospital.”

Being prescribed the wrong medication is dangerous and causes physical and emotional pain. For the majority of the public the thought of being on the wrong medication may never have occurred to them. It is the responsibility of the GP to make sure we are diagnosed properly. After all, our fate is in their hands.

Pakistan Appeal for Aid

By Jenny Scott

The local mayor of Balochistan, Dilawar Khan Kakar, has appealed to the whole world for help after last night’s earthquake killed at least 160 people and left 15,000 homeless.

A 6.4 magnitude quake hit two hours before dawn followed by a similarly powerful tremor just two hours later with 18 aftershocks adding to the destruction.

The mayor of the province in south-western Pakistan, said in an interview with Express News Televison:“We need food. We need medicine. People need warm clothes, blankets. Because it is cold here.”

The death toll is expected to rise with reports still coming in from the more isolated mountain regions of the province.

Rescue workers have already pulled 160 bodies from the rubble in the Ziarat valley area, one of Balochistan’s most popular tourist spots. They are still struggling to reach the sparsely populated mountains above the valley where countless people are believed to be trapped under rubble and debris.

A series of landslides were also triggered due to the quakes resulting in an even greater loss of homes. Survivors were forced to spend the night outdoors with nothing more than the clothes they were sleeping in when the disaster struck.

Authorities are still struggling to deal with the sheer amount of dead bodies, the majority being buried in mass graves as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of disease.

One senior official told Reuters: “Graves are being dug with excavators… we can’t keep dead bodies in the open.”

In residential villages distraught residents are being forced to dig mass graves for their friends and relatives as quickly as possible so they can carry on searching through rubble for survivors.

Officials said the army are airlifting troops and medical teams in to the quake zone to help with the search for survivors as well as providing tents, blankets and most importantly a field hospital.

Novo saga gains no clarity from Burley

By Christopher Hall
The striker has expressed interest in Playing for Scotland

The long running saga of Rangers striker Nacho Novo’s eligibility to play for his adopted nation Scotland gained no further progress yesterday.

Scotland Manager George Burley has yet to make an official statement on the issue but has expressed his desire that the bit-part winger be allowed to turn out for the national side if he obtains citizenship and is playing well for his club.

The Spaniard has no Scottish relatives but has lived in the country for over eight years and is currently eligible for a British passport.

Novo started his career with Raith Rovers in 2001 after moving from Spanish Minnows SD Huesca. He then enjoyed 2 years with Dundee before making a dream switch to Glasgow giants Rangers for £450,000 in the summer of 2004, expressing his desire to remain in Scotland for the remainder of his career.

But former Scotland midfielder, Murdo Macleod, has urged FIFA to re-consider their residency rulings, which would make the Spaniard the first non-related Scottish player to pull on the dark blue jersey.

He said: “With football laws, I think you have to look at people who are born here, that your parents are Scottish or go as far back as your grandparents”

In contrast, SFA spokesman Rob Shorthouse added fuel to the flames by insisting that the Forward would certainly be considered In Burley’s setup if granted dual nationality.

Shorthouse commented: “I know George Peat expressed his own personal opinion that it should be based on bloodlines but the regulations are that if he is eligible he’ll be considered.”

“If a player is eligible then, like any other player, he will be up for consideration”.

The statement comes only weeks after Rangers Striker Kris Boyd, 25, expressed his intentions to never again play for the national team under George Burley after the Scotland gaffer chose debutant Chris Ilewumo over the Ibrox hitman in the recent draw with Norway at Hampden.

House repossessions rocket

By Suzanne Bargon

House repossessions have shot up by more than 70% during the second quarter of the year compared to last years figures, according to recent figures.

The number of people unable to reach their mortgage repayments, resulting in the repossession of their homes, is around 11,000.

This equates to around 120 families a day losing their homes in the three months leading from April to the end of June 2008.

This figure could get even worse as the number of home owners unable to meet their mortgage repayments soared by 16 per cent to 312,332, says the Financial Services Authority.

Not all of these will lead to repossessions, and mortgage lenders are being urged to contact their lender as soon as they find themselves struggling to make repayments.

The average arrears that home owners are now facing has rocketed from £700 to £4800. All in all figures from the FSA showed the total amount due in arrears mounts up to a total of £1.5billion.

This is the second time that the FSA has released figures of this kind. The figures started being compiled at the start of 2007 and are based on information collated from around 300 regulated mortgage lenders.

It has been estimated that around 45,000 homes in the UK will be repossessed in the whole of 2008, up from 27,100 last year, told by the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

This is almost a 50% increase in house repossessions one year on.

The doom and gloom news does not seem to stop there as it was also revealed by a separate study that house prices have fallen by 8 per cent in a year.

The Land Registry, responsible for compiling these figures, revealed house prices in England and Wales dropped by 2 per cent in September.

The average house price in the UK now surfacing around £168,814.

Obama’s Airwave Invasion

Obama's campaign will run advertisements for half an hour on three major networks

By Niall Lennon

Barack Obama is set to dominate American television tonight by running a 30 minute political advert on three of the nations main networks.

The adverts, which will be shown at 20:00 eastern time, is said to be costing the Obama campaign in the region of $6m, making the adverts the most expensive piece of political advertising in the history of the United States. This once again has brought the Obama team under the spotlight and seems to be giving more weight to the argument that he has dominated the US media throughout this election process.

Senator Obama’s Campaign is believed to have raised the unprecedented amount of about $660m since he started his bid for president, double the amount Senator McCain’s team have raised. Most of Obama’s television campaigns up until this point have focused on local television in predominantly Republican areas, such as the east coast states of North Carolina, Virginia and Florida.

$150m of Obama’s campaign funds are said to have been spent in local TV markets and $30m on national ads on network and cable TV. It is also believed by the end of October he will have spent $100m on television campaigns for this month alone. Quite a significant amount compared to the $13m Senator McCain’s team have spent on television campaigning throughout the whole process.

This political television advertising format was also used back in 1992 when independent candidate Ross Perot ran a series of advertisements running for a half hour at a time. This style of campaigning was abandoned however, largely due to the shear cost of the adverts, but also because political commentators believed that this format would not hold the attention of American public for the full broadcast.

Obama’s half hour advertisements will be focusing on the two key domestic issues that seem to have been the main topics of debate during this final leg of the presidential battle, energy and taxes. Obama’s manifesto states that he wants to invest in alternative fuels and redistribute America’s wealth, promising tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000 per year, his main pledge on the matter being ‘I want to raise up the middle classes’.

Criticism has also been received on both sides throughout the presidential race due to the underhanded nature of some of the advertisements put out there by both sides to deliberately tarnish the name of their opponents raising questions of ethics. McCain’s team outweighed the Democrats however in the smear campaign, with 47% of their advertisements seen to be negative compared to 35% of obama’s adverts seen to be damning of McCain.