Greens can be kingmakers says Harper

Robin Harper MSP leaving the conference

By Andy Mackie

The Scottish Green party can emulate its Australian counterpart and be kingmakers in next Mays Scottish elections according to Robin Harper MSP.

Harper, speaking at the party conference for the last time before standing down after twelve years as a MSP said: “We should be prepared to enter an agreement with another party who would be willing to offer us one or two seats in cabinet”, continuing, “It will only take a swing of two to three percent to return up to nine Green MSPs. Let us aim as high as possible and achieve this.”

Harper had looked back over his 25 year involvement with green politics thanking all those involved in the Greens  over that period and reflected on the parties political achievements. These included concessions in areas such as GM crops, national parks, fishing stocks and climate change. He also spoke of his satisfaction at the recent hate crime law which was the first piece of Green party legislation to be passed.  On these achievements he stated: “The Green party has laid down roots in Scottish politics it is now time for it to flower.”

Earlier party co-convenor Patrick Harvie MSP had paid tribute to Harper by saying: “Robin can look back with satisfaction on the last decade or so of electoral success. His commitment and dedication in the tough years before electoral success helped make the subsequent success possible”. Harvie went on to cite the electoral gains of the Green parties in Australia, Germany and Brazil as inspiration for the Scottish party.

The conference at Edinburgh Napier’s Craiglockhart campus concludes tomorrow when Caroline Lucas MP will deliver a keynote speech.

Foreign Office Minister assures viewers armed services “won’t wear onions”

By Ryan C. Gavan
Jeremy Browne MP
Jeremy Browne made the comment on the TV programme Question Time

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne told the Question Time audience in London this week  “soldiers won’t be required to speak French or wear onions round their necks or stripy t-shirts or ride bicycles” during the debate on the new joint France-UK military agreement.

He was questioned by an audience member of whether anything “will be British anymore.” Then was branded a “racist” by a heckler.

Browne will not comment on the issue, only directing questions to the Foreign Office.
A  spokesperson said “Mr. Browne was speaking during a wider and lively discussion” continuing “his comments should be seen in this context”. Following, he was just “allying concerns” and was “not meaning to cause offence.”

The French Embassy has “no comment” on the matter, despite the stereotypical descriptions.

Lise Morel,  who teaches French in the UK, was “gobsmacked” by the “clichés of the French”. She believes that it is “extremely offensive in that context in particular.”

“I am surprised such a public person would have the gall of actually saying that publically” Morel says. It is causing her to start “reconsidering getting her British nationality if members of the Government can speak about the French this way”.

Mathieu Cagna, also a French national, said it was “not bad”, putting it down to the British humour.

Dr. Lynn Bennie, a senior lecturer in Politics at the University of Aberdeen thinks “it is inappropriate language if anything else” continuing, “when politicians make these kinds of statements it does not do their reputations any good.”

This is an embarrassment to the Government is stressing the strong relationship with France at the moment. Prime Minister David Cameron was seen shaking hands with Nicolas Sarkozy over the deal. Nick Clegg the Deputy Prime Minister was seen speaking French at the talks.

The “Declaration on Defence Security Cooperation”, as it is known, is proposing shared military capabilities in an effort for both countries to save money. It will call for the sharing of aircraft carriers and British troops under French command.  There will also be a sharing of nuclear test facilities.

Both countries are under increasing pressure to find savings and this is one solution. It is being hailed as a “new chapter” in defence. It is a controversial partnership due to the past disagreements over conflicts as recent as the war in Iraq.

Browne followed with a comment “not to believe everything you read in the papers.”

Ancient Roman Building Part Of Unesco World Heritage Collapses In Pompei

by Alessandro Brunelli

Walls Come Tumbling Down in Pompei

The “Domus Dei Gladiatori”, an ancient Roman building which served both as armoury and training ground for gladiators in Pompei, near Napoli, collapsed early this morning.

Some paintings that were reportedly stored beneath the room might also have crushed under the weight of the stones.

The building was part of the UNESCO World Heritage, and its destruction comes as a severe blow to the Italian artistic wealth.

The custodians blamed the collapse on the heavy rain that fell in the area over the past few days, which caused infiltrations in the building, whereas the Soprintendenza Dei Beni Culturali, the authority in charge of preserving the site, also pointed out how the roof, which had been rebuilt in the 1950s following World War II bombings in the area, might have been too heavy for such an old building.

It is safe to say though, that, regardless of the actual reasons of the occurrence, the effort made to keep the area in good conditions has been scarce or non-existent over the past few years, as repeatedly denounced by the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera and local residents.

The Domus, along with several other buildings like the Spa or the Antiquarium, was closed to the general public despite the continuous flow of visitors in the area, which is visited by about 5000 tourists every day.

The funds allocated for the restoration works in Pompei amount to several millions of euros, and €548.000 had been earmarked for the Casa dei Vestii, a nearby building, which was supposed to be restored completely by the end of 2009 but has not been opened yet.

Sergio Bondi, the Culture Minister, affirmed that “This event shows the need for adequate resources in order to provide ordinary maintenance, which is necessary for the safeguard of the immense artistic heritage of which we dispose”.

However, according to Luisa Bossa, Democratic MP and mayor of the nearby city of Ercolano, Mr. Bondi had repeatedly ignored the complaints about the desperate state of the Pompei buildings during parliamentary discussions, and always defended the work of the appointed superintendents.

Phones to diagnose STIs


By Claudie Qumsieh

Mobile phones could soon be used to test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  The tests will work by the user putting a urine or saliva sample onto a microchip which they can insert into their phone. The software will analyse the sample and make recommendations for treatment, details of nearest GP surgery or clinic and even arrange automatic prescription to be made available at the local pharmacist.

The new £5.7 million project has been launched to develop this self-testing technology which will use nanotechnology in phones and computers. The test has the advantage of being both private and quick. Home testing hopes to prevent diagnosis being delayed by people’s reluctance to go to the doctors out of embarrassment.

The project, eSTI², is led by Dr Tariq Sadiq senior lecturer and consultant physician in sexual health and HIV at St George’s, University of London. Sadiq says “By making diagnosis easier to access in the community, with immediate results, we aim to reduce infection rates and improve sexual health.”

The technology hopes to address the problem of increasing numbers of infections in young people. STI’s can have long-term implications including infertility.

In the UK there has been a 36% rise of STIs in the past decade. An ISD Scotland survey on genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics found a quarter of all acute STI diagnoses are in people under 20 years old. STIs are higher in men than women. More new acute STIs were in men with syphilis, gonorrhoea, genital warts, NSGI (non-specific genital infection), non-chlamydial, HIV and other More women were diagnosed with chlamydia, genital herpes and trichomoniasis.  The highest rates recorded were in Lothian, Tayside  and Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

The technology is still at development stage. The test will eventually be made available for sale in supermarkets, night club vending machines and pharmacies and will cost up to £1.

Dr Sadiq said “These systems have real potential to give individuals more control over their sexual health, reduce spread of infection, and radically change the way STIs are diagnosed and managed.”

The Medical Research Council has given a £4million grant to the consortium comprising academic and industrial researchers including St George’s, University College London, Brunel University, Warwick University, Queen Mary, University of London and the Health Protection Agency.

For information on diagnosis of STIs see the NHS website.


Arrival Of A New Ash Cloud Now Deemed Unlikely

by Alessandro Brunelli

Geologist Thorunn Skaftadottir of the Icelandic Met Office, in an interview released yesterday to the Icelandic Newspaper Morgunbladid, played down recent fears of another ash cloud similar to the one which covered European skies in April and stated that “there are no signs of a new possible eruption”.

The small earthquakes that hit Southern Iceland in the past few days are not yet cause for concern and are considered to be common for the area.

Meltwater had started flowing from the top of Grimsvotn volcano in Vatnajokull on October 31st, and later reached  the river Gigjukvisl, whose level rose by 3 feet between Tuesday and Wednesday.

The flooding was interpreted as a signal of the awakening of the volcano, and brought back memories of the 2004 eruption, whose plume reached Sweden, Finland and Norway, and caused minor disruption to flights all over Europe.

This led the UK Civic Aviation Authority to prepare plans to face a similar inconvenient.

Such plans include putting all of the country’s airports under alert and a loosening of previous ash cloud restrictions.

A CAA source revealed yesterday to The Herald that the understanding of the effect of ash cloud on jet engines has significantly improved since last April, and that “there is now a level of volcanic ash that it is safe to operate in, and manufacturers have agreed that”.

This new approach, along with the slowing pace of seismic activity around Grimsvotn, make the possibility of a chaotic Christmas for air travellers very unlikely.

The Grimsvotn volcano has historically been an active one, with previous eruptions in 1998, 1996, 1982 and 1972.

Records of eruptions go back as far as 1782, when the cloud allegedly covered Europe in a blue smoke.

The Grimsvotn Volcano