Rape Campaign to Raise Awareness Among Students Over Festive Period

Universities are working in conjunction with Lothian and Borders Police to raise awareness around the increase of rapes taking place over the festive period. The campaign sees students as their “target market”, but some students are questioning why this hasn’t been an on-going campaign.

Universities work with police.

‘We Can Stop It’ aims to increase awareness about the Sexual Offence Act Scotland 2009, which defined several new offences relating to sex without consent.

Changes in the legislation included the acknowledgment that someone who is incapable through drink or drugs is considered unable to consent; the ability to consent to sex can be withdrawn at any time and male rape being legally classified as such for the very first time.

The emphasis of the campaign will be on 18-27 year olds and will focus primarily on men, hoping to provoke a change in values when it comes to rape so that men’s role in preventing rape can be brought to the forefront of peoples’ attention.

Chief Superintendent Malcom Graham, Divisional Commander for the City of Edinburgh said: “With the festive holidays fast approaching, we know that there will be significantly more young people out in bars and clubs.

“I hope that by working with educational establishments and receiving their support for the campaign we can reach our target market effectively and educate them about the key areas of change in the legislation.

“Our officers will also be in and around a number of campuses in the coming weeks speaking to students about the campaign and I would encourage anyone who is interested in becoming involved to speak to them.”

Lesley Johnstone, Chair of the Edinburgh Violence Against Women Partnership, is an advocate of the campaign and said: “Sexual abuse can have a devastating impact upon victims and their wider families, and we strongly support this initiative and the activity the police are doing at Edinburgh’s Universities.”

Students and staff at Napier University responded positively to the campaign, recognising the gravity of the issues at hand. However, some people raised concerns about why the campaign was only being run over the festive period.  Napier Student President Tom Zanelli echoed these concerns: “Rape is a disgraceful act and needs stamping out, I do agree that rape and what actually is rape is still very much unknown, so hopefully this campaign can help raise awareness and also stamp it out.

“To be honest students will always drink and I’m not convinced they will drink any more or less over the festive period, the campaign should on-going throughout the year and always targeted at students.”

Former student Robert Piper said: “A lot of them are too busy studying or going home for Christmas and everything, but yes I think it’s a good thing. They should realise that whenever they go out and have a few drinks, being social, they might let their guard down. They should still be aware of what’s going on around them and everything else that’s going on, not just for themselves but for other people as well.”

Computer Security and Forensics student Jake Gregg said: “Most of the students are going home at Christmas, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do this during term time when there’s more students here. Some students understand the issues, but others maybe need their awareness raised.”

Financial Advisor Zara Lochrie: “I think if there’s enough promotion and awareness is raised enough then I don’t think this campaign will be overlooked, I think it’s something that’s quite prominent just now. If students are aware of it and if there’s enough awareness around the university then it will definitely take off I’d say.

“I’d say students would be the perfect target audience, especially over Christmas with all the Christmas parties and things like that, but student and staff alike over the Christmas period where everyone’s drinking a little bit more. I think it’s a good time to get in there when it’s relevant to them.”

Placements Administrator Lindsay Morgan: “I guess this is a good time for the campaign, because it’s the time when everyone’s drinking and partying. I wasn’t aware of that legislation change so I dare say there are a lot of students out there who aren’t aware of the change either.

“A lot of students will have gone home already, but then there’s local students too, and students still keep in touch with all the things going on at university so it may not be too late.”

Improved Household Energy Efficiency is the Way to Combat Fuel Poverty

Energy efficiency measures prevented 35,000 Scottish households from falling into fuel poverty last year.  This was countered by rising energy prices linked to more people suffering from the cold weather, according to reports.

Statistics released today show that the installation of measures such as loft and cavity insulation, double glazing and new boilers have helped to reduce energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and cut household energy requirements.

Around 1,500,000 dwellings (about 65%) were rated ‘good’ in terms of energy efficiency on the National Home Energy Rating (NHER) scale. This continues the upward trend from 31% considered ‘good’ in 2002 and is an increase of 3% since 2010.

Elizabeth Leighton, Senior Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said: “The results show that insulation is the best way of protecting people from rising energy bills. It is estimated that in an un-insulated home a third of all heat lost is through the walls and a quarter of heat through the roof.

“Nearly two thirds of households living in inefficient homes are in fuel poverty, an increase of 8% on 2010 figures. This demonstrates the need for minimum energy efficiency standards so people are not condemned to live in fuel poverty.”

Despite efforts by the Scottish Government to help reduce household energy bills, tens of thousands of families were pushed into fuel poverty in 2011 as a direct result of energy company price rises. The latest figures show that fuel poverty rates increased to 28.9%, affecting 684 000 households, which is 1 percentage point higher than 2010 levels (27.9%).

From July to October 2011, more than 102,000 households fell into this category after energy prices increased by 14%.

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess said: “Rising energy bills are a huge concern for this government, and fuel poverty is an absolute scandal in an energy rich country like Scotland.

“The more that energy companies continue to implement punishing price increases, the more they are undoing the good work we are doing to tackle fuel poverty.

“That is why we are urging the UK government – who has responsibility in this area – to do more to help vulnerable people and ensure that our households are better protected.

“This government has allocated over £68 million in 2012-13 to energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes to help individuals and families who are in most need of support. We also have in place a cash-back voucher scheme offering up to £500 per household for energy efficiency measures such as double glazing, loft and cavity wall insulation, and from today, energy efficient boilers and appliances for private sector landlords.”

Norman Kerr, Director of national fuel poverty charity Energy Action Scotland said: “The fact that more Scottish households are now in fuel poverty is very disappointing but not surprising as energy prices have gone up and people’s budgets generally are under pressure. Efforts to make homes energy efficient, so that less energy is needed to heat them, are more vital than ever and will clearly have to be increased.

“Our advice to the public is to check out if they are on the best fuel tariff and payment method for their needs, to shop around energy suppliers, and to take up the free or discounted insulation from Scottish Government programmes such as Home Energy Scotland. There is a tendency to think it won’t make a difference, but it does all help at these difficult times.”

Energy efficiency measures prevented 35, 000 Scottish households from falling into fuel poverty last year but this was countered by higher fuel poverty linked to rising energy prices, according to new figures.

New Coaches – A Boost for Scottish Hockey

(Scottish Hockey)
(C) Scottish Hockey

Scottish Hockey has made its first announcement as part of the Professional Coaching Programme this week. Three coaches have been selected to work on a full-time basis with National League clubs.

The Professional Coaching Programme aims to improve the quality of hockey players in Scotland.

This will lead to stronger National League competitions and result in Scotland becoming more competitive at international level.

After a successful application three candidates were chosen to begin the programme.

Chris Anderson will coach Grove Menzieshill’s men, Sandy Keith will be in charge of Granite City Wanderers’ women, and John McKnight will be coaching men at Clydesdale Hockey Club.

Director of Scottish Hockey, Lee Cousins, believes their appointment will be rewarding in the long term. He believes that this programme will not only benefit players already affiliated to local hockey clubs, but will also help university players dreaming of becoming professionals.

Shaun Miller, men’s hockey captain at Edinburgh Napier University, believes the developments in coaching and a switch in focus to encourage the younger generation are necessary for the development of Scottish hockey

He said: “I think at school level we are missing out on a lot of people, I know at my old school hockey wasn’t anything big.

“They are starting to do it more at primary level but previously if you were not at a private high school you miss out. You almost get forced into the rugby and football background.”

The Professional Coaching Programme was established with the help of Aberdeen Asset Management. Its contribution is the largest ever investment in the development and growth of hockey in Scotland.

These developments are the beginning of Sport Scotland’s “Coaching Scotland 2011-15” strategy. The funding will ensure coaches are financially supported, allowing them to dedicate themselves to the improvement of Scottish hockey.

This is the beginning of a long process for Scottish hockey and the results of the new effort will only become evident after several years.

Miller believes there are already causes for optimism.

He said: “Scottish hockey is catching up. I’ve noticed that Scottish players are getting more recognition at international level. It’s becoming a bigger sport especially after the Olympics.

“For a smaller country we are getting there slowly. We are beginning to be recognised again.”

Audio Interview:

shiv das interview with napeir shaun Miller hockey1st xi captain – shaun miller

Scottish Rugby Hopes and Fears in Upcoming Lions Selection

Scotland Internationals will be looking to impress in the upcoming Six Nations tournament in order to be considered for British and Irish Lions selection for the Tour of Australia in June 2013.

In the wake of the main coaching position appointments, which saw Warren Gatland given the reigns as Head Coach, speculation surrounding future selection ensues. Gatland was joined by Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Rob Howley as his assistants.

Nostalgic reflection upon past Scottish influence on Lions tours always flags up the great tour to Australia in 1989, where unbelievably compared to the present day state of Scottish rugby; all key figures in the team were Scottish. Led by Captain Finlay Calder, Head Coach Ian McGeechan and top scorer Gavin Hastings, the Lions triumphed in a 2-1 series victory. In subsequent tours in 1993 and 1997, the structure was much the same with a very large Scottish influence.

In recent years, starting with the 2001 tour, the amount of Scottish players and coaches has rapidly fallen. An obvious reflection of how Scotland’s on pitch success has been scarce at best. Since 2001 Scotland has never had more than four players selected for the squad. In 2009, initially there was only two in the form of Euan Murray and Nathan Hines. The additional two players were only added because of injury to other players.

When considering the potential Scotland candidates for the latest tour, Scottish hopes are slim at best. Many analysts and pundits, such as Jeremy Guscott ,only put second row Ritchie Gray as a Scot who should be selected. Anybody else has an outside chance at best.

Richie Gray wins his 26th Cap © AOL/SRU
Lions hopeful Ritchie Gray in Action. © AOL/SRU

However, SRU is optimistic:

“Scottish players who should be in contention for the Lions are winger Tim Visser, Lock Ritchie Gray and former Lion Euan Murray”. He went on to mention that players with an outside chance are Davie Denton, Mike Blair and Ryan Grant.

Regardless of the selection that does take place after the Six Nations in May, Scotland will undoubtedly continue to be the Home Nation with the lowest number of Lion selections. A painful truth for Scotland rugby fans which has been endured since 1997.

After dismal results and performances in the Autumn tests, the future looks bleak for the kind of impact Scottish players can be expected to make on the Lion’s squad. However, Warren Gatland comments that: “his coaching staff have planned selection meetings for pre, mid and post Six Nations.”

This emphasises the importance for Scottish hopefuls to impress during the Six Nations in order to get selectors interested and boost the morale of Scottish fans everywhere.

Champs Or Chumps? – BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 2012

Sports Personality Trophy.
Sports Personality Trophy.

The 59th edition of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award is almost upon us.

On 16th December we will find out who has won the annual prize that is never far from controversy.

There is no doubt that 2012 has been a special year for British sport, but only one person can be chosen as the winner.

Provided the BBC don’t bottle it, ignore the panel and give the prize to ‘Team GB’ due to the mere fact that we hosted the Olympic Games, this should be a very close contest thanks to the number of incredible achievements from British sportsmen and women this year.

Unsurprisingly the list is overwhelmingly Olympic- and Paralympic-centric – just one of the twelve nominees, Rory McIlroy, did not win a medal at London 2012.

Primarily because he couldn’t.

We asked Edinburgh residents who they would vote for and here are the top three:

1. Andy Murray

2. Bradley Wiggins

3. Jessica Ennis

Having voted for their ‘champs’ of 2012, we also polled people about who their ‘chumps’ of the year would be – we offered a list of sporting pariahs from the last twelve months and here’s what the capital’s citizens told us:

1. John Terry

2. Lance Armstrong

3. Hulk Hogan

Who would feature on your alternative shortlist? Was your favourite Olympic or Paralympic athlete absent?

Get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter page and let us know who would get your vote.

Tour de Scotland?

The Tour de France may be streamlining its way to Edinburgh, after The City of Edinburgh Council backed an audacious attempt to bring the event to Scotland for the first time.

Councillors approved a report outlining the commitments required in the event of a successful bid in a meeting today.

Heralded as the world’s largest annual sporting event, the Tour de France could bring £45-55m of revenue for the national economy, with Edinburgh benefiting to the tune of £24m.

Tour de France
Tour de France

Edinburgh Castle is the proposed venue for the Presentation of the Riders, with displays, cycle shows, stalls competition and a raft of cultural activities being held across the city throughout the duration.

A ‘non-race’ mode procession of the cyclists running through the city centre would precede the start of the race, which would be held elsewhere in the city, with riders racing down the spine of the UK through Scotland, England and Wales.

The event attracts global interest with no less than 100 TV channels, 400 newspapers and press agencies and 70 websites over 190 countries offering live coverage of last year’s event.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh Council’s Festivals & Events Champion, said: “I can think of no more dramatic backdrop than Edinburgh Castle and our historic Old Town and, of course, our residents are well used to laying on a fantastic welcome to the many millions of visitors that travel to the city each year.

“Of course, Edinburgh is no stranger to cycling success, thanks to the incredible achievements of Sir Chris Hoy, and we are already seeing the impact this is having on participation – a trend that would surely continue following a successful Grant Depart.”

The bid, led by EventScotland, has the support of the Scottish Government, British Cycling, UK Sport, the Welsh Government, plus numerous other English and Welsh authorities.

While the date has not yet been announced, it is likely to be in the next five years and could even be as soon as 2014.

Edinburgh Gets Ready for the Release of ‘The Hobbit’

The Hobbit hits theatres
The Hobbit hits theatres

Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated trilogy ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ will hit cinemas worldwide this weekend.

It has been highly awaited and people in Edinburgh have also jumped in on the excitement, with local showings sold out. The film will serve as a prequel to the highly successful ‘Lord of The Rings’ Trilogy and will feature a lot of familiar faces from them including: Sir Ian McKellen,  Andy Serkins, Cate Blanchet, Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom.

The Scottish presence is apparent in the world of middle earth. Edinburgh born actor Ken Stott starts in the film as a Dwarf Balin, one of Bilbo Baggins closest friend. Comedian Billy Connolly has been cast at Dain Ironfoot, a great dwarf warrior and will appear in the second and third instalments. ‘Lord of the Rings’ veteran, Glasgow bred,  Billy Boyd attended the London premiere last night – he appeared as Pippin in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Local Edinburgh cinema The Cameo hosted a ‘Lord of the Rings’ film marathon on the 9th of December 2012 to celebrate the release of ‘The Hobbit’. The audience was encouraged to dress up and the event was deemed a great success by management. ‘The Hobbit’ will be the first 3D film to be shown at The Cameo. Kenny Gold, duty manager of The Cameo, “There has been a lot of build up. We couldn’t have picked a better film than ‘The Hobbit’ for our first 3D showing.”

‘The Hobbit’ is set in the all too familiar Middle-Earth and it follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, and 13 dwarves on their quest to take back the Lonely Mountain from the reign of the dragon, Smaug – who will be voiced by Freeman’s ‘Sherlock’ co-star Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Guardian comments that the movies ‘offers an enormous amount of fun, energy and a bold sense of purpose’. Peter Jackson is once again trying to give movie goers a unique and innovative experience. ‘The Hobbit’ is shot in High Frame Rate (HFR): 48 frames a second instead of the usual 24. This gives the movie a higher definition and with the help of 3D makes the 169 minutes of spookiness more realistic.

Fan interviewed by Shiv Das about ‘The Hobbit:’

The Hobbit premiered last night in London, gathering a remarkable group of celebrities, including the Duke of Cambridge.  Sanaa Siddiqui, who was at the front of the crowd at last night, comments on the atmosphere of the event: “The whole of Leicester Square was packed to the brim with fans. The area was stunningly decorated to look like the Shire. I met all of my favourite actors, it was such an amazing day.”

Audio Interview: final hobbit vopxox shiv das

ScotRail Strikes Could Disrupt Christmas Travel Plans

Scotrail Logo

ScotRail workers will strike on 22 December and Christmas Eve in a dispute over the sacking of an employee, says the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT).

Union members on the firm’s sleeper services will also strike for 24 hours from the evening of 21 December and again from the evening of 23 December.

The decision was made by Scotrail staff to take action when an employee was sacked after trying to make sure a passenger had the correct ticket. The ticket examiner was dismissed on grounds of intimidating and aggressive behaviour towards the passenger, who was then reduced to tears.

The dismissal followed the ticket examiner refusing to accept that the customer was allowed free travel under a special ScotRail deal to promote a new route out of an airport. It is a longstanding, well-known arrangement.

A spokesman for Scotrail said: “This reeks of selfishness – designed to give those on strike extra time off and full wages while having the maximum impact on the traveling public in the run up to Christmas.

“It also appears mercenary and opportunistic to choose times when families and friends will be traveling for festive reunions and many other people, including staff in hospitals and shops, still have to get to and from work.”
A statement from the RMT union read: “Management have not been able to produce a shred of evidence to prove that Mr Lewis was harassing this passenger or that he failed to comply with correct procedures. Excerpts of CCTV evidence seen by the union do not back the management case one iota and despite requests the company have refused to release the full CCTV tapes to RMT or Scott Lewis.”

But ScotRail says the union was shown CCTV on three separate occasions of the instance where the ticket-master had reduced the customer to tears. They added that the images revealed that the standards of conduct fell below what was expected.

They said both Mr Lewis, the ticket master and Mr Ian McIntyre, Scottish Regional Organiser of the RMT, were shown the footage.

The ScotRail spokesman added: “If anyone believes the conduct towards a customer who was reduced to tears is acceptable – let alone worthy of a strike – then they are in the wrong job. The ticket examiner also had a complete disregard of correct ticket procedures.”

ScotRail says that just 24% of RMT union members voted for the strike action in a ballot, in which 65% of members did not vote.  Of the 819 votes cast, 548 were for the strike action.

Out on the streets of Edinburgh, the public reaction to the strike was mixed.

One man said: “I’m going to be working up until 23 December – but I’m going back home on the 24th up to Stonehaven. So, yes it looks like that’s going to be a bit of a problem. I’ll probably just end up getting the bus.”

Others said they would not be affected by the strikes.

Visual Artists forced to live on the breadline

A recent study by the Scottish Artists Union reports three quarters of visual artists are living on an income of less than £5000 a year.

The SAU, which is lobbying and campaigning on behalf of visual artists working in Scotland states that the present figures are a worrying depiction of their earnings.

Only 5% of artist taking part in the survey are earning more than £15000 after tax and expenses.

Simon Hynd, a successful film director from Edinburgh, is now working for the BBC but says that the first years after graduation are the hardest: “When I started out, I was definitely in that category. For the first three years at least I was earning less than £15000 a year.”

Jonny Wilson, an unemployed film writer from Edinburgh, belongs to the same category and claims that being an artist is often a question of class.

“I fall into that category as I’ve only earned about 5000 this year. I have had some contact with BBC executives and people like that. They all seem to have come from privately educated backgrounds and have the means to fund themselves while chasing their dreams. Those from the lower socio-economic scale just can’t afford to do that. They have the reality of having to pay their bills and that eats into your energy and your ability to create.”

The recent report by SAU also states that most visual artists have never applied for a public funding or received a grant.

Mr Wilson’s observations are backed up by SAU’s report saying that 47% were forced to get a part-time job in order to keep their heads above water. Mr Hynd remembers being in the same situation: “That’s something that I did as well. I was working in retail while I pursued my dream.”

However, Mr Hynd was in the lucky but unusual position to get financial support from his family: “I was in a fortunate position because I have a wife who has a regular job so she was able to support me to an extent. She took a bit of the pressure off. Other artists definitely don’t always have that luxury.”

New Poll Claims Dangers in Current Drug Legislation

Legal Highs
Legal Highs

According to a new poll the majority of people think that legalising drugs would make them safer.

This goes against David Cameron’s refusal to set up a Royal Commission to review current drug laws earlier this week.

The poll by Edinburgh drugs advisory service Crew2000 shows over 75% of people think that the illegality of drugs makes them more dangerous.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Winstock, founder and director of Global Drug Survey, said that the main dangers are caused by current legislation preventing the government from providing truthful information:

“Because drugs are illegal people are forced to engage with a criminal underworld which in itself can be a bit dangerous.

“The biggest issue about drugs being illegal is it can be difficult for people to know exactly what they’re taking.  If people knew this, in terms of substance, purity and dose, some people would choose to use that drug more carefully.”

Emma Crawshaw, from Crew2000, said that although there has been a decline in the numbers of those using drugs in Edinburgh, “people who do use are doing so in a more problematic way.”   She said that cannabis and alcohol remained the biggest problem but also pointed to the fact that the rise in availability of ‘legal highs’ was creating a further problem for controlling drugs:

“The biggest risk is that as supply and production is unregulated, and as packaging may well state ‘not for human consumption’ people cannot be sure of what they are actually purchasing.  As so many substances are new, it is very difficult to assess what the long term health effects may be.”

Over 40 new psychoactive substances were identified on the market last year and experts predict that a further 60 new substances will be identified by the end of the year.  Ms Crawshaw said the problem with new substances is people don’t know what they’re buying:

“Many people now purchase these substances over the internet or ‘head shops’, thinking that they are indeed ‘legal highs’ however, they may well contain banned substances i.e controlled drugs or substances that are under the new temporary class banning orders brought in to ban/control new substances while tests are conducted on them to investigate health risks.  Potency may be very variable and quality may well be poor.”

A spokesperson for Apothecary, a local business that sells psychoactive substances and drug paraphernalia, said that the government’s recent decision to keep current drug legislation was a mistake:

“I think that the law should be changed. I think that the government should spend some money on developing safer, less neurotoxic versions of drugs such as MDMA and sell them in a controlled way so that people know what they are getting. It shouldn’t really be up to the government what people can take.”

However, Dr Winstock claims that the term ‘legal high’ is meaningless, giving the example of mephedrone, or ‘meaow-meaow’, which started life as a ‘legal high’ but quickly became illegal.  He also said:

“There’s lots of things that are classed as ‘legal highs’ which don’t get you high.”

“I think there is a legal high market for two reasons:  one is the declining purity of traditionally available drugs, predominantly cocaine and MDMA; and the second is globalisation of media and markets.”

He also says that ‘legal highs’ are attractive because they can be delivered in the post.

“Instead of using dealers, you can get drugs delivered by mail and if you’re a drug manufacturer and distributer, that makes life much easier.”

Edinburgh Council Becomes ‘Living Wage’ Employer

Over 2000 Edinburgh Council Employees will receive a ‘living wage’ of £7.50 per hour after a decision to allocate an extra £2.06 million to employee pay. The decision was voted for this afternoon and means that the lowest paid council workers will receive a boost of £1.04 per hour to their wage packets  from January.

It is estimated that mainly low paid women will benefit from the decision. A cook or cleaner, for example, with an entry level wage of £6.46 per hour working full time with a pension will see an increase in their pay by around £105 per month, or £1270 per annum.

A spokesman from Unison Edinburgh – the trade union body for Edinburgh City Council – said today: “this is a fundamentally important decision. It is a recognition that there needs to be a commitment from employers to move away from paying poverty wages. Hopefully this trend will continue across Scotland.”

Unison added that: “The next step is to campaign for the Edinburgh Living Wage to apply to a ll contractors and to convince businesses across the city of the benefits of paying their staff a living wage.”

Councillor Bill Cook, Vice Convener of the Finance and Budget Committee, said: “It is simply a matter of fairness. People should get a decent wage for working.

“It’s a strange logic that claims that it’s essential to give the rich more and the poor less in order for the economy to work. Where in fact, as is widely recognised, a fair wage strategy will undoubtedly stimulate the economy and have a positive effect socially.

“Our workforce is the most important asset we’ve got. It’s absolutely vital that we recognise the contribution that they make through their hard work to the welfare of Edinburgh’s people.”

The Living Wage is set by the Centre for Research in Social Policy each November and is currently £7.45 per hour for workers outside London.

A Labour and SNP ‘Capital Coalition’ committed to introducing the wage for Edinburgh Council staff following the Local Government elections in May 2012.

The estimated cost to the council of providing the living wage for a full financial year is £1.6m for staff employed directly by the Council and £0.46m for agency staff, bringing the total to £2.06m. The Capital Coalition claims that provision has been made for this amount.

Local business owners have expressed anxiety about the living wage being rolled out across Edinburgh. Grant McNeil, owner of Edinburgh pub chain McNeil/Greenan said : ‘I hope this is not the start of the council trying to put in a living wage for everyone. From a business point of view in times of austerity this would not be very easy for me.

“Although I am sympathetic for people on a low wage I would say the council should be paying the same as what the minimum wage is so that we are all on a level playing field. At the end of the day it is a customer facing job just like working in a bar.”

Listen HERE to what people in Edinburgh think about the Living wage

International Round Up

Russia admits Syrian Government is losing territorial control

Syrian men break the concrete of a residential building destroyed in a government airstrike. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)
Syrian men break the concrete of a residential building destroyed in a government airstrike. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)

The situation in Syria is aggravating for the local Government. An official from the Russian Government has said for the first time that opposition forces might defeat Syrian government. The opposition is gaining legitimacy after more than 100 countries signed a declaration yesterday in Morocco to give it a political lift. The United States formally recognises the opposite party as “the legitimate representative” of the people in that country.


North Korea launches rocket ignoring UN Security Council

A screen shows the Unha-3 rocket being launched from a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at North Korea's satellite control centre in Cholsan county (AP)
A screen shows the Unha-3 rocket being launched from a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at North Korea’s satellite control centre in Cholsan county (AP)

The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea for launching what they consider to be a long-range missile, while Pyongyang states that it was a satellite. The Council is going to have a meeting next Wednesday to consider an “appropriate response” to the threat.

In the meantime, the US has considered the action as “a highly provocative act that threatens regional security.”  In a statement released last Friday, they announced their intention was to send warships to the Asian country.


The Eurozone agrees rules towards banking union

The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (Johannes Eisele/AFP) Photo/Johannes Eisele)
The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Economy and finance ministers have reached an agreement today on rules for supervising Eurozone banking. The biggest banks of the Union will be under the direct oversight of the European Central Bank.

The supervision will be made over the biggest banks, with assets over 30,000 millions or the 20% of the GDP. The main obstacle has been a disagreement over power distribution in terms of the supervisor. Germany wants to leave out regional banks, while France and Spain have asked the supervisor for an inspection of every bank, without exception.


Putin wants Russian couples to have at least 3 children

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state-of-the nation address in Moscow, Russia (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state-of-the nation address in Moscow, Russia (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The Russian president Vladimir Putin called on Russians to have at least three children each. He added that he wants people who own luxury goods to pay higher taxes.

After the end of the Soviet Union, the standard of living decreased due to a growth in the mortality rate and a substantial reduction of births. “In order for Russia to be a strong and sovereign country, there must be more of us and we must be better in morality, in our competences, our work and our creativity”, the Russian leader said.


Oregon mall gunman identified

Police handout photo of suspect from Tuesday's shooting in Happy Valley, Oregon (Clackamas County Sheriff's Office)
Police handout photo of suspect from Tuesday’s shooting in Happy Valley, Oregon (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office have identified Jacob Tyler Roberts as the gunman who shot two people before killing himself in Oregon last Tuesday. According to Oregon law enforcement, he opened fire on a crowded Portland shopping mall and was shooting victims at random.

Roberts was armed with a stolen AR-15 semi-automatic rifle when he opened fire. Two victims were fatally shot, identified as Cindy Yuille, 54 and Steven Forsyth, 45. A third victim, 15 year-old Kristina Shevchenko, is still in serious condition at the Oregon Health and Science university Hospital, in Portland.


First Pope tweet in eight languages

Pope Benedict XVI sends his first tweet (EFE)
Pope Benedict XVI sends his first tweet (EFE)

The Pope has tweeted for the first time in eight languages in his eight Twitter accounts. “Dear friends,” he wrote, “I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”

He delivered it from a tablet computer at the end of a general audience in the Vatican, with a group of young people gathered round him and after an official announced: “And now the Pope will tweet!”. He has already reached over one million Twitter followers.


No progress in fiscal cliff talks

US House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)
US House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)

Large differences remain between congressional Republicans and the White House to avert the “fiscal cliff” of steep tax hikes and budget cuts. House Speaker John Boehner called on President Barack Obama to produce a new offer. “I was born with a glass half full. I remain the most optimistic person in this town. But we’ve got some serious differences,” Boehner has told reporters at a news conference.


Worldwide Geminid meteor shower tonight

A massive Geminid fireball from 2009's shower, one of the brightest ever recorded (NASA)
A massive Geminid fireball from 2009’s shower, one of the brightest ever recorded (NASA)

The annual meteor shower will reach its peak later tonight and into the early hours of Friday morning. The meteors will appear to radiate from a point near the star Castor, in the constellation Gemini. The skies will thus be free of the moon’s glare, allowing viewers in rural areas to see perhaps 100 or more meteors per hour, experts say.


Top 10 Ways to Celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Street Party in Edinburgh for the New Year.
Street Party in Edinburgh for the New Year.

1. Street Party

The renowned Edinburgh street party is something that should not be missed. Join 80,000 partygoer’s dance into the New Year with music from top DJs and musical entertainment such as The Maccabees, Reverend and the Makers and The OK Social Club. Celebrate at midnight with the extravagant firework display.

Tickets are £15 available at http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/

Music ★★★★  Food ★  Venue ★★★  Family Friendly ★★

2. Concert in the Gardens

The music event of the evening proves to be as big as it ever has. Scottish musicians dominate this year with legends Simple Minds, Dundee-based boys The View and Edinburgh four piece Bwani Junction rocking into 2013. Enclosed tickets are sold out and the Garden tickets are soon to follow.

Garden tickets are £37.50 available at http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/

Music ★★★★★  Food ★  Venue ★★★  Family Friendly ★★

3. The Loony Dook

Maybe the craziest Hogmanay tradition of them all! Join the ‘loony’s’ plunge into the River Forth on the 1st of January 2013. The Dooker’s parade kicks off the event and then it’s into the water. What a better way to kick off the New Year!

Register at http://www.theloonydook.co.uk/Register.html

Music ­­­­- Food – Venue ★★ Family Friendly ★★

4. Propaganda New Years Eve Party Animal

Celebrate 2013 with the UK’s biggest club night, Propaganda. The HMV Picture House will be home to student friendly club night. This event is for the mainstream indie music fans, but chart music is also played.  Curfew is 5am. Definitely the perfect place for those who want to dance all night long.

Tickets are £7.25 available at http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/

Music ★★★★ Food – Venue ★★★ Family Friendly –

5. The Keilidh

Fancy learning some traditional Scottish dance moves? If so, then head to the outdoor ceilidh event in the Princes Street Gardens. With a food village and outdoor bar, your every party need is catered to while you master your ceilidh technique. Last years event was a total sell out; so don’t miss out this time.

Tickets are £37 available at http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/

Music ★★★★  Food ★★  Venue ★★  Family Friendly ★★

6. St Giles Candlelit Concerts

If you want to celebrate Hogmanay somewhere that is warmer that Princes Street, then maybe this event is for you. Michael Harris with the St Giles Cathedral Choir directs this year. Parts 1 and 3 of J.S.Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Vivaldi’s Magnificat will be featured. The Candlelit Cathedral provides an exquisite atmosphere.

Tickets are £16 available at http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/

Music ★★★  Food – Venue ★★★★  Family Friendly ★★★

7. Vegas! The Grand Hogmanay Ball

Can’t afford a trip to America to celebrate 2013? Well, Edinburgh’s own Voodoo Rooms will turn into Las Vegas for one night on the 31st of December 2012. This sophisticated event features music from Cow Cow Boogie, a swinging six-piece from Edinburgh. Burlesque dancers and showgirls will provide entertainment as well as blackjack tables.

Tickets are £25 available at http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/

Music ★★★  Food ★★  Venue ★★★★  Family Friendly –

8. Baby Loves Hogmanay Disco

Electric Circus plays home to the perfect event if you have a baby that loves to dance. Music is played at a baby-friendly volume and Club DJ’s provide the tunes. The disco is family friendly as there is a chill out zone, catering and even a bar for mum and dad.

Tickets are £8 available at http://www.babylovesdisco.co.uk/

Music ★★★ Food ★  Venue ★★  Family Friendly ★★★★★

9. Your Lucky Day Festival

Head to the National Museum of Scotland for some culture on New Years day. Your Lucky Day festival is for all the family and provides dance, music and theatre. There will also be chance to see the Lady Luck art instillation by Walker and Bromwich.

All events are Free.

Music ★★  Food ★★  Venue ★★★★  Family Friendly ★★★★★

10. El Barrio NYE Party

The Latin bar and club will provide a New Years Eve Fiesta. Their aim is to bring the Latin spirit to Edinburgh by providing Latin music, dancing, drink and flair. This night will not disappoint avid Latin music lovers.

Tickets are £10 available on the door

Music ★★★ Food – Venue ★★★ Family Friendly –

ScotRail to Provide Wi-Fi Access by the End of 2013

WiFi trial on Scottish trains.
WiFi trial on Scottish trains.

The Scottish Government has invested £2 million in ScotRail for free Wi-Fi access in their express trains by the end of 2013.

Major routes include Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Stirling as well as areas in Inverness and Fife.  These routes will be carried out by 170 trains, all covered by the Wi-Fi service.

Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail, said: “More journeys are made on our class 170s than any of our [other] trains, so it makes sense to begin the roll-out on this fleet.”

Dani Cardon, media officer of ScotRail, says that the implementation will take a few months to be completed: “We’re rolling out Wi-Fi on our 170 trains at a rate of 5 to 6 each month. That will take place from March until December 2013.”

However, no line will be prioritised and the installation will happen gradually.  Mr Cardon says, “It won’t be one line at a time. We install Wi-Fi on particular trains which will run across all routes.”

A pilot project was set up on 4 trains before the intended roll-out, stating that 77% of users were satisfied with the speed and performance of the Wi-Fi service provided.

Transport Minister Keith Brown is confident about the planned changes, “We have an absolute commitment to bringing better connectivity to every corner of Scotland, and I have been highly encouraged by the success of ScotRail pilot scheme.”

Despite the good intentions, there will be challenges concerning the signal. Mr Cardon states: “We can only enhance Wi-Fi when there is already a signal there. Although, there will be good connections overall, there will be remote areas which won’t have a good connection.”

“But that’s improving all across Scotland as much as phone signal is.”

The fitting of the 170 trains will take place during weekends scheduled particularly for maintenance in order to guarantee usual railway service isn’t disrupted.

Nelson Mandela – A Check Up

Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, is in hospital battling a lung infection. Government spokespeople ensure the South African public that he is responding well to the treatment.

The 94 year old former president is recovering from a lung infection (Photo: Ho/Reuters)
The 94 year old former president is recovering from a lung infection (Photo: Ho/Reuters)

Tip-toeing around the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s mortality and believing that his death will plunge the country into a civil war, is incredibly misinformed. Yes, this great leader is old, frail, and his death is inevitable – whether it happens next week, or in the next few years, South Africans will have to say goodbye at some point. South Africa holds together not because of the Nelson Mandela of today, but because of what he has done over his lifetime which is now sadly but inevitably winding down.

Dr. Wynoma Michaels, a business leadership consultant in South Africa, had the opportunity to meet Mandela twice. According to her, Mandela “has the ability to share stories rather than dictating to a person. Essentially, he allows you to figure it out yourself, and make sense of it yourself.”

She says the most remarkable thing about his leadership is his selflessness. His legacy is one of humility, that even though he was in the public sphere and praised as one of the greatest African leaders of all time, he never made his presidency about self-enrichment.

Dr. Michaels’ concern about the death of Mandela is that the conscience of the country would disappear. While he is alive, “people are always aware of him. And even though we deviated from the journey that he started us out on, he remains the conscience of this country.” His legacy of leadership is that which demonstrates reconciliation, rather than division. She feels that when Mandela is gone, the country might lose its progress of nation building and the values that Mandela stood for. She feels that if Mandela would hold on for a bit longer, it would comfort the people of SA amidst an unsure political climate.

Listen here:

Other South Africans have expressed their concerns about what Mandela’s death would mean to the country. A local businessman says that it would be like losing the father as the head of the family. Relationships would not be the same once Mandela is gone, “it’s often the patriarch that keeps the family together. Mandela, as he still lives, can’t be happy with what the ANC has become.”

Listen here:

Another young South African businesswoman has expressed her worries about her family that lives on a farm. She says, “there have been rumours that when [Mandela] passes, many radical ANC Youth League members, under the influence of Julius Malema, would go about killing white farmers. However, all one can do is just trust and hope that Mandela’s legacy would live on.”

Listen here:

Golden Globe Nominations Announced.

The Golden Globe Nominations were released today with Lincoln, Les Miserables and Argo tipped to be big winners.  The results will be delivered on the 13th of January 2013 by comedians Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

Jessica Alba announced some nominees just after 5am Pacific Time (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The Golden Globes are seen as major indicators in the race for the Oscars and are actively campaigned for by Hollywood studio bosses.  Awards prognosticator website Gold Derby currently place Les Miserables as the film most likely to win the Best Picture Oscar.

A large British contingent will be present amongst the acting nominations with top British acting talent represented by Daniel Day-Lewis, Helen Mirren, Rachel Weiz, Emily Blunt, Judi Dench and Ewan McGregor.  Day-Lewis is heavily tipped to take home the globe thanks to his critically lauded portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.


  • “Argo”
  • “Django Unchained”
  • Life of Pi”
  • “Lincoln”
  • “Zero Dark Thirty”


  • “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
  • “Les Miserables”
  • “Moonrise Kingdom”
  • “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
  • “Silver Linings Playbook”


  • Ben Affleck
  • Kathryn Bigelow
  • Ang Li
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Quentin Tarantino


  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Richard Gere
  • John Hawkes
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • Denzel Washington


  • Jessica Chastain
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Helen Mirren
  • Naomi Watts
  • Richard Weisz


  • Emily Blunt
  • Judi Dench
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Maggie Smith
  • Meryl Streep


  • Jack Black
  • Bradley Cooper
  • Hugh Jackman
  • Ewan McGregor
  • Bill Murray


  • Amy Adams
  • Sally Field
  • Anne Hathaway
  • Helen Hunt
  • Nicole Kidman


  • Alan Arkin
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Tommy Lee Jones
  • Christoph Waltz


  • Amour”
  • “A Royal Affair”
  • “The Intouchables”
  • “Kon-Tiki”
  • “Rust and Bone”


  • “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • “Lincoln”
  • “Django Unchained”
  • “Argo”
  • “Silver Linings Playbook”


  • “Anna Karenina”
  • “Argo”
  • Cloud Atlas”
  • “Life of Pi”
  • “Lincoln”


  • “Brave”
  • “Frankenweenie”
  • “Hotel Transylvania”
  • “Rise of the Guardians”
  • “Wreck-It-Ralph”


  • “For You” from Act of Valour
  • “Not Running Anymore” from Stand Up Guys
  • “Safe and Sound” from The Hunger Games
  • “Skyfall” from Skyfall
  • “Suddenly” from Les Miserable

Olympic Athlete Unable to Train in Edinburgh

Napier Graduate Lynsey Sharp was turned away from Meadowbank Stadium this week as result of poor ground management.

The Olympic athlete who performed well in the Olympics over the summer, progressing to the semi-final of the 800m, has complained about the lack of professional facilities in Edinburgh.

Sharp said: “The sports facilities in Edinburgh are not up to scratch. Essentially, the track was closed and I couldn’t do my session because the groundsman was on holiday this week”.

Due to the adverse weather conditions this week the Meadowbank track was frozen.  However there is equipment available to de-ice tracks. If the facility had better ground management processes in place, Sharp could have trained despite the frosty conditions.

In June of this year Sharp, who graduated with a 2:1 in Law, was a model student and athlete who successfully managed to balance her intensive study and training.

Sharp Gets Set at Graduation Picture © Edinburgh Evening News.

The Napier Union president Tom Zanelli commented on the matter:

“Well to be honest I think it’s pretty disgraceful that the weather should have any effect on training facilities at that level”.

Sharp is one of the best athletes in Scotland, if not the UK, who needs to train daily. It is extremely important for athletes to follow a specific training programme routinely, therefore for one days training to be completely ruined it can severely affect development.

In further reflection on the incident Zanelli claimed:

“It’s something that needs to be addressed before younger, talented Scottish sportspeople move away down South due to poor facilities”.

In Edinburgh and indeed Scotland this kind of occurrence is not an isolated incident. There is the common opinion amongst elite athletes that Edinburgh Council and the Government withhold funding for sport. As a result, facilities such as Meadowbank are under staffed and outdated.

However government officials claim that a huge amount of funding has been injected into Glasgow in the build-up to the 2014 commonwealth games. Therefore as an unfortunate side effect of this it is apparent that facilities in Edinburgh are falling behind.

The newly elected Edinburgh Napier University Sports president Dan Parker took a more measured approach to problems with sporting venues in the city:

“Scottish weather has a negative effect on our teams and athletes. It hampers training and competition, from October onwards venues become flooded and frozen on nearly a weekly basis”.

What is worrying about this incident and the overall issue with sport in the capital city is that our home grown talent are constantly faced with barriers whether it be our local sporting facilities struggling to cope with the adverse weather, 0r simply a lack of funding made available to elite or amateur sportsmen and women.

Sharp admitted that when she has been unable to access the appropriate training places in the past due to poor weather conditions, she has been forced to train in a walkway which used to be an old railway. A rubbish strewn and dimly lit tunnel is hardly the kind of place an Olympic athlete should be training.

One of Edinburgh Napier’s strength and conditioning coaches, and past football professional, Alex Rawcliffe described the revelation as, “pathetic”.

He went on to say, “More of an effort should be made to implement preventative methods of reducing the effects of snow, ice, rain. It would be great if Scottish sport had access to more funding however most sports persons know that if they want quality services and facilities, they have to travel great distances to get them”.

If the Scottish government has a lack of available funding for the capital’s sporting centres then it is imperative that the organisation and structure of what is available is improved immediately.

Sharp, in one of her latest Twitter posts said “It would appear that, overnight, the groundsman is back from his holiday and they have acquired equipment to de-ice the track”.

The personnel in charge of procedures must be more urgent with their response to adverse weather conditions, otherwise our best athletes will continue to be at a disadvantage.

Edinburgh Looking for Revenge in Heineken Cup

© SNS Scotland

French side Racing Metro visit Murrayfield tomorrow night as Edinburgh look to avenge last week’s defeat in the Heineken Cup.

Edinburgh have made eight changes to the side that lost in France.

Scottish centre Ben Cairns returns after long-term injury. As Edinburgh’s all-time top try scorer in the competition, he is a welcome addition to a team struggling for points.

Cairns is joined in the back line by New Zealand centre Ben Atiga, whilst Piers Francis and Chris Leck form a new half-back combination. Lee Jones and Dougie Fife have been brought in to replace injured wingers Tom Brown and Tim Visser.

Robert McAlpine replaces Sean Cox in the pack, joining forces with his former Scotland age-grade colleague, Grant Gilchrist, in the second-row.

Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley could not explain how his side lost 19-9 at Racing Metro last week, slumping to their third defeat in the competition.

Following last season’s surprise surge into semi-finals, Edinburgh have failed to win qualification from the group stages.

Tomorrow’s game offers the team an opportunity for an improved performance ahead of their Pro12 double header against Glasgow Warriors.

We spoke to Scotland Centre Matt Scott and Edinburgh Second Row Robert McAlpine ahead of the clash.

Matt Scott © Edinburgh Rugby 2012
Rob McAlpine © Edinburgh Rugby 2012

What was the feeling amongst the squad after last Saturday’s defeat to Racing Metro?

Matt Scott – It was a feeling of great disappointment and frustration as we felt we played good enough rugby to win the game. Rugby games at this level are won by small margins, and unfortunately we didn’t get the majority of these small margins right.

Rob McAlpine – Everyone was pretty gutted after the defeat in Paris, the game was for the taking. We provided enough scoring opportunities to win the game, but didn’t manage to convert those opportunities into points. It was disappointing.

Is the pressure now off for tomorrow’s game with qualification looking unlikely, or are players still feeling the stress of the situation?

MS – I don’t think the pressure is ever really off when playing professional rugby. There has been quite a few changes for this game, and the new players that have come in will be looking to stamp down a marker for selection in the upcoming games.

RM – No, there is no pressure off at all. We are desperate to put in a performance against Racing Metro at home, and we owe it to our fans and supporters to get a result. Having the home advantage is a great help and we should hopefully get a result.

What has training been like this week, have you been working on anything in particular?

MS – Training has been tough as everyone is keen to get a win on the board in the Heineken cup. We have targeted a few areas that Racing are weak in, so the boys will be looking to exploit those.

RM – Training has been really good this week, especially with players stepping in and playing that have been out injured. Netani Talei (Fiji), Ben Atiga (All Blacks), Ben Cairns (Scotland), and Dimitri Basilaia (Georgia) all step in after time out injured.

What have the coaches been saying ahead of tomorrow’s game?

MS – They have been willing us to get a win in front of our own fans, particularly to gain some momentum going into the two Glasgow games, which are going to be really important in our season.

RM – .. Can’t answer too much about strategy..

Personally what do you think can be done tomorrow to get a result?

MS – I think if we get our set piece delivery better and hold on to the ball we will cause them all sorts of problems. They are a huge side and don’t like being moved around. Murrayfield is a particularly large pitch, so I’m sure you will see us using that on Friday.

RM – Racing Metro have a big forward pack and being able to move the point of contact and play a quick game we should expose weaknesses and create opportunities to score.

Finally, if you get a result tomorrow what kind of confidence would that give the team going forward?

MS – It would be great for momentum to get a win, especially against a team of racing’s calibre.

RM – The win would give us massive confidence going into the 1872 cup (Glasgow Edinburgh back to back matches) and will hopefully allow us to pick up where we left off in the Rabo Pro 12. Two wins from two against Glasgow would put us right back up in the mix in the table.

GoodReads Book Choice Awards 2012 Results Announced

The 2012 goodreads winners.
The 2012 goodreads winners.

More than 1 million votes were cast and the results are in for the best books in Goodreads 4th Annual Awards.

J.K. Rowling’s book ‘The Casual Vacancy’ won in the ‘Fiction’ category with 11,525 votes. The Edinburgh author got mostly positive reviews for her first book following the Harry Potter series.  The Guardian referreds to it as ‘a solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous English novel’. It tells the story of the English town of Pagford, whose inner turmoils comes to the surface after councilman Barry Fairbrother dies and the community has to elect a new member in his place. It deals with issues relating to drugs, self-harm, and sex. It’s a drastic turn away from the warmth of Harry Potter.

The media hype around J.K.Rowling’s first book for adults has boosted sales. “We had a really steady flow of sales. We were lucky enough to get some signed copies, and they just disappeared before we could get a proper look at them ourselves” says Cat Anderson, a bookseller at The Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield. She also comments on the content: “It was quite hitting in terms of the social comments she is making, but I personally wouldn’t have put it in my top books list.”

In the Young Adult category, John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ won a convincing victory with 37,438 votes. The story revolves around Hazel, who after being diagnosed with stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, was prepared to die until a medical miracle gave her a new chance at life. She later meets with Augustus at a cancer support group for kids. Their romantic relationship helps her get a new perspective on sickness and health and their influence on her identity and legacy. Ms. Anderson comments that: “Everyone who’s read it has been blow away by it. John Green is a beautiful writer.”

2012 has been a big year for Queen Elizabeth II, the top book in Goodread’s Biography category being Sally Bedell Smith’s ‘Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch’. There has been a sea of books talking about the Queen’s life  “The focus on her being a modern monarch is what has given Sally Bedell Smith’s edge over the others”, says Ms. Anderson

Here is a list of some of the winners and runner ups of the GoodReads Choice Awards 2012.


‘The Casual Vacancy’ J.K. Rowling – 11,525 votes
“Where We Belong” Emily Giffin – 7,841 votes
“Home Front” Kristin Hannah – 6,072 votes


“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” Susan Cain – 7,532 votes
“Behind the Beautiful Forevers” Katherine Boo – 5,356 votes
“The Power of Habit” Charles Duhigg – 3,300 votes

Young Adult

“The Fault in Our Stars” John Green – 37,438
“Easy” Tammara Webber – 8,890 votes
“Slammed” Colleen Hoover – 6,495 votes

History and Biography

“Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch” Sally Bedell Smith – 6,507 votes
“Drift” Rachel Maddow – 4,313 votes
“Killing Kennedy” Bill O’Reilly – 4,280 votes


“The Wind Through the Keyhole” Stephen King – 8,226 votes
“The Woman Who Died a Lot” Jasper Fforde – 5,221 votes
“The First Confessor” Terry Goodkind – 4,510 votes

 What books would make it in your ‘Best of 2012’ list? Do you agree with the choices of voters at Goodreads?

Council Plans to Help the Elderly

Edinburgh council are today renewing calls for the public to get involved in shaping the care of elderly as recent figures suggest Edinburgh’s population of over  65 ’is set to increase by 21% by 2016.

MP's assisting elderly
MP’s assisting elderly

A total of almost £217 million will be spent between 2012 and 2013 on services for the elderly as part of the Council’s Joint Commissioning plan for older people.

Members of the public are invited to make their views known by completing a questionnaire.

The council say their vision is “to make older people feel safe and feel equal” and to ensure that they can be as independent as possible for as long as possible.

The Council intend to build on support for unpaid carers, to focus on preventative care, support self-management and work with communities to reduce social isolation.

The largest part of the council’s proposed budget – roughly £119 million – will be spent on people receiving intensive care and support in hospitals or care homes. Another £54 million will be spent on helping aged people who need home assistance.

The plan, once approved, will be monitored by the Checkpoint Group and a multi-agency Older People’s Management Group, which include representatives from the NHS, the council and various voluntary and private sector institutions.


Tom Brewster at the European Curling Championships.
Tom Brewster © WCF Richard Gray 2012

Scotland’s teams have been enjoying mixed fortunes at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships in Karlstad, Sweden.

The men’s team, skipped by Aberdeen’s Tom Brewster (above), struggled in their first European outing and were eliminated yesterday in the final day of group-stage play.

Despite winning their final game 8-5 against Hungary, the Scottish men were left with an overall record of four wins and five losses – they had to settle for a seventh place finish in a group of ten teams.

While this ensures qualification for this season’s World Championship in Canada, it was well below the high expectations of the team back home – Brewster and his rink were 2011 and 2012 Scottish champions and they have two World silver medals to their name.

For the 2012/13 season, Team Brewster have welcomed David Murdoch to their ranks –a move that has not gone down well with many curling fans.

The results from Karlstad furthered this criticism but Tom Brewster was defensive of Olympian and two-time world champion Murdoch: “We’ve not had a great season for various reasons. A lot of people are going to say it’s because we brought Dave into the team, but that’s got absolutely nothing to do with it.

“We’re just not making enough shots and that’s all. We’ve changed techniques, we’ve changed our style of play, and we’ve altered quite a few things. We’re still getting to grips with that and hopefully, come the Scottish Championships in February, we’ll be making more of the right shots. We have changed a lot and that takes time”

Brewster was realistic about his team’s performance over the week and reflected on how personally disappointing the event had been: “Qualification? That’s great. But ultimately we didn’t come here just to do that, we came here to win medals and we’re disappointed we’re not in the play-offs. At the end of the day we’re in this game to win medals, not just qualify. This is the first international competition I’ve been at and never medalled, so I feel not all that good about it”.

Scotland’s women, meanwhile, have had a great deal more success so far than their male counterparts.

Scotland's Women's curling team.
Scotland Women © WCF Richard Gray 2012

Eve Muirhead’s team (above) won gold at the Europeans in Moscow in 2011 and, as defending champions, they have looked hungry for a repeat performance.

Having beaten Russia this morning, Scotland conclude their group-stage campaign with seven wins and just two losses. This has earned them a play-off berth against home crowd favourites Sweden tomorrow afternoon – comfortable qualification for the World Championship in Latvia was secured several games earlier.

After this morning’s game, Muirhead said: “We came out sharp. We got the hammer and we took our two in the first end. Their three came out of nowhere – she played two perfect shots and got three on the measure. But we didn’t let that faze us, it wasn’t the end of the game so we got our two back and forced when we had to force, and got the ideal situation at the end”.

“We controlled it. I think even just our body language showed that we wanted it more. All in all, a solid performance by all of us. Our goal was to get into the 1-2 game, which we’ve done. The girls are playing great and leaving me simple shots, which I like”.

Review: The Black Keys

The Black KeysThe Black Keys had the Glasgow crowd bouncing, dancing and singing at the tops of their voices at the SECC on Saturday.  The two-piece band, whose hits include Lonely Boy, Gold On the Ceiling, Howling for You and Sinister Kid, stunned the audience with their atmospheric blues. 

The night began with the supporting act, The Maccabees who are renown for their live performances and they did not disappoint.  Front man, Orlando Weeks, has such a unique voice that could almost be described as hypnotic.  The South London band was so in-sync with each other, their live performance was absolutely flawless.  They delighted fans with a forty-five minute set including Feel to Follow, X-Ray, Love you Better and Pelican. As far as warm up acts go, they certainly had the crowd fired up in anticipation for the headline act.

Shouting “Let’s get this going!” Dan Auerbach tore into Howling for You alongside drummer Patrick Carney.

The tone was set for the evening and the audience sang, clapped, chanted, and crowd surfed throughout the show.  The atmosphere was so electric, we could have even revived a dodo.

There was a momentary pause in the rocky proceedings as Auerbach was illuminated by a beam of light during the first two verses of Little Black Submarines.  The almost haunting solo piece soon broke into The Black Key’s distinctive sound focused heavily on the electric guitar.

It was not only the sublime rocky sounds of The Black Keys which impressed fans, but the overall production was a visual spectacle.  Live images were projected onto screens surrounding the stage, giving the concert an edge and an alternative outlook.

The last song was, of course, the anthem, Lonely Boy.  The venue erupted after the first few, distinctive chords were played out from Auerbach’s guitar and the fans can only be described as wild.

However, like all respectable shows, there was an encore and it was a shame for those who rushed out to catch the train home because they missed an absolute treat.  After clapping and stamping our feet, we were awarded with two more songs from The Black Keys and quite possibly the biggest disco ball the SECC has ever seen.

The Black Keys were set-up to be amazing to see live but they exceeded all high expectations and were truly first-class.  If you want to be entertained with good, honest music played back-to-back then go and see this band!

Apocalypse Soon

We found some of the oddest stories about people preparing for the end of the world. A little closer to home, Edinburgh Skeptics are hosting a “Not The End of The World” party on Thursday 20th December. Dress code: only the latest in doomsday fashion.


Turkish village of Sirince
Turkish village of Sirince (Picture: AFP)

Believers in the Mayan calendar have flocked to a small Turkish village, near the ancient city of Ephesus. They believe that the positive energy in this village will protect them from any apocalyptic harm. It certainly has done no harm to the local tourism industry.


Robert Sefatsa (Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu)

A 38-year-old South African man has handed papers in to the Constitutional Court in a plea for the government to create a new state department to deal with Armageddon. He even went through the trouble of suggesting a name for the department: the “Department of Paranormal and Esoteric Sciences”. A commission of inquiry should include geologists, statisticians, astronomists, economists and extra-terrestrial technologists, and should be competent to cope with evacuation procedures, sea and air logistics, and resettlement, he said.


A plumber is camping out beside Mount Bugarach for a week, waiting for the end of the world. Worried by the doomsday Internet rumours, Ludovic Broquet hopes the mountain peak will provide shelter from the inevitable meteor showers/tsunami/zombie outbreak.


Robert Bast (Screengrab TeeVeeVidz / Survive2012.com)
Robert Bast (Screengrab TeeVeeVidz / Survive2012.com)

46-year-old Australian Robert Bast, owner of the website Survive2012 , has spent over £220,000 preparing for the earth’s demise. The majority of the cost went into buying a 75-acre plot 1,500 feet above sea level in order to avoid tsunamis and flooding. Obviously, the highest point on this piece of land holds the specially built house and bunker. The bunker is kitted out with stockpiles of food and water, and the necessary survival equipment: batteries, generators, water purifiers, solar power, and gas cookers.


This photo taken on November 24, 2012 shows the unfinished boat built by Lu Zhenhai, a man from Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, afraid that his home would be submerged in a doomsday flood in 2012.  Lu said he was worried that the apocalypse would happen in 2012, so he decided to invest all his money, about 160,500 USD into building what he hopes will be his own indestructible ark.   (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on November 24, 2012 shows the unfinished boat built by Lu Zhenhai (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A Chinese man has built a survival ark using all his life savings amounting to £99,000 to be safe from the pesky apocalyptic floods. Lu Zhenghai began building the vessel in 2010 when he started to fear that the flood would threaten the survival of his family.


Farmer Liu Qiyuan looking out from a survival pod that he built and also dubbed "Noah's Arc". (Ed Jones, AFP)
Farmer Liu Qiyuan looking out from a survival pod that he built and also dubbed “Noah’s Arc”. (Ed Jones, AFP)

Another Chinese man and former farmer has built special survival pods. The tsunami proof pods come fitted with seatbelts for at least 14 people at a time, but the creator said that it would protect 30 people for up to 2 months. He has received 21 orders for the bright yellow ping-pong doomsday survival pods, which cost about £23 500 each.


Even the Australian Prime Minister addressed her citizens about the earth’s demise by flesh-eating zombies. She is confident that she will serve her country right till the Earth’s last minute.


NASA debunks doomsday rumours (Photo: Sdecoret, Dreamstime.com)
NASA debunks doomsday rumours (Photo: Sdecoret, Dreamstime.com)

NASA has released an official statement to comfort the people of earth. “The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012. Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then – just as your calendar begins again on January 1 – another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.”


To make sure you aren’t caught with your trousers down when doomsday arrives, head over to http://preppingtosurvive.com to get the best tips on apocalypse preparations.

Media Mondays-Kirsty Wark-03.12.2012

The final talk in our Media Monday sessions of 2012. Newsnight presenter, Kirsty Wark, shares her invaluable experiences and gives crucial advice on broadcasting. From how to get the most out of an interviewee to her encounter with Margaret Thatcher, Kirsty makes not only a useful speech but an enjoyable one too.

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Media Mondays-Rosalind McInnes-26.11.2012

By: Lauren Elliott, Lisa Mitchell and Alex Neal.

The latest edition of the Media Mondays series discussed law in the media with BBC Scotland’s principal lawyer Rosalind McInnes. During this talk, she provided a fabulous explanation of the three main problems journalists face in legalising work produced, and gave a basic understanding of the legal aspects that all journalists should be aware of. In light of recent events this talk was perfectly timed to show how professionals can avoid straying over legal boundaries.

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