Category Archives: News in Brief

Global News

Australia same-sex marriage referendum result

Australians in support of same-sex marriage are celebrating today after over 60% of citizens voted in support of marriage equality.

Although the referendum result is not legally binding, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took to Twitter to reassure the country, posting: “The people of Australia have spoken and I intend to make their wish the law of the land by Christmas. This is an overwhelming call for marriage equality.”

The postal vote referendum was marred in controversy with critics asking why the move could not be legislated for in Parliament without the need for a referendum – as was the case in Scotland. The move  follows the equal marriage referendum in Ireland, which took place in May 2015.

In Zimbabwe, the military have taken control. President Robert Mugabe, is being held under house arrest.

The 92-year-old leader became head of state in 1987, after seven years as Prime Minister.

It is alleged that the military take-over was at least in part caused by the sacking of Vice President Emmerson Mnangawa, who was relieved of his duties last week.



International tensions between Russia and neighbours are rising. On Monday, Theresa May claimed the Russian government were responsible for planting fake news stories to cause discord in the West.

Yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron told the BBC that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are a threat to Western values, namely tolerance and openness.

The Russian Government have proposed a bill that will require all foreign journalists working in the country to register as ‘foreign agents.’

The state Duma (lower house) voted in favour of the move. It will now come before the Federation Council (upper house) and must be approved by Vladimir Putin.

The move comes in retaliation to ‘RT’ having to register as a foreign broadcaster in the U.S. Formerly ‘Russia Today,’ the media outlet are financed by the Kremlin.

This comes against the back drop of allegations that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, which Kremlin representatives deny.

Brexit Talks Get Underway

Yesterday, MPs voted in support of a landmark Brexit Bill, which will end the supremacy of E.U. law in the U.K. Ministers voted to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act.

This comes early in eight days of talks on the topic of the Withdrawal Bill, with Britain’s withdrawal from the E.U. scheduled for 29 March 2019 – exactly two years to the day since the triggering of Article 50.

Reports claim the decision to fix the date of the Withdrawal so early in the debating process was criticised by some, but this has been dismissed by those within the Conservative Party as media attempts to divide the party.

News Round-Up

A round-up of today’s developing news stories in Edinburgh and across the globe.





Vote with your butt: Ballot Bins appear in Leith

In the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s victory in the US, City of Edinburgh Council have installed light-hearted ‘Ballot Bins’ along Leith Walk.

The bins allow the people of Edinburgh to vote with their cigarette butts and settle the question: ‘President Donald Trump: ‘Dream’ or ‘Nightmare’?’

These bins are part of an initiative that wants to set up more Ballot Bins in the Leith Walk area later this month. It is hoped that the campaign will ease strain on the area’s communal bins, identified as ‘hotspots’ for overflowing and fly-tipping. Continue reading Vote with your butt: Ballot Bins appear in Leith

Feature: Becoming a war journalist – more than just dodging bullets

Entering buildings safety drills. Source: Lauren Rooney.

How often do we stop and think about the journalist behind the camera, the journalist furiously taking notes from a forlorn civilian in a war-torn land? Do we ever consider where the written content and images plastered over today’s newspapers come from?

The journalists who create this content keep society linked to what is happening in war zones, a job which means entering territory where there is a large risk of injury, death or abduction. It does not just begin or end with taking a camera and a laptop to these dangerous locations; the preparations that a journalist must make for this role require an extremity of physical and mental capacity.

With war zone assignments becoming few and far between for journalists, there has been an insurgence of young, untrained and unprepared journalists taking to the war zones to get a hard-hitting story.

In turn, these inexperienced journalists can become a dangerous risk not only to themselves but to others, often other journalists, fixers, soldiers and civilians.

Former soldier for the British Armed Forces and close worker in media relations, AJ Vickers said:

“The soldiers have a job to do, that job can become much harder when you have someone on the ground who has no idea how to work in such an environment. Not only is it physically demanding, but mentally it’s not easy having to see death on a large scale.”

In an aim to minimise the risks of war to journalists, foundations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues raise awareness of how journalists can cope in these environments. Alongside these foundations, various training courses are available, including the Conflict Photography Workshop for aspiring war journalists. 

Founder of the Conflict Photography Workshop, war photojournalist Jason Howe, said:

“Working within a war zone is not a pretty place. Professional soldiers are not sent to war without training, a photographer works in the same battle space without any training given to them in the journalism industry. This course enables some training and has been prepared to give even just the basic and minimise the risk they put themselves in.”

My experience at the Conflict Photography Workshop in the mountains of Spain showed me that there is much more to war journalism than I could have ever imagined. 

Upon arrival, all trainee journalists were given metal plated body armour, a helmet and ballistic glasses.  These items added an additional 10-15 kg weight to the already heavy equipment journalists carry, such as cameras and lenses – physical fitness is essential in a war zone.

The 9-day workshop saw journalists working closely with both ex-soldiers and those serving currently in simulated battle scenarios. The ability to keep on top of the action with the additional equipment, whilst also taking photographs, notes, and avoiding the firing line, encapsulates the role of a war journalist.

One of the simulated battles was held whilst journalists ascended a waterfall as bullets cascaded into the valley. The difficulty of this task was further increased as journalists determined their footing through fogged up protective glasses, all whilst attempting to document the situation and not fall into the water with all their gear on.

As well as physical fitness, which is not posted in the job description, superior mental health is essential.

Journalists are expected to go to bed in protective gear and with wet shoes. The embed was targeted multiple times with indirect fire and mortars during the night. The mental stamina it takes to keep pushing yourself no matter how tired, bruised or uncomfortable you may be is quite unbelievable.

The toughest part of the course was realising that although this was a simulated war zone, if it was real, the death tally would have been on a large scale. When you are forced to watch someone dying or being tortured, it is difficult to find a balance between working and saving a life. As an example,the rebels held a government soldier captive.

They demanded that the journalists document and take pictures of the captive’s throat being slit. In a scenario like this, you need to step back from the job and question yourself, your humanity and whether you can allow this to happen. Fortunately, we convinced the rebels not to slit the captive’s throat but more often than not, there is not much a journalist can do to stop something like this from happening. 

Source:Lauren Rooney

War photojournalist, Eric Bouvet, recalls some of the times he had to witness a scene like this.

He said:

“Watching that scenario really brought back some bad memories for me, I have seen this many times and it hurts to recollect these moments. I never lift my camera to situations like this, I don’t want to remember it in my mind let alone in pictures. It is just not morally right.” 

Jason Howe, the founder of the workshop, has spent years seeing and photographing a chain of treacherous scenes. These scenes led to a decline in his mental health and saw him diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

The workshop also focuses on the mental capability of journalists and on how important it is to learn what your mind can be pushed to.

Rebel held captive, Source Lauren Rooney.

To be active in the field, journalists need to be able to spot mines, how to treat a casualty and yourself for wounds including bullet wounds and loss of limbs.

Work includes sending files to editors, working in the dark, living off rations, and working with other religious cultures. It is a tough new learning experience.

Source taken from CPJ, statistics of journalists killed in conflict zone.

Figures drawn up by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) include 1220 journalist deaths since 1992. This year there have been 72 deaths. CPJ considers a case work-related only when they are certain that a journalist was killed in direct reprisal for his or her work, in crossfire, or while carrying out a dangerous assignment, therefore leaving an exclusion of journalists that are missing, imprisoned or cases deemed as unsolved.

These figures include both young untrained journalists as well as experienced war journalists, showing that even they can be at risk in a war zone.

Training courses like the Conflict Photography Workshop can help journalists minimise the risks that they face in a war zone.


A few of us are now preparing our own risk assessments before going to report in hostile lands.

However, nothing can ever quite prepare you for working in a war zone where the unexpected is always to be expected.

The whole team of trainee journalists, source JB Russel.

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Residents in flooded village form a ‘human chain’ to rescue people trapped in the local shop

By Eleonora Theodoridou


Storm Desmond has claimed its third victim after a pensioner, 70, died in the hospital days after being hit by a sign.

Last night’s wave of destruction was a repeat of the weekend flooding brought on by Storm Desmond, with record rainfall leaving a village in Kendal Cumbria was cut off from the outside world for four days.

According to the Mail Online website, another victim  died  in Storm Desmond, following the death of  Ernie Crouch, 90, and another 78-year-old man.

Mr.Crouch died after being blown into the side of a moving bus by strong winds near Finchley Central Tube station in London, on Saturday.

The body of a 78-year-old man – whose identity is still unknown – was recovered after he fell into fast-flowing floodwater in the swollen River Kent, in Kendal Cumbria.

The villagers formed a human chain to rescue several people trapped by rapidly rising floodwater.

Villager Mark Hook, 57, spoke to Mail Online: ‘There were people [trapped] in the mini-mart so locals got together with the emergency services to help them out.

‘At one point there was a human chain – it was quite dramatic. They wouldn’t have got out of there without help.’

A  member of the staff from UK weather forecast Hannah, said over a phone interview: ‘The vast extent of the flooding which forced thousands of people out of their homes in Carlisle.

‘It was  an unexplained phenomenon after Storm Desmond brought record amount of rainfalls including 13.5 inches in just 24 hours.

‘If you check online you will see that we have report about the weather but to be honest for any  reason we believed that we will have  this result,’ Hannah’s staff member added.

Sara Baxter  from  Allerdale Borough Council said that “  the damages are huge”.

Mrs. Baxter agreed with the Mail Online, saying: ‘This area has many problems with the  construction  of buildings and as a result the community can’t confront the bad weather .

‘A second clean-up operation is now underway for residents of flood-damaged homes, who were hit by a second wave of flooding yesterday and overnight after further rainfall lashed the country.

‘Having spent days attempting to savage any possessions and return their homes to normal, they faced further misery when rivers over-topped and flood fences failed once again, sending raging torrents down the flood-hit streets.’




Study on Scotland’s most expensive streets is misleading

By Yaz Duncan

A recent study by the Bank of Scotland naming Northumberland Street as the most expensive in Scotland may be misleading according to local estate agents.

The study conducted by the bank named Northumberland Street in Edinburgh’s New Town as the most expensive street to buy property, with average house prices hovering around the £1.3million mark.

However, the study has faced criticism from estate agents who say that the statistic is not accurate because more expensive houses have been sold in the surrounding streets.

Peter Lyle, Director of Edinburgh Residential at Savills said: ‘We have sold a property in Northumberland Street for £1.7m, a little bit more actually. That is the most expensive this year.

‘Properties in the surrounding area have sold for more than £1.7m in streets like Heriot Row and Royal Circus. A whole townhouse there will be more expensive than in Northumberland Street.

‘The study is comparing apples and pears and is simply taking an average of what has been recently sold. If you look at some streets in St Andrews houses are selling for three or four million. It is an odd statistic.’

Despite the alleged inaccuracy of the study, Northumberland Street properties are still selling for higher than average prices and the New Town continues to be a desirable area.

Peter Lyle added: ‘Northumberland Street is in the heart of the New Town, walking distance from Princes Street and close to nice parks. It ticks the boxes for people wanting to live in the city centre.’

In response to suggestions by estate agents that the study is misleading Nitesh Patel, economist at the Bank of Scotland said: ‘We took the period from 2010-2015 and there had to a be a minimum of seven transactions over this period.

‘Northumberland Street meets that criteria with an average house price of over £1.3m. There is always research being done on expensive streets. We make clear that it has to be a minimum of seven transactions in five years.

‘We get data from the Registrar of Scotland. I don’t know what estate agents have  said but there will be one or two streets with more expensive sales but they would not meet our criteria.’

The average UK house price in 2015 was £197,000 but the number of homes in Scotland sold for more than £1m has more than doubled over the last 12 months. The capital boasts 13 of the 20 most expensive streets, Aberdeen have four and Glasgow have two.


US authorities look for terrorist links after California mass slaying

By Yasmeen Fekri

US authorities look for terrorist links after California mass slaying.

Bomb equipment, weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found by police in a raid after Wednesday’s shootout.

Authorities have not yet found a motive in the attack by Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27.

The names of the victims have now been released by San Bernardino’s coroner.

Wearing black tactical gear and wielding assault rifles, the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds into a room at a social service center for the disabled, where about 75 of Farook’s co-workers had gathered. Farook attended the event but stormed off in anger and returned in battle gear with his wife.

Farook, a county restaurant inspector and his wife Malik, met online and married two years ago. Malik got pregnant and registered at Target with a cheery newlyweds’ catalog of wishes: a car seat, diapers and safety swabs.

But for all the outward signs of suburban normality, this couple, according to the police, used their comfortable home in a middle-class community to build and stockpile on weapons.

They left their six month-old daughter with her grandmother before heading to a holiday party.

Five hours later, they died in a crush of bullets in a brutal face-off with the police.

As the FBI-led investigation pressed on, local authorities completed formally notifying the families of the 14 people who died.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at a news conference that the search of the suspects house in the nearby community of Redlands turned up with flash drives, computers and cellphones.

Officials in Washington said so far there was no hard evidence between the couple and any militant group abroad, but the electronics would be checked to see if the suspects had been browsing on jihadist websites or social media.

“It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don’t know,” President Obama told reporters. “It is also possible that this was workplace-related.”

Farook, a US citizen, was born in Illinois, the son of Pakistani immigrants. Malik was born in Pakistan and lived in Saudi Arabia until they married.

The couple entered the United States in July 2014 after a trip that included Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Farook had no criminal record and was described by friends as a soft-spoken, intelligent and nice person.

“This shooting has caused each victim’s family, friends and co-workers, along with the first responders, to suffer an enormous personal tragedy,” Sheriff John McMahon said.

Twenty-one people were wounded in the shooting. All the victims were from Southern California and ranged in ages 26 to 60.

The couple have emerged as one of the most perplexing pairs in the recent history of mass homicide. And this attack ranks as the deadliest instance of US gun violence in three years.



Police deny overreaction in rooftop manhunt

By Philip Askew and Mariana Mercado


Police in Edinburgh have defended their response to last Saturday’s manhunt through the city centre, where more than 50 riot officers cordoned off part of Cockburn Steet.

Authorities were pursuing two alleged motorcycle thieves through Edinburgh’s Old Town aided by riot police, sniffer dogs and helicopters in what was described as a “mini war-zone” by Twitter users.

Amid accusations of overreacting, Superintendent Angus MacInnes has defended the heavy handed response, saying that they were “simply about ensuring safe and coordinated apprehension of the suspects” due to the “height and potential danger” involved.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland has emphasised that there were no firearms involved in the incident, saying it was “never a shooting” and that reports to the contrary were just “social media doing its thing”.

The two suspects ran away from police on patrol in Tron Square at 8pm when the chase started, according to a statement from the police. One man was detained and a stolen motorcycle was recovered nearby.

Riot police were brought out when an emergency call placed the second alleged perpetrator on the roof one of the buildings in Cockburn street.

Police are still searching for the other suspect, and the investigation is ongoing.


17 year old in critical condition after another ‘Mortal Kombat’ incident

By Martha Shardalow

Perhaps as proof that new club licensing laws are yet to solve the problem, last night a 16 year old boy was battling for his life in intensive care after taking what is understood to be the same lethal ecstasy tablet that killed 17 year old Regane Maccoll in Glasgow last month.

Partick Hill overlooking Glasgow. The city at the heart of recent ecstasy drug scares. Credit - Martha Shardalow
Partick Hill overlooking Glasgow: the city at the heart of recent ecstasy drug scares. Credit – Martha Shardalow

The 16 year old is said to be in a critical “but stable condition” in Monklands District General Hospital in Airdrie, after apparently consuming illegal drugs at a house party on Saturday night.

Tests have also been carried out on a 17-year-old boy also at the party in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, after both teenagers fell ill and were submitted to hospital.

Police Scotland have issued a statement confirming that they believe the drugs included ecstasy and “possibly” a Mortal Kombat tablet.

A spokeswoman for NHS Lanarkshire emphasised: “Anyone who has taken ecstasy – particularly the one described as Mortal Kombat, and who is feeling unwell, or who knows someone who has taken this type of drug in the past few hours, should attend or contact their local hospital for treatment and advice.”

This official stance has reminded people to avoid illegal drugs at all costs; a warning that users can never be certain of what precisely they are taking. This is especially directed at those taking ecstasy pills, which are often cut with multiple substances that are proving fatal.

The news comes after The Arches nightclub in Glasgow raised its minimum age admission to 21 last month. The venues decision came as a direct response to the “tragic events of 2nd February” when 17 year old Maccoll collapsed on the premises and later died in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Police later linked her death to the ecstasy-like ‘Mortal Kombat’ tablet – a distinctive red pill believed to be stamped with a dragon.

Today these warnings have been renewed with repeated vigour.

Pressure at The Arches - the venue which has now changed it license to over-21s only after 17 year old Regane's death on the premise.
Pressure at The Arches – the popular venue which changed its license to over-21s after 17 year old Regane’s tragic death.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Livingstone of Coatbridge police office, said: “We are continuing to work with our partner agencies, including health officials and medical staff, in connection with this investigation. At this time our priority is to ensure that everyone who was at the house party is safe and well, and officers are carrying out extensive enquiries to trace everyone involved.”

“Further to previous warnings, I would again strongly advise people to avoid illicit drugs as their exact content is unknown and can contain dangerous chemicals. Users must be aware of these dangers and understand the devastating effect they can have.”

Dr Neil Howie, NHS Lanarkshire consultant in emergency medicine, restated the weight of an immediate response to flag up symptoms. “Early warning signs include a feeling of agitation and distress and it is important that people are seen as early as possible.”

As another week arrives with ecstasy pill-related illness forming headlines, fresh debate on Scotland’s Drug Policy is taking place across multiple forums. A Thousand Flowers bloggers urge the government to adopt a new approach based on education, decriminalization and the introduction of drug testing kits in order to “help save lives and turn the tide on dodgy pills.”

As this incident surfaces, a teenager has been arrested in connection with alleged drug offences. He is expected to appear at Airdrie Sheriff Court today.

These are undeniably testing times for Scotland’s recreational drug users and the appropriate way forward for UK drug policy remains uncertain.

News in Brief

By Stuart Iversen, Alex Watson and Benjamin Bland

A new study has found that close to nine million people in the UK are in serious debt.  8.8 million UK residents (18% of the population) consider themselves to have severe financial issues.

David Cameron has announced benefit restrictions on EU migrant workers. They will include a three-month ban on Jobseekers allowance for migrants. This follows public anxiety over the lifting of transitional controls on Bulgarians entering the UK in January.

The Supreme Court has ordered the owners of a Christian gatehouse to pay damages, after they turned away a gay couple.

Transform Scotland have claimed that public bodies in Scotland are not doing enough to to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.

New NHS guidelines are urging hospitals to implement a complete smoking ban across their premises. Critics fear it would lead to increased security costs and misuse of staff resources.

An Edinburgh West End printing company have been ordered to remove posters encouraging readers to throw eggs at trams.  Intended as a lighthearted marketing scheme, the joke has now been shut down by police.

News Round Up

West Yorkshire Police Officers have searched former Co-Op bank chairman and Methodist Minister Paul Flowers’ home due to allegations he bought and used illegal drugs including cocaine.

President Obama has urged US Senators to hold off from proposing more sanctions against Iran to allow World Powers to complete a deal on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Northern Ireland’s Attorney General has said there should be no further investigations or inquests into the Troubles’-related killings that took place before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Scots gay marriage to pass first hurdle

Ten people have been killed and dozens more wounded in a car bomb attack on Egyptian soldiers near the North Sinai city of el-Arish.

Legislation to introduce same-sex marriage in Scotland is expected to be backed by the government in its first vote even though the Church of Scotland and Catholic Church are still opposed.

The UK has an alarming shortage of people able to speak the ten languages vital to our future prosperity and global standing, a new report has stated.

Journalist, Broadcaster and Gay Rights Activist Ray Gosling has died aged 74 in a hospital in Nottingham.

Climate change campaigners ask for funds to be doubled

We Want to See Double Campaigners

Bethan Cleary

CLIMATE change campaigners are to gather outside the Scottish Government offices this afternoon. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland are campaigning to get the MSP in charge of the budget, John Swinney, to double the funds to £40m for cycling and pedestrian facilities in Edinburgh. This protest follows on from a similar gathering that took place last week, where the efforts of the We Want to See Double campaign persuaded the Scottish Minister to raise the budget by a further £13m. Campaigners are eager to see this figure rise, with an aim to reduce Scotland’s climate change emissions.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is the largest group in the UK that’s dedicated to lowering climate change. Much of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland draws from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) September report, which confirmed a direct link between climate change and human activity, noting a particular acceleration in climate distress since the 1950s. Speaking at the time, Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition detailed how the report left no doubt that governments must act now in an attempt to avoid catastrophic climate change. He also expressed how Scotland had set a positive example due to the nations attempts to become a greener city. However, he urged the government to put the proper policies in place to support these efforts.

The We Want to See Double campaign seems to be reflective of a green-conscious nation, and in particular, an eco aware Capital. A report published by sustainable transport charity, Sustrans noted how the annual number of cyclists and pedestrians using a range of paths within the Lothians radically increased last year, with more than 62 million trips either walked or cycled.

Stop Climate Chaos Coalition hope that the gathering outside the Scottish Government offices at 1pm this afternoon will gain the appropriate funds to further fuel this eco-friendly enthusiasm. Aside from the protest, the Scottish Government has agreed to meet with Stop Climate Chaos Scotland to further discuss their proposals.

News round-up

by Nicola Brown

1. Newspaper and magazine publishers are seeking an injunction to prevent royal charter on press regulation as proposed by the government. In a last ditch attempt at the High Court on Wednesday, industry representatives will go before the Privy council to oppose the plan. The three main political parties, along with Hacked Off campaigners, back the proposal. Publishers believe the proposed charter by political parties would mean the end of a free press in the UK.

2. The government has put forward plans to cap pension fees, which they believe could save people tens of thousands of pounds. The proposal aims to limit pension management fees to between 0.75% and 1%. The government intends to stop excessive charges, and become firmer handed with pension fees. The cap comes alongside large-scale reforms being set up to automatically place workers in pension schemes.

3. Competing supermarket chains Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s may face a court battle. Sainsbury’s has appealed for a review of Tesco’s Price Promise Promotion, disagreeing with the way it compares products of different quality and origin. The argument made by Sainsbury’s has already been rejected twice. A review will likely be heard in summer 2014.

4. Leading German intelligence officials are in talks at The White House over the alleged hacking of Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone. The US is facing increasing anger amid reports that the NSA has been spying on its allies. The NSA has spoken out saying that accusation are grossly exaggerated.

5. The Supreme Court has ruled against the appeal made by the IDS in what has been coined the ‘Poundland case’. The Court ruled that the regulations did not fall under the accused ‘forced and compulsory’ labour. Cait Reilly who brought the case forward argued it was a breach of her human rights, however others have commended it as a gateway for those wanting to get into employment.

6.  The Great British Bake Off has helped see a surge in popularity for The Women’s Institute, who had to reject 130 prospective members. Baking shows like Bake Off which, with the help of social media, have seen a resurgence in fans have helped to revamp crafts once considered old-fashioned. The WI saw queues of 350 women hoping to join a new branch in Bristol.

7. Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill’s previously applauded decision to lower Scottish drink driving limits may not be put into action until 2015. McAskill’s initial announcements in March suggested that the legal limit would be reduced from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood by 2014. The delay is due to the unavailability of vital Home Office experts, who are required to recalibrate alcohol testing equipment. The proposed change is reported to be popular among Scottish residents, as around 17 lives a year are expected to be saved under the new law.

8. The White House has stated that it will monitor its NSA surveillance, with recent leaks forcing a review of their intelligence methods. Following the revelations made by whislteblower Edward Snowden, administration has suggested changes have already been put in place. Among them are a ban on spying of foreign allies and the United Nations.

World News in Brief

Chinese Quake Death Toll Rises
The large earthquake that struck China’s Sichuan Province this weekend has left at least 200 people dead and nearly 12,000 injured. Rescuers have finally managed to reach many of the rural areas affected by the quake, which measured 6.6 on the Richter scale. Up to 100,000 families could be left homeless after the disaster.

Boston Bomb Suspect May Never be Questioned
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect of the Boston Marathon bombings, remains in a serious condition in hospital. The 19 year old is apparently so seriously injured that communication is difficult, with interrogators facing the possibility that he may never be able to be questioned effectively.

Damascus Massacre Rocks Syria
Reports of a massacre in Syria suggest that hundreds might have been left dead, after violent clashes in the capital city of Damascus. Syrian forces loyal to the President Bashar al-Assad have attacked residents in the city suburb, with opposition forces claiming up to 250 have died, including women and children.

Burmese Police Filmed Ignoring Violence
Footage has emerged of Burmese police standing by as Buddhists attacked and killed a Muslim boy with a sword. The footage also shows police standing by while rioters  destroyed a Muslim shop in the country. It comes as the EU is set to lift sanctions against the troubled country.

Guantanamo Inmates on Hunger Strike
Military officials have said that 84 of the remaining 166 inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp are on hunger strike. Inmates continue to protest against their indefinite confinement at the controversial centre, where prisoners are alleged to be subject to abuse and violent interrogation.

U.K News in Brief

Downing Street Soothes Recession Fears
Downing Street has insisted that the U.K economy is “slowly healing” despite ongoing speculation that the country has entered an unprecedented triple-dip recession. Thursday will see the publication of the latest growth figures for the first part of the year. If GDP contracts Britain would officially have entered another recession.

Poll Shows Immigration Concerns Unfounded
A survey has shown that the number of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants planning on moving to the U.K is lower than expected. Work restrictions for the two countries are expiring later this year, sparking fears that there would be an influx of immigrants seeking work. However the poll suggests that most wouldn’t re-locate without a job offer.

Suarez Faces Ban Over Bite
Liverpool footballer Luis Suarez has been fined by his club after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during yesterday’s match between the clubs. The FA are set to review footage of the incident before deciding whether to impose a retrospective ban. Suarez stayed on the field before scoring a late equalizing goal in the game, which finished 2-2.

Cameron Defensive Over Nurse Plans
Plans to reform training for student nurses have been defended by Prime Minister David Cameron. The proposals have been blasted by the Royal College of Nurses, which also expressed concern over staffing levels. Cameron has said that the NHS should focus on the “level of care” provided.

Google Hits Back at Tax Critics
Google have defended their tax record in the U.K, after facing damning criticism last year over allegedly avoiding corporation tax. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt claimed that the internet giant, which has only paid £6m in corporation tax, was responsible for “billions of pounds of start-ups” in Britain.

Scottish Labour Conference Round-up


This weekend saw Scottish Labout hold its annual conference in Inverness. With Scotland just over a year away from the independence referendum, the conference was an opportunity for the party to establish its agenda for the coming months. Here were a few of the talking points.

Lamont pledges to help SNP on social justice

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has vowed to work with the Scottish government to help those affected by Tory cuts. In an emotional speech to conference, Lamont pledged to work with the SNP to protect Scots from the “injustice” of the much-maligned “bedroom tax”. She told delegates “Scotland can stand united against the Tory cuts and I call upon the SNP to work with us. If they truly believe in social justice, we can work together.”

Labour attacks Thatcher legacy

Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar accused George Osborne of carrying on the “vandalism” of Margaret Thatcher with his austerity measures. In a fiery speech to conference Sarwar blasted the Chancellor in the wake of the former PMs funeral last week. He said “(Osbourne) has shaped his whole political ideology and cut his political teeth so he can carry on the work of his political hero. Today, he is carrying on the vandalism Thatcher started and his targets are just the same.”

Future Employment Taskforce Launched

Margaret Curran MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, used conference to launch a taskforce on Employment for the Future. The taskforce will be in place to explore ways in which Scotland can increase employment opportunities in the years to come. Speaking at the launch, Curran said “We have close to 200,000 people unemployed in Scotland, and 17,000 people have spent the last two years on the dole, trying to find jobs. This is a challenge that is too urgent to wait until we are in Government again.” The taskforce will be chaired by Lord John McFall and leading tech entrepreneur MT Rainey.

New Health Watchdog Proposed

Labour announced proposals for a new healthcare watchdog, which would have the power to monitor and turn around troubled hospitals with troubleshooting “Change Teams”. Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Jackie Baillie said that it would be a body “with teeth”, to “regulate, inspect, enforce and encourage continuous improvement.”

Johann Lamont was praised by attendees for her keynote speech to her party. However the SNP took the opportunity to criticise her “obsession” with the nationalists, claiming that it overshadows the party’s lack of policies. A spokesman said “There were 22 mentions of the SNP in Johann Lamont’s speech and Alex Salmond was name-checked 13 times. But sadly she was unable to come up with even one new policy.”

Gas leak in North Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lennon’s nail bombers convicted

Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 42, have been convicted of plotting a nail bomb attack against Celtic manager Neil Lennon after a five week trial at Glasgow High Court.

The men were found guilty of conspiring to send the package. The pieces of mail they sent last year were designed to injure but actually the devices could not explode. McKenzie got “bomb making” tips from US television show The A-Team.

A bank of evidence was mounted against the two, including recordings from a police bug in McKenzie’s car which taped him boasting about “building a bomb”.

There is also CCTV footage of the unemployed builder buying parts including nails for the packages from local shops.

They had previously faced an allegation of conspiracy to murder before it was dropped.

Big Brother Politician becomes Bradford-West MP

Photo taken by David Hunt

George Galloway, a Respect Party Candidate, most well known for his infamous Big Brother Stint, has won the Bradford-West by-election by 10, 140 votes.

Galloway, in a shocking victory, has taken the Bradford West Parliamentary seat from the Labour Party, and polled more than 18,000 votes. Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party in October 2003 because he expressed his opposition to the Iraq War. Soon after he became a founding member of the left-wing, anti-war Respect Party.

Mr Galloway said the victory is: “the most sensastional victory in British political history.”

Labour Leader, Ed Milliband, is very disappointed with the outcome of the by-elections, but has vowed to lead a Labour Party fightback. Miliband said: “It was an incredibly disappointing result for Labour in Bradford West and I am determined that we learn lessons of what happened.” Miliband will be travelling to Bradford soon, to try to: “win back people’s trust.”

George Galloway contested the parliamentary seat of Poplar and Limehouse, in the 2010 UK general election, as well as the Glasgow List in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, but was unsuccessful in both.

George Galloway, beat Labour candidate Imran Hussein by 10,140 votes and received 15,595 more votes than Conservative candidate Jackie Whiteley, who came third in the election.

Rangers receive £25m bid from US Company

Copyright Christopher Harress

Glasgow Rangers have more than 140 years of history, but the past few months may have been the most tumultuous, with the SPL title-defenders staring into the abyss of administration and the imminent uncertainty over possible takeovers.

A £25m bid from a Chicago-based company, if accepted, could see Rangers go into liquidation – an option fans do not support.

Club 9 Sports would want to form a new club, to avoid paying the club’s debts. Such action would lead Rangers to have at three-year ban from all European competitions. In the even more drastic scenario, liquidation could force Rangers back to the start, requiring them to apply to join the Division Three.

The only offer seeing Rangers go into administration came from former Ibrox director Paul Murray. Letting Rangers pay off their debts through the Company Voluntarily Arrangements (CVA).

The American bid is more than double Brian Kennedy’s offer, which was rejected yesterday. The American firm is now the frontrunner for taking over the club.


Union rules out fuel strike over Easter

By: Anna Redman

The Unite Union has decided against a possible fuel strike over Easter. However, a strike may still occur after Easter depending on the results of reconciliation talks.

The government caused panic buying when they advised drivers to fill up their tanks. Independent experts suggest petrol demands rose 172% yesterday.

In a statement, assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “We do still retain the right to call strike action for after Easter should those talks break down.”

Approximately 90% of UK forecourts are supplied by Unite union. Almost 2,000 members are at the centre of this dispute.

Unite’s drivers are responsible for delivering fuel to Shell and Esso garages as well as a number of supermarkets.

On Thursday, Energy Secretary Ed Davey advised that people “just need to do the sensible thing… get a full tank of petrol, not a half-tank”.

Tian Tian the panda is in the mood for love

Image supplied by Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Tian Tian the panda, also known as Sweetie, may be ready to mate with Yang Guang as early as next week on Tuesday 3rd or Wednesday 4th April.

Edinburgh Zoo and their team of experts have identified an increase in Tian Tian’s oestrogen and a decrease in her progesterone. Female pandas only ovulate once a year, and there is only a 36 hour period in which a female panda can fall pregnant. The two pandas at Edinburgh Zoo will be introduced to each other on Tuesday for 15 minutes at at time. They will probably be put together three times on the first date of Tian Tian being in oestrus. If natural mating does not occur on the first day of oestrus, the zoo may consider the option of artificial insemination.

However, expert keepers will be keeping an eye on the two, as pandas often tend to fight after mating or instead of mating.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Zoo said has said: “We understand that the whole country is in a state of heightened anticipation, but whatever the outcome of next week, we as animal conervationists and scientists have learnt a huge amount in such a short time about this captivating species. We are just delighted to be playing our part in the essential long term worldwide panda breeding programme.”

Image supplied by Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Panda Mating Facts:

 Panda mating season is from March to May.

A female panda may be in heat from two to seven days.

Pandas reach reproductive maturity at the age of seven years which lasts until they are 20 years old.

A female panda attracts a mate by rubbing against trees and urinating which leaves a scent which grabs the attention of male pandas, as well as by bleating calls.

The male panda leaves the female panda after mating and has nothing to do with the raising of the cub.

Pandas can have between one to two cubs at a time, but because newborn pandas require a high amount of care the mother will usually reject one of the cubs.

Man found dead In Broomhouse

The body of a man, who is believed to be in his 30’s, was found on a patch of grass in Broomhouse Gardens East.

The man was found just after midnight yesterday, 29 March, after residents in Broomhouse heard what they thought were fireworks. The man is believed to have died from a gunshot wound.

A police spokesperson has said that the death is being treated as unexplained. “Officers attended at Broomhouse Gardens East just after midnight following a call from the Scottish Ambulance Service. The man’s body was found on a grass area nearby.” The police are currently carrying out house to house enquiries and are asking for information: “Anyone who was in the area at the time and who may have seen or heard anything is asked to contact Lothian and Borders Police on 01313113131 or the charity Crimestoppers on 0800555111.”