More BA Strikes

May 10, 2010

by Lindsay Brown

British Airways staff have announced strikes from 18-22 May, 24-28 May, 30 May-3 June and 5-9 June. The Unite Union announced this after talks with BA broke down this afternoon.

The BA website states “We are currently considering our response so we can minimise any disruption during this strike period.”

BA will update its website as more information becomes available.

During a series of strikes in March, BA trained and used roughly 1,000 temporary cabin crew workers and volunteers to resume flight schedules to their best ability. Nearly half the BA flights to and from Edinburgh airport were delayed or canceled during the March 20-22 period.

Passengers booked to fly during the strike dates are citing BA’s obligation under EU law to offer either a refund or a reroute, but the airline could avoid paying refunds for the reason that the strike is “beyond its reasonable control”.

During the strikes in March, BA offered passengers the option to change the booking to any other time within the next year.

Travel insurance policies bought before the strike announcement should operate according to their regular terms and conditions.

Edinburgh South: the Curveball Count

May 7, 2010
by Lindsay Brown  
For the first two hours of the morning, Liberal Democrat supporters at the Meadowbank Sports Centre were unable to contain smiles and beaming eyes. The results of the first and second counts added a certain graceful confidence to candidate Fred MacKintosh’s manner. He was photographed heavily after a quiet interview with a reporter at 2 AM. Yet down the corridor, a final box of postal votes had just trailed in- hours after the other 99 ballot boxes arrived.
On Election Day, the Edinburgh Council posted a statement by Returning Officer Tom Aitchison in which he explained the rules of the count and the likelihood of postal votes slowing the counting process. He stated “It is likely that each constituency will not receive this final box of votes until after all the contents of other boxes have been verified against ballot paper accounts. This means that the first count can not (sic) be completed until these papers been (sic) received and verified.”

However, during the course of the evening, Aitchison broke this rule because the first count had been completed and the second count was almost finished before the final box of votes arrived. The results of the 99 boxes showed MacKintosh won by a slim but sure margin- according to confident counting agents fifteen minutes past midnight.

The Council’s tweets show that at 23.41, 99 boxes had arrived. Another tweet at 23.43 noted 100 boxes were expected. Despite no sign of the last box, the second count was already started by 00.30. Finally, at 1.20, Meadowbank was notified that the 100th box was on its way. It arrived at 1.49.

With Murray to his right, Mackintosh at podium: "Ian hasn't put out anything in the last few weeks that says what Labour would do. He has frightened people about the council and about the government."/Photo by Lindsay Brown

The box contained postal votes that were handed in at polling stations up until 22.00 on Election Day. The reason the last box was delayed was to ensure that personal identifiers were successfully checked using computer technology at Waverly Court, according to Council Communications Officer Noel Miller.

Aitchison’s statement on the Council’s blog demonstrates to voters that a plan was in place to ensure the count remained untainted by postal vote fraud, which was a growing concern amidst the public. On May 4, the Daily Mail’s front page story on postal vote fraud specifically mentioned Edinburgh South’s increase in postal voter registration. Also on May 4, at the Edinburgh Sikh Community annual meeting, concerned members debated the ethics and legality of registering friends and family for postal voting using their properties as home addresses, according to an inside source.

Within the half  hour after the final postal ballot box arrived just before 2 AM, the demeanours of MacKintosh and Labour candidate Ian Murray changed. MacKintosh’s hands were on his hips as he paced from counting table to officers. He reprimanded a journalist who may have had his audio recorder on, “You cannot record this.” Meanwhile, Murray came alive with smiles. Then he would furrow his brows and nod as he scrutinised ballot papers on the table.

The adjudication of votes started at 2.23. Count staff and the candidates rejected 78 oddly-marked ballot papers.

At 3.15, a counting agent received figures showing Labour then had 15,220 votes, Liberal Democrats had 14,848, and Conservatives had 9,500. The difference between Labour and Liberal Democrats was 372. Council rules dictate that if results yield a difference of less than 400 votes, a recount is allowed. MacKintosh requested one and was granted a partial recount, which was a check of the sorting of bundles at 3.53. Its outcome almost one hour later narrowed the gap to 316 votes. Aitchison denied him a second recount, partial or full.

At 4.45 cheers erupted from Labour supporters. Minutes later, results were declared from the stage. The winner was Murray, who received 15,215 votes, a 34.7% share of the votes. Second was MacKintosh, with 14,899 votes, a 34% share of the votes. Conservative Neil Hudson received 21.6%, and the Scottish National Party’s Sandy Howat earned a 7.7% share of the votes.

Edinburgh South had the narrowest margin outcome of all constituencies in Scotland.

Murray was caught off guard by his victory and told the crowd “I haven’t got anything prepared because I didn’t expect to be standing here.”

Modern Warfare Selling Out

November 10, 2009

by Lindsay Brown

"Its bloody, its brutal and will be an instant hit."-Times Online

Modern Warfare 2, a realistic violent video game whose trailer features rapper Eminem, American flags, and blood splats, is selling off the shelves in Edinburgh’s shops. The game’s release today marks one day before Armistice Day, which commerates all the people who have lost their lives in wars since World War 1. Four hundred copies of the Infinity Ward-developed game hit shelves at ASDA’s Chesser location at midnight and sold out by 3 AM.

ASDA is carding people who wish to buy the game due to its rating of 18.

Claire Black was working night shift there when the Modern Warfare enthusiasts began to arrive.

“A couple hundred people were queueing. They looked to be anywhere between 18 and 50 years old, all types of people. I’d say about half of them were Christmas shoppers.”


The British Board of Film Classification rates video games using an age-rated system. Games with mature content are rated at either 15 or 18. It is now voluntary to employ this rating system in the UK.


Under the Video Recordings Act 1984, Parliament had designated the BBFC as the authority to classify video game ratings. Games not classified and bearing the BBFC label were prohibited from being sold in the UK, rendering the sale of most international video games illegal. As of August 2009, this unenforceable Act has been suspended until further notice from the government. So, it is currently legal to sell and supply unclassified video games in the UK.


Young men mesmorized as they play the new game Modern Warfare 2/Photo by Lindsay Brown
Young men mesmorised as they play the new game "Modern Warfare 2"/Photo by Lindsay Brown

USA, Canada, and countries around the globe are utilising the ESRB, a self-regulatory organisation that assigns age and content ratings to video games. Europe uses the Pan European Game Information rating system, which also is not reinforced by law.

Activision Blizzard, Modern Warfare 2’s developer and publisher based out of California, USA, volunteered to have it rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The board assigned it an “M,” for Mature content.

In the United States, legislation is pending for the Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act, which would require an ID check for M- and Adult Only-rated game purchases.

Modern Warfare 2 is a first-person shooter game with fictional miniature plots containing blood-splattered fighting in the Middle East, Russia, Brazil, and the US. Activision is predicted to pull in “at least half a billion dollars on the game in the first week,” according to an AP report. Activision and developer Infinity Ward, are expecting that the title “could easily be the largest entertainment launch of the year.”

In addition to Playstation, the game has also been released for Xbox, another popular gaming console, but Xbox copies are currently sold out at all ASDA locations in Edinburgh.  The shipment for the Playstation units arrived behind schedule at the Chesser store today, but they are already selling quickly. ASDA’s Leith location has just 3 left as of this afternoon.



Justice from Crisis: Paisley Meeting Calls for Climate Change


October 23, 2009

by Lindsay Brown

Green-minded charities and politicians across the country are revving for December’s Klimaforum ’09, the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

It was also the topic that Douglas Alexander, MP and Secretary of State for International Development, emphatically addressed in today’s Justice from Crisis meeting in Paisley, organised by Oxfam Scotland and SCIAF, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund.


Ice melting in Paradise Bay, Antarctica/Photo by Lindsay Brown
Ice melting in Paradise Bay, Antarctica/Photo by Lindsay Brown

“Carbons emissions is a global crisis,“ he said, “and Britain is the only country that put a number on the table months ahead of Copenhagen.”

Alexander will attend the summit meeting with Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling. A key point they want to hammer into the deal at Copenhagen is carbon emissions reduction, actually setting goals for beyond 2050.

“Can we convince any countries that we’ve been close with to have any number at all?” Alexander said while describing Britain’s summit goals in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “If you take a country like the US, we’ve just lost 10 years with an administration that didn’t even accept the concept of the carbon emissions crisis.”

 Today he displayed optimism about the upcoming role of the United States.  “I struggle to see how we will not reach an agreement with the democrats being the majority in Congress.”

Copenhagen officials will discuss the creation of a successor climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol which was enacted on 16 February 2005 by 184 parties of the UN Climate Convention, but not the US.

Also on the platform at today’s meeting were Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland, Malcolm Fleming, the SNP candidate for Glasgow South MP, and Stephen Boyd, the Assistant Secretary at the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

Robertson’s experiences through Oxfam reinforce the platform’s message that climate control is crucial. “Oxfam works with populations dealing with severe droughts and flooding.  If we [the UK] stick to our 2050 goals, we will have lifted millions of people out of debt, most of them women,” she said.

Discussion after the Justice from Crisis meeting in Paisley/Photo by Lindsay Brown
Discussion after the Justice from Crisis meeting in Paisley/Photo by Lindsay Brown

Britain’s G20 goals for 2050 include an 80% emissions reduction target, a figure agreed upon by the other G8 industrialized nations in this past July’s Copenhagen environmental summit.

Robertson discussed the need for global accountability on climate control and the dichotomy between wealthy nations and poorer ones. “On the rich countries of the North rests the responsibility. The devastating effects rest on the poorer countries of the South.”

Robertson mentioned concern about the role played by the range of countries that lie in between.

“We’re not seeing developing countries working toward carbon reduction because they simply don’t have the resources.”

India and China are among these developing and threshold nations, known as the “Group of 77.”

Alexander said, “The US set in India’s psyche ‘it’s okay to wait, a better deal is down the road,’ but it’s not.”

Stephen Boyd of STUC talked about how joblessness affects the climate crisis.

“Climate change is a sign of the biggest market failure. We talk about creating green jobs, we’ve got to talk about creating all jobs.”

Alexander commented on this dilemma. “Forty-one thousand jobs were lost in Scotland in the past year. Politicians need to ask themselves, ‘How do I deliver gross domestic product growth for my local population and do it at a low price?’ The challenge is in balancing economic crises with climate ones.”

Green Jobs to Spring in Scotland

February 26, 2010
by Lindsay Brown
In 2009 thousands of jobs ceased to exist in Scotland. Increased unemployment is trouble for any society, but where one door closes, another opens. Scotland is one place on the globe that is atypically packed with a combination of ecological resources which can, and in fact, will engender a compelling renewable energy industry. Policy-makers, scientists, and entrepreneurs are already striding forward to gracefully harness the country’s mighty natural resources, including her wind and waves.

Photo courtesy of REUK Photo courtesy of REUK

Solar and geothermal forces will also be used to generate economic and environmental benefits for the people of Scotland and for entrepreneurs around the globe, as the shortage of energy is a worldwide dilemma. The ebb and flow of the North Sea tide is just one type of power found off the coast of the Orkney Islands. Scotland has 25% of the estimated total capacity of tidal power in all of the European Union.
 “Last year Scotland passed a Climate Change Act which has been lauded around the world as being one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in connection with climate change,“ says Shirley-Anne Somerville, a Member of the Scottish Parliament’s Climate Change Committee.

In correlation with the Climate Change Act, the Economic Recovery Programme strives to create jobs and save households and businesses money all the while remaining green-minded. Up to 16,000 energy-related jobs may be created over the next ten years.

Bringing it home

The people of Edinburgh will not have to travel far to encounter the facilities which will harness natural energy.

To synchronize with upcoming Scottish and European legislation, the City of Edinburgh and Midlothian councils have established the Zero Waste project, which aims to decrease household waste. This spring, it began to look at private contractors’ proposals to build a regenerative waste treatment facility in Midlothian.

“The plant’s construction will start no sooner than 2015, yet it is estimated that 300 jobs in construction will be created at that time, and then an estimated 40 long-term operational jobs will follow,” says Kelly Murphy, the Communications Manager for the project.

In January, the Crown Estate granted rights to SeaGreen Wind Energy, a consortium made up by the companies Airtricity and Fluor, to construct nearly 1000 wind turbines in Moray Firth and the Firth of Forth, off the coast of Fife. The project will create up to 4.7 gigawatts of power, and could create roughly 2000 green jobs in Fife alone by 2020.

From greasy to squeaky clean
A similarly-named company, SeaEnergy Renewables, is expected to partake in the building of a windfarm on the Moray Firth site. The company is a subsidiary of SeaEnergy PLC, which is based in Aberdeen. Formally known as Ramco Energy PLS, the company decided to shift its investments away from oil and gas in order to focus solely on the offshore wind business.

Aberdeen has been nicknamed the ‘energy capital of Europe.’ With a population of roughly 210,000, it has been a central hub for oil exploration and production companies such as Shell, ExxonMobile, Total and British Gas. Until recently, it enjoyed a very strong economy. The non-government organisation, Transform Scotland, warns that world oil supply is nearing its peak, and that after the peak, oil will no longer be reliable as a source of energy. The group continues to urge the Scottish and UK governments to set up greater measures to reduce dependence on oil-fuelled modes of transport.

Calum Cashley, a Parliamentary researcher, explains Scotland’s involvement: “We’re looking at how we develop green alternatives to our oil industry. One of the initiatives that Scotland brought forward is the Saltire prize, which is a 10 million pound prize, to anyone who can bring the best renewable project to the market.”

Aberdeen’s newly-named SeaEnergy PLC is a company ahead of the curve in transitioning to renewable energy. The oil and gas industries have taken on a bad rap over the years. Environmental and wildlife activists have admonished them for their role in damaging the North Sea over the course of nearly 50 years of oil exploitation. Everyday operations have included setting off underwater explosions, dumping drill cuttings onto the sea bed, submerging chemical-coated rigs and pipelines into the sea, and flaring noise and light pollution into wildlife habitats. These offenses are in addition to the occasional accidental catastrophe which claimed human lives, as well.

Holyrood set a pioneering national goal to obtain 31% of its power from renewable resources by 2011. By 2020, Scotland will aim to tap 50% of its gross electricity from green energy. In comparison, the UK as a whole has set their 2020 goal at just 15%.

“Arnold Schwarzenegger said that Scotland is encouraging other nations to step up to the plate,” boasts Cashley.

On Facebook this past winter, a group called “Put a windfarm in my backyard if you like, because I’m not an idiot” grew to almost 40,000 members by February. The group’s description includes a reproach to people who object to the sight of windfarms. It wryly remarks, “Oh no, we don’t want those turbines out there, they make a slight swishing noise which disrupts the sound of the main road and ruins the view of the landfill site.” The emergence of green industries has succeeded in gathering immense public support. Politicians are on board with the people, too, as the Climate Change Act of 2009 was passed unanimously. Clean energy is proving to be an attractive, unifying force for Scotland and beyond.

Magazine feature for Buzz

Flat Pumps are the Dumps

October 21, 2009

by Lindsay Brown

The popular and stylish, but completely flat, ballet pumps many Edinburgh women wear could be hurting their health.

In some women who are less symmetrical than others, pronation results after years of walking on unsupported arches in the feet. Pronation is the inward roll of the foot during walking or running. It causes pain in the foot, shin, and knee. It also increases risk of injuring the back.

Overpronation causes the ankle to roll inward during walking/Photo by Lindsay Brown
Overpronation causes the ankle to roll inward during walking/Photo by Lindsay Brown

Local Chiropractor Shawna Dunbar, of Capital Chiropractic, said “As far as prolapsed arches, we see more females over 30 years old.”

The number of men the clinic sees is comparable due to the frequency of men’s participation in high impact sports.

Colin McPhail, owner of running shoe shop Footworks, explains how a poorly supportive shoe increases risk of injury in people who overpronate in their gate while running.

“Overpronation causes an inversion in the tibia, which causes an excessive strain on the knee joint, which then strains the hip joint, which connects to the sacro-iliac, a joint in the lower back.”

The point of skeletal and spinal alignment is to keep the head as level as possible and to prevent the risk of subluxating a disc in the spine, often referred to as “throwing out the back.” A subluxated disc is a vertebrae that has slipped slightly out of alignment.

A supportive shoe assists in preventing this.

This entry was posted at October 21, 2009 at 11:41 and is filed under Features, Science and Technology. Tagged: ballet pumps, pronation, supportive shoes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Points-Based Visa System: UK’s Fortress

October 21, 2009

by Lindsay Brown

The United Kingdom’s points-based system is a strict visa process which potential migrants must navigate to live, study, or work in the UK. The elaborate bureaucratic system was enacted February 28, 2008 in order to allow Border Agency officials to select and monitor foreigners who have entered the country.

Under the PBS only the most qualified skilled workers may enter.

Ian Paul, 37, an American who attended Edinburgh College of Art less than ten years ago and worked construction in England, was not able to navigate the PBS this summer.

“I got to the part where they wouldn’t let Americans work unless they proved they couldn’t hire anyone there first,” he said. Potential sponsors of migrant workers must first advertise in three places for local residents before venturing to pay the application fee and proceed to further steps to gain a certificate of sponsorship from the Border Agency.

“I knew bar managers who said they would hire me, but after I asked for them to officially sponsor me, none of them were willing to put in that much time, money, and effort to go through with it.”

When asked why he wanted to come to the UK, he said “I like the UK. It’s a great country. I’ve always been fond of it.”

The PBS ensures that only the most dedicated, organised students may enter.

Canadian/American/Israeli citizen Talia Lapid, 20, witnessed her classmates at New Mexico State University get rejected for student clearance.

“They couldn’t get their transcripts in time so soon after graduation.”

“In addition to the standard £145 student application fee, I paid a professional company $200 to have my paperwork expedited.” Lapid’s application was accepted.

This entry was posted at on October 21, 2009 at 10:53 and is filed under Economy and Business, Life and Society. Tagged: , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

The EU's First President

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 11: Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy assists in a ceremony in honour of the Unknown Soldier during Armistice on November 11, 2009 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)

November 20, 2009

by Lindsay Brown

Leaders of the 27 nations of the European Union selected Herman Van Rompuy, prime minister of Belgium, on Thursday to become the EU’s first president.

Britain’s Baroness Catherine Ashton, who is now the EU’s trade commissioner, was named High Representative for Foreign Policy, the number two position at the EU.

Both Van Rompuy and Ashton have had little political presence in the media until now.  Van Rompuy’s new role will be to unify and facilitate cooperation among high profile leaders.   

Prior to his one year being prime minister for Belgium, Van Rompuy, 62, worked as an economist.  He speaks English, Flemish, and French.

“Europe must be in every member state’s advantage,” said Van Rompuy at a press conference in Brussels. “This cardinal principle leads me to a two-track approach. First of all, I will consider everyone’s interests and sensitivities. Even if our unity is our strength, our diversity remains our wealth. Every country has its own history, its own culture, its own way of doing things. Our journey may be toward a common destination, but we will all bring along different luggage.”

Van Rompuy belongs to the Centre-Right, while Ashton is from Britain’s Labour Party, making the two new leaders a politically balanced pair.

Both Van Rompuy and Ashton will take their new charges in January.

QB God Knows
Quote by a friend of Tony Blair/The American Spectator

Whole Hearted Recovery-English Teacher Howard Kelly’s Emergence from Being Blue

January 27, 2010

by Lindsay Brown

Howard Kelly was 23 years old when he had his pink birthday, that is, when his skin turned from a blue hue to a healthy peach. Instead of having a corrective operation within the first two to three years of life, as today’s children born with his heart condition do, Howard Kelly’s cautious father, a heart specialist, waited for medical procedures to advance. It was 1980 when Howard underwent 17 hours of pioneering open heart surgery.

Howard Kelly at 18 years old with cyan skin tone/Family photograph
Howard Kelly at 18 years old with cyan skin tone/Family photograph

“I didn’t walk at all until I was 11 years old,” he explains. “I was in a wheelchair all through my teenage years.”

If untreated, the congenital heart disease is usually fatal by the age of 20. Tetralogy of Fallot, named after a French physician, accounts for ten per cent of all congenital heart diseases. The condition is incredibly weakening. Symptoms include a hole between the ventricles, the bottom chambers of the heart, which wrongly permits oxygen-poor and oxygen-rich blood to mix. Circulation to the lungs is also restricted. Oxygen-deficient blood is blue in colour and affects the tint of the person’s skin. The tinting is known as Cyanosis.

“I could walk just 20-30 yards, and I was very cyanotic,” recalls Kelly.

Parents of a child born with the ailment are advised to safeguard their son or daughter to the best of their abilities from crying or experiencing anger. Worrying about the condition strains the heart, which is already likely to exhibit Hypertrophy, the thickening and hardening of an overworked ventricle muscle.

Howard, who now rides his bike eight miles to work every day, beat the odds by surviving beyond his first 20 years without receiving treatment. He met his wife Judith two years before the operation in their home town of Lancashire. Their parents had been family friends. Four years after the operation, she went to Glasgow to study, and they married in 1984. They now have two daughters who live in Edinburgh.

Howard Kelly now leads a healthy, active life/Family photograph
Howard Kelly now lives a healthy,active lifestyle/Family photograph

“The irony was that my dad was a heart specialist. I was naive. I trusted my parents and they wanted to trust God. I was near dying but I wasn’t worried. I believed God would look after me.

“When I was nine years old, a South African minister prayed for me and I got a little better. A minister prayed over me when I was 14, and again, I got a little bit better. I don’t know why it didn’t heal me completely. I think it was meant to get me through [earning my] degree.”

Howard has a degree in English Literature. His first teaching job was in Dunoon, on the west coast of Scotland. He now teaches at The Grange School, Hartford.

The surgical procedures for treating Tetralogy of Fallot often involve two steps. A shunt is placed between major arteries just outside the heart to improve blood flow to the lungs. This is a temporary solution usually performed on infants and small children. The patient is then given open heart surgery.

Professor David Wheatley, who won the Great Scot award in 1992 for his extraordinary achievements in cardiology, was Howard’s surgeon. He discovered that Howard did not require the shunt and so performed a one-shot surgery that lasted 17 hours at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. When he received the Scot of the Year Award, an award nicknamed the People’s Oscars, he mentioned Howard in an interview as one of his most memorable patients.

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