Nov 142014
 

Copyright: Newsline ScotlandWith thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are to be marketed to Chinese tourists in a new drive by tourism agency VisitAberdeen.

The campaign will see the creation of a new website for the lucrative Chinese market, as well as attendance at key tourism events aimed at encouraging visitors to the region.

Steve Harris, Chief Executive of VisitAberdeen, said:

“China boasts the largest outbound tourism market and is the highest spender on overseas travel, contributing $124 billion (around £78 billion) to the global tourism industry – 50% higher than that of the USA.

“This willingness to travel and explore overseas, coupled with a cultural love of golf, whisky and history, makes Aberdeen the perfect destination for Chinese tourists. With 60 golf courses within an hour of the city, some of the world’s most famous whisky brands including The Glenlivet and Royal Lochnagar, and a number of the finest castles in Scotland, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have a lot of offer Chinese tourists.”

There are now around 638 million Chinese internet users who make $22 billion (almost £14 billion) worth of bookings online each year. VisitAberdeen will capitalise on this with the launch of a new website aimed at Chinese tourists looking to travel overseas.

Steve continued:

“We have been working with the China Business Network (CBN) to create a new website which will be hosted on the China Wide Web. This has involved the translation of a large portion of the VisitAberdeen website, which will provide useful information to those wishing to travel from China to Aberdeen.

“This year 110 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas, and it is predicted that in the next 15 years this will increase to 500 million. Through the introduction of our new website, we will reach out to those travellers and show them all that Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire has to offer.

“We are also working to produce Chinese brochures and literature that will be distributed throughout the country, and will be represented by the CBN at the China International Travel Mart from 14-16 November.”

In 2015, VisitAberdeen plans to have a presence at further international travel markets in China, in order to reach out to tourism operators to show them the value of Aberdeen as a tourism destination. VisitAberdeen will attend the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market, and Incentive Travel and Conventions, Meetings China exhibitions next year.

VisitAberdeen is a partnership between Aberdeen City Council and the industry including Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association and Aberdeen Inspired. For further information, visit www.visitaberdeen.com

 

Nov 072014
 

Jonathan Russell will be giving a talk on the arms trade this Monday 10th November at 7.30pm at UNITE the Union, 42-44 King Street, Aberdeen

arms sales graph“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

“The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

— Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a speech on April 16, 1953

We live in a world that faces huge challenges due to climate change, natural disasters and with the majority of the world’s population struggling to get enough resources to survive. Yet a much bigger priority for many governments is promoting their arms sales or buying arms. In times of recession selling arms becomes a greater priority and it can be argued that acquiring resources, in particular oil, has been a major reason for starting conflicts.

The arms trade is the main beneficiary of this. At a time when the world economy is stagnating, arms shares are rising rapidly with shares of the top 12 publicly listed firms – based on a list by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute – rising by almost 30 per cent on average in the last year.

Stock price data on the 12 companies reveal most have benefitted in a year in which the number of conflict zones in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has risen. 2011 saw a massive rise in sales by the US and the UK to Saudi Arabia who in turn where arming ISIS.

Through our investments and pension funds we can unwittingly also be beneficiaries. For instance, our very own North East Pension fund for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire invests in the Arms trade. The end of the cold war led to a decline in arms sales but new enemies were soon found to allow business to continue as usual. New arms technologies such as drones and security technology open up new markets

The 5 UN Security Council permanent members are generally the largest arms dealers (though others such as Germany and Italy often feature quite high and Israel is rapidly expanding its exports with its expertise in drone warfare and surveillance

World’s largest arms exporters

The units in this table are so-called trend indicator values expressed in millions of U.S. dollars at 1990s prices. These values do not represent real financial flows but are a crude instrument to estimate volumes of arms transfers, regardless of the contracted prices, which can be as low as zero in the case of military aid. Ordered by descending 2013 values. The information is from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

2013 rank Supplier Arms exports
1  Russia 8283
2  United States 6153
3  China 1837
4  France 1489
5  United Kingdom 1394
6  Germany 972
7  Italy 807
8  Israel 773
9  Spain 605
10  Ukraine 589
11  Sweden 505
12  Belarus 338
13  South Korea 307
14  Netherlands 302
15   Switzerland 205

 

Global Spending on Arms

List by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2013)[1]
Rank Country Spending ($ bn.) % of GDP World share (%)
World total 1747.0 2.4 100
1 United States 640.0 3.8 36.6
2 People’s Republic of China[a] 188.0 2.0 10.8
3 Russia[a] 87.8 4.1 5.0
4 Saudi Arabia[b] 67.0 9.3 3.8
5 France 61.2 2.2 3.5
6 United Kingdom 57.9 2.3 3.3
7 Germany[a] 48.8 1.4 2.8
8 Japan 48.6 1.0 2.8
9 India 47.4 2.5 2.7
10 South Korea 33.9 2.8 1.9
11 Italy[a] 32.7 1.6 1.9
12 Brazil 31.5 1.4 1.8
13 Australia 24.0 1.6 1.4
14 Turkey 19.1 2.3 1.1
15 United Arab Emirates 19.0 4.7 1.1

China has increased its spending on arms by 12.2% this year. A major reason for this is Obamas strategic decision to move the majority of the US military complex to Asia Pacific. This was done to try and contain China’s rising power and has inevitably led to the beginnings of an arms race similar to the one that took place in the cold war between the Soviet Union and the US and its allies.

India and Japan are also rapidly increasing arms spending which in turn ratchets up the amount of arms spending by China. Who benefits most from this is the arms trade.

The arms industry is not an industry like any other its products aim to maim or kill human beings or destroy infrastructure. A buy product of the later is also killing and maiming human beings. War has changed dramatically since the beginning of the 20th Century when only 5% of casualties were civilians now 90% of people killed are civilians.

The aim increasingly with the use of drones etc is to limit to a minimum casualties from the country which is firing the weapon. War is a major contributor to instability and poverty. Of the 30 least developed countries in the world half have been involved in conflicts. The Lancet estimated from household data that 654,965 Iraqis died as a direct effect of the conflict from 2003-2006 and of course there have been daily killings since then.

The UN has estimated that 93,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. Trade and food production are badly effected and countries are left with lack of power supplies. Shortages always lead to corruption and joining militias can become a way of surviving.

On top of this many people are displaced from their own countries living at best in refugee camps. This puts huge burdens on surrounding countries and money that could be spent on helping refugees is rather spent on more weapons.

Vietnam, where over two million deaths took place, is still recovering from the use of ancient orange and napalm. Mines laid and left behind in conflicts have been another source of human tragedy. In more recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya depleted uranium has been used in bombs and this has led to horrific birth defects.

 Every year, the US Congressional Research service releases an  report looking at arms sales transfers to the developing word.

The report released on August 24th 2012 entitled ‘Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 2004-2011′ known as the Grimmett report after its author Richard F Grimmett.

The Grimmett Report also notes that,

  • Developing nations continue to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by weapons suppliers though most arms are supplied by just 2 or 3 major suppliers.
  • Despite the global economic climate, major purchases continue to be made by a select few developing nations in these regions, principally India in Asia and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.
  • For arms suppliers, despite the impact the global economic situation has had on sales, a number of weapon-exporting nations have increased competition for sales going into areas and regions where they have may not have previously been prominent competition for sales will only intensify due to limits for growth.
  • Although recent years have shown a decline in sales, 2011 saw a massive jump, almost solely by an extraordinary increase in massive sales by the US, whose massive sales to Saudi Arabia distorted an otherwise downward trend in arms sales.
  • In 2011, the United States ranked first in arms transfer agreements with developing nations with over $56.3 billion or 78.7% of these agreements, an extraordinary increase in market share from 2010, when the United States held a 43.6% market share. In second place was Russia with $4.1 billion or 5.7% of such agreements.
  • Saudi Arabian imports are even set to increase with additional deliveries of the Typhoon, and deliveries of 154 American F-15 jets, scheduled for 2015.
  • In 2013, according to SIPRI, Saudi Arabia also bought armoured vehicles from Canada worth $10 billion. Further orders may soon be placed for armoured personal carriers from Serbia and tanks from Germany
  • Between 2009 and 2013, Saudi Arabia and the UAE each received thousands of guided bombs from the USA. Saudi Arabia also received hundreds of air-launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles (with a range of approximately 300 kilometres) from the UK. Mounted on combat aircraft, and combined with refuelling airplanes acquired from Spain, the range of these cruise missiles could cover most of Iran.
  • In 2013 the USA was, for the first time, willing to negotiate the sale of hundreds of AGM-84H missiles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Bahrain and the UAE also received surface-to-surface missiles from the US.

Arms sales also increased during this period from the UK from Mid 2008 until End-2010 arms sales to Saudi Arabia were 2,096m, Oman 377m and UAE 42m. From start of 2011 – mid 2013 they had increased dramatically sales to Saudi Arabia £3,436m, Oman £377m and UAE £139m- source Campaign Against Arms Trade – export liscences.

Largest arms industry companies.

This is a list of the world’s top 10 arms manufacturers and other military service companies. The information is based on a list published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for 2012.[14] The list provided by the SIPRI excludes companies based in China.

Rank Company Country Arms sales (US$ m.) Total company employment
1 Lockheed Martin  United States 36,000 120,000
2 Boeing  United States 27,610 174,400
3 BAE Systems  United Kingdom 26,850 88,200
4 Raytheon  United States 22,500 67,800
5 General Dynamics  United States 20,940 92,200
6 Northrop Grumman  United States 19,400 68,100
7 Airbus Group  European Union 15,400 140,000
8 United Technologies Corporation  United States 13,460 218,300
9 Finmeccanica  Italy 12,530 67,408
10 L-3 Communications  United States 10,840 51,000

Corruption and the arms trade

For a really good read on the arms trade I would suggest you read ‘The Shadow World Inside the Global arms trade’ by Andrew Feinstein (available in Aberdeen Central Library) where he reveals the corruption and cover-ups between the British and Saudi Governments to BAE’S controversial transactions in South Africa, Tanzania and Eastern Europe and the revolving door relationships that characterizes the Congressional-Military Industrial Complex.

He exposes in forensic detail both the formal government to Government trade in arms and the shadow world of illicit weapons and the links between the two. What I will concentrate on however will be the largest corruption scandal of them all between BAE systems and Saudi Arabia where Tony Blair blocked the enquiry in his final days of office.

The suspicion of bribery began even before the details of the deal were negotiated. Concerns were reported in the Arabic newsletter ‘Gourakia’ in October 21 1985 and picked up by the Guardian newspaper which had headlined on its front page:

“Bribes of £600 million in jets deal”

Denzil Davies then Labour’s Defense Spokesman raised concerns in parliament. The accusations were denied by Conservative Ministers.

Later the Conservative Defense Minister, Jonathan Aitken was charged with perjury. The Al Yamah deal worth 43bn to BAE was clinched by a meeting between Prince Banda bin Sultan and Margaret Thatcher. Much of the payment came in the form of oil and was as such of balance sheet transactions and as such particularly susceptible to corruption.

Richard Evans, later to become CEO and then Chair of BAE was later involved. Mark Thatcher who was also involved in dodgy deals in Africa was also claimed to be involved. An enquiry into the whole deal was quashed on grounds of higher British interests as one of his last acts as Prime Minister.

Prince Banda bin Sultan was head of Saudi Intelligence from 2012 until February 2014 and was responsible for funding and arming ISIS.

There is so much more to say since the second world war millions have died in Korea. Vietnam., numerous African States, Indonesia , South America and now the Middle East and Ukraine and many more conflicts.

The Merchants of Death and Corruption need to be stopped.

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Jan 162014
 

march2611picAberdeen Trades Union Council have expressed concerns at Police Scotland plans for Aberdeen HQ.

At its first meeting of 2014, delegates of Aberdeen Trades Union Council expressed grave concern at the lack of clarity regarding Police Scotland’s plans for Aberdeen.
Kevin Hutchens, an Executive Committee member and spokesperson for Aberdeen TUC stated:

“There is great concern that no public statement has been made confirming the future use of the Queen St offices of Police Scotland.

“It would be disastrous for many of our members who live and work in Aberdeen if these facilities are lost, especially on the back of the already announced Court Closures which are progressing at pace, with Stonehaven Court due to close at the end of May this year.

”We have particular concern for the many shopworkers, bus drivers and all other public sector workers who daily provide a service to the city.

“While call centres can provide a valuable service there is no real substitute for the face to face support a Police Officer at a community based public access front desk can provide.

“Needless to say it is also crucial that front line investigations of crime should also be pursued from the City Centre HQ.”

Kevin Hutchens went on to say:

“We are therefore calling on Police Scotland to confirm the long term future of the Aberdeen Queen Street HQ and all the services it provides there.”

For any further comment, Kevin Hutchens Unite delegate and ATUC Executive committee member can be contacted on 01569 763994 or 07948 555 066

Brian Carroll, Interim Secretary ATUC and PCS Union Branch Secretary can be contacted on 07826 890 342

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Jan 162014
 

Aberdeen Forward would like to invite you to our Swishing event on Friday 17th January 2014, between 6pm and 8pm, for an evening of clothes swapping, wine & nibbles.

colouredthreadspic

For those who don’t know, swishing involves clothes swapping in an informal setting around other like minded ‘swisher’s’.

All you have to do is bring in 1 or more items you own that you no longer want and you can take away someone else’s items instead!

Bring your unwanted clothes along any time on the day and then come down on the Friday at 6pm for the Swish itself.

From 6pm-7pm, there we will be time to browse what’s on offer, over a glass of complimentary wine and a nibble or two and then, at 7pm sharp, we will open the doors and allow you to pick the items you want to take home with you.

When deciding which of your items to bring in please remember the following:

  • All items should be high quality, do not bring damaged or dirty items.
  • Donated items should be clean and either unworn or just worn once or twice. You want to bring something others will want to take away, not throw away!
  • No Casual T-shirts, Vests, Earrings, Underwear or Swimwear will be accepted.
  • Unfortunately, if you don’t take anything home, we cannot return the items you donated yourself, so please be sure the things you bring are unwanted items.
  • The Swish is based on a fair use policy; although no token system is in place, it is accepted that items of a comparable cost, quality and condition are swapped fairly.

We hope to see you there on the 17th January and if you would like to attend, please RSVP by emailing us or calling us on 01224 560360. Entry is £5 and wine and nibbles will be available from 6pm together with various non-alcoholic refreshments.

Sep 182013
 

How does a Friday night of wine, nibbles and vintage clothes swapping sound to you? Why not avoid the hustle and bustle of a weekend shopping trip and come along to Aberdeen Forward’s famous swish where your unused clothes can be swapped with like-minded swishers in a relaxing and informal setting.

colouredthreadspicIf you want to grab a unique item or 2 whilst helping divert landfill, this Friday’s Swish is for you!

Starting at 6pm and finishing at 8pm this Friday, the event will provide you with a chance to clear out items you’ve never worn whilst getting a hold of some new pieces for your wardrobe.

When deciding which of your items to bring in please remember the following:

- All items should be high quality-please don’t bring damaged or dirty items.
– Donated items should be clean and either unworn or just worn once or twice. You want to bring something others will want to take away, not throw away!
– No Casual T-shirts, Vests, Earrings, Underwear or Swimwear will be accepted.

If you would like to come, please give us a quick call on 01224 560360, email cwe@aberdeenforward.org

The event is held at the Aberdeen Forward HQ, 2 Poynernook Road, AB11 5RW. Please arrive promptly for 6pm with your unwanted clothes at the ready!

Entry is £5 which includes a glass of fizz, nibbles and access to the Swish’. Non-alcoholic refreshments are also available including tea, coffee and juice.

Apr 222013
 

With thanks to Brian Carroll.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have called on Justice minister Kenny McAskill to reject the recommendations of the Scottish Court Service (SCS) to close courts across Scotland as part of a cost cutting exercise.

The union, which represents staff in the courts service, has been actively campaigning for the retention of access to justice in the communities affected across Scotland, including a substantial response to the SCS consultation and evidence submitted to the Scottish Parliament.

Lynn Henderson, PCS Scottish Secretary said:

“The Scottish Courts Service and the minister claim that no one will lose their job because of these closures but some staff stand to lose substantial sums of money if their court closes.  

“The Justice Secretary must ensure that the guarantee of no compulsory redundancy is met and that staff are not forced to give up their job if their court closes and their job is relocated.”

Brian Carroll, Secretary of the PCS Scottish Courts Branch said:

“The closure of 10 Sheriff Courts, the proposal to consolidate sheriff and jury trials and high court business will mean vast areas of the country will be left with no courts to deal with anything but minor criminal cases.  

“This will affect not only the accused, but also witnesses, jurors and victims of crime.  These proposals will also affect all those who wish to use the civil courts and who wish to apply for adoptions and commissary applications.

“We are extremely disappointed that Ministers appear to have accepted the recommendations made by the Scottish Courts Service without examining the full impact of the permanent removal of sheriff courts from communities across Scotland.  

“It will mean staff and users of the courts will have to travel substantial distances to attend and will reduce the access to justice for all users.”

Apr 122013
 

As more vital services continue to be closed or cut back, the Courts too are under pressure.  Brian Carroll of the PCS Scottish Courts Branch explains.

Brian Carroll, Branch Secretary of the PCS Scottish Courts Branch, expressed  extreme disappointment that the Scottish Courts Service is pressing ahead with its proposal to close courts across Scotland:-

“Despite the substantial opposition and number of negative responses to the consultation, proposals have survived almost totally intact.  We are sure that this decision will be greeted with dismay, not just by our members who will be affected, but also within the communities they serve.

“It is our opinion that these proposals are about fitting the delivery of justice into a reduced budget and nothing to do with modernisation or with the proposed justice reforms that are under consultation presently. The introduction of any reforms is not reliant on the closure of courts.”

Lynn Henderson PCS Scottish secretary said:-

“This is a bitter blow to our members in those courts threatened with closure as well as to the public, as yet another in a long line of public services suffers from the ravages of the cuts agenda.

“PCS will continue to work unstintingly to ensure that the interests of those members affected are protected. We will also campaign vigorously against these proposals on behalf of our members and to ensure proper access to justice for all the people of Scotland.”

Dec 272012
 

With thanks to Brian Carroll.

The Public and Commercial Services Union Scotland (PCS)  has expressed opposition to plans for closing local courts across Scotland.

The union which represents staff of the Scottish Courts Service outlined their opposition in its response to the SCS consultation on plans to close 11 sheriff courts across Scotland.

PCS welcomes the £10 million increase in spending on maintenance of courts announced in the Autumn Statement by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

Brian Carroll, PCS Scottish Courts Service Branch Secretary said

“We have today submitted our response to the consultation on future court structures. PCS along with solicitors and other interest groups oppose the closure of 11 sheriff courts which seriously threatens the public access to justice, particularly in rural areas.”

Lynn Henderson, PCS Scottish Secretary said

“Following years of underspending many court buildings are in a sorry state. But this cannot be used as an excuse for closing courts. An extra £10 million investment can make a difference to the courts estate, but it does not address the £57 million backlog.  

“PCS seeks proper investment in vital public services and access to justice across Scotland.”

More about PCS.

The Public & Commercial Services Union represents over 280,000 members in the civil and public services and in the privatised commercial sector, over 30,000 of which are in Scotland. It is the 5th largest trade union affiliated to the TUC and STUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president is Janice Godrich – on Twitter @janicegodrich. The Scottish Secretary is Lynn Henderson.

If you require any further information please contact Joy Dunn, Parliamentary, Campaigns, Media and Research Officer contact mobile 07707 311 589 email joy@pcs..org.uk

Dec 032012
 

As part of Aberdeen City Arts Board’s Autumn Series, in conjunction with the Shared Planet Society, Mike Valance from Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Campaign talks about the Mexican Zapatista Movement at Belmont Cinema Café.

Mike Valance has spent time in the Chiapas region with the Zapatistas and has a detailed knowledge of the workings and history of the movement.

He will be selling a selection of goods produced by the Zapatistas after the event, the proceeds of which will help fund various projects in the autonomous Zapatista zones in Chiapas.

Background: On the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was due to be implemented in 1994, a guerrilla force calling itself the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (the EZLN, or ‘Zapatistas’), stormed five towns in Mexico’s Chiapas, taking the Mexican government by surprise. The Mexican army promptly deployed 15,000 troops in Chiapas to crush the uprising, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the execution of dozens of Zapatista prisoners.

The influx of Mexican troops was matched, however, by an influx of journalists, political activists and human rights workers from all over Mexico. News of the rebellion, and of the living conditions of many of the indigenous people, swiftly filtered out via the media and solidarity demonstrations subsequently took place all over Mexico, North America and the world.

Mexico’s business and political elite was terrified of the effect of the uprising on their NAFTA trading partners, and within 12 days a ceasefire was called with negotiations due to start in early February 1994. Mike will explore those beginnings and discuss the progress the movement has made over the last 18 years.

For more Info on the Chiapas Solidarity Campaign and the Zapatista Movement please see: http://edinchiapas.org.uk/about_chiapas

The talk takes place on Sunday 09 December from 2pm at Belmont Cinema Café.

Jul 062012
 

By Bob Smith.

Bunkers noo are in the shit
Some fair div tak the mick
Is yer bunker a couthie chiel
Or jist anither greedy prick
.
Parliament nae langer kens fit’s fit
Tap bunkers noo rule the roost
Weel o coorse we aa div ken
Their bunk balances aa git a boost
.
Lots o siller as a bonus is gien
Ti cyards faa appruved the cheatin
Time ti kick them faar it hurts
Nivver myn their bliddy greetin
Time we hid mair local bunks
Faar ye tauk ti a human face
Nae aye hingin on the phone
Ti be telt yer in seventh place
.
Shut doon the stock exchange
Gie investors back their cash
Crooked traders in “the City”
Wid see their empires crash
.
Stop the swickin aa ower the lan
It’s time tae git aff oor hunkers
An tell the bobbies far ti pit
Thae bunch o bad, mad bunkers

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
Image Credit: HOLIDAY WITH MONEY© Andy Brown | Dreamstime.com