Dec 232016
 

With thanks to Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Aberdeen Branch.

In a victory for free speech and democracy, December 14th saw a significant defeat for forces attempting to silence criticism of Israel , as a motion raised by Councillors Greig and Boulton of Aberdeen City Council was debated at a meeting of the full Council.
At first viewing, the motion had much to commend it, roundly condemning racism and xenophobia and calling for tolerance and diversity in the city.

However, on a more thorough reading, aspects of the text raised concerns with a number of individuals and organisations, who recognised the potential for the motion – if passed unamended – to actively lead to suppression of freedom of speech and political protest.

The concerning points stated that (author’s emphasis):

“That this Council..
3. Believes that the best way to promote peace and harmony in the world is to build cultural, academic and economic bridges.
4. Rejects any attempt to drive individuals, families and legitimate businesses away from Aberdeen on grounds of race, religion or country of origin and condemns any organisation that pursues such a policy.”

Any person of conscience who was involved in the international campaign of boycott against apartheid South Africa, or the current campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, will recognise the danger inherent in those innocuous-looking paragraphs – indeed, if passed in the 1980’s, the motion would have put the Council not only in a position opposing the international boycott campaign against the South African apartheid regime, but also actively condemning any organisation who did!

These concerns were proved well-founded when the joint proposers of the motion were quoted in the press, directly linking the motion to current BDS activity in Aberdeen, specifically the ongoing campaign by SPSC Aberdeen Branch against Jericho Dead Sea Cosmetics’ stall in Union Square.

The councillors voiced vague unsubstantiated accusations of ‘anti-Semitism masked as anti-Israel sentiment’, a charge robustly challenged by Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell, who responded:

“We hope the city councillors will continue with the city council’s proud historical record of opposing racism and apartheid in South Africa and by also opposing the racist apartheid policy of the current Israeli government. Criticism of the crimes committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people is not being anti-Semitic.”

SPSC members contacted councillors ahead of the debate to voice their concerns over the motives behind the motion, i.e. the bid to stifle criticism of Israel and prevent legitimate protest.

The campaign to criminalise BDS activity and support for Palestinian rights is not new, but is relentlessly gathering pace, with Theresa May’s new definition of anti-Semitism the most recent threat to legitimate criticism of Israel, openly conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

Fiona Napier from Aberdeen branch of SPSC said:

“The national boycott campaign against Jericho (targeted due to its exploitation of the Dead Sea, highly symbolic of the apartheid nature of the Israeli occupation) has been the subject of increasingly sinister attack from the pro-Israel lobby and their supporters.

“A malicious campaign of unfounded claims has seen SPSC activists in court on ‘racially aggravated’ charges, and the campaign here in Aberdeen has been subject to unwarranted constant police attention, due to a constant stream of ‘anonymous’ calls reporting alleged ‘hate crimes’. Despite this opposition, we have refused to be silenced, and it is clear from Cllrs Greig and Boulton’s remarks that this motion is being used as yet another attempt to shut us down.”

Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) responded to the motion via a robust statement sent to all councillors before the debate, pointing out:

“The councillors putting forward the motion have been clever with their words, but if passed, we are concerned that this motion will put the City Council and its councillors in direct opposition to legitimate human rights campaign groups that are supported by many local individuals and organisations – and we presume many councillors too. Given the recent press comments from Cllr Greig, the motion is clearly directed at opposing such human rights groups and the ATUC as well.”

On the day of the Council meeting, an amendment to remove the two controversial paragraphs was tabled and following a vigorous debate, was passed overwhelming by 32 votes to 9.

During the debate, numerous speakers paid tribute to Aberdeen’s proud record of opposing apartheid and oppressive states, and urged colleagues not to allow that record to be compromised. Councillors recalled Aberdeen’s contribution towards fighting fascism in the Spanish civil war and the city’s active opposition to apartheid South Africa, and there were repeated calls to resist any attempt to stifle the right of individuals to speak out against injustice and oppression.

The amended motion which finally passed is certainly one that Aberdeen City Council can be proud of – one that celebrates diversity and tolerance and condemns racism and intolerance, but in no way attempts to curtail the right to lawful, legitimate protest. SPSC congratulates the Council on this principled position, and encourages others to take courage from this resounding defeat of the pro-Israel lobby in its attempt to subvert local democracy.

SPSC Aberdeen Branch
15 December 2016
aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk

7 minute video of highlights from Aberdeen City Council debate Wed 14 Dec 2016

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Dec 012016
 

Sometimes it’s best to keep it all in the family. Here’s a heartwarming tale from our roving reporter, Bec Hander.

money-euro-1144835_1280In a resounding victory for transparency, objectivity, and fair play, an Aberdeen City Senior Sustainable Development Officer was awarded 3 EcoCity Awards worth in the region of £1500 from Aberdeen City. The selection committee included academics, councillors, and several of the winner’s fellow ACC officers.

The Officer, also a director of a local community energy scheme that promises to ‘more than double’ the punter’s investment, is thought to be overcome by surprise at winning 3 of the 7 awards; he had expected to get them all we hear.

The award application details are:

“The EcoCity Awards recognise and reward local people for their efforts to make Aberdeen a more sustainable city. Members of the Sustainable Development Team in partnership with the Environmental Services Team, Transport Team and the Recycling Team, have worked together on the EcoCity Awards 2016 and invite submissions from individuals, community groups, schools, businesses, charities and other organisations.”

– and what could be more local than someone salaried by the City to work as a Senior Sustainable Development Officer?

Demonstrating its largess and generosity, the City Council and officers both recommended and invested in the scheme – very canny as they will ‘more than double’ their investment – and are going to assist with landscaping. They have already generously advertised the investment offer in their publication Our Green Times – modestly not naming the officer who is a director of this scheme, and who won an unequalled 3 Eco City awards.

Judges are thinking of changing the criteria next year, making it mandatory for award winners to already be working as city council officers. A few sore losers pointed out that normally a competition is closed to people who are related to, or work with, the judges or the organisation giving out the awards. Aberdeen City however always operates in such a transparent and fair manner that such criteria would not be necessary.

One of the winning officer’s awards was for his work as an individual.

It brought a tear to the eye of all present that this young man has managed to work full time for the council in a senior environmental capacity (is that full time? He must be working around the clock to avoid doing his hydro scheme on ACC taxpayer time or using ACC resources), get his outside project funded by the council, have the hydro advertised to the public in the council’s green publication, and somehow managed as an individual to get an extra £500 – or whatever it was.

Asked whether the council had any qualms about the promises publicly made by this winner to double a person’s investment, the council obligingly said it backs that statement completely. Should any investors not double their money, the council will, as advertiser, supporter, and investor in this scheme, be over the moon to make up any losses an investor might have.

It’s not as if there is any favouritism, cronyism, or mutual backscratching going on

This award-winning environmental officer managed to make great savings for the city. Not long ago, he ensured that local people on a photography course would have their photographs used in a publication that went to thousands of homes – without paying the photographers a penny or even asking their permission.

Most of course were just so humbled and honoured to see their work in print that they were overcome with emotion, even if some were residents of poor areas of the city – what’s money at the end of the day?

None of the directors of the hydro project are going to get any money from the project we have been told; in fact, they’re spending their own money with no thought of reward according to an email they sent. Just as well then that the city is putting money into its employee’s plans, advertising it, and bunging him the odd £1500 here and there – sorry – I mean giving him a well-deserved handful of awards based on him being just another average guy in the community.

Any similarity to this cash windfall and the time that arts grants money was awarded to an ACC arts officer who knew the judges is purely coincidental. It’s not as if there is any favouritism, cronyism, or mutual backscratching going on in Marischal College. With that kind of paranoid attitude, you’d be expecting them to give builders like Stewart Milne huge tracts of land for a song – and that’s never happened, has it?

Any suggestion that there might have been conflicts of interest, unethical overlaps in the roles of those involved in applying for and awarding awards to an ACC officer are without any foundation.

We can look forward to many more such schemes from our council in the future – make no mistake.

Images courtesy of Pixabay, used under creative commons license. Featured Image, credit: Geralt. Top right and thumbnail, credit: Janeb13.

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Nov 222016
 

Ransomware attacks are on the rise; corporations and individuals find their computers suddenly locked until a ransom is paid. The risks to data on such attacked computer systems are serious. Suzanne Kelly used a Freedom of Information request to uncover that the city council experienced a cyber attack.

computer-security-social-media-1679234_1280Despite the city holding data on all 225,000 Aberdeen citizens and area businesses, a malicious ransomware attacker managed to breach the city’s anti-virus and firewall protections.

Ransomware attacks happen when ‘phishing’ emails or spam links allow a programme into a computer system which then locks data away, until the owner of the system pays a ransom or manages to bypass the attack.

The City had been asked:

“Has your organisation ever been the victim of a ransomware attack which meant that an external hacker encrypted a PC or device or network within your organisation and demanded payment in order to decrypt the device?”

They answered that there was one such incident in the past 12 months.

The City had to remove all software from the relevant device; a spokesperson advised:

“We re-imaged the device. Re-imaging is the process of removing all software on a computer and reinstalling everything.”

A subsequent  FOI request will be made to determine if the responsible person or persons were identified, what the cost was to the city, and whether any data could have been accessed, if so what data, and what were the circumstances that allowed the ransomware in.

The City did not record how much money the attacker demanded as a ransom.

The City did not notify the authorities, although blackmail of any kind is a criminal offence, and citizens’ data could have been compromised. Computer World magazine warns that UK institutions are not taking ransomware threats seriously:

“Cyber criminals simply have to infect computer systems with malware designed to lock up critical data by encrypting it and demand ransom in return for the encryption keys.

“The occurrence of ransomware attacks nearly doubled, up by 172%, in the first half of 2016 compared with the whole of 2015, according to a recent report by security firm Trend Micro.

“Ransomware, the report said, is now a prevalent and pervasive threat, with variants designed to attack all levels of the network.

“Cyber criminals spearheading these attacks are creatively evolving on a continuous basis to keep enterprises guessing,” said Raimund Genes, chief technology officer at Trend Micro.

“Ransomware is typically distributed through phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading the malware, or through app downloads and compromised websites.”   

Police Scotland offers advice on this kind of crime:

“In order to prevent people becoming victims, Police Scotland is advising every computer user to ensure they are running the latest versions of security software; have their data backed up regularly to cloud services or devices not connected to their computer; be extremely vigilant about opening any unsolicited email; and visiting websites you are not familiar with, or do not have a business need to access.

“DCI Cravens added:

“There is a lot of help available online for both individuals and businesses and useful advice for everyone can be found at: https://www.getsafeonline.org/protecting-your-computer/ransomware/

“For businesses, Cyber Essentials is a new Government-backed and industry supported scheme to guide businesses in protecting themselves against cyber threats, and further information can be found by clicking on http://www.cyberstreetwise.com/cyberessentials/ “”

Picture courtesy of Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/en/social-media-internet-security-1679234/

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Nov 222016
 

marischalpicBy Suzanne Kelly.

While pondering whether to offer Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Evening Express a free base for one year in the controversial Marischal College office building, Aberdeen City Council has certainly been helping the paper financially as it spends £200,000 per annum on advertisements in the papers. 

A recent Freedom of Information request shows that the city council has advertised in Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s local papers to the tune of £626,500 over the last three years. 

This is a mean of £205,500 per year. 

The breakdown is as follows:

2016 – £199,818.78 (up to 25 October 2016)

2015 – £219,123.87

2014 – £197,513.68

The City explained:

“Unfortunately, we are unable to provide a breakdown of each expense. The types of expense that ACC would use Aberdeen Journals for would be, for example, Public Notices and Job Advertisements.”

The city also claims it would be too expensive to get a breakdown of what these ads are.

Aberdeenshire Council on the other hand spend a grand total of £6,998 on advertising with the two newspapers over the same three year period. When asked to check the figures, the Shire spokesperson confirmed this figure was all-inclusive.

The city declined to give a breakdown, stating there were a staggering 3,000 invoices for the time period, and the cost to them of collating the information was over £3,000.

There IS such a thing as free rent.

The City Council declines to answer whether it is planning to give free rent to the P&J or other future Marischal Square residents.

The City does advise:

“The discussions in relation to the proposals for the AJL terms have involved the advice of external property agents, the Council’s development partner and a number of Council officers.  The Council officers involved  were Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, and Asset Management Manager.” 

The P&J editor Damian Bates seems unsurprisingly keen to move to the building his papers previously called ‘controversial’. 

He commented in a recent article:

“It’s in no-one’s interests for it to sit empty and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to head back home; back into the city centre where we belong and where The Press and Journal started its amazing journey more than 270 years ago.

“We are now a multi-media business and this prospective move will provide a bright future for the Evening Express, P&J, Energy Voice and all our other products and sites. The council has been our landlord since approximately 1970 so nothing is going to change.”  

Some Free Advice on Free Rent, Expensive Advertising and Ethics.

Some notices must be published in newspapers for legal requirements. Job advertisements appear on the City Council’s website, which is free to access by anyone with a computer, and anyone with a library card can access computers for free. There is no excuse for cutting services while spending this kind of money on advertising.

Considering that jobs can be easily, freely posted on the city council’s website, and citizens are told that services and that citizens were told budget cuts have to be made, cutting down on advertising should have been a priority. In January Finance Committee Convener, Cllr Willie Young told the council’s advertising vehicle the Evening Express:

“It’s possible third sector organisations could see funding cut…We have to look at everything.”

Perhaps before any other services are cut, Aberdeen City Council might want to think twice about its advertising spend and giving new office space away for free, with the taxpayer picking up the tab.

According to the P&J, office space in Aberdeen commands a high price – or at least should do:

“…Aberdeen continues to lead the way for prime office rents, with Ryden reporting a current price of £32 per sq ft – higher than Glasgow’s £30 figure, with sites in Edinburgh and Dundee generating £28 and £15 respectively.” 

If the city could and should be making money out of the massive eyesore which could have been that civic square everyone in a position of power once Jonesed for (oh Sir Ian, where art thou? Why didn’t you want the civic square there? And I note that ‘Opportunity North East Limited’ has extended its accounting period so it won’t have to report at the end of this month now and has until the end of March 2017 – your comment welcome Sir Ian), and if the city has to ‘look at everything’ to find money – why should Aberdeen Journals Ltd. enjoy this largess?

Then again there is a small moral issue. For most of the rest of the UK, a newspaper has a duty to investigate with impartiality, serving as a check on government and a check on the powerful. As it stands, the P&J’s alliance to the editor’s wife’s boss Donald Trump is a dark stain.

Can the P&J really morally afford to be indebted to the city council it should be investigating, or has any pretence of journalism now left the building. We should be told.

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Jan 302015
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Marischal protest (6)a

A protest was held at 1pm at Marischal College on Saturday 24 January. The protestors came from all walks of life and all age groups; at least 200 were there. Credit: Suzanne Kelly.

Marischal College played host a large demonstration on Saturday 24 January, as hundreds took to the city council’s offices to protest a development which will change the area’s character forever.

Directly across from Marischal College, one of Scotland’s most important modern buildings, another glass box office / retail complex will add to our growing collection of anonymous, soul-less architecture.

With the old St Nicholas House now torn down, space and light enters this part of the city; the Provost’s House and Marischal College are both set off to far better effect.

A natural civic square – if such a thing is really needed further to the Castlegate (which hosted a protest last Saturday for Charlie Hebdo solidarity) – exists where St Nicholas stood, which would have required hardly any money to create. Sadly, it seems that commercial interests override scale, the existing architectural environment, and the historic importance of the Provost’s House.

A protest was held at 1pm at Marischal College on Saturday 24 January; the protestors came from all walks of life and all age groups; at least 200 were there.

I spoke to some of those present; all believe that an opportunity has been lost at the site of the former St Nicholas House and Provost Skene’s House, a small historic structure which will be claustrophobically dwarfed by the glass box architecture Muse developments have agreed with the city.

What this will mean either for road traffic or for the city’s chronic air pollution issues (we have 3 of Scotland’s most polluted roads with air particulate levels well above European emission rules). But it seems certain the plans will go ahead.

Alan Spence said:

“I think it’s a complete waste of money; it’s a monstrosity that nobody wants.”

One of the prime organisers, Gordon Robertson, added:

“Last week’s protest had only about 30 or 40 protestors, hopefully with today’s turnout we can drum up more support and get more signatures… I just think the new building is far too big; it’s not in keeping with the style of the existing buildings. It’s not what the people want. We have six shopping centres already; we have offices … this just isn’t the place for this development.”

I spoke to Alan Morocco who likewise was protesting. He spoke about Dundee’s public spaces, and felt we compared badly besides that city. Morocco said:

“We got rid of one monstrosity and it appears we’re replacing it with another. I don’t think it’s in keeping with the area.”

Most of the protestors were citizens without any particular political axe to grind. However, some people showed up who just might have been there for political point scoring.

Kevin Stewart of the previous ACC administration was in the crowd.

Marischal protest (4)When he was in power, we saw land being sold at prices so low that Audit Scotland condemned the practices which cost the taxpayer dearly in terms of money and space.

Stewart of course had been instrumental in implementing the draconian cuts to social programmes which saw thousands take to the streets in protest.

His particular time in the city council didn’t exactly take the views of the citizens into account when it came to budget cuts or to developments either; that government’s fondness of developers saw parcels of land handed to developers like Stewart Milne for small amounts of money and allowed longstanding environmental protection to be swept aside at Loirston Loch.

Tom Smith of Aberdeen City Gardens Trust was there – although there seems to be no record of his group – which was poised to take over Common Good Land in the form of Union Terrace Gardens for the £190 million ‘granite web’ project – objecting to the Muse plans formally.

As a formal objector to the plans myself, I had been one of many people given an opportunity to address the full council on the matter – but by the time the full council was to meet, the plans seemed all but finalised to me. It would be wonderful to think that someone, somewhere in planning could look at the scale of this proposal, the problems it will bring, and even at this late date admit this is a huge – and very huge – error.

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Jul 252014
 

Old Susannah locks horns with deer-slaying officials while wading through city documents on the deer slaughter going on around us.  By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryDoe! Old Susannah’s been home reading stacks of paperwork received from the City, in response to a freedom of information request. These papers are the basis for some Aberdeen Voice stories on the city’s deer ‘management’ and other issues. More coming soon.

Aberdeen City Council officers are none too pleased by this, as we’ve found out some, just the tip of the iceberg really, of what they’ve been playing at with the SNH’s blessing. Basically, we may have as few as nineteen deer left in the entire city. That’s from Danestone to Cove, Tullos to Cults. And of course, they want to kill more.

Some poor chap in Cults whose property borders the countryside says that scores of deer are coming into his garden, depositing ticks and nibbling at his little courgettes.

In effect, he wants the city to come and blast the creatures. Based on his verbal evidence this is what’s happening.

In other parts of the city, attempted dog thefts were reported; staffies were found with horrific fighting injuries, cats have disappeared, and a dog fighting ring was exposed some years back.

Well, in the same lot of correspondence in which the city is looking for ways to help kill the deer in Cults, it is also dryly explained that the police and the city aren’t interested in looking into dog fighting, because there is no actual evidence or eyewitnesses. One rule for one, it seems.

Alas! The city will be further embarrassed. The documents show that the city did not want the public to get too many facts about what’s going on.

A councillor had asked questions about roe deer culling and population, and the reply explains that the officer is afraid of giving too much information away. In another instance, deer were trapped in an enclosure on Tullos over a weekend, with not much to eat as the plants had all been killed by spraying.

The correspondence between the City’s people shows how these things work. For one thing, no one cares what happens in our parks at weekends, so don’t leave a message if it’s urgent.

Secondly, when the problem of two trapped, frightened deer was discovered, our trusty City operatives couldn’t decide whether to find a way to open the gate and shoo them out – difficult, admittedly; or just to shoot them. Decisions, decisions. Those involved were in agreement on one thing though: to solve the problem before the Evening Express got wind of it.

Got to get those priorities right you know.

The SNH thinks we should follow its non-binding guidelines, and have a maximum population on Tullos of three or four deer. How the roe deer survived for the past seven decades, minimum, with a fluctuating herd of three to five dozen is miraculous.

I’m glad the city thinks everyone knows and obeys all wildlife rules

Of course, the deer are deadly. We had a very small number of automobile incidents over the years, let’s just say slightly less in number than drunk driving and speeding-related accidents. My suggestion of putting up signs to warn motorists of deer crossing was dismissed.

As the documents explain, people don’t pay attention to signs.

Think on that when you see all the signs on the roads when you’re out and about. As per Aberdeen Voice and Evening Express articles, the remains of some animals were found in very suspicious circumstances. I had suggested erecting ‘no hunting or poaching’ signs at the park entrance. This was dismissed because you can’t put up signs for every illegal act.

I’m glad the city thinks everyone knows and obeys all wildlife rules, irrespective of their backgrounds, education and culture. So, no signs about not killing the deer, even though they were clearly being killed. Unless they’ve taken to surgically dismembering themselves.

Think on that when you next go to the ‘fun’ beach and see the signs prohibiting half a dozen recreational activities.  Trust your officials, they know what’s best. Maybe not what is best for you, for wildlife or for our levels of pollution, but they know what’s best for them.

Do feel free to drop your councillors and the architects of the deer’s demise, Aileen Malone, Peter Leonard, the SNH and ranger Ian Talboys a note of thanks. Ian is also on the board of an SNH- and taxpayer-funded group which encourages deer killing.

You will find their email addresses here. Let’s not forget well-paid consultant Chris Piper; he definitely got a quick buck from this wheeze.

Will anyone take responsibility, sorry, credit, for the crash in the deer population? No, they’re all busy being fawned over at award ceremonies for planting trees.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame LibDem Aileen HoMalone, except that for one thing she tried to blackmail animal lovers before the first Tullos cull:  pay £200,000+ for fencing, or we’ll kill deer, and the LibDem’s only election pledge adhered to was this tree scheme.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame the officers who kept repeating that we suddenly had more deer than we could manage, and who allowed 34 or 35 deer to be killed on Tullos alone in the first ‘tree for every citizen’ cull, when the agreed report said that 22 would be killed.

We were given that land to look after; we failed

It wouldn’t be right to blame the ranger, who insisted that the fairly new, and assuredly contentious SNH guidelines were put in place.

He was only following SNH orders: except that these were only guidance, and in no way legally binding.

And we all know we must follow orders without question.

That’s why the City keeps class sizes within the legal limits, for instance. It would also be wrong to blame the council for the fact that we’ve lost the parking lot near Nexen that we used to own, and the path that led from it to the hill. We were given that land to look after; we failed, and we lost it back to the private sector, conveniently for those who wanted to build on it.

No, clearly no one bears any responsibility for any of these trivial problems, and any day now there will be a lovely forest on Tullos. I’d start shopping for picnic baskets and blankets. Any day now, the nutritious soil of Tullos will produce a beautiful forest of healthy trees, trees which soon will be nearly as tall as the weeds surrounding them.

The Evening Express has two articles for your enjoyment

http://www.eveningexpress/anger-over-huge-fall-in-deer-population
http://www.eveningexpress/bodies-of-deer-found-on-parkland

It’s time for some definitions relating to this week’s news from the Granite City and beyond.

Corporate Responsibility: (Modern English compound noun) The concept that a business entity’s officers, shareholders and affiliates are responsible for the ethics, behaviour, financial health and operation of the entity.

Poor Mr Donald Trump, some people just don’t understand business, so he’s just a poor misunderstood paper billionaire. So what if he’s declared bankruptcy four or so times, leaving creditors to go belly up? It’s really not his fault. I know this because he says so.

And it’s certainly not his fault that some of the casinos in Atlantic City are to lay off 1400 or so people. One or two of the casinos may bear his name, but as he’ll tell you, these businesses, with twenty-foot high letters spelling out his name are obviously nothing to do with him. After all, he can’t be everywhere at once, can he?

There’s only so much that a poor guy can take on, even if he does have the business acumen and expertise of Sara Malone Bates to rely on.

So come on now, let’s stop picking on the poor guy. It’s not as if there’s some link between the Trumpster and Trump Plaza casino, unless you count:

“…Mr. Trump serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Atlantic City Associates (Trump AC) and has been President since June 2000. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Atlantic City Funding Inc. (Trump AC Funding) since June 2000. He has been the President of Trump Atlantic City Funding Inc., Trump Atlantic City Funding II Inc. and Trump Atlantic City Funding III Inc., since June 2000 … He has been the President of Trump Atlantic City Holding Inc., Trump Atlantic City Corporation … Mr. Trump has been the President and Treasurer of Trump Casinos Inc. (TCI). He served as Treasurer of Trump’s Castle Funding Inc. (Castle Funding) until April 1998 … He served as the Chief Executive Officer of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Funding Inc. and Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Holdings L.P since June 2000. He served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Trump Entertainment Resorts Funding, Inc. .. from June 2000 to 2005. He served as President of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. (THCR), Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Funding Inc. (THCR Funding) and Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings, L.P. (a/k/a Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Holdings LP (THCR Holdings)) …” http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=341397&privcapId=927734

Visit this link for the whole list of companies Trump is an executive of, but has no relationship with, if you have a few spare hours to get through the whole list.

So you see, there’s no story there.  I hope that’s drawn a line under it for you.

The funny thing is, some people suspect that there may be some dodgy financial dealings in Atlantic City, and that the underworld may be involved. Just because BBC’s Panorama found a link between Donald Trump and the criminal element is no more reason to think he’s involved with crime, than there is any reason to think he’s involved with any of the Trump casino businesses in New Jersey.

Do enjoy your game of golf at Trump Scotland Menie Links or Trump Turnberry, safe in the knowledge that the 1400 people about to lose their jobs, and the thousands who have lost their livelihoods previously, are not likely to rub shoulders with you at a Trump golf resort. Fore!

Gene Pool (English compound noun) The potential for genetic variation within a particular species or population of a species of animal.

I’m sure we’ll all be celebrating how the Tullos Hill tree saplings were rescued from the roe deer peril. Congratulations to those who left us with three or four deer on a hill that for decades supported several dozen animals.

A spoilsport however might question the science behind the rationale for exterminating the critters. These small deer live for six or seven years on average, and are

“65–75 cm (2.1–2.5 ft), and a weight of 15–35 kg (33–77 lb)”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_deer

and females usually bear one young per year.  Such a person may conclude that the Tullos Hill roe deer gene pool has been destroyed.

According to the boffins at ‘How Stuff works’ , you need a few animals to have a healthy gene pool:

“A large gene pool provides a good buffer against genetic diseases. Some of the common genetic problems that occur when the gene pool shrinks include:

  • Low fertility
  • Deformities
  • Genetic diseases

“The two most common places to see these effects are in animals nearing extinction and in animal breeds.”

So now that we have the ‘manageable’ figure of three or four Tullos roe left, perhaps the Danestone, Sheddocksley and Cults deer will hop on a bus to Tullos for dating purposes. Perhaps the SNH, ‘Scottish Natural Heritage’ to some, ‘Shootin ‘n Huntin’ to others, have achieved what some say was their and the City’s aim: get rid of the creatures altogether and grow some trees, which hopefully can be felled and sold.

The SNH, paid for by our taxes, in turn funds a private group, Lowland Deer Network Scotland, which lobbies local government to shoot deer, in partnership with other government members, funders and pro-hunting groups. Well done guys.

And well done in particular to ranger Ian Talboys, who is on this committee. It would be a shame if someone looked into the amounts of money involved, the group’s structure (it’s not listed with Companies House) and asked questions about the use of taxpayers’ money by a national government entity to push policy onto local government. No, that would be awful.

All of the stats about how the deer will suffer if not culled to these numbers sound very scientific, but they ignore little things like the gene pool, and that being free and grazing on grass, which is apparently their preferred food, is better than being dead. Trebles all round, and enjoy your free venison, City and SNH boffins: you’ve earned it.

And that’s some of what’s been going on in the ‘Deen this week.

Later this week:  Some definitions about our privacy, and monitoring by Inspired and others. Feel free to go about your normal business: someone is monitoring your every move and storing the data, permanently.

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May 302014
 

By Ken Hutcheon.
marischal pic lo

People will be aware that there is a major development being proposed where the old council buildings are being demolished at Broad Street.

Several hundred went to see the exhibitions by MUSE (the developers) and indeed many put in their comments and often objections to the plans they saw.

The final plans have now been submitted to Aberdeen Council to obtain approval.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, MUSE did not take those approx. 1100 comments and objections into account when arriving at their final design. (See the web site below for a breakdown of the feedback responses given to MUSE at the first exhibitions). So now is the time to make your comments or objections really count.

A website has been set up at  www.marischalsquare.weebly.com which shows the wonderful perspective in Central Aberdeen we are about to lose for generations unless you object by following the links on the web site which will take you through to Aberdeen City Planning.

There you can view the latest plans and make comments or objections to the plans online while on their site. These comments/objections will form part of the report which will go to Aberdeen City Planning Committee and have to be taken into account when the Council make their final decision on the plans.

After some correspondence with Aberdeen City the cut off date for objections or comments has been changed from 06/06/2014 to 18/06/2014 so there is time to lodge your comments on the plans.

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May 232014
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

BABaths

With local councillors from all parties supporting the move to reopen Bon Accord Baths, surely the thousands who want them reopened will prevail. The BBC was on hand recently for a photo call. Despite having a very small window of time to get supporters to the baths on a work day, Craig Adams, leading the Bon Accord Campaign, got nearly 100 people down on the day to show their support.

As well as the BBC, STV and Northsound were on hand, looking for photos and quotes. Aberdeen Voice spoke to one of the many supporters on the day, Kate Urbaniak, and her partner.

Kate said:

 “It’s a shame about how things are going on here; look at St Nicholas House.  I learned how to swim in these baths, and if there is a chance they could be put to good use, then they should be. I used to come here, my family would come here, and people used to come here and have baths if they didn’t have baths at home. It’s a great building, and I’ve never been in nicer baths.”

Mr Urbaniak talked about the carbon footprint of the people who would be driving to the large new pool and how convenient the bon accord baths were for transport.

There are many reasons for opening this much-loved city centre recreation opportunity; for more information look here.  https://www.facebook.com/savebonaccordbaths Many skills will be needed to get the project going; see how you can help.

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May 162014
 

Barney Crocket addresses rally Image credit John AberdeinBy Bob Smith.

Puir Barney he’s bin crockett
Fair stabbit in the back
Jist like yon Julius Caesar
Bi fowk fae his ain pack

“Et tu Willie” did Barney gasp?
Yer a worthless cheatin w-nk-r
Nae ony better than
A City o London banker

Seems they plottit his doonfa
Fin the chiel wis in The States
Jist shows fit fowk can dee
E’en tho ye thocht ‘em mates

A new leader o the Cooncil
Her name ‘tis Jenny Laing
Foo lang wull es quine laist
Afore back stabbin stairts again

Bit fa supplied the dagger
Aat in Barney’s back wis stuck?
It cwid hae bin ony Labourite
Fa wi Barney hid nae truck

If ony lessons can be learn’t
So future leaders can safe be
Is nae ti ging on a swanny
In yon “Land O The Free”

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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Nov 012013
 

By Duncan Harley

St Nicks in the building ofThe old Aberdeen Council office building formally known as St Nicholas House is being torn down piece by piece after less than fifty years.

At today’s prices, the £2m cost of the 1965 project may seem small fry to many Aberdeen residents, who are more used to municipal architectural bills on a far grander scale.

Granite-built projects such as Marischal College, which lies just across the road from the part-demolished 1960s concrete multi-storey office block, often last for hundreds of years at a far lower cost per century.

Of course, in its day, St Nicholas House was seen as the way ahead in terms of municipal architecture. Scottish Secretary Willie Ross officially opened it on the first of May 1970. The retiring city architect, George Keith, was present at the opening. Seemingly St Nicholas House was one of the “outstanding features of the considerable role Mr Keith played in the design of post war Aberdeen.”

Many city residents were looking forward to its demolition. The blowing up of the building was a favoured option, and camera enthusiasts are reported to have been enthusiastically checking out vantage points all around the city in expectation of the event. However the building’s tightly contained position within the city centre precluded destruction by an explosives team, and the current demolition carries on piecemeal.

Aberdonians are this week invited to comment on plans to re-develop the site. Gordon McIntosh, Director of Enterprise and Planning, has described the new proposals by Muse Developments, as “exciting.”

If you care about the future of your city, take a look at the consultation exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery. It runs until November 2nd and is free to view. Employees from Muse Developments Ltd and the Aberdeen City Council will be on hand to advise and listen to your comments.

Until 8th November, you can have your say online. Relating to Marischal Square, views are being sought on transport options for Broad Street. An online questionnaire will be open until 22nd november.

A more detailed scheme to re-develop the site is expected to be lodged with the City Planning Department in a few months.

Comments to the Marischal Square Working Group can be sent via Councillor Marie Boulton, Depute Leader of the Council at :  mboulton@aberdeencity.gov.uk

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