Oct 092013

Potala Palace by Duncan HarleyBy Duncan Harley.

Dr Choje Akong Rinpoche, the founder and abbot of the Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Scotland, has reportedly been “assassinated” in the south west Chinese city of Chengdu.
Dr Akong was aged 73 and had lived in Britain since 1963. He co-founded Samye Ling in 1967 in a former nurses home in Eskdalemuir.

It was the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West and is currently home to a community of around 60 monks and lay-people.

A statement from police in the Chinese city of Chengdu said Choje Akong Rinpoche, his nephew and his driver were killed in a residential area and that three suspects had stabbed the men to death in a dispute about money. The usual suspects have been arrested by Chinese Police.

A statement posted on the Samye Ling website by Akong’s brother Lama Yeshe Rinpoche said:

“To all dear friends of Samye Ling and Choje Akong Rinpoche, I am very, very sorry to inform you all that tragically, my brother Choje Akong Rinpoche, my nephew and one monk who was travelling with them were all assassinated in Chengdu today.”

The Foreign Office said:

“We can confirm the death of a British national in Chengdu, China on 8th October and we stand ready to provide consular assistance.”

Akong Rinpoche will be missed.

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Oct 262012

Another week of fun and games have passed. Old Susannah was pleased to have attended a few nice dinners, and enjoyed a few nice BrewDogs.

Malone is synonymous with quality, elegance, good taste and beauty.  Jo Malone that is.  A lovely champagne and canapes event was enjoyed by a few dozen people this past Wednesday in their Aberdeen showroom, and I’ve got a few lovely new colognes and candles.

As to the other, slightly less fragrant local Malone, Aileen must be pleased as punch that the ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ scheme has won an award!  More on that later.

I am also very grateful indeed to have now made it to 100 columns.

There never seems to be a shortage of things to write about in our city, shire and country. Just when you think you have seen it all (from seagulls stealing crisps from newsagents to men getting their heads stuck in rubbish bins), something even more preposterous comes along.

The virtues of our former council and its employees, our Independence woad-warrior First Minister, some of our worthy citizens and even Japan have been inspiring me with their virtues of late. Faith, Hope and Charity are considered to be among the most noble of virtues.  Let’s see where they fit in with this week’s developments.

Faith: (noun) An unswerving loyalty to a cause or religion, trust in a person, group or religion, often where there is no hard evidence or logic to support taking such a position.

I guess we all need a little  more faith, particularly in our leaders and those who want our money for charity.

To start with, we should take it on faith that Alex Salmond did/did not take legal advice over the legal aspects of an independent Scotland and the EU.  He definitely did/did not say anything of the kind.  He also did/did not spend taxpayer money trying to thwart a Freedom of Information Request which would have shown he did/did not take legal advice.  Hope that’s cleared things up.

When Japan had a catastrophic tsunami event some while back, like many others, I sent money in good faith, believing that the money was going to be used to help those affected by this natural disaster.  Thankfully, there was so much money left over that the Japanese government was able to take a million or two and put it to the very charitable use of a PR campaign to smear the Sea Shepherd.

Now the Sea Shepherd is an irritating vessel and crew that try to stop scientific progress.  They are interfering with Japan’s scientific reasearch programme on whales and dolphins which involves scientifically harpooning the creatures and eating them, and/or selling them to aquariums, where the lucky dolphins and whales can be scientifically taught how to jump through hoops for food.

We just saw the annual slaughter (a fairly recent event really – don’t believe the hype this goes back hundreds of years – it’s new, hip and trendy) of about 50-60 marine mammals in Japan’s Taji Cove.  Bothersome protestors tried to monitor and deter the event.

Perhaps those who enjoy seeing animals perform in aquariums might like going along to Taji next year?  It is after all what they’re supporting when they pay to go to dolphin and whale shows.

I’m thinking of sending Japan some more money now, to help with the science, you know.  You gotta have Faith.

There is, by the way, a Japan Facebook page, extolling the more pleasant aspects of the country.  Alas, it no longer allows me to make posts.

Some guy named Richard posted a comment on the Japan page to the effect of ‘shut up about the bloody dolphins (I guess they were bloody by then, having just been killed in a tiny cove they had been held captive in for weeks) – posting about stuff on Facebook is stupid and doesn’t do any good.’

Richard of course decided to share his wisdom about the futility of making posts on Facebook by… making a post on Facebook.  I  hear he may look for a job in the BiG Partnership.

Hope: (noun) An absence of despair, a belief that something good will happen.

Hope is likewise a great virtue.  When the old Council had Aileen Malone running the Housing & Environment committee, it was hoped she’d do a great job.  Result.  She, Ranger Ian Tallboys and Pete Leonard very much hoped that no one would realise there was a deer cull attached to their excellent ‘tree for every citizen scheme’ when the consultation to the public was open; they also hoped no one would notice they didn’t mention the cull at the time.

They definitely hoped private companies would come forward with money, but strangely enough, no one wanted their brand linked to slaughtered deer.

One of their hopes has come true:  Princess Anne is shown in a lovely photo this week in the local news, giving Ian Tallboys… a certificate!  I always thought he was certifiable.  Can honours in the New Year be far away for Talltales, HoMalone and Pete?  I know I hope so.

However, I hope no one will be writing to the Princess’ secretary, giving full details of this amazing scheme, such as the 2,500 people who signed a petition against the cull, the scheme’s financial accounts, the fact the city let Chris Piper write a report which in effect recommended giving him loads of dosh for killing our deer, and the fact that a few thousand less trees than promised were planted on Tullos.

It should be noted that the ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme is nearly as scientific as Japan’s whaling programme.  It started with a LibDem election pledge which was a soundbite (A tree for every citizen! Genius!) Then, per one of Tallboy’s scientific powerpoint reports, one of the challenges was…. to figure out where to put all these trees.

Soundbite first, reality second.  Did it matter we lost a meadow and a herd of nearly tame, dearly-loved deer?  Not in the least.

I hope no one will be sending the latest photos which prove the exposed ground is basically a pile of rocks with lots of trash mixed through it, and the place is now an absolute shambles.

Here’s hoping nothing will spoil this great triumphant moment of success.

As Ian Tallboys put it:

“It is great news that the hard work of everyone involved is now being recognised on the national stage.” 

As I am fond of saying:  Result!  I will do all I can to ensure they get the recognition they deserve.

Charity: (noun) the act of giving assistance, whether financial or practical, to those in need.

The Aberdeen Cyrenians, a charity for the homeless was just one of many local charities to have its budgets slashed by the Kate Dean adminstration back in the good old days.  Rather than working to collect some £11 million of bad debt, and manage things wisely, we cut down on wasteful charities.  Quite right too.

Thankfully we have since been more selective in what charities we give money to – or at least the previous administration did.  I can announce for those of you who didn’t know that Aberdeen City generously gave £22,245.00 to a great cause in November 2011.  This amount was for an ‘Enterpreneur / Enterprise Education Pilot’.

Was the  money requested by some grass roots group with little resources?  Perhaps by a local charity with no means of its own?  Was it a group that needed money for this pilot more than the other charities which had funding slashed recently?

Indeed.  Yes, this money was paid by the taxpayer to The Wood Family Trust.  You know, the people who brought you – well, nearly brought you – the Granite Web.

You might be wondering what kind of a charity the Trust is.  So am I.  As we know, billionaire Sir Ian promised to give £50 million in aid to Africa if we didn’t want  the web.  I am sure Africa will be getting this much needed aid any second.  When the Wood Family Trust shortly reveals its next audited accounts as charities must, I’m sure all will be clear.

They seem to do a great deal of work in Rwanda, and have  partnership of some sort with the Sainsbury organisation to do so.  Now you may have read of Rwanda’s AIDS epidemic and the problems of AIDS being passed to children.

( Click On The Picture to Enlarge. ) 

Perhaps you think of its early mortality rates, and the genocide which plagued the land, and the povery that most people live in.  The Wood Family Trust is going to change all of that – by improving how Rwanda landowners grow and market tea.

There is an old saying, ‘give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish, and he’ll never go hungry.’  I think this needs an update, and I might suggest: ‘give a man a better way to grow tea on his land, and the wealth will trickle down to the neediest members of that society – or not.’

Charities get all sorts of amazing tax breaks; some of the more cynical among us might ask questions of some charities.  What do they actually do?  Who or what problem are they helping?  Do they have  many people on board who earn over £50k per year?

If they have millions of pounds, how much is actually going on direct charitable work for others?  Are they asking for taxpayer money which then means other charities, schools, the elderly or people with special needs must go without?  Good thing we’re not cynical and have faith in charities.

Are all charities not for profit?  Not exactly.  For instance there is a charitable trust based in the tax haven of Lichtenstein run by a banking group.  A nice little wheeze was recently exposed when an accountant was jailed for a £5 million pound tax evasion scam – which he’d apparently skimmed off those clients he was helping.

Basically, a few worthless shares were artifically pumped up and over valued.  These shares were sold to charities, and donated / moved on.  In a complex scheme, the ‘charities’ were able to claim the price difference back and got gift aid as well, while getting tax relief.  Maybe we should all go into the charity business.

Next week:  more little gems I uncovered while looking through last year’s invoices – including some Milne invoices, and a BiG surprise.  Cheerio!

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Aug 242011

Aberdeen’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament group has held a memorial service marking 66 years since the nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War Two. Philip Sim attended the annual event and brings us the following account.

There was a healthy turnout at the event on the banks of the River Dee, where speakers and spectators alike braved the pouring rain and swirling winds.

The service included speeches from a range of political and community groups, including SNP MSP Maureen Watt, Nathan Morrison of the Labour Student’s Association, Gordon Maloney of the Aberdeen University Student’s Association, and Clive Kempe of the Green Party.

Hiroshima Memorial on the River Dee from Philip Sim on Vimeo.

Messages of support were read out from Tomihisa Taue, the mayor of Nagasaki, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, and Aberdeen North MP Frank Doran. Poems and songs were recited, all conveying the same broad anti-nuclear message.

After a minute’s silence, the group lit two hundred peace lanterns, one for each thousand people killed in the nuclear attacks on Japan in 1945, and floated them down the River Dee as the sun went down.

CND rallies were also hosted in Dundee, Ayr and Paisley, while people gathered to hear speeches in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens and Glasgow’s west end.

Aug 012011

With Thanks to Dave Watt and Aberdeen CND.

Saturday the 6th of August sees the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the world’s first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August the 6th in 1945.

Aberdeen CND will be holding a commemoration of the event at the River Dee on the evening of the 6th.

Previous years have seen an increasing amount of attendees at this event with representatives from political parties, faith groups and members of the public.

We will release 200 peace lanterns on the River Dee to commemorate the 200,000 men, women and children who died. There will also be short contributions from persons representing Student organisations, Trade Unions, Faith Groups and Civic leaders. 

All are welcome at the event and messages of support have so far been received from the Mayor of Nagasaki (see below), Scotland’s First Minister and local MP Kevin Stewart.

Message from the Mayor

“Today I would like to say a few words on behalf of the people of Nagasaki for Hiroshima/Nagasaki  Memorial Ceremony being held in Aberdeen.

“I would first like to extend my appreciation for the people of Aberdeen and their continued participation and support in lasting peace activities.

“At 11.02am on August 9, 1945 Nagasaki was devastated by a single atomic bomb. With 74,000 people killed instantly in the explosion and a further 75,000 who suffered injuries, Nagasaki fell into ruin. Those who narrowly escaped death were dealt terrible incurable physical and psychological wounds caused by the after effects of the radiation that they suffer from even today, 66 years later.

 “Through the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial Ceremony, I hope many people of Aberdeen can deepen their general understanding of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and help us work towards realizing a world free of nuclear weapons and everlasting peace.

“In closing, I would like to extend my best wishes for the success of this event and for the good health of all the people who are gathered here today.”  – Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki.

Date: Saturday 6th August 2011, at 8.30pm

Venue:  the Fisherman’s Hut on the River Dee
(by Riverside drive – See map)

CND campaigns to stop any future mass destructions! We call on the Government to:
  • Scrap the Trident nuclear system. 
  • Cancel plans for the next generation nuclear weapons
  • Work for international nuclear disarmament

For further details contact:   www.banthebomb.org/AbCND  or telephone:   0787-904-6779