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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Oct 112012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s event’s in the ‘Deen and beyond and finds some bizarre and downright ugly situations worthy of  protest. By Suzanne Kelly.

It’s been a pretty wild week here in the Granite Web City, and wilder still in the wider world.  A man was killed in Torry; a man and two women are being held on suspicion of murder.  Plans for thousands of homes will soon go on display for the Bridge of Don area.

The existing residents want to get rid of any remaining ‘underused’ green areas, and they cite the excellent road network and public transportation in support of this brilliant idea, one which won’t add to pollution, traffic congestion, urban sprawl or over-crowding at all.  Result!

As I listen to Eels and enjoy a few half pints of Punk in BrewDog, I sadly realise the honeymoon is well and truly over between Donald and Alex.  The Donald’s revelations in the news this week caused bafflement, amusement and anger. 

Inexplicably, the facts seem to indicate Trump is telling the truth when he claims Salmond sought the bewigged New Yorker’s approval over the Megrahi affair.  The shock of Trump implicated in telling the truth (however belatedly) is proving difficult for the public to deal with; coupled with the fact Trump actually kept quiet about anything (well, until now) the story is quite surreal.  Alex is said to have turned salmond pink at the news.

Whether or not you think Megrahi was guilty or not (and there is evidence pointing to CIA involvement and evidence tampering), clearly the most important thing was to get the American public onside with the decision to repatriate him.  And what better way to curry favour with the US than to show that their beloved leader and greatest political thinker, Donald Trump, was on message?

At the time of writing it is unclear whether or not Trump’s blessing for Scottish independence is being sought.  I understand that the UN are appealing to him to end the Syria/Turkey crisis, and that NASA are asking him to back further space exploration.  Rumours that Obama is asking Sir Alan Sugar to back health care reforms are unconfirmed.  Alex Salmond is understood to be applying for slots on ‘The Apprentice’, ‘Ex-First Minister Factor’ and ‘It’ll be all right on the night (or not)’.

Here in the UK, the ConDems are pulling out all the stops to help workers.  Thanks guys.  They’re also  pulling out all the employment rights too (more on that later).

Aside from asking workers to give up rights to fair treatment at work in exchange for company shares, a mandatory pension scheme for the lower waged is being phased in.  You and your employer will pay into a mandatory pension scheme – unless you opt out.  Sounds wonderful!  However, looking this gift horse in the mouth would be my suggestion.

A little boy of 5 was treated like Bin Laden as he tried to get on a flight in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast

Of course, it should not concern you at all that this pension is linked to the stock market – what could possibly go wrong with your mandatory investment?  It’s not as if markets can be unpredictable, or perish the thought, stocks can ever be manipulated (except perhaps allegedly by Piers Morgan).

Remember, the Government has your best interests at heart.

Across the pond, the Americans are gearing up for presidential elections.  Debates are being held, flags being waved, and Homeland Security continues in its unchecked bid to reduce the country to a police state.  A little boy of 5 was treated like Bin Laden as he tried to get on a flight in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast.  Fair enough, he could have just been back from months in a terrorist training camp.

On the other hand, intrepid homeland security people managed to arrest someone after using clever deductive logic.

A US citizen flew in from Japan with slightly unusual luggage.  According to the BBC, he wore a bullet proof vest, had knives, handcuffs, body bags, a smoke bomb, collapsible batons, leg irons, hatchet and a bio-hazard suit and mask.  And flame-retardant trousers.

Old Susannah thinks there are at least three possibilities. One – he could have been intending on getting a rental car and driving out of the airport without getting mugged or carjacked.  Two – he could have been about to visit his in-laws.  By the way, when he boarded his flight in Japan, no one batted an eyelid at his personal effects.

Or possibility three – he was in Japan as part of the corralling, starvation, traumatising, and air-freighting dolphins and whales in Japan’s notorious Taji Cove.

For over 10 days a variety of marine mammals have been herded into a tiny area, and are being air-freighted all over the world to perform in aquariums.

Observers saw a young dolphin crammed into a sling, hoisted in the air and as it was chucked into a shipping container, it was crying (yes they do cry – they are social animals with feelings).  Still, what could be more fun for the whole family than to watch an intelligent creature used to roaming the oceans confined instead to a 50 foot tank being forced to perform for your entertainment or be starved?

 They were embarrassed, and took 45 minutes before giving me some propaganda on a CD

A San Diego Sea World Orca has a massive chunk taken out of its face; this they claim is just a little accident, and not the vicious bite it appears to be.

A dolphin in Japan similarly has a massive wound and appears ill.

You could be forgiven for thinking that these wild, beautiful creatures deserve to live in peace in the oceans, not being trapped in an unspeakably small Japanese cove in nets, waiting to be bought, starved or killed.  But that’s what Japan’s up to.  I guess we should be grateful Japan is not doing its famous ‘scientific’ experiments on these creatures (yet) – i.e. cooking them up.

The Taji Cove animals are often herded up and slaughtered – we’ll see if the slaughter is still to come.  Please do feel free to protest to the Japanese embassy.  (In fact some years ago I stopped into the London Japanese Embassy, and asked for information on their ‘scientific’ whaling project.

They were embarrassed, and took 45 minutes before giving me some propaganda on a CD.  They were polite – but they seemed to not believe their own hype.  It was like being at a  LibDem convention).  Here’s the embassy email:  info@ld.mofa.go.jp,

Old Susannah has many Japanese friends and since childhood has been interested in Japanese culture and history.  But if this situation isn’t resolved now and the animals released, there won’t be any more aid from me going to Japan the next time it’s decimated by say a nuclear accident of its own making. Like many others, I donated over the Fukushima disaster.

I’m not amused by Japan’s failure to listen to the rest of the world begging it to release the animals, and I’m less amused to find out that the real root cause of Fukushima seems to have been corporate greed and mismanagement.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18751374

Go on Japan – release these animals, and stop perpetuating the idea of these highly intelligent animals being harmed for entertainment in aquariums.

A German observer was arrested; there is an international protest and presence in the area.  In fact it’s been quite a fortnight for protests around the world.  Some small, some large, some effectual, some laughable (but not the great pro Granite Web protest of course), and some resulting in shootings.

A few definitions are in order to try and deal with all this chaos.

Peaceful Protest: (compound noun, Eng.)  An event or campaign conducted in a non-violent manner to bring about justice or social change.

A Pakistani girl of 14 is in hospital in a coma; she was shot by the Taliban for ‘promoting secularism’.  To you and me, that means she wanted women to be able to get an education, possibly even choose their own husbands.  Ah, these young people today.

No doubt she’ll grow out of it – if the Taliban don’t kill her.  Young Yousafzai has been a peaceful protestor since the age of 11 – I guess that’s what happens when you let girls learn to read.  Down with this sort of thing.  I think she just needs a good husband.  Probably true of those Pussy Riot girls too.

Pussy Riot have endured maltreatment, isolation and human rights denial.  Serves them right – the protested against Putin – what’s not to like about Vlad?

As per usual, we have Annie Lennox siding with the Riot girls in support of their right to protest.  If you remember, some pro Granite Web people wrote to the papers that Lennox had no right to have an opinion on the web as she no longer lived in Aberdeen.  Therefore, Lennox and anyone else who’s not living in Russia or Pakistan has any right to champion the human rights of people living there.  I’m happy to have cleared that up.

Keep in mind that our very own Gordon McIntosh (perhaps one of those unnamed city admin officials who the councillors are being mean to) wanted to curtail our right to protest in Aberdeen.  Sadly, the council voted him down.  No wonder he feels hard done by.

Putting these trouble-making teens and women to shame, there are far wiser, older, richer people with far greater human rights taking a stand in the UK for our freedoms.  Let’s have a look at two of the higher-profile UK freedom warriors.

Yellowism: (noun) Belief shared by one person, Vladimir Umanets, that er, yellow is important.  Or something.

While this upstart Pakistani girl was wasting her time on human rights campaigning in the face of a violent male-dominated terrorist organisation, brave Vladimir strode into the Tate Britain, and wrote some important words (which no one understands) on a multi-million pound Mark Rothko painting.  Hero!

Rothko is only worth about $80 million, so no wonder the guards did nothing at the time.  Umanets claims while he wrote on the valuable artwork, he didn’t ‘deface’ it.  No doubt the principles of Yellowism, the cause he says he’s fighting for, are worth it, and Rothko would be  happy.  However, I’m not sure the gallery owners and the law will necessarily agree with Umanets.

Umanets follows in the courageous footsteps, well breaststrokes, of the brave Aussie who swam into the Thames last summer, ruining the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge.

Did he want to save whales, protest the banking crisis, stop Trident, champion Yellowism?  No, he was combatting ‘elitism’, which came as a happy surprise to some of the less wealthy members of each team’s crew.  Some of these people had to work their way through OxBridge, and had dedicated months to training for this event, but never mind.  Elitism has been defeated!

To the less enlightened, these two protestors might look like self-centered, self-serving, neurotic, attention-seeking sad cases, but I’m sure history will show them for the heroes they are.  Eventually.

Worker’s Rights: (compound noun) Basic principles protecting the rights of the employee from exploitation.  (Price £2,000 plus).

Returning to the theme of all the great things the ConDems have done to us – sorry, for us – George Osborne’s great plans just keep on coming.  Perhaps the best one yet is this new plan for workers to surrender their rights in exchange for company shares or a bit of cash.  This scheme will unite the workers, unite political parties, end the economic crisis, ensure permanent prosperity, and probably guarantee a tree for every citizen.

You will sell any rights at work which took centuries to gain, and in return you’ll own a piece of the company you’re working for (however small or however lacking in real value).  Rumours that employees will also be encouraged to sell their souls to Old Nick Clegg are as yet unconfirmed.

Have you discovered that your company is manipulating the LIBOR rates?  Is your hospital board cutting corners?  Are you working for a deranged man who brings a gun to work in Torry and shoots gulls out of his window (any resemblance to Mervyn New is purely coincidental)?  Are you a long-suffering senior admin on ACC with councillors being mean and asking you to explain your actions?

Well, you’ll not be able to do anything about it.

For one thing, you’ll be a shareholder, and if you do anything to make your company look bad, you’ll be devaluing your own shares.  This is what the ConDems are calling a ‘win-win’ situation.  Old Susannah may well have to re-examine what ‘win-win’ means, because either the LibDems or I am confused.  Must be me.

Next week:  a closer look at the ‘independent’ report saying mean councillors must be nice to the saintly city council officials – and perhaps a bit of financial news, too.

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Jul 262012
 

With Thanks to Jonathan Russell  and Aberdeen CND.

Aberdeen CND invites you to mark the 67th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons.

In August 1945 the US dropped 2 atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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.


Date: Monday 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 Jonathan on 07582-456-233

May 312012
 

This is one of a series of articles being produced by Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).  You can read further articles in both past and future editions of Aberdeen Voice. With thanks to Jonathan Russell.

Even a nuclear power plant that suffers accidental damage has dire long-term consequences, for instance those following Fukushima’s nuclear disaster and although the first reports suggested that harvests contained levels of contamination well under the safety limit for human consumption:

  • more recent research by the Universities Space Research association in the US State of Maryland has found that the area of eastern Fukushima had levels that exceeded official government limits for arable land and
  • researchers estimated that cesium-137 (the longest lasting contaminant) found close to the nuclear plant was eight times the safety limit, while neighbouring regions were just under this level.

Much more worryingly, there is a daily struggle to keep 1,500 rods cool which, otherwise, would release huge amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.

If hit by another similar earthquake, the US National Council on radiation protection, along with Japanese experts, have stated that if there were another earthquake, there is a 70% chance that the entire fuel pool structure would collapse, leading to a disaster that would release 134 curies of cesium -137 – roughly 85 times the amount released at Chernobyl.

These experts believe this would destroy the world environment and our civilization, which has led to Japan decommissioning its entire nuclear program and move to Green Energy.  In Germany, the public outcry has led them to stop building nuclear power stations and engage in a programme of closing down existing ones and moving even more to Green Technology.

  We have yet to find out the long term effects of the depleted Uranium

Of course Nuclear Technology has improved since the building of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant and neither Scotland, nor the United Kingdom, is likely to be affected by an earth quake the size of the one in Japan.

Nuclear power stations have to take this possibility into account in their design (the Health and Safety Executive did note two problems with seismic design at the Heysham and Torness nuclear power plants).

Fukushima has highlighted the extremely scary potential for disaster if we go down the nuclear route as many risks, such as human error and terrorist attacks, would still exist.  Also some nuclear power stations, such as Torness, are located near to the sea and the rise in sea levels could lead to flooding.

The present Scottish government is committed to closing down our nuclear power stations while, in contrast, the UK  government is planning to build nuclear power stations, although German firms which would have been involved have pulled out.

We have yet to find out the long term effects of the depleted Uranium used by Western forces and NATO in recent conflicts from Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Libya.

What we do know is that death rates and serious malformations of many babies have already greatly increased as a result of the use of depleted uranium in our Western weaponry.  But what might happen in the case of unavoidable accidental damage, or terrorist action and what might survivors then regret?

Aberdeen and District CND have meetings each month at 7.30pm on the top floor of the Belmont Cinema Belmont Street Aberdeen

May 112012
 

We read regularly in our local and national media of opposition to the development of wind energy and in particular wind turbines. Jonathan Russell adds his contribution to the debate.

There are clearly conflicts between local environmental and social interests and wider environmental and social interests when it comes to future energy use.

It is clear that many consider wind turbines are a blot on the local landscape.
Concerns have also been raised about their efficiency.

I would like to make the following points in relation to:

  • Our future energy needs
  • Economic recession and
  • Climate change.

We are facing energy crises as our gas and oil reserves decline. To import energy when we are in considerable economic debt is not a rational option and will lead to ever increasing costs of energy and a decline in our standards of living. Many of our poorer citizens would go without proper warmth- do people want this?

Coal produces high levels of carbon and would be both highly expensive and of high risk to re-instate. Nuclear Power is more expensive than wind energy and would take longer to come on stream than green technology and requires a greater subsidy. Other Green Technology is also in a developmental stage and we need energy in the short as well as the long term.

Nuclear Power also has the considerable problem of decommissioning nuclear waste, with risks to future generations and with a considerable extra cost.  It also has, as we are seeing unfold in Japan, the potential horrific effects of accidents. Radiation effects are greater than we were initially told, and there is a daily struggle to keep 1,500 rods cool which otherwise would release huge amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.

Much more worryingly, the US National Council on radiation protection have stated – along with Japanese experts – that if hit by another similar earthquake, there would be a 70% chance that the entire fuel pool structure would collapse. This would release 134 curies of Caesium 137, roughly 85 times the amount released at Chernobyl. These experts believe this would destroy the world environment and our civilization.

The public outcry in Germany has led them to stop building nuclear power stations, and engage in a program of closing down existing ones and moving even more to Green Technology. Of course Nuclear Technology has improved since the building of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, and we are not likely to be affected by an earthquake the size of the one in Japan.

However it does highlight the scary potential for disaster if we go down the nuclear route, as many risks would still be around, such as human error and terrorist attacks.

Climate change will have an effect across the globe, and a country like ourselves could be vulnerable as we import most of our food.

The countries that are managing to weather the world economic recession are China, South Korea, and Brazil, and to a lesser extent Finland, where the expansion of green technology – which is replacing information technology as their main growth area –  keeps them out of recession. Do we want to become backward economically?

Climate Change is another critical problem facing our planet and could lead amongst other disasters to food shortages and famine. Where do we think we are going to get sufficient food from if we do not start reducing carbon emissions?

The Research program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food security has highlighted that in regions of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa an estimated 266 million people could lose up to 5% of their available growing areas, and a further 170.5 million people in West Africa, India and China will be directly affected. Other areas such as the wheat growing areas of the United States will also be affected.

Locally, due to the unseasonal wet and cold April, many lambs have died. This may or may not be due to climate change, but it begs that question.  This along with an increasing world population will have an effect across the globe, and a country like ourselves could be vulnerable as we import most of our food.  Then add the increasing costs of energy to this picture. It will mean increased costs and shortages of the basic necessities of food and energy.

Of course we have to concentrate much more on energy conservation and developing a wider range of green technology, but wind power has to be part of the mix.

The alternative – I  would suggest – is not worth contemplating.

Apr 062012
 

At the next meeting of Aberdeen CND on Monday 10th April, Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen CND and also a member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, will be leading a discussion on the Arms Trade. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm on the Top Floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.

The arms trade is a deadly, corrupt business. It supports conflicts and human rights abusing regimes while squandering valuable resources which could be used to deal with the many social and environmental challenges we face here on Planet Earth. It does this with the full support of governments around the world, in particular the five permanent members of the United Nations  Security Council: the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom.

These are the very countries which are meant to be our global custodians, but are in fact the very countries which are feeding global insecurity and conflict.

While very few countries sell large volumes of weaponry, the buyers are spread across the world. Other than to the five permanent UN Security Council members, the largest buyers are in the Middle East and South East Asia. The arms themselves range from fighter aircraft, helicopters and warships with guided missiles, radar and electronic warfare systems, tanks, armoured vehicles, machine guns and rifles.

The common misconception is that it is the illegal trade that is damaging, while the legal trade is tightly controlled and acceptable. However, the vast majority of arms sold around the world including those to human rights abusing governments or into areas of conflict are legal and are supported by governments. In 2007 the value of legal arms around the world amounted to 60 billion dollars. The illegal market is estimated at 5 billion dollars:  many illegal weapons end up as legal weapons.

The arms trade exists to provide weapons to those who can pay for them. What the buyers do with the arms, what political approval the sales signify, and how money could be better spent appears irrelevant to the arms companies and our governments. The UK Government’s 2010 Human Rights Annual Report identified 26 countries of concern. In that year the UK approved arms licences to 16 of these.

There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.

David Cameron was in the Middle East on a high-profile mission to sell arms when the democracy movement started in the Middle East. Selling arms to a country in conflict whether internal or external makes the conflict more deadly and longer lasting.
If there is tension between countries or within a country, then arms purchases are likely to increase this tension and make actual conflict more likely.

Even when conflict has ended, arms, particularly small arms, may remain in large numbers (as in Libya at present), fuelling further conflicts and/or criminal activity.

Every year the UK Government authorises the sale of arms to well over 100 countries. This is hardly surprising given that it is Government policy to vigorously support arms exports. Peter Luff, Minister of Defence Exports in the present UK Government, has stated that:

“There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.”

Arms companies and Government are inseparable when it comes to selling arms. The Government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) department is a vital element of UK’s arms dealing. In 2008 the Government opened the Defence and Security Organisation which promotes weaponry on behalf of arms companies. There are 158 civil servants in the Defence and Security Organisation while other non-arms sectors have137 staff. This is despite arms accounting for less than 1.5 Percent of UK exports.

• Arms export jobs as a percentage of total employment:  0.2%
• Arms as a percentage of exports:  1.5 %
• UK Government Research Expenditure Spent on Arms:  27%
• UK trade and investment staff committed to selling arms:  54%

Research carried out for Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) by the Stockholm International Peace Institute assesses the level of subsidy by Government to the arms trade in the UK to be around £700 million a year.  In 2010 the UK Government issued 10,850 arms export licences, refused 230, and revoked 14.

Half of the refusals related to proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, with a maximum of 76 being revoked on the grounds that they contributed to internal repression, internal conflict or regional instability. Foreign office embassies also promote the arms sales, as do the Ministry of Defence armed services. Arms fairs are common in the UK and around the world.  The governments of host countries provides support for their arms firms.

Arms sales from the UK seem to vary from year to year:

• 2007    9651 million   (particularly high because of sales of Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia)
• 2008    4367 million
• 2009    7261 million also high as included Typhoon support services to Saudi Arabia)
• 2010    5819 million

Of the 16 countries identified by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as locations of major conflict in 2009, the UK sold arms to 12.

Columnist Will Self –  “War, the arms trade and the abuse of language”

BAE arms are the UK’s main arms company and has military customers in over 100 countries. BAE’s focus over the past few years has been on increasing sales to the US, specifically targeting equipment for conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and supplying Euro fighters and other arms to Saudi Arabia. BAE routinely supplies countries which the UK Foreign Office considers as having ‘the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns’.

The casualties of conflict are now overwhelmingly civilian, increasing from 50% of war related deaths in the first half of the twentieth century to 90% near the end of the century.

The arms trade affects development both through the money wasted on arms purchased and through the conflicts fuelled by arms.

A study in 2007 by Oxfam of the economic cost of armed conflict to Africa estimated that Africa  loses around 18 billion dollars a year due to wars and that armed conflict shrinks an African nations economy by 15%.

As well as the direct effects of military spending, medical costs and the destruction of infrastructure, there are indirect costs on the  economy and employment suffers ( this does not take into account the countless human misery caused by loss of life and sustained injuries effecting families and friends as well as the individuals concerned).

The study estimated that the cost  of conflicts in Africa since 1990 was equivalent to the aid provided to them by major donors.

Even when conflict is not taking place money diverted to arms is a drain on government resources and takes away from vital spending on health education and infrastructure. The massive 1998 South African arms deals for aircraft, helicopters, warships and submarines cost the country over £8billion. Yet most of the population live in shanty towns and other poor housing and South Africans with HIV/AIDS were told that the country could not afford ant-retroviral medication.

Despite desperate poverty and its recent appalling history of armed struggle, the UK government is actively promoting arms struggle to Angola. The UK government not only approved arms exports to Angola it actively organised an “industry day’’ when HMS Liverpool docked in Angola waters and hosted Angolan political and military officials.

The arms trade causes countless misery in our world; it is a poor use of limited resources which should be used to make this world a better place. We need to question the thinking in the world that believes you only get what you want by force. The five members of the Security Council should start taking on their responsibilities and use conflict resolution rather than warfare to sort the many conflicts that take place both between and within countries.

Feb 232012
 

UTG Debate – Unearthing the hidden truths between the lines, or…

More puerile crap musing as to why the City Gardens Project will be the greatest thing to hit Aberdeen since the third one went in against Bayern Munich.

Dave Watt and an Italian gentleman muse on some more even-handed, totally neutral articles on the UTG debate from our two august local newspapers, The Depressing Journal and The Evening Suppository.

Col. Gaddafi was a supporter of UTG
A document has been found in a secret box in his Tripoli palace in which Col Gaddafi revealed his support for Union Terrace Gardens. The Colonel’s note admits that he did not want UTG dug up as he had a secret storehouse of Nazi gold which he used to finance the Miners’ Strike in 1983/4 buried under the grass just across from HMT.

– The Depressing Journal 02/02/12

Travellers support unchanged UTG as future camping ground
Joe the gypsy and his family have declared their support for UTG as they intend to have summer camps there for the next ten years. Joe said today,

“UTG is a great camping place and it’s only a short hop from there to the DSS where I and my family can make fraudulent benefit claims by day and roast small babies stolen from Aberdeen citizens over open fires by night”. 

– Evening Suppository 22/02/12

Indian and Aussie Tourist Boards worried about City Gardens Project
A spokesman for the Indian Tourist Board in Delhi expressed the Indian government’s worries that the completed City Gardens Project would draw tourists away from the Taj Mahal to the Granite City. Tourism Director Lal Singh said yesterday,

“This is a very worrying development indeed. If this goes ahead it will be the eighth wonder of the world, and who’s going to pay thousands of rupees to visit the Taj Mahal when something concrete built by Stewartie Milne Sahib is on offer.”

The Sydney Bridge’s Press Officer was rather more blunt, however, saying,

“Stone the crows, mate. It’s not bad enough that you whingeing Poms get off stealing our Ashes last year but now you’re going to build something that will make Sydney Harbour Bridge look like the Sheilas’ toilets in Wollamaloo. It’s enough to make a man give up ill-treating Abos and complaining about immigration all day long”. 

– The Depressing Journal 22/02/12

Dead rise ruse to praise Gardens raise
Legendary dead Aberdonians have been queuing up at dozens of reliable, scientific and not in the least bit hooky séances across the NE to endorse the City Gardens Project, the ES can exclusively reveal. Local medium, the mysterious, yet oddly familiar, Madame Ina Wood has found that local spooks are unanimous in their support for the cement vanity project. She said that famous Japanese, Kung Fu mannie Thomas Glover explained to her,

“I’m Thomas Glover and I’m dead now, but I look forward to my eternal spirit flitting hither and thither like a divine zephyr around the concrete gardens that will totally put Aberdeen on the map as it wasn’t on one before apparently.”

Long dead architect Scott Sutherland said,

“Jings I wish I’d built something half as good as the City Gardens Project. It’s going to look wonderful, and not at all be a hideous concrete abortion. I can’t wait to tell Bernini and Frank Lloyd Wright all about it at our next Jenga evening.”

Early photographer George Washington Wilson added,

“I took photos of Union Terrace in the nineteenth century and I only wish these hideous gardens had never existed. If there had been nothing there to photograph, I may have been able to follow my original dream of taking lots of photos of naked ladies for bongo mags. My spirit shall haunt the development like a bad smell.”

Madame Ina Wood told the ES,

“Cross my palm with silver dearie – about £50m should do – the spirits don’t lie. This is all absolutely true, and not a pile of hooey designed to fool the gullible. I’ll stake my hoop earrings and bizarre sideburns on it”. 

– Evening Suppository 23/02/12

Nostradamus predicted City Gardens Project
A recent study revealed that the seer Nostradamus predicted the rise of the City Gardens Project in Les Prophecies (1555) where he stated,

“A mighty stone mountain shall arise in the north like a phoenix from a deep valley frequented by ne’er-do-wells and assorted rascals in a city made of granite. The rising of this stone shall herald a Golden Age for the city. Poverty and want shall be a thing of the past and by God and Sweet Sunny Jesus, will those jammy Jock bastards be coining it in? I should f**king say so. Shekels galore, more funny black stuff than you can shake a stick at and four straight European Cup wins for the local calcio team added to a seventeen-nil home win over some recently impoverished followers of William of Orange. Go for it, you hairy kneed Caledonian caber tossers”.

– The Depressing Journal 23/02/12

City Gardens Project means absolutely phenomenal number of jobs and money for everybody
A recent study by the totally neutral Vote For The City Gardens Or We’ll Come Round To Your House, Rape Your Dog And Scatter Your Garbage Group has discovered that the City Gardens Project will actually generate jobs for around nine billion people. A spokesperson for the group told us that there was a slightly worrying shortfall with less than eight billion people on the planet at present but it was hoped that some sort of shift system might be introduced allowing people to breed during working hours.

The same study showed that the knock-on effect of this huge project would encourage tourists from all over the Solar System to visit Aberdeen with many hotels in the Granite City receiving bookings from Mars, Venus and Mercury already. With this increase in tourism plus the work situation the group also estimated that each household in Aberdeen would be £17m better off once the Project was completed.

– The Depressing Journal 24/02/12

Pro-UTG groups to establish labour camps for opponents
Reports have reached the Evening Suppository that supporters of the City Gardens Project have been subjected to threats and intimidation by shadowy figures in trenchcoats at three in the morning brandishing voting forms.

Speaking in stock ludicrous 1960’s movie German accents they have announced:

“Zat for you, Scottische schweinhund, ze Union Terrace Gartens debate is ofer” and “Ve haf vays of making you vote nein”.

If their demands have not been immediately agreed to by the unfortunate victims they have been threatened further,

“Perhaps your family und household pets vould benefit from ein kleine holiday in ‘ze camps’”.

– Evening Suppository 24/02/12

Sep 222011
 

Techfest rolled into town last week; one of its attractions was a free session of whale and dolphin watching from Torry Battery.  Ian Hay of East Grampian Coastal Partnership led the event. By Suzanne Kelly.

Torry Battery – Saturday morning 10 September: it was a bit windy, rainy and overcast – so it was almost perfect. Well, perfect for whale and dolphin watching anyway. Expert and marine mammal enthusiast Ian Hay of the East Grampian Coastal Partnership met a group which had gathered this morning as part of Aberdeen’s Techfest. And the marine life did not disappoint.
There was a small pod of dolphins – but these decided to head north along the coast just as the talk was due to start.

Those who got there early saw an impressive display, and were able to make the dolphins out as they headed away from the harbour. Ian then delivered an amazing talk; everyone present took away new information however young or old they were.

As the dolphins headed away, Ian turned his attention to the rich, varied bird life.  He pointed out the cormorants and eider ducks on a harbour jetty.  He reminded us that bird watchers from all over the world come to our City and shire for the wealth of species that are found here. Some species are protected; but he mentioned that the eider ducks (from which eider down comes) were protected since the time of St Cuthbert in the 8th Century.

Some birds travel here in the winter from the north (soon the great geese flocks will appear); some come up in the spring from the south. The lighthouse in Torry is as useful to birds as it is to ships – it serves as a beacon and aids seabirds to find land. Aberdeen also has a famous Sycamore tree loved by bird watchers – any number of rare species can make their way here.

Ian then returned to his specialist subject, our marine mammals. He rightly called this harbour:

“The best place in Europe for watching whales and dolphins.”

Ian said there are locally five predominant types of mammals:  Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises, White-beaked Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and Minke Whale.

The Bottlenose are the animals most commonly seen here; they travel in pods of upto 30 or 40; and are a coastal animal. The Harbour Porpoises are the most common species in the area – but ‘they don’t do very much’.  The White-Beaked Dolphins are very special to the area, and the Risso’s dolphins are identified by their large heads.

This species eat squid – and usually pick up a few scars in the process of catching them. The scars turn the Dolphin’s skin white, so if you see a white one, it’s going to be an older one.  This species is a bit more solitary than some of the other mammals which travel together in larger numbers.

If a Minke (or other) whale is around, a clue will be a large number of seabirds together at sea.

Their presence means a whale has found a shoal of fish and is rounding them up. Gannets, gulls and puffins will be seen picking fish up from the surface. Suddenly the birds will scatter as the giant whale’s mouth emerges to catch the fish.

Ian told us the unfortunate (if not heart-breaking) story of some humpback whales that appeared here each winter. There were a mother and her calf, and a male.  They made an impressive sight, however it is thought that the mother and calf were found on an Angus beach having become tangled in fishing nets.

Being mammals, they could not surface; they could not free themselves – and they died. Thankfully in general terms the population of the Humpback and other whales is returning. (Feel free to write to the Norwegian, Icelandic and Japanese Embassies and protest at their pro-whaling stance in the meantime).

Fisherman or not, we can all act responsibly to encourage and protect our marine life. 

For openers, don’t throw your plastic trash out near the shore, and don’t flush anything plastic down the toilet. You otherwise risk having your unwanted plastic junk (like cotton buds) ending up eaten by sea creatures that will probably die.

If you have slightly greater ambitions than not littering the sea with plastic goods, then by all means come to Torry Battery and look for marine life. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find something to see.

As our talk came to an end, the dolphins reappeared almost on cue. Many people had been surprised to know whales could be spotted, and many people planned to head back to Torry soon. I had been asking a family (originally from New York) for some comments on the morning’s activity.
The re-appearance of the dolphins left Iona and her brother little left to say except ‘did you see that one?’ ‘Amazing!’ and ‘Look there they are again!’

Things to do further afield

  • Visit Fowlesheugh RSPB site, south of Stonehaven. The quantity of birdlife (c. April to July) is astonishing.
  • Go watch the incoming, dramatic goose migration at Strathbeg
  • Join a beach litter clean-up. There is an upcoming event tomorrow – Don Mouth at 10am – and one in early December. Further information from Techfest offices – http://www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk/tis/
  • Consider joining a Norcet as ‘Citizen Scientist’ marine life observer – get a free trip to the Shetland Islands and help watch sea life at the same time – details on this opportunity and a host of other marine life issues and events from http://www.egcp.org.uk/
  • Are you a jet skier? Then please stay away from the dolphins! It’s the law: the dolphins cannot hear you until it’s too late, and they can’t get out of your way quickly. Thanks.
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.

CITY OF NAGASAKI
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