Stop Working for free.

Editorial Pitch-Herald Scotland-13 November 2013

By Sam Khan – McIntyre

Media outlets and other organisations believe they can con people by using their work without paying for it, often using lack of funds as an excuse.
However, upon further investigation it turns out that organisations often have a substantial amount of money saved by exploiting staff, and if often locked away in assets.

These organisations are named and shamed, with their I’ll gotten gains listed for all the world to see. This injustice should not continue while the talented, educated and hard working staff, often young and getting onto the career ladder, get exploited, sometimes in jobs for many years with little renumeration, whole those who think they can getaway with organising such scams and racketeering, think they can get away with getting fat off their corrupt practices.
Propaganda on the joys of working for free is not to be trusted, as those that work for free are not much better off in the employment marketplace than those that have not for (the same positions). Demographics of those being exploited thorough this sort of thinly veiled type of slave – master relationship, for instance through work experience, voluntary work, for example internships may be different in terms of ethnicity, class, age, or various other factors. (see New Economist article/ New Yorker? Where did I se the?).

It is not just organisations, such as media outlets, grassroots organisations and even charities that purport to have no money, doing good for society while actually watching the bottom line for their own purposes.

It is also commercial companies that blatantly make huge rod it’s, as if we’re supposed to bow to this new god of the economy, or economic giant and help it succeed while we we get nothing in return. For example I was asked by a Silicon Valley company last year to write for them, when I asked what they paid they said they were looking for volunteers! (One does not need to check whether they are making any money!)
The government seems to be encouraging this sort of exploitation, no doubt ministers and their cronies getting their own cut of the bounty.for example the case of Cat Reilly last year highlighted the issue, (no doubt the government would want to cover up loopholes to prevent exploited workers from winning cases against giant corporations, in this case it was Poundland stores, but the Tesco supermarkets were controversial in “hiring” free labour to pack bags or stack shelves or some such.
In such cases, it is better not to work than get sucked in, humiliated and bossed about and even bullied for no renumeration. The case for opening new supermarkets for instance in our home town in Scotland, and other much applauded job creation schemes only means that more and more people are subjected to manual labour, increasingly which they are too educated for and got themselves (expensively) educated so they wouldn’t get stuck with such kind of dead end job or working for free.
If the government has a problem with freeloaders then they should be renumerated for the work they do, and create jobs where they are most important, vital, and most of all wanted by the public. Consumer jobs in supermarkets only add to the consumer culture, and more and more convenient supermarkets and other shops only mean dead end jobs and more dissatisfied people who are being taught to spend on things they don’t want or are not necessary or not good for them giving rise to obesity and other health problems, and financial problems such as debt which can contribute to health problems. For these, treatment may not be easily available, or increasingly expensive for an individual or a begrudging government who may withhold (for certain people/ catchment areas, illnesses, as saying they are the fault of the patient for example, e.g. obesity, smoking etc). to cut costs. This can lead to economic problems such as the recession, which can then be an excuse for further injustices in the form of loss of jobs or austerity measures.
In terms of working for free or forced to do jobs that people are not interested in, then it might be better for those people to be doing nothing whatsoever. There are those who claim there are plenty of jobs despite high unemployment. Well would thee ogle who quote vocally claim such things in the media be willing to take on some of those roles which they would either hate doing, (such as manual labour) or are not trained for. In any case, Mark Carney and as the govt. and Bank of England are not aiming for zero unemployment, believing 6 per cent or so will be suitable as employment would be concentrated in certain areas.

This useless argument assumes London does not exist, and is in fact making a case for creating a class of unemployed to punish and use as a tool for the rest of the public in order to keep in line and toil away for free in the supermarkets so the rich, (and those who deserve it least for they are not necessarily the most talented, intelligent or able) who need it the least, can make a killing in financial terms. That is quite barbaric.

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Security & Justice proposals look set to go ahead Despite Major opposition

Commissioned Scotsman, Edinburgh-

by Sam Khan – McIntyre

The controversial Justice and Security Bill, which will legitimise closed court cases, looks set to go ahead at the end of March, amid pressure from Government security agencies. This is despite widespread opposition and lack of evidence of a need for the new law.

The bill was passed in the Commons on 8 February by a majority of MPS (11) who rejected a third reading. There is still further final reading taking place in the House of Lords on 12 March therefore there is still time to put pressure on them to make changes, says Farthing, and adds that it looks likely the bill will become law at the end of March.

The House of Lords, Labour and the Liberal Democrats tabled amendments to the relevant clause 6 of the bill, which were however overturned by the government. 
These amendments had aimed to introduce increased judicial digression over the proposed closed courts, as well as a balancing exercise for the judge in his consideration of evidence.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has also been critical of the proposed measures, said Sophie Farthing, policy officer for Liberty, a human rights organisation. The organisation has been lobbying against the bill since it was proposed in the green paper in October 2011. Farthing explained that amongst many people and organisations raising objections, The Daily Mail, printed petition signed by 700 lawyers. As a result Liberty joined forces with the newspaper. The public have also voiced opposition, for example through the campaign group 38 Degrees, when 29,000 out of a million members objected to the bill.

The bill is controversial as the proposals intend to bring close courts into civil law which will ensure that a claimant’s lawyer, as well as the claimant, will be denied access to documents which are deemed to be a security risk, and so cannot contest them.

Only a government appointed special advocate will be able to see the documents, who will be unable to even discuss them with the claimant and his lawyer. Therefore he will have to argue a one-sided case without full access to the facts, according to Kevin Laue of Redress. This is a human rights organisation helping torture survivors.

 The controversial reforms are being pushed by government agencies such as M15 and M16 to which the government are listening, explained Farthing, despite the government having provided no evidence of such a national security requirement. Current laws which allow security services to keep certain documents secret are adequate, according to Laue.
The bill’s origins lie in 9/11 cases where the government was pulled up for wrongdoings, explains Farthing, as in the case of Binyam Mohammed, a British resident, who was tortured with the government’s knowledge. This bill is a way for the government and agencies to cover up such allegations up by making decisions behind closed doors where the claimant is unable to defend himself, as he is denied access to relevant evidence.
This situation involving torture explained Farthing is just one aspect of what the government may in future want to cover up, and the closed procedures could be applied to other issues such as complaints against police or negligence.

The real reason for government secretiveness is not national security concerns, but that it does not want to face embarrassment if evidence of its wrongdoing leaks out to the public, as happened with the Binyam case, said Laue. 

The proposals will mean that ‘holding someone to account, when you cannot challenge, or even hear the evidence they are using against you, will be near impossible’ says Donald Campbell of Reprieve, which upholds human rights of prisoners. He quotes Former Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham who said that it will be like ‘taking blind shots at a hidden target’.
With regards to Scotland, said Farthing that ‘National security is an area of law reserved to Westminster and therefore the Bill will apply to Scotland in national security sensitive cases, however the opposition expressed by the Scottish Government was nevertheless very significant’.


Labour MP for Edinburgh, Mark Lazarowicz described the amendments which Labour, supported by the SNP and Plaid Cymru sought to reintroduce on the 4th of March. These being ‘a number of extra safeguards which had originally been put in by the House of Lords’. These said that only if necessary, a judge should make the decision when evidence could be given in a closed court, rather than the government or the prosecution. He added that ‘Unfortunately, our attempt to do so was outvoted’.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: ‘while closed material procedures are not ideal, in very exceptional circumstances where national security is at stake, they are the only way of delivering justice. ‘This bill deals with issues of the utmost importance and equips our court system to handle sensitive intelligence material’.


Laue does not agree with the Conservatives’ claim :-‘The government’s stated aim of the proposals, as being national security is a ‘red herring’, Laue continues, that ‘it will aid covering up embarrassment where the UK has broken its own laws, and international law [because] ‘Torture and complicity in torture is prohibited everywhere and at all times’.

Campbell of Reprieve, an organisation fighting lawfully on behalf of prisoner injustice worldwide, concurs – saying that the ‘intention’ of the proposals are that ‘secret courts would make it far harder to hold the government to account in cases of rendition and torture’. This is ‘due to the lack of any other evidence that they are needed’, which the government has failed to provide.

The situation where the government found the need for such a proposal arose due to the case of Binyam Mohammed said Campbell, ‘as a response to the embarrassment which the government and its intelligence agencies suffered when it emerged through the courts that they had been involved in [his] torture and rendition’. The issue being that the British public discovered the government’s wrongdoings.

The result of this wrongdoing could have severe consequences for the claimant. Liberty’s Report stage briefing on Part 2 of the Justice & Security Bill in the House of Commons march 2013 said that the UK intelligence shown to American courts helped Mr Mohammed’s defence in the US. He was able to challenge the criminal proceedings against him through evidence that the information had been obtained through torture, without this evidence may have lead him to a conviction and the death penalty. 


With regards to the more far reaching effects of the proposals, Laue comments that ‘It is [part of] the mission-creep attack on civil liberties we have seen in the last decade. The UK’s courts have tried to protect human rights, but the government is much more concerned with avoiding accountability and hiding behind ‘national security’and that ‘it is frightening the lengths the government is going to’.

He also describes the bill as an extremely serious attack on the most fundamental freedoms this country has developed over centuries’. He said that the ‘an open civil procedure system […] is part of the rule of law and democracy’ because it is ‘not only for all parties but for the public to know what a case is all about and why judges make decisions the way they do’.

 Campbell adds that the effects would be that ‘the primary impact of this bill would be on the ability of the public to hold government in check through the courts’ because they would be denied the truth.

Farthing continues, worried because ‘public rights are concerned’ or compromised, as the proposals were made in the public’s name and false interests.

 Other consequences said Campbell maybe that it would do serious damage to centuries-old legal freedoms. Laue also that: ‘it exposes the UK to justified accusations of hypocrisy’ and furthermore that ‘it also helps less democratic states justify their own abuses and lack of transparency, because the UK should set the highest standards.

In relation to what the public can do, Campbell said: ‘Demand of their MPs to stop the bill; protest in all possible lawful ways; campaign; expose and explain what is at stake’. Farthing suggested that it is important to make views known to MPs in light of the next election, and that public engagement is important for democracy

NUJ Paris Newsletter April 2014-Editor,Design and Photography -Sam Khan – McIntyre

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Contents:

 

Minutes of NUJ Paris Branch Meeting

AGM

NUJ Delegate meeting – Eastbourne

Training

Upcoming Events

Links

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Dear Colleagues!

Thank you for the very satisfactory attendance and support provided at the Paris branch AGM last month. I appreciate the confidence you have placed in me for another year in office as chairman of the Paris branch. As I said during the meeting on March 25, it has been a collective effort and all the members of the branch committee deserve a round of applause for the contributions they made over the past year. We also congratulate those who have just joined the committee for their commitment to the NUJ.
At the April meeting you will hear a report from myself and Karen Kissane about our attendance at the NUJ Delegate Meeting which took place at Eastbourne on 11-13 April.
I also propose to circulate details of a proposal to make a joint submission, along with our French union partners and the European federation of Journalists,  for European funding for a project involving a conference on “The rise of extremist political groups in Europe: the role of journalists in documenting this phenomenon.” I will circulate the written bid document to all members in due course.
You will note on the draft agenda we plan to undertake a thorough job of weeding through of contact lists, which include paid-up members, people who may have lapsed, and ex-members. It has been suggested that we pay somebody from branch funds a modest hourly rate to perform this task. It would involve contacting people whose status might be uncertain, to encourage them to stay in the union, or to be dropped from the register.
I welcome any comments on these or other points relating to NUJ Paris branch.
Best wishes to all,
James Overton, chair of Paris branch
email=james3AQ@yahoo.fr
mob. 0677 371785

Thiery Cerinato and Patrick Kamenka at NUJ meeting
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Text Minutes of the NUJ Paris Branch meeting March 25, 2013

Present: 22 members: Jeff Apter, Chloe Baker, Michael Balter, Pat Brett, Alison Culliford, Nigel Dickenson, Natasha Edwards, Heidi Ellison, Zoe Harris, Nat Harrison, Sam Khan-McIntyre, Karen Kissane, Susan Luraschi, Gavin McIntyre, Lillian Malki, Chris Myant, Julian Nundy, James Overton (chair), Annabel Simms, Diana Smith, Pierre Tran, Mike Woods (minutes)
Apologies: 4 members: Sam Davies, Jennifer Laidlaw, Andrew Spurrier, Hugh Wheelan

Chair opens meeting at 6:47 pm

Minutes of February meeting

The following minutes were read and accepted:

“The meeting opened without quorum.

“January minutes were read and accepted with no matters arising.

“Nat Harrison and Jeff Apter reported on recent meetings at RFI to resurrect activism in the chapel there, forming partnerships with the Anglo American Press Association on seminars, supporting staff at AITV, and on general efforts to ensure the five French chapels remain active. A meeting with the BBC chapel was to happen in early March.

“Julian Elliot was voted to membership. Angus Sibley said he would draft a letter to HO asking them to be sure they forwarded all relevant information pertaining to membership applications.

“Attendees to April’s Delegate Meeting were encouraged to return their forms and to try and attend the full five days.

“It was stressed special efforts be made to ensure quorum for the branch’s annual general assembly.

“And a motion was adopted expressing support for colleagues at Reuters France who are locked into a dispute with management over funding and staffing levels.”

Matters arising: James notes he has reviewed Angus’s draft letter and would send it to HO.
Officer reports

Nat Harrison reports a branch initiative led staff at RFI to hold a productive workplace discussion ahead of a larger company meeting to discuss reforms to the English service. There was less success however with the Anglo American Press Association as there was not enough support on efforts to work together on a seminar on taxation. A meeting with the BBC chapel was still pending.

Natasha Edwards reports being in discussion of questions over freelance contracts with Barbara Casassus, namely questions over liability and the little protection offered by NUJ legal support.
Workplace reports

AITV (Lillian): an audit within France Televisions (FT) said AITV was a good and valuable service but that FT needs to cut costs; unions are making various suggestions about what to do; there is some talk of handing Africa TV coverage to AFP TV. In short, FT doesn’t know what to do with AITV and its timetable is out of sync; there is the feeling that FT wants AITV staff to accept its redundancy plan and leave as quietly as possible, but staff do not regard the terms as attractive; it’s hard to know if an official pledge to redeploy staff within the company is credible. Unions have signed a letter saying they are against the plan; management can push the plan itself, but that would lead to a legal case. The NUJ and partner unions can remain in solidarity; SNJ was to launch a strike action and hoped others could join.

RFI (Mike): the main points coming out of the meeting with management were that broadcast hours would be shuffled, that the radio would air France24 TV, and that staff would be required to work differently. The last point was not yet clear and was of concern to staff, as the management indicated it would mean producing content for radio and web and doing more translation and adaptation and less original reporting.
Membership

Chloe Baker was elected to full membership, proposed by Pierre, seconded by Heidi and approved unanimously with one abstention (from a member who entered halfway through the deliberation).
CEC report

Zoe reports the February CEC meeting discussed PM81, DM14 motions, EFJ’s independence from IFJ and the safety of journalists in Ukraine. She noted that online subs payments in euro would be tested first in Ireland before rolling out to Continental Europe.
Finance

Zoe reports the branch account held 4174 euros in Janurary, and that after about 15 euros in expenditures the current balance was 4159,84 euros.

There was 1€52 in the Livret A savings account (including 2 centimes of interest). Zoe proposed to transfer 2000 euros into it.

Zoe was looking for ways to speed up payment processes and getting around the need of two signatures.
DM attendees

James and Karen have sent delegate forms and were waiting to hear about accommodations from HO. Branch members were invited to run through the final agenda in the membership section of the website and communicate any observations to James and Karen. A message would go out as soon as possible on the Grapevine.
AOB

Alison Culliford spoke of efforts to launch World Radio Paris, an English-language radio station. It has support of the Paris region, which allocated funds to use a radio tower in Montmartre, and also raised funds with crowdfunding campaign. It will be eligible for grants once broadcasting starts. It would be a community radio, and it was not yet defined whether it was to be more informative or entertaining. It would offer training for Audacity software and microphones. There would be no advertising, but would have sponsored shows. As a non-profit venture working with volunteers, there was little union aspect, but it could be of interest to members looking for radio experience.

Alison also noted that after three years, she was stepping down as CEC rep on the Ethics Council due to not being able to attend regular meetings. The spot was open to any member in Continental Europe. The branch would inform members about the position.

Diana Smith was stepping down as Membership Lists coordinator and noted the new person would need instructions on how to clear returns, noting HO lists is different than branch list for example.

Chair closes meeting at 8:06 pm.
SUMMARY FOR NEWSLETTER

Summary of the NUJ Paris Branch meeting of March 25, 2013

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FOLLOWING THE NUJ PARIS BRANCH MARCH REGULAR MEETING
Tues 25 March 2014

Present: 20 members: Jeff Apter, Chloe Baker, Michael Balter, Pat Brett, Nigel Dickenson, Natasha Edwards, Heidi Ellison, Zoe Harris, Nat Harrison, Sam Khan-McIntyre, Karen Kissane, Susan Luraschi, Gavin McIntyre, Lillian Malki, Chris Myant, James Overton (chair), Annabel Simms, Diana Smith, Pierre Tran, Mike Woods (minutes)
Apologies: 6 members: Alison Culliford, Sam Davies, Jennifer Laidlaw, Julian Nundy, Andrew Spurrier, Hugh Wheelan
Chair opens meeting at 8:18 pm

AGENDA
1/ Adoption of standing orders
skipped

2/ Adoption of agenda, apologies for absence
noted

3/ Minutes of 2013 AGM, matters arising
read and accepted

4/ Secretary’s annual report
Mike reported the branch held regular meetings as per guidelines; that there was quorum in all but one meeting and that meetings drew an average of 10 members, that guests included members of the French Press Card committee (who came on two occasions) and union VP Adam Christie, that the branch maintained its traditions of Summer and Christmas dinners and started something new with the speaker seminar in October, which had better than expected turnout and overall positive feedback from attendees.

5/ Treasurer’s annual report
Zoe was still receiving subs inquiries, but much fewer than before; she would transfer money to Livret A; and that most of the year’s work was around the speaker seminar.

6/ Freelance annual report
Natasha updated the freelancer fact pack and been trying to make contact with London for reports and to better keep informed.

7/ Other reports
Nat reported workplaces had all been contacted, visited and encouraged to keep active and that there were some positive and tangible results, especially at RFI.

8/ Chair’s annual report
James noted he has made efforts to build links with French unions since NUJ does not have many negotiating rights in French workplaces and hoped the branch agrees partnerships have gone well; that he has made effort to get everyone to weigh in on the speaker seminar, inspired to carry on with future seminars; and that he tried to be active in terms of drafting DM motions. He thanked committee members for their work.
9/ Election of executive officers and branch committee

The following positions were elected (member, nominator, seconder, voting results):

Vice Chair – Chris Myant (Annabel, Jeff, voted unanimously)
Chair – James Overton (Jeff, Mike, voted unanimously)
Membership Secretary – Angus Sibley (James, Nat, voted unanimously)
Freelance Officer – Natasha Edwards (Jeff, Susan, voted unanimously)
Welfare and Equality officer – Susan Luraschi (James, Pat, voted unanimously)
Recruitment and Retention – Nat Harrison (Jeff, Heidi, voted unanimously) (Nat noted he would be leaving Paris on September 1 but would do the job until then)
Secretary – Mike Woods (Jeff, Zoe, voted unanimously)
Treasurer – Zoe Harris (James, Mike, voted unanimously)
Membership List coordinator – Susan Luraschi (Diana, Chris, voted unanimously)
Grapevine Coordinator – Jennifer Laidlaw (Mike, Pierre, voted unanimously)
Newsletter Editor – There were no nominees. Jeff Apter noted he would be willing to help anyone willing to do it and offered to do April issue if chair pledged to find someone for May. Sam Khan-McIntyre offered to take up the task if she relocates to Paris.
French Labour Law – no election; not required. Jeff, Nat and Pierre would be available for consultation.
Books – no election; not required
Auditor – George Kandalaft and Steven Dibiasio
Roaming Officer (if required) – no election; not required
10/ Any other business
none

Chair closes meeting at 8:51 pm.

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 DGS

By a narrow majority, the NUJ Delegate Meeting in Eastbourne earlier this month decided to scrap elections for the position of Deputy General Secretary.  The conference was able to do this because the previous holder of this post, Barry Fitzpatrick, quit his job at the end of last year.

The measure will result in significant cost savings for the union.

The union leadership produced a detailed and convincing review of the position which suggested an appointed DGS would be more efficient.

The report revealed that conflicts had arisen in past years between the General secretary and the Deputy, whose role has been ill-defined in the union statutes.  It was stressed that today, it is absolutely essential for the DGS to be active as an organiser in one of the union’s industrial sectors.  In other words, the union can not afford the luxury of having two top managers. Fitzpatrick himself fulfilled this requirement, being the chief organiser for national newspapers.

The conference was told that in the past, union members sometimes elected a candidate with no organizing experience – a serious disadvantage.

The change puts the NUJ in line with practice with other UK trade unions, the majority of which have appointed deputy General Secretaries.

NUJ Paris delegate Karen Kissane spoke in this debate, backing General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet’s advocacy of the reform.

Opponents of the measure argued vociferously that the change risked being anti-democratic. With just the GS and the editor of the union’s magazine “The Journalist” elected, there will be only two officers chosen by the membership.

Meanwhile NUJ Paris delegation withdrew its motion proposing that the editor of the “Journalist” should no longer be an elected position. We took the view that our resolution had been overtaken by events.

The incumbent “Journalist” editor faces re-election later this year. Conference voted to tighten up the job description for the holder of this position.

INTERNATIONAL

Little time was left for debate on motions in the “International” section of the conference agenda, which was scheduled for the final Sunday morning session.

A motion put forward by Paris, supporting NUJ members at France Television’s AITV newsroom, was not debated and was remitted to the National Executive Council to attend to.

NEW PRESIDENTS

The new co-presidents of the NUJ are Adam Christie and Andy Smith who are operating a job-share method of doing the job. Smith comes from the book sector of the union while Christie, well known to Paris branch, is a freelance writer and editor based in Leeds.

The president chairs the union’s ruling National Executive Committee.

 

 

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So, the Pitch & Deal training course is now going ahead in Brussels, and

will be at the IFJ offices on Saturday 26th April 2014.

NB. Note that because this is a role-playing course, numbers are
extremely limited. There is a meximum of 16 people, and we have five
takers in Brussels branch already. So if you know anyone who is
interested then they are advised to book (and pay) immediately.

If we are actually swamped with demand and have to start a wait-list,
then there is the possibility of having a second day on the Sunday for
another 16 people. But this is not guaranteed and will depend on
numbers, as course tutor fees have to be paid accordingly.

For the first day the original intention was to reserve 10 places for
members and 6 for non-members. But with 5 booked already it may be a
case of first come first served (members first of course).

Also please note that, if we have enough people booking from Paris and
Amsterdam, we may be able to adjust the start time slightly to account
for trains.

Look forward to seeing you on the 26th April

Best regards

Philip

philip.hunt@lines.be
+32 2 687 2177+32 2 687 2177
+32 484 361336+32 484 361336 (mob)
http://www.lines.be/
http://www.shoeman.eu/

 
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http://www.nujcec.org/paris/

Spying on your Neighbours

world review jpeg

link: http://www.worldreview.info/content/spying-your-neighbours

and journalismscotland.ch

Britain’s GCHQ at Cheltenham worked with America on spying (photo:dpa)

PRISM is a form of covert surveillance developed by America’s National Security Agency and used to spy on the British public by its security services, write Sam Khan-McIntyre and Mel Kelly.

It is claimed that Britain’s data-gathering centre, GCHQ in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, has been intercepting British data using the PRISM programme and sending it through the United States in order to bypass UK laws.

The surveillance was carried out secretly until American computer specialist and former CIA employee Edward Snowden blew the whistle in May 2013 about America’s spying missions on other countries. His revelations are considered the most significant leaks in US history.

The big debate was whether this was legal, but the real issue is whether the spying is right. It seems, by slapping on a label of legality, the British government thinks it can get away with increasing amounts of wrongdoing.

UK national newspaper the Daily Mail reported in July 2013 that ‘Parliament’s spy watchdog called for an investigation into Britain’s laws on intelligence eavesdropping ….as it cleared GCHQ of flouting the existing rules. But the committee raised questions about whether the rules governing intercepts are fit for purpose and whether there is a need for new laws’.

Millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is being used to spy on the public, without its consent or knowledge, according to another UK newspaper the Guardian in August 2013. The spying involved surveillance of internet traffic on companies, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook.

The spying was carried out for anti-terrorist reasons, according to UK officials, and was covered by terrorist legislation. US President Barack Obama was reported by the BBC as saying that it had been useful. However, firm evidence has not been produced yet to corroborate this. Others claim terrorists would use other means to communicate.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was a victim of US eavesdropping on her mobile phone, said ‘spying on friends is not acceptable’.

In this respect, if the government is allowed to spy on its people, then does this quote define them as enemies of the public?

Is that the real reason the public ‘democratically’ elect representatives, to work against them and create a two-tier system completely removed from the requirements of those they are supposed to represent.

Representatives would then be working purely for self-interest and personal gain, not far removed from dictatorship. If these spying actions are legal then why not go the whole hog and drop the pretence of the word democracy altogether because it has become synonymous with propaganda.

The authors of this article questioned how elected representatives would respond if the public spied on them.

We challenged 32 Members of the Scottish and British Parliaments to undertake the Prism experience and be scrutinised in their daily lives. They argued that if the MPs are working on our behalf they should have nothing to hide.

We asked if they were willing to be filmed for a day, interviewed on film and complete an online survey on Prism, or give written reasons for not participating.

Thirty of them failed to reply and another declined to be filmed because of the need for privacy on constituency matters.

There are numerous examples of government wrongdoing and corruption across the globe. They include British complicity in the torture of terrorist suspects held by Americans, the use of British weapons in genocide in East Timor and US soldier Bradley Manning’s imprisonment for whistle-blowing about the Iraq war.

Such government actions are legitimised by representatives of the public, but often the public is unaware of what is happening and unable to make a judgment.

While the idea of democracy is upheld in public, it seems to be sabotaged from within.

Scotland’s Story-Told in a Million Stitches Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre-Artwork Magazine

Artwork Magazine-link:http://www.artwork.co.uk/
Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre

SAM_0390Entering Cockenzie House in East Lothian not knowing what to expect from the Great Scottish Tapestry, brainchild of writer Alexander Mcall-Smith, I was struck by the vibrant colours, artistic effects, and textures. The delicate needlework suggests a painterly rendition which may easily be mistaken for brushstroke.

Beginning with the ice age, and telling the history of Scotland dating from 420 million years ago to the present through 160 events, it presents a comprehensive and beautiful survey of its history, culture and people. At an impressive 143 metres, it is the longest tapestry ever made.

Organisation has come from a team which includes the artist Andrew Crummy, the historian Alistair Moffat and the ‘stitch co-ordinator’ Dorie Wilkie.

The work was executed by a team of 1,000 talented stitchers, over two years. Smith said: “It has been stitched by volunteers as a gift to the nation” and that “this was the biggest community arts project ever to take place in Scotland”.

The work is a part of the stitchers as individuals as much as it is part of Scotland. In relation to representation of the multicultural life of the country, Smith said: “Everyone who lives in Scotland is an incomer. The land was without people at the time of the last ice age and we have represented many stages of settlement from that point until the reopening of the Scottish Parliament”.

He continued that all aspects of Scottish life and history are covered […] and it is very much a people’s history”. He added that requests made for additional panels in various areas are being considered.

Invigilating the exhibition was Joan Lesley, a retired schoolteacher, who said the artist created the main outlines as conceptual, not exact representations. The borders pictures were chosen by the stitchers themselves. Each panel had its own team, placed throughout the country, and Lesley discussed the panel she worked on, over a year in a team of ten called the Edinburgh Tenners. This piece is entitled: The Ice Melts, Scotland Emerges, The First Pioneers Come the Wildwood and its Fauna c8,500 BC.

This depicts the country over 10,000 years ago, showing hunter gatherers and animals such as the tusked Onyx, now extinct and also the polar bear. The barely there transparent depiction of the bear indicates how it was disappearing from Scotland at the time.

Stitching on linen fabric, in wool, with a little cotton and shiny thread for effects, the volunteers would each spend days at a time on it, over the course of the year. Leslie said they would often stitch through the night with fingers getting “raw and sore”. It could be difficult at nightime, due to “lighting getting bad”, but she said that during the stitching of the Bayeux tapestry from c11, they would have had to work by candlelight.

Over 400 hours of work went into each panel. Prior to starting, the volunteers spent weeks practising and perfecting and debating the techniques on sample linen. When it finally came to working on the panel itself, Lesley said “we were scared stiff”. The pressure to get it right was immense.

The participants had the freedom to contribute ideas, research and aspects of Scottish life. Lesley depicted a squirrel in her border section, as “we thought they might become extinct”.  Its fascinating fluffy tail Lesley said, was a stitch a girl on the team from Pakistan had taught her.

She said: “it was an exciting thing to be working on, and that after all the hard work when the panels were finally show together “it felt special”.

It is indeed special, for Smith said: “We hope the tapestry would last for hundreds of years, a great deal of research went into finding the right linen and wools that would stand the test of time. Much now depends on the conditions in which it is exhibited and the care it receives”.

The funding he said came from Charitable Trusts and individuals. This was used to cover materials, co-ordination and premises. The artist and small team of stitcher co-ordinators were paid. Additional funding is being sought for the next stage of touring, educational work, and a permanent home.

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Jim Brown, director of Cockenzie House, said: “I think it’s marvellous” He pointed out Sam the seagull who made history by stealing 20 packets of Doritos at an Aberdeen newsagent, which made headline news in 2007.

The tapestry will be at Cockenzie House until December 3, a permanent home is still being sought. A donation for entry is suggested at £3.50. Summerhall is to be believed next on the tour list and future dates are to be announced

Completion of Coast-to-Coast Swim in Aid of Cancer Battle Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre-East Lothian Courier

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The first swim across Scotland from Loch Laxford to Bonar Bridge was completed yesterday by Christine Howson 58, and Saartje Drijver 47, from East Lothian. They raised  upwards of £4,000 for charities Water Aid and Maggies Cancer. This latter is dear to Christine’s heart as she is currently in remission from ovarian cancer. The completion of the 85 km swim sees Christine back in fighting form after previous chemotherapy.

Both Christine and Saartje were glowing with big smiles as they were given a helping hand out of the water at Bonar Bridge, after concluding the second leg of 25 km over 4 days from Loch Shin to Bonar Bridge. Despite dripping and shivering in their wetsuits, they enjoyed the applause and welcome ashore, happily posing for photographs in front of a  banner of congratulations with the team of family and friends.

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After they had changed out of their gear, and got warm, they were glad to talk about their experience. Said Christine that she was “on a high”, and “buzzing”, and will be for the next few days. “People think we’re mad” said Christine, referring to the unusual feat.

On Monday, they had just swam the final 8 km in 3 hours, (with breaks) and finished close to two pm, an hour ahead of schedule. Christine said:- “We thought we’d finish at three”. This leg took four days, after a previous four- day stint in August. (This was the first coast to coast swim via this route, although a previous one on a different route is said to have taken place).

Christine said the final 100 yard  stretch had been the hardest, they had received a kick to get going from Ian, Christine’s husband. She said she had “chickened out” in some parts, and walked, because the water had been “hairy scary” with rapids and high waves.

Motorboat safety Kenny Campbell confirmed the roughweather, and with his local knowledge had guided them safely around the scary and dangerous sections  of the waters.

She said the swim had opened her eyes to the beauty of the area, and many special places, and said:- “like the [beer] advert, touched parts that others don’t touch”, a kind of “secret Scotland”.

The existence of ghillies and water baillifs are a part of Scotland the pair have never come across previously, and they agreed that “the local people :-  “seemed fantastic” and very helpful. Kenny Campbell the local water baillif who keeps an eye on fishing permits and helps fishermen, escorted them through the waters on the safety boat. He pointed out dangerous sections to avoid, due to his local knowledge. He said:- ” They did really well, the conditions were really rough”

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Saartje Drijver and Kenny Campbell

Ghillie Robbie Elliot whose job is to look after the fishermen and whose  bosses Robbie and Andrew Douglas Miller own the Shin said: he “was giving them pointers” for example through his knowledge of the “dangerous rapids” which he told them to avoid.

Luckily, the weather which had been a major concern had held and the storm forecast had not arisen. In which case they would have had to postpone and said Christine that it would have been extremely difficult to get the team together on a weekend that suited many different schedules. The organisation of the whole event said Christine had been very difficult, and although they do have ideas for future ventures they would like to keep them simple and therefore easier to organise.

It  was a real achievement and an enjoyable experience for both Christine and Saartje, who met 13 years ago through East Lothian Triathlon Club. With respect to Christine’s cancer, it is difficult for her and her family to understand why it occurred due to all the “fitness and clean living”. She said her sisters Judith and Mary (Howson) as a result see “no logic in this and joke about it”.

In search of more ‘curious tradionary facts’ about Hogg

Published in Artwork Sept 2013 issue: http://www.artwork.co.uk/
By Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre

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DEEP in the heart of the rural Scottish Borders lies the Ettrick Valley, an area with little internet or mobile connection. Over the summer the old primary school at the top of the valley has been playing host to the James Hogg Exhibition in its hall.

This seemed completely empty until the poet Robert Wilson suddenly appeared from the small office next to the front door with the words “I’m just finishing a poem.”

Looking casual in a T-shirt, he began to show me around. Although no visitors were present, Wilson said there had been a trickle every day. He pointed out that six people a day here is equivalent to a footfall of something like 600 in Edinburgh.

Hogg had lived a few metres from the school between 1770 and 1835, and was a major literary figure and farmer. Wilson feels he ought to be commemorated as part of Scots culture and history and is building on this aspect of the area.

As we chatted about Hogg – his unconventional love life, his debt problems and his extraordinary mask – visitors started appearing. As they cornered Wilson, I slipped away to examine the exhibits.

These included the sinister-looking mask moulded from his face, a spectacle case, a replica of his desk and dog, a first edition novel, and a beautiful sculpture based on a Hogg poem. The exhibition impressed Marlene Wyley from London, who commented that it was “very well curated.”

As the exhibition closed for the day, Wilson and I sat on the steps outside while the last of the visitors drifted away. It transpired that Wilson knows little about sheep but a lot about Hogg.

He had been totally immersed in Hogg’s writings during the first two weeks of the six week residency, which was due to last until the end of September. Funding, he told me, came from The Big Lottery Fund, the Leader programme and the Buccleuch Estate. Wilson is receiving a small salary.

Hogg was, said Wilson, the classic “lad o’ pairts” .”He was a kind of self-educated guy who had to struggle through poverty and he had an innate talent to do that.” For that, and for having written inScots, Wilson felt some identification with him.

Wilson discussed the importance of Hogg’s legacy and his own role fitting into this, he said: “Thehuman condition doesn’t change much. The same challenges face people as they did 200 years ago. “It’s a struggle for the local people to survive economically and it’s one of the challenges of isolation here. The valley depopulated because of people moving away for jobs, and that’s the same today as in Hogg’s time.”

This depopulation occurred he said, when local sheep farms were taken over by trees, by contractors and big companies, and the commercially run forestry ventures sucked the life out of the community: “They didn’t bring anything in, they were just interested in taking out.”

Influenced by his experiences, Wilson’s poems so far have been based on wildlife, topography and place names. He also aims to incorporate locals’ stories and their aspirations for the valley in ameaningful way.

Wardlaw Jackson, 58, a farmer in the Cross Keys pub farther down the valley, also talked about the forestry, and said that incomers to the area tended to be retirees. He said that the farmers, himselfincluded, had capitalised on the situation by selling land to the contractors at something like double its market value.

The contractors, he said, hadpromised jobs to the locals, but these had failed to materialise. Wilson admits to knowing nothing about sheep farming: “I’m not a shepherd, but I can appreciate the tough life that they have.” In fact, many farmers left the area as result of the difficult life.

The aim to revitalise Ettrick could result in drastic changes to its character and landscape. The danger is that this might cause loss of the uniqueness which so influences Wilson’s poetry and the very solitude which helps concentrate his mind in the writing of it.

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Jen and the Gents-Fringe Review-Sam & Gavin Khan-Mcintyre,Edinburgh Reporter

SAM_0300Up and coming young Edinburgh band, Jen and the Gents, formed in 2010, and have constantly been gigging around the city since, their big break may finally be on the horizon with a performance at the opening of the Fringe at the BBC Potterrow venue. The concert is due to be televised at the end of the month.

The band comprises of Jennifer Ewan who sings and plays guitar, her partner Stuart Crout, otherwise known as Pockets, who plays the drums and sings harmony, Martin Beer, who plays bass guitar and double bass, and Lewis Diamond who also plays guitar.

The concert at the Spiegeltent earlier on the 19th of August, found Jen with her strong voice in excellent form, which she said was the result of a lot of practice. Beer was playing double bass, as the venue had wanted an acoustic set. Jen, a petite brunette with long wavy hair was centre stage, with the toes of her shiny red heels peeping out from under her trousers. Pockets’ long blonde hair stood out as he sat behind the drums, occasionally looking towards the audience. Diamond in his top hat preferred to stand back and focus on his guitar. The venue was packed out, with all sorts of people enjoying a drink while watching the band.

The upbeat and melodically mesmerising songs, sung with a convincing aplomb and described as indie pop, are insightful on varied topics such as life events, relationships, and places, for instance Portobello and its beach, and Suzie’s diner. Otherwise they may be reflections on the way conventional life is lived, such as in relation to owning a new car or Sky TV. from the point of view of an unconventional lifestyle. Jen has a varied taste in music, but folk influences can also be detected. This led to a recent interview with Celtic Music Radio.

The Edinburgh reporter caught up with them after the gig, as they divided their spoils from album sales, before heading off to lunch in a Sushi bar. Happy with the way the gig had gone, they talked about their distinctly un-rock and roll lifestyle, with the preferred drink of choice being tea. They also discussed their aims and ambitions for the future.

This looks promising, as Jen, who also manages the band, said she received an email from the BBC with an invitation to play at their Fringe venue. The BBC had been scouting for local talent and discovered their website.

Although the band harbours modest aims for success, Jen said: – “I don’t want to be famous”. Their ideal gig would be busking at Glastonbury, and they are aspiring to tour some of “nice” Scottish festivals. They have previously performed at Kelburn, and loved its pretty grounds, which were she said: – “a change from other festivals”.

They have played various venues in Edinburgh, with The Bowery being their favourite, and also the Forest Cafe.  Their favourite Festival venue is the Meercat Stage on the Royal Mile, due to the crowds and atmosphere. They most enjoy performing on the street, in the open air.

Her lyrics she said are based on life experiences and an outlet  to express her emotions, such as happiness or otherwise. She said: -“It’s like looking back in a diary”. Within each song, though written in the past, she often finds new meaning as she sings, these are she said: “relevant to my life in new ways”.  It seems like a cathartic process. Jen is currently working on a couple of new songs, for which the melodies have been written. She said: -”I need to write the lyrics, which I am looking forward to”.

Due to Jen’s role as manager it is difficult to find the time to write, because she said: -“I’ve been busy booking the gigs…I need new songs”. She has been she said: – “doing a lot of media promotion and making contacts with industry people about gigs…It would be lovely to have a manager who did it all for us”. For the band making enough money from it to be able to afford to tour and make a living from would be ideal.

During the writing process, Jen usually writes the music first, which can often just come to her. She then works on the lyrics, after which she takes it to the band, who through jamming sessions find their own parts and vocal harmonies. This part of the process is the most enjoyable for all, and when the song comes together.

Jen and the Gents formed in 2010 out of a band called  The Tuberians, a Cajun outfit, which she joined  in 2008,  and played in together with Pockets. They met and played at the now defunct Suzie’s Diner. This had been a venue for local bands, and where they were also fed and watered for free. Originally from Ayrshire, Jen began her performance career in youth theatre, before finding her voice.

The band has a performers’ pass for the festival, paying a license fee of £30. This enables them to attend talks and workshops. So far Pockets, also a music producer, has briefly attended only one event, a talk on circus acts. He said he had the idea of playing the Ukulele and juggling at the same time. Let’s hope the hard work pays off, and they acheive their ambitions

For more information on upcoming gigs, visit their website at

http://www.jenewan.co.uk/,

or their Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/jenandthegents