Tag Archives: News

Brent Council Election: Good result for Labour

Labour has gained the three Brondesbury Park seats from the Conservatives, leaving them with only three seats in Kenton.

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Find the full results here.

Results are in for local elections and there is not much change for the Brent Council as it still holds majority Labour seats. The Lib Dems lost one seat in Mapesbury to Labour and the Conservative party kept its three seats for the Kenton ward but lost its hold on Brondesbury Park. This suggests rising crime rates in the area might be a reason for Labour’s takeover.

Councillor for Kenton Suresh Kansagra highlights the importance of having Conservative representation in the majority Labour council: “We are going to provide effective opposition and scrutinise the decisions of the council.” Reg Colwill, another Conservative councillor, says they “work very well with the labour group so we are working together and getting things done”.

It is certainly important when budget cuts are increasing as well as resident expectations. “The hardest thing is getting across to residents the gravity of where local government is in terms of its budgets and resourcing”, says Shama Tatler, Labour councillor for Fryent.

There were no wins for the Lib Dems or the Green Party, yet candidates for the latter beat Conservatives and Lib Dems in some wards. Samuel Hopkins, Green Party candidate for Kensal Green says this means there is “hunger for a Green representative” across Brent.

 

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Willesden Green was the only ward that didn’t hold elections after they were called off following the passing of Lesley Ann Jones, the ward’s longest serving Labour councillor on Monday 30 April.  A by-election will be held after the party has selected a new candidate.

These local elections are being held after anti-semitism, Windrush and Grenfell fire scandals have affected Britain’s major political parties, Conservatives and Labour. However, there has been little to no change to how local councils have been elected across the country.

Cycling in London: how is it going?

Cover photo by Roman Koester on Unsplash.

“It’s as easy as riding a bike” is a common phrase used to say that, well, something is easy. But just how easy is it to do it in London, one of the most congested cities in the world? Transport for London’s 2017 Analysis estimated that 730,000 journeys are made daily with bicycles in the capital.

The Mayor of London recently announced a commitment of an average of £169m per year over the next five years to improve London’s cycling conditions, contributing to its target of 70 per cent of Londoners living within 400m of the cycle network by 2041.

Cyclists and campaign groups, however, want more than that. Yes, appropriate infrastructure is needed, but that also requires a transition of established societal and institutional ways. A study done by the Portland State University showed that changing cycling infrastructure won’t change culture.

Having blue lanes segregated from cars and other motorised vehicles won’t do anything if people don’t know how to use them. Bruce Lynn, from the London Cycling Campaign, says the infrastructure is there but people won’t use it.

There are bigger issues TfL and the Mayor of London have to consider to make cycling a possibility for every Londoner. Today, there is a common idea of the typical cyclist in London: young white men, environmentally-friendly and mostly liberal. This is supported by various studies that argue people who don’t identify as any of the above, feel less inclined to try cycling.

Who is cycling today

Who is cycling in london today_

Graphics by author

In TfL’s 2016 report, the fact that people are highly against changing their routines was assumed to be one of the main reasons they don’t try it. Their 2015 Attitudes towards cycling report also showed that safety concerns, fear of collisions, too much traffic, bad weather, lack of time, health reasons and lack of confidence and accessibility are some of the most common deterrents that put Londoners off using bikes.

Just last Saturday, around 4,000 riders took the streets of London for the #BikesUpKnivesDown demonstration led by the #BikeStormz movement to raise awareness to the rise of knife crime and murder rates in the city. They rode from London Bridge to Oxford Street in one of the biggest youth-led rides against knife crime, showing that the use of bikes has turned their lives around.

Current cycling network

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Central London’s cycling paths mapped by Route Plan Roll.

The current cycling network is made up of quietways and cycle superhighways for the most part. TfL defines them as “cycle routes running from outer London into and across central London. They give you safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city and could be your best and quickest way to get to work.”

Existing ones go from the City to Tottenham, Stratford to Aldgate, Barking to Tower Gateway, Oval to Pimlico, Merton to the City, and Wandsworth to Westminster. The east-west and north-south ones are the newest additions with proposed ones to go from Tower Bridge to Greenwich, Kensington Olympia to Brentford, and Swiss Cottage to the West End.

 

 

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Graphic by author

 

Safety

Safety concerns is probably what discourages people from riding the most. A study done recently by Cambridge academics found that changes in behaviour and policies is what is needed to keep the system moving, and tackle these concerns. A change in work hours, in the number of cycleways and docking stations, and in how people cycle together are factors that will contribute to that.

Another study done by Injury Prevention found that the more number of cyclists and pedestrians, the less likely motorists are to collide with them. This is partly because they are more visible, but also because the so called “safety in numbers” makes riders feel more comfortable.

14.6 per cent of casualties in Greater London while travelling were of cyclists in 2016, according to TfL. However, only eight, out of 4,424, were fatal, a decrease of 11 per cent from the year before. It certainly shows how, compared to the car, the transport mode responsible for 39.3 per cent of the casualties, cycling is less likely to get people injured. The study by Cambridge academics, however, also points out that an increase in cycling traffic also means an increased risk for cycle coalitions.

Not every rider has the same experience levels, specially in urban area conditions. ‘Bikeability’ is something most of the campaign groups advocate for, because they know that is where it starts. The London Cycling Campaign offers free ‘bikeability’ training to anyone interested and the have regular group sessions. Everyone, not only cyclists, should know how to share a public road.

How is London doing compared to the rest of the world?

 

Not good. It isn’t even on the top 20 of bike-friendly cities in the world. Infrastructure, safety and diversity (or lack of) are some of the reasons why the British capital is not considered in the 2017 Copenhagenize Design Company Index.

Tokyo, Munich, Helsinki and Oslo are new to the list because they have worked to fix issues that didn’t allow their cycling levels to grow. Closing the center to private cars, bike sharing systems, growth of network, parking facilities, and the creation of the Cycling Embassy (Tokio) and the Cycling Federation (Helsinki) are some of the things that are on place in this cities to improve the levels of cycling urbanism.

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As much as it is common thinking that more and better infrastructure will make London a top bike-friendly city, if Londoners don’t learn (or don’t want to learn) about ‘bikeability’ and cycling urbanism, the city won’t see any major changes in the years to come. The Mayor of London is committed to increase the use of bicycles in the city as it has been demonstrated that not only will it help with air pollution, but will also provide better quality public spaces.

 

Does a perfect success formula exist for Music Industry?

What do Justin Bieber, Zayn Malik and Adele have in common? They are what every musician dreams to be like one day. Fame, success, power, money and music, they are the complete golden package.

Every year the Music industry sees many new artists flock from all over the world in hope to score their one sweet chance to be the next musical sensation. Some of them grow up listening music and dream of becoming like their idols, some wish to live the life of fame and have their moment in limelight, some feel it is their calling because music is the way they want to express their life’s story. They spend most of their life training for music, learning their instruments, performing, some even pursue music in their college degrees in hopes of improving their success chances. Seven in every 10 children (69%) in the UK say that they currently play a musical instrument with adults at 74%.

And these people come in all shapes and sizes with vast diversity in their ideologies. Yet the one thing they profess that unites them is their passion, inclination and inherent talent for music.

But then why is it that when we observe the working lives of these people, only a very few manage to break big in the industry? What is the difference between the artists who become famous and those who don’t? Are they more talented? Or did they have any special connections that most don’t? Or were they just plain-and-simple lucky?

The answer is as simple as it is frustrating, for all of the above reasons are true, but one. For people who do manage to climb their way to the top of the pyramid, being talented is a given thing. Because really without talent why would they even consider pursuing this career. This super competitive industry with more supply than demand for new musicians. It’s not like the musicians have the ‘fake it till they make it’ kind of liberties. Nowadays big record labels mostly want those artists who already have established themselves up to a certain level, who have their fan base, have already performed many gigs, and even better if they can write their own songs too. They practically want people who already have their plans figured out down to the last detail and are halfway done in executing it.

Now imagine the kind of distress a newbie but a wannabe feels when he first decides to go down this path. All the planning, making the right connections, discovering their ‘unique’ style and finding a way to sell it as ‘new and original’ to their audience, putting themselves out in the open and creating a fan base, finding the right people to help in the PR and production of their music and connecting with other artists to get a chance to perform in big gigs. So much work to do in so little time, because if we are being real, the music industry is notoriously ageist when it comes to accepting new artists. And unless you are an already established celebrity or a super-rich individual trying your hand at music, there is not much room for entry in the music industry at a ‘late’ age.

But still every year the music industry sees more and more artists coming into it. It is a huge business, with it contributing £4.4 billion to the UK’s economy as recorded in the UK Music “Measuring Music 2017” report with about 142,208 jobs sustained by the music industry. And now with the growth in the online streaming platforms, the industry is experiencing a resurgence in its profits.

And one such newbie artist, looking to make it big in this industry, is Leonard Nedelcu. There are many things that he shares with other talented musicians, like his love for romantic songs, playing the piano, penning his own songs, and being born with the looks of a superstar. But the things that make him stand out in the crowd are his deep appreciation of music by John Legend, Shawn Mendes and Sam Smith, his approach to music as his way to include the LGBTQ+ communities and share his story in a way that is relatable to all.

In this interview of his confessional musings, he shares his story, aims, and the beginning of his musical journey. He talks about how a person, a child of two economist parents gets into music, his struggles. And how despite them all he managed to create and release his first single, “Start with you”, while working on an extended playlist which he hopes to release by end of this years’ summer. All the while being a student at the University of Westminster, pursuing a Commercial Music bachelors’ degree.

Here’s a snippet of ‘Start with you’

He seems to have tapped into the ‘success formula’ of pursuing formal musical education to work on his talents, learn to create his music, find and make industry contacts and finally get discovered. It’s almost like he is trying to pull an Adele (success story) here.

You see, even though every artists’ success story is different, the basic formula of approach to things remains the same. And the six main success formulas are:

  1. Using YouTube to break big
  2. Performing at the biggest, most popular music clubs to get discovered
  3. Participating in Musical Contest show, and with any luck, winning it
  4. Becoming a part of a band, and when/if it goes big, using that exposure and experience to fuel solo act
  5. Formally studying music and training to be the best through schools
  6. Self-releasing music until discovered by big record labels or celebs to endorse music deals

Some of the very well-known celebs got their starts using these very formulas.

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Justin Bieber – the YouTube star before becoming the Global star

Like most things relating to him, even his start in music has a story. Even from a young age, Bieber had an affinity for music, and he narrates himself that when his mom gifted him his first set of drums he was “basically banging on everything I could get my hands on.” But it was an obscure talent contest in his hometown, in which the 12-year-old Bieber finished second that put him on the road to superstardom. Although, his YouTube journey did not begin with the purpose of becoming the next pop sensation. As a way to share his singing with family, Justin and his mom began posting clips of Bieber performing covers of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Ne-Yo on YouTube. And the next thing you know, Justin was an Internet sensation, with a large following of fans and an eager manager arranging for the teenager to fly to Atlanta to consider a record deal. There, Bieber had a chance meeting with Usher, who eventually signed the young singer to a contract.

Taylor Swift – from performing small gigs at the Country music capital to performing globally at her sold-out concerts

Inspired by her grandmother, a professional opera singer, Taylor Swift soon followed in her footsteps. By the age of 10, Taylor was singing at a variety of local events, including fairs and contests. She sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Philadelphia (where she lived at the time) 76ers basketball game at the age of 11, and began writing her own songs and learning guitar at 12 years old. And to further pursue her music career, Taylor often visited Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital. There she co-wrote songs and tried to land a recording contract. Noting her dedication, Taylor and her family moved to nearby Hendersonville, Tennessee, in an attempt to further Taylor’s career. Then a stellar performance at The Bluebird Café in Nashville helped Swift score a contract with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records. She released her first single, “Tim McGraw,” in 2006, and the song went on to become one of the Top 10 hits on the country charts. It also appeared on her self-titled debut album in October in 2006, which went on to sell more than 5 million copies. With that, more popular singles soon followed, including “Our Song,” a No. 1 country music hit. “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Picture to Burn” and “Should’ve Said No” were also successful tracks. And once she firmly established her roots in the music industry, the sky became her limit.

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Zayn Malik – gone from contest show to being part of famous boy-band to finally becoming the solo music star

A triple threat of music in terms of utilizing the success formulas if you say so, he began as a teen taking performing arts courses and appearing in school productions. Then in year 2010, he auditioned for the seventh season of the reality TV music contest show The X Factor. He sang “Let Me Love You” by rhythm-and-blues vocalist Mario as his audition song and was accepted into the next round. Then he was eliminated before the final round of the competition, but judges Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell grouped him with fellow competitors Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson to form a new act for the remainder of the show. And thus, the global sensational boy-band One Direction was born. They finished the competition in third place and they were immediately signed to Cowell’s Syco music label. Then came the One Direction with their first single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” which topped the pop music charts with when it was released in September 2011 in the United Kingdom. And their debut album, Up All Night, proved a best-seller in both the United Kingdom and the United States in 2012. After that Malik toured extensively with One Direction, meeting the band’s young female fans around the world. But in March 2015, Malik surprised fans by dropping out of the group’s world tour. On March 25 then, Malik announced that he was leaving One Direction for good. And soon after leaving One Direction, Malik launched his solo music career with a demo version of “I Don’t Mind,” which was leaked online by producer Naughty Boy. Then official singles followed, including “Pillowtalk” and “It’s You.”  And both of these tracks were featured on his first album, Mind of Mine, which debuted in March 2016.

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Auckland / Mt Smart Stadium / Mar 25

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Adele – the modern-day champion of classical and old-school-style music

“There was no musical heritage in our family,” Adele told The Telegraph in a 2008 interview. “Chart music was all I ever knew. So, when I listened to the Ettas and the Ellas, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awakening. I was like, oh, right, some people have proper longevity and are legends. I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the ’40s.” And it soon became apparent that while clearly bright, Adele wasn’t oriented towards traditional classroom settings. So, her mother enrolled her in the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, which has the likes of Amy Winehouse as its alum. Then while she was at school, Adele cut a three-track demo for a class project that was eventually posted on her MySpace page. And when executives at XL Recordings heard the tracks, they contacted the singer and, in November 2006, just four months after Adele had graduated school, signed her to a record deal.

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Thank god for factor 50 sunscreen – photo by Nic Minns

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Ed Sheeran – from street-smart artist to king of the global music charts

Even from a very young age, Ed had been as quick and smart at learning things as he had been active at working on his dreams. He studied at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham. Then he also studied music with the help of ‘Access to Music’, a UK-based independent training provider. And he also joined the National Youth Theatre when he was a teenager. So, it was no surprise when he had started recording CDs and selling them from his teenage days. At the age of 14, he released songs ‘The Orange Room’ and also ‘Spinning Man’, both he regarded as important works of his early years. And it wasn’t long before Sheeran was recording CDs and selling them, and he soon put together his first official EP, The Orange Room. With that accomplishment and his abiding ambition driving him, at only 14 years of age, Sheeran headed to London for the summer. Thinking he could find gigs in the big city, Sheeran left home with his guitar and a backpack full of clothes, and his musical career took flight. And once in London, Sheeran got busy recording and playing the local singer/songwriter circuit and quickly released two albums: a self-titled record in 2006 and Want Some? in 2007. He also began opening for more established acts, such as Nizlopi, the Noisettes and Jay Sean and released another EP, You Need Me, in 2009, a year that found Sheeran playing more than 300 live shows. Then in 2010 Sheeran posted a video online that got the attention of Example, a rapper, and Sheeran was asked to go on the road with him as his opening act. This led to establishing an even larger online fan base and gaining inspiration for many more songs, which later ended up filling three new EPs, all in 2010. Next Sheeran headed to the U.S. that year and found a new fan in Jamie Foxx, who asked Sheeran to appear on his Sirius radio show. Soon after, in January 2011, Sheeran released yet another EP, his last as an independent artist. Without any promotion, the record reached No. 2 on the iTunes chart, and he signed on with Atlantic Records. With Atlantic, Sheeran released his major debut studio album, + (called Plus) which became an instant hit, and the album sold more than a million copies in the U.K. in the first six months alone. Then Sheeran began co-writing songs with bigger artists, such as One Direction and Taylor Swift and supported Swift on her 2013 arena tour. And quickly and steadily he became the huge global star that he is today.

 

Still out of all the artists who pursue music as their career, 95% of them fail to make a proper living out of it, let alone become huge successes (results from a survery of 200 musicians in UK). The artists we celebrate as our champions, as the main faces of the music industry are only a handful of people out of the millions that get into this industry with dreams of making it big.

And every person wanting to make a career in music looks for a success formula, but life doesn’t work that way, especially in music. For every successful artist following a set mould to enter music industry, there are thousands who failed at it. That is the harsh truth about this industry. And no amount of wishing, dreaming or googling for tips and tricks can change that. The only thing sure about a success formula is that it only works for a few people. At the end of the day, the only way one can make progress towards becoming a musical success is through genuine talent, unending hard work and determination, and with loads of luck and good timing.

Why ‘upskirting’ should be a sexual offence: explained

Cover photo: Tobias Zils

Everything you need to know about this act and what you can do to make it illegal.

After months of campaigning from different sides, Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, tabled a parliamentary bill to make ‘upskirting’ a criminal offence. Having cross-party support, it is to be debated on 11 May. But what exactly are MPs debating?

What is ‘upskirting’?

‘Upskirting’ is the act of photographing someone’s groin area beneath their skirt (also applies to dresses) without their consent. It is often performed in public places where it is hard to spot offenders.

A recent Freedom of Information request done by the Press Association revealed that only 34 percent of police forces in England are keeping records as it is not classified as a sexual offence. Only 11 out of 78 offenders pursued were charged since 2015.

A 10 year old girl was involved in one of these cases, but it couldn’t be taken forward because of insufficient evidence, as reported by Avon and Somerset Police.

Similar cases have led to girls wearing shorts to school underneath their skirts to protect themselves from being exposed. Dr. Mary Bousted, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) told The Daily Telegraph: “Social media just provides a new vehicle, another way girls can be harassed.”

What is being done about it?

Campaigners are working towards amending the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill 2017-19 currently passing through Parliament. Clearer laws are needed regarding image-based sex abuse, especially when it involves minors.

Gina Martin became a lead campaigner for upskirting becoming a sexual offence after her own experience at the British Summer Time music festival in London’s Hyde Park. Making the offender delete the picture was the only thing the police could do, and her case was closed because there was no legal way to prosecute.

Martin says: “So many cases can’t be prosecuted because there is no specific offence to prosecute it under.”

The Fawcett Society’s sex discrimination law review (SDLR) panel has called to make it an offence on their Final Report published in January. Chief Executive Sam Smethers told The Guardian “technology meant women are experiencing sexual harassment in new ways and that legislation needs to respond”.

What is a sexual offence then?

A sexual offence happens when there is no consent from any of the parties involved in any kind sexual experience. It can be touching, groping, grabbing, unwanted sexual remarks, penetrating, etc.

This is outlined in the Sexual Offences Act introduced in 2003 for England and Wales, which the Ministry of Justice insists covers upskirting already. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) say upskirting can be prosecuted under Section 67 of the Act regarding voyeurism or the criminal offence of public nuisance for outraging public decency.

However, the former only applies in private spaces where the victim is “in a place which would reasonably be expected to provide privacy” and they’re in the bathroom, their groin or breasts are covered only with underwear or exposed and/or they’re performing a sexual act that is not of the public kind.

Similarly, the victim is completely disregarded when it is prosecuted for outraging public decency as this revolves around the public and its accepted standards of decency and there must be at least two witnesses of the act.

Gina Martin is working with MPs from all major political parties, law authorities, police high commissioners, academics, and has 98,000 signees on her petition to change the law.

“There is a big gap in the law and it has to be a sexual offence because the law sets precedent of what is right and wrong in society. It would also means victims have anonymity and persecutors are prosecuted as sex offenders as they should be.”

Upskirting infographic

Graphics by author

How can you help?

You can write to your local MP and sign Gina’s petition on Care2.

You can raise awareness by sharing on social media and telling your friends and family about it, like ITV presenter Holly Willoughby.

You can start your own campaign, like Anna Dovgalyuk, a Russian student trying to make it illegal worldwide. The caption on the video reads: “This video is ‘dedicated’ to all who love to peek under skirts. On the behalf all women who became your victims – here, look! And stay away from us.”

If you’ve been a victim of upskirting, don’t be afraid to tell the authorities. Even if they can’t prosecute the offender, they can make them delete the picture from their phone.

If that makes you uncomfortable, Safeline provides specialist services to support people affected by sexual abuse. They recognise upskirting as a type of abuse.

If you’re not comfortable talking about it but still want to share your story, Martin is building the first data base for upskirting cases.

Is teen-mom Kylie Jenner really the next role model?

So earlier this year Kylie Jenner, youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, gave birth to a baby girl at the age of twenty. And we all know that she isn’t any ordinary teen becoming a mom, she is a model, reality television star, socialite and social media tycoon. And with her lip kits and self-branded cosmetics business, also a multi-millionaire.

Now she, having a baby at an age when most people are busting their backs getting degrees or working (and paying off their starter loans) might seem a little odd. Funnily though, it seemed only ‘a little’ odd, if not completely normal after a while when the news first broke in the media. And now look at us, talking about it as if nothing really major happened.

But the other day, I was at one of my friends’ house, just chatting about the news, when her mom tells me she too was a teen mom. And I look at my friend with an almost shocked and disbelieved look. I couldn’t believe that my friend, who would be twenty now, had a mother who was just eighteen years older than her. And suddenly a presumed mental image of their lives popped in my head, complete with all the society’s pressures, expectations and resentments. But then I also could see my friend sitting next to me, so happy and relaxed, and her mom so full of life and humour, I couldn’t help but wonder, what was life like for a regular person who became pregnant during their teenage years.

Did she get the same level of acceptance from the society as Kylie does today for her early pregnancy? What were the circumstances that lead to it? How did her family react to the news? Who supported her during the time and along the way? Did she feel alone? Did she feel ready? How did she manage to provide for her daughter when she herself was practically so young? Did the stress of a different (and a significantly difficult) life, make bonding with her daughter difficult? Have they reached to the point in their lives now, when they feel comfortable with their life’s story despite all the stigma attached to this bigger idea (and how)? How do they make this unique bond between them work amidst all the pressures and responsibilities?

All these questions, but the question that surprised me the most was the one that I asked myself, why did the idea of my friends’ mother being a teen mom shocked me when I felt next to normal when I heard Kylie Jenner’s news?

So, I sat down with my friend and her mom, for a day of storytelling and revelations.

“I was young when I got pregnant. And my family was very religious. My mother was understanding, but my father and the society [were] not so much. So, when they found out [about it] they demanded I marry *Margo’s dad. I knew he wasn’t ready but since that was the only option we were left with, we went for it. Eighteen years old, in love, married and with my baby on board, I was quite happy. And one of my sisters was also expecting her baby around the same time, so I was excited to have our babies grow up together.” **Lily says with a rueful smile on her face.

And I think to myself, well that’s a good start. Mostly everyone’s happy and there are no mean blames thrown here, like that would ever be in case of Kylie and her family, them celebrating this change instead of being worried about future.

Kylie Jenner at her Babyshower, November 2017

“But life works in unexpected ways,” continues Lily, “and shortly after a year of marriage, me and Margo’s dad separated. He wanted different things in life, [things] that no longer included room for his family. So, baby Margo and I went back to living with my mom. Suddenly single and with complete responsibility of my little baby but no real work experience, I felt like I had somehow further failed in life.”

I can see that on outside, Lily looks relaxed as she goes down the memory lane, though a pained expression plagues her face, as if she could almost physically feel all the stings and stigma of her past again.

“But my mother was there with me, supporting me still, and pushing me to not give up hope in life just yet. So, I studied to become a teacher, and later started teaching at this place called ‘Kumon’. See Kumon is a kind of an after-school in Brazil, where kids go to improve their English and Portuguese skills. But my earnings from [working] there weren’t enough to support my family. So, in year 2008 I decided to move to UK to make a better earning and life for us.”

So many twists and turns in such short time, I feel my own heart sinking a little for all the problems Margo’s mom had to face in her youth. Social stigma and financial security, now that’s something Kylie Jenner would never have to worry about. After all, she is a celebrity worth millions.

Reality television star, Owner of self-branded cosmetics, Multi-millionaire

“Coming to UK was not that hard, we came through our EU citizenship. But after that things again got tricky to manage. No job, money or even a proper place to live, the only thing I felt like I had was a little piece of my family here, in this foreign country. My sister and her husband were already [settled] here, so Margo and I simply moved in the same house as them. Getting a roof over our heads felt like a huge blessing I received after such a long time. Shortly after that I picked up job as a nanny, and since I already had teaching experience I was good at looking after children.” says Lily, looking proud of the bravery her younger self showed at the time.

But now a troubled, and sad look came upon Margo’s face.

“Ever since then mom has been working as nanny. In our first year here, mom worked so many hours that I barely got to see.” says Margo. “Sometimes I felt really bad, I was young you know, and I missed my mom so much. We never had enough time to spend together. But it got better with time, and I think I too adjusted with my new life.”

I see Lily exchange a subtle look of deep understanding with her daughter. And Margo continues, “It’s similar in the present, she is working until late but since I’m older now so I don’t really mind anymore.”

“But during the time when she worked a lot and I was young too, it was difficult. But then it all got better once we started travelling together. We went on our first vacation to Brazil in 2010, which was great! But we really started bond when we travel more after 2014, and we visited Spain, Italy, Scotland and many places around England. Travel became our thing, it became the activity which truly brought us together.”

“And I think the best moment [between me and mom] was in Spain, where we just played cards by the beach. In that moment, I could feel all our worries and responsibilities drifting in the back of our minds, and we could just focus on spending our time with each other.” says a glowing Margo, looking happy to relive that moment.

“I guess in hindsight, I think we got lucky a lot of times. I know it’s [life after teen pregnancy] not all the same for everyone, but I feel quite blessed and content with how my life turned out. I am happy now, with only a few regrets, but who doesn’t have some [regrets in life] anyway.” says a broadly smiling Lily.

Margo and I were still sitting in Lily’s living room, but Lily took her leave to prep some tea for everyone after sharing her life’s story. And I can’t help but think to myself, even though they feel comfortable in their lives, look so happy now, and boldly accept their story, but overcoming all of that pain and struggle must take a lot of hard work and constant effort every single day. We all know by now that not everyone who walks down this path gets a happily ever after. Society makes that possibility perfectly clear and unforgettable, but only for the ordinary people. The rich and famous have the privilege and means to break free of the social boundaries that most of the world has to live in.

So, my only hope is that girls out there who are now in a similar position, transitioning into teen moms, don’t go into this life naively thinking it would all be rainbows because of what they see of celebrity lives on social media.

 

(Names of *daughter and **mom have been changed to maintain their privacy and anonymity)

 

What is this Siberian “Beast from East” and how did it make Britain so cold?

Why was the UK suddenly covered in heavy snow?

The blast of cold air sweeping in from Siberia to Western Europe, popularly dubbed as ‘beast from east’, is a result of a break down in jet streams over Scandinavia.

Jet streams are basically ribbons of strong, high altitude winds (upto 200mph), blowing across Atlantic west to east, that are responsible for the shifts in weather across the globe.

Jet streams naturally move either in a “wavy” irregular path or in strong-steady flow. And previous studies have shown the weather to be much cold moving south from the Artic towards the mid-latitudes, even bringing freezing temperatures when the jet streams move in a wavy path. Whereas, when jets streams move strong and steadily from west to east, winter weather conditions are milder in the countries that lie between the tropics and the Artic, including the UK.

And although there is no denying that last week’s bad winter weather has been a result of a natural shift, scientists are now linking the increasing frequencies of such weather shifts and anomalies to a larger change in global weather.

(Check out this video by Met Office on jet streams)

 

What is causing these weather anomalies across the globe?

While rest of the world is suffering from dropping degrees, scientists say temperatures have risen above freezing repeatedly at the North Pole, reaching as high as 30C above normal for the depths of winter.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 03.40.22.png

Source: Research on Arctic Temperatures by Zachary Labe

Such a radical difference (rise) in temperature in Arctic, especially in winter seasons, evidently does not bode well for the rest of the world. And the fact that these changes are in-part largely a result of man-made climate changes, makes things even more critical.

Professor Edward Hanna, of the University of Sheffield, said: “We’ve always had years with wavy and not so wavy jet stream winds, but in the last one to two decades the warming Arctic could well have been amplifying the effects of the wavy patterns.

“This may have contributed to some recent extreme cold winter spells along the eastern seaboard of the United States, in eastern Asia, and at times over the UK.”

(Read more about his research on Extreme cold winters fuelled by jet stream and climate change here.)

The lead scientist at Berkerley Earth, Robert Rohde, too pointed out recently that the North Pole is warmer than much of Europe.

And this anomaly is due to the dark retreat of sea ice in Arctic winter, resulting in temperatures above the freezing level at the meteorological site in the northern extreme of Greenland for a record-breaking 61 hours, so far in year 2018. As shown by the graph (below) from Robert Rohde’s research.

But the bigger question that comes to mind is that what is the probability of such weather conditions repeating itself? They are possibly higher than what would have been few decades ago. Especially with recent studies showing an increase in frequency of warm air intrusions, making scientists believe that the further reduction in ice sea on the Arctic Ocean will allow warmer water to release heat into the atmosphere, resulting in knock-on effects for the jet stream.

The most worrisome thing is not what is happening right now to the weather but how often this has started happening in the recent years.

This video by the Robert Rohde and the Berkerley Earth division showing how climate has changed in 168 years.

Cars and street covered with heavy snow in Central London. As the snow and cold grew, many motorways were forced to close down due to high levels of invisibility and accidents. Trains were delayed when not altogether cancelled. Even the airways suffered, with British Airways cancelling many flights from Heathrow Airport, London.

 

 

 

 

“We need protocols to regulate fake news effectively on an international level”, said Jean Seaton from Full Fact

“We need protocols to be effective internationally” Jean Seaton, from Full Fact-trustee said to WNOL, “It’s not something about Britain only. How can we regulate one nation only when stories can break out online virally within seconds?”

She further added that fake news are not only present online but they are also affecting different platforms such as newspapers and TV-productions.

An excerpt of the exclusive interview we had with trustee Jean Seaton is found below:

Besides different online campaigns, tutorials and listicles on how to spot fake news online, Facebook recently announced that they will be working alongside Full Fact, a fact checking organisation, to further monitor the spread of fake news.

Full Fact is a registered UK-based charity organisation which does not receive any government funding. Their aim is to work with governmental departments and research institutions to improve the quality and communication of information at source.

The organisation’s impartiality makes them a very reliable. They receive and secure corrections from the Prime Minister and the House of Commons before releasing news for major newspapers and different platforms.

Full Fact has so far raised £28,000 in a crowdfunding exercise to fact check the UK election campaign which happens to be the busiest time of the year for the organization.

In an interview with The Guardian, Will Molly, director of Full Frontal said their help during the election is very much needed, although he denied to give further details on the arrangement with Google and Facebook.

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