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Note: The following news story was written as part of my Medical Journalism module at Westminster University. The story was sourced by myself, and is an exclusive. Feel free to comment.

US soldiers who develop alcohol problems when returning from war are not being given the support they need, a new study reveals.

Image courtesy of stockxchng

Figures from the US-based Walter Reed Army Institute of Research have show that at three-four months post-deployment, 25 per cent of soldiers serving in Iraq have screened positive for alcohol abuse. Some 17 per cent reported being late for work following the misuse of alcohol, while four per cent admitted to driving under the influence.

Dr Joshua E. Wink, who led the study, said that ‘Battlemind training,’ a US army support programme for soldiers returning from war is not enough:

“While Battlemind has been validated for a number of positive mental health outcomes, it has not been validated for reducing rates of alcohol misuse. Results from this study could be used to enhance existing reintegration training, such as Battlemind. Greater awareness can lead to better monitoring by unit leaders or peers.”

US army

Some 1120 US soldiers were surveyed regarding their experiences in combat; those who screened positive for alcohol misuse had more military experience than those who tested negative. Mental health problems – such as symptoms of PTSD and anxiety disorder- were also higher in those who tested positive. Alcohol misuse was measured using a two-item alcohol screen combined with an alcohol-related questionnaire. Alcohol rates among soldiers were higher than a similar survey taken in 2007.

Mr Wink said: “There had been little work done examining the association of specific combat experiences with later alcohol misuse. Many have looked at the anatomy of war zone stress and its role in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but not alcohol use disorders.”

Official figures from the US army state that 9,200 soldiers sought treatment for alcohol abuse in 2009, a 56 percent increase since the war in Iraq started in 2003. Today marks the beginning of Alcohol Awareness Month in the US.

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Copyright of Claire Noble

Candidates from the constituency of Harrow East went head to head in a public debate, criticizing each other on issues surrounding race and health.

Dubbed an “electoral bluewash,” the borough of Harrow East, is 56th on the Tory target list, and it is likely that incumbent MP Mr McNulty, who was involved in expenses claims last year, will lose his seat in the forthcoming General Elections.

UKIPs Abhijit Pandya and the Liberal Democrats Nahid Boethe also put forward their campaign, in what many believe is a two-man race between Labour and the Conservatives. Chaired by former Harrow Times Editor, Charlie Harris, candidates had one minute to give their opening speech, and it was arguably, the mildest part of the evening.

Mr Pandya started by addressing his idea that “multiculturalism is a bad thing and one that leads to segregation”. He told the audience that UKIP was putting forward the concept of “one Britishness”.

“We need to emphasis British culture, by bringing all the different communities of Harrow together. No other party is doing this. We need to say, ‘you’re here now, you’re British,’ come and learn about Shakespeare and Wordsworth,” he said.

Ethnically diverse

Tony Mc Nulty hit back by calling Mr Pandya, “a BNP man in a suit”.  He urged residents to celebrate their roots and their culture and disagreed with the notion that multiculturalism is a “dirty word”.

Addressing Mr Pandya directly, he said: “You haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about, the notion that multiculturalism equals separatism is rubbish. Everyone on the stage has been to each and every community, not celebrating their isolation but their unity.”

Harrow is one of London’s most ethnically diverse boroughs, and has the highest density of Gujarati Hindus in the UK.

On the subject of transport for Harrow, and the numerous amounts of weekend tube closures, Mr Mc Nulty blamed Metro Net and TFL, calling them: “Nothing more than two small kids in a playground”.  Both Mr Blackman and Mr Mc Nulty criticised Boris Johnston for the failure to build disabled access at both Harrow on the Hill, and Stanmore station.

Cuts

Mr Mc Nulty said: “If these services, under the management of the Mayor are failing, then that means the Mayor is failing. He continued to say that Boris Johnston had written to him personally to “forget about repairs, until at least 2016”.

Both Mr Blackburn and Mr Mc Nulty argued over the threat of 50 million pounds worth of cuts aimed at Northwick Park Hospital. Mr Mc Nulty said that “people need to stop lying, there are no cuts for the hospital.”

Mr Blackburn hit back by saying: “It’s not fair to say that. Elective surgery is being transferred to Central Middlesex hospital, there are cuts facing Northwick Park Hospital, that’s the truth.”

Criminal sanctions

Candidates then moved onto the next topic, the expenses scandal. Tony Mc Nulty was last year exposed by The Daily Telegraph for claiming second home allowances on a house that his parents lived in. He has since apologised to his constituents, and in the Houses of Parliament, and paid back the correct amount. A Stanmore resident told the panel: “I’m afraid MPs in Parliament just do not get how annoyed the public are over the expenses scandal.”  Bob Blackburn, continued,  to a round applause by saying: “What I hear on the doorstep is, ‘how does he have the cheek to stand again’.

Mr Pandya said that UKIP would push for criminal sanctions on expenses claims if they were to come into power,  and said that a new building for party members to spend the night in would solve future expenses scandal.

The debate closed with questions on foreign affairs in which all parties agreed on a possible two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Copyright of Claire Noble

Peckham has long been associated as an area of high crime rates and crumbling Victorian architecture. But, beneath this shoddy exterior lies a bubbling art community that is rapidly declaring its takeover of East-London’s hedonistic art scene.

A chatty crowd assembles outside the doors of Auto Italia. It seems that punctuality is a necessity for members of this club. They are an hour early. And, as the doors open, the crowd pours in. Ladies wearing tea dresses, the majority sporting tomato-red hair, pick up their paint pots and begin to weave their drawing onto one of the eight shop windows. While men, donned in plaid shirts and battered plimsolls quickly find a pane and get creative.

This is Auto-Italia, a project lead space that aims to explore and support the ideas of a growing peer group of artists. Situated in a disused car show room in South-East London, their values are simple; non-hierarchical powers, that allow all ages, all humans and styles to take part in a communal art space. Today hosts Sumi-ink, an ongoing drawing collective by LA based duo, John Finshbeck and Sarah Anderson.

Project coordinators of Auto Italia, Amanda Dennis, and Kate Cooper explain the concept behind Auto Italia as being: “All about inspiration”. “The building was donated; we have no overheads and can concentrate on putting our money into these projects. It’s a fantastic place for young people to express themselves” said Amanda.

Copyright of Claire Noble

“Auto-Italia has been going for over two-and-a-half years, we’ve had over 30 projects here and some in the Tate, but Sumi-Ink is the first of its kind in London. I haven’t seen it done anywhere else.” said Kate. She gestures with red-nailed hands: “Grab a pot and get stuck in”.

Friendships

Paintings range from witty slogans like “don’t milk over spilt tears” to portraits of social issues, nature, the quirky and bizarre.

In the words of Pablo Picasso: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

This quote could not be more relevant to today’s art session as each painting portrays a hilarious, distorted view of reality as they see it.  Hannah Tindle, a fine art student at St Martin’s College is drawing a rather manic looking Edward Norton inspired stick character, she giggles: “I only live down the road from here, I should come more often.”

But these drawings are far from off-putting. In fact these paintings, all shared by strangers help to establish friendships, as while admiring each other’s work, they begin to chat like friends. The concept of sharing each other’s ideas and encouraging artists to work together is a core factor of what Auto Italia represents. Kate Cooper looks around the room and smiles at the large crowd that has now assembled inside, she plops her paintbrush into her plastic pot and says:

“Our primary focus is not allowing the artist to work alone; we all engage and interact with each other.” It helps to bring the art community together. You would think they were a snobbish crowd that is the main perception. But look around you, there not at all. I went to art school for four years and never picked up a paintbrush, now’s my chance.”

Copyright of Claire Noble

The Sumi-Ink club has seen shows in, Chicago, Malmo, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Bahal, India.

Peckham Pavillion

Sarah Anderson is floating around the room, busily painting each piece of clear pane she spots. As co-founder of the Sumi ink club, she describes its formation as a way of: “Gathering with friends”. I lived in Providence, Rhode Island and we would always meet in the street. It was our only way to get expressive, and draw our emotions. We could draw whatever we wanted, without constraint, this is what we pride ourselves on today, and it’s non-hierarchal,” said Sarah.

This low-key artist run space has been making the headlines not only in the UK but also in America. The New York Times recently ran a story documenting that the East-End art scene is no longer more and that if you want art, it’s right here, in Peckham.

It heralded the South-East London art scene as a ‘countercultural challenge’ to the ‘established north-of-the-river world of the Frieze art fair and the gentrified East End’.

Auto Italia is just one of the many artist led spaces that are emerging around South-East London. The Hannah Barry Gallery, home to some of London’s most talented artists, and project space Area 51 are beginning to make their mark on the art world. The Peckham Pavilion, an exhibition organized by the Hannah Barry Gallery, propelled her work to fame at the 53rd Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition held once every two years in Venice.

With this commendable set of values, the South-East London art community can only continue to flourish. And maybe, just maybe, tease East Londoners South of the Thames to see what all the fuss is about.

Copyright of Claire Noble

The following article was written for my Magazine production class, at the University of Westminster. Together with my colleagues, we are in the process of designing and creating our own glossy style magazine called MUSE,  that will be available on April 30.

I’ll upload my own contributions to the magazine, and also share with you my In-Design layouts.

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Like Marmite, you either love or loathe Rossy. For those preferring the latter today marked a triumph, as Jonathan Ross announced his resignation from the BBC after 13 years of service.

Stressing that money was not the reasoning behind his departure,  the announcement, made this afternoon came completely out of the blue. In a statement Ross revealed that he has decided not renew his contract when it ends in July this year.

Revealing that this step was not “financially motivated” –  I somehow found this pretty hard to digest.  I recall reading a piece about massive pay cuts being slapped down on the beebs high earners – up to 50 per cent.  And as the highest paid star in the corporation  –  of course they were going to come after Ross first.

Agreeing  to the cut –  insiders later said it was not enough.

The question everyone  now asks is: who will fill his lucrative Friday night chat show spot, Radio 2 show and  film review programme.

  • After his announcement Ross took to his Twitter and thanked  fans for supporting his decision saying:
  • ” Thanks again for all the kind words – nice people! Love to you all.”
  • “It’s reported that his contract, issued for three years untill July 2010  was worth an estimated 18 million.

Friday nights, who do you want to see presenting?

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Here at DIY it is with a creative mind, and a musical ear that we welcome the familiar sight of aspiring indie songstress’.

Sashaying their way onto the new music scene, they emerge, carrying their own unique vocal and instrumentation arrangement that sets them apart in an already bubbling genre.  Lucy Day, an acoustic artist from Derbyshire, both passes and fails on said acquirements. It is all very new here, ‘Trick of the Light’ is a roughly mastered six track EP with only a few creating a real stir to the soul.

Courtesy of stock.xchng

Opening track ‘A Trick of the Light’ introduces Day‘s vocal abilities, the main strength of the album. This ability should flourish with the use of strong instrumentation and complementing percussive effects. Instead, at times it sounds a tad patchy, weak and honestly, a bit flat. ‘A Trick Of The Light’ has no great sense of movement, there is no authority or track crescendo –  rather it flows from beginning to end and exits safely with no great impact.

Music has the power to uplift the soul, trigger thoughts and tap into that addictive side of our personality (yes,  admit it – we all have one). Only a handful of tracks can pull off this charm.

As a newbie, Day provides a stable enough platform for herself  with her début. Furthermore, it could be argued that tracks like ‘Oh Desire’ and ‘A Fire In The Sea’, while holding the same unstructured flow as ‘A Trick Of The Light’, could be cleaned up a bit and tightened with the aid of professional recording.  Day, like many artists these days, recorded this EP in her bedroom, a method where few artists can achieve that perfected,  polished sound.

Stripped of fussy awkward instrumentation is where Day excels. A back to basics personal approach on ‘A Personal Disaster’ displays soft, innocent emotions in her voice.  ‘Our War’ an upbeat catchy pop number proves that maybe, with practice, Day will make perfect.

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A week from today all evidence of my size ten wardrobe shall be binned.

Unless, of course I should toss them into the “one day, I shall fit into them box.” Oh wait…It’s full.

Courtesy of stock.xchng

Yes, Christmas is truly the time for complete overindulgence. On my part anyway. What I find worse is the period after, in which mountains of sweets, biscuits, chocolate and crisps lie lonely in every corner of your house.

It becomes an obstacle course of confectionary avoidance. However, it is probably the only time of year that this type of scoffing is accepted. Hell it’s actually celebrated. Breakfast becomes a selection box. Temptation lingers, and eventually chocolate wrappers take over your life.

And, just as you pledge your ‘three meal a day deal‘ with yourself, you crack. Guilt embeds itself on your brain. Tomorrow is built on promises.

But you can’t go for a walk, it’s the ‘cold snap‘ don’t you know?

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London Strategic Housing - Student block.

Decked in a delightful navy blue pinafore and armed with the most colourful assortment of washing utensils Aldoha Savickiene, has just finished her cleaning shift at London Strategic Housing’s student block.

Outside a group of trumpet wielding students attempt to play Jingle Bells, and after five minutes of flat notes, we move inside.

You get the feeling that sitting down is a rarity to Aldoha. But, given the opportunity its one she cherishes. Sipping on her coffee she begins to tell me why moving from Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania to Harrow, North West London has, what she calls its “hidden advantages.”

“Oh wait… I almost forgot.” She hands me an envelope of pictures, from her hometown of Vilnius, saying shyly “just to give you an insight of Lithuania.”

Out of the twenty something pictures she shows me, it’s evident that family life, for Aldoha is ultimately her top priority. I’m introduced to each and every member, even the in-laws. Knowing that she has highlighted the most important part of her existence Aldoha relaxes, and begins, what seems to be the unfamiliar task of speaking about herself.

“I saw it coming you know? This fall of economy, I knew it would happen.” Aldoha was a specialist in consumer banking in Nord Bank, Vilnius before a high cost of living coupled with low wages finally took its toll, forcing her and her family to make hard decisions about the prospect of life in the UK.  

“The price of food in Lithuania is the same as here” she says “but wages are very low.”

It was her job to predict market trends, recommend mortgages, chair meetings and devise the best insurance policies to those that came her way. A world apart from the 55 kitchen sinks she greets every morning in Kodac Court. Her decision to leave Lithuania wasn’t easy resulting in the painful separation of a mother from her husband and three children.

“I came to London to improve the lives of five people.” “This responsibility was enough to keep me working” she says. “They need a future. My husband looked after the children and I came to get us a job.”


A new start

Aldoha arrived in London in 2007 with no English. She says “I couldn’t even ask anyone for the time and if it wasn’t for my sister-in-law I don’t know what I would have done.”

She started off by working three jobs on minimal pay in Central London hotels. She begins mapping out her journey to me. It’s incredible.

Every morning at 6am, Aldoha would travel from her sister-in-law’s East London home to begin work in three separate hotels, starting in Southwark, moving onto Westminster and finishing up at 10pm in Farringdon.

Humour never fails Aldoha, as ever the optimist she smiles through these tales of language barriers, relocation and says:

“It’s funny, I’m fluent in Russian and Polish but I never thought I’d need English.”

After six months of hard work and sending money back home, her family arrived in London. Her husband works six nights a week as a handy-man and Aldoha now works a more relaxed schedule at London Strategic Housing.

When asked does she ever feel saddened that she had to work so hard, having enjoyed a life as a top end banker she says:

“cleaning is the wrong job for my brain, but I’m not scared of change, everyone needs it I’m grateful to get what I’m given – even if it’s not what I’m used to.”

Her choices of career sacrifice over family security are as inspiring as they are humbling. I ask her does the prospect of ever returning to Lithuania enter her mind?

She takes a second, glances downwards at the neat pile of photographs on the table and replies:

“I love my Country. But life as a family doesn’t work. I need to think about my family. A month’s wages in Lithuanian is equal to a week’s pay in London. My children get proper education and healthcare here, so financially, my answer would be no.”

Its Aldoha’s birthday next week, I ask her will she be celebrating. “Nah…work, Christmas all these things, if anything it will be a quiet affair.”

Christmas day will be spent in London with her family, a well deserved break for a mother in every essence of the word.

I tell her she’s more than welcome to view the interview before it’s published, to which she hastily replies:

“Thank you, but do you think I have time to be reading, (before bursting into laughter,) and what would I be doing reading something about myself?

At that, she takes out a battered notebook, scrawls down the Monday to-do list and cursing the very existence of the Great British weather, she walks away, with a smile that could conquer the world.

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