Archive for the ‘Summer 2010’ Category

Matthew Joseph, Russia – July 2010

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Two-Headed-Eagle_-Two-continents

I have been in Moscow since June 9th, 2010, and working with the Andrei Sakharov Foundation.  I am working in the Sakharov Archives.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90’s, the archives that held the KGB files, and other sensitive information, were opened to the public, and Sakharov’s wife, Elena Bonner, was able to gain copies of a large amount of documents.  Andrei Sakharov was a physicist in the Soviet Union, and is sometimes referred to as the father of the Thermo-Nuclear bomb for the Soviets.  As you can imagine, he was greatly rewarded for doing this and lived among the elite of the Soviet Union.  However, Sakharov was a man with a conscience.  He became one of the most well known Soviet dissidents, pushing for the implementation of Human Rights, and warning against the dangers of a nuclear war.  After his first international publication entitled “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom” Sakharov was banned from all military involved projects and was eventually sent into isolation to the city of Gorkii.

I have been able to read through these documents and work with them every day.  It is interesting to compare how they treated other people as oppose to how they treated Sakharov.  They almost feared him it seems.  Also, just see the bureaucracy cycle that these documents would go through, because no one wanted to take the responsibility or steps.

Recently, on July 12th, the former director of the Sakharov Museum was taken to trial for an art exhibition that they had inside of their facility.  It was very interesting to try and attend the court proceedings.  At first I was not even allowed through the gate to the courtyard of the court.  Standing on the street with 100 other people, all trying to fight their way in, was very unique.  There were clashes of rhetoric between the Russian Orthodox supporters and the human rights activist community.  I was asked several times what side I belonged to, and I explained that I was a neutral by stander, just trying to see how the system works.  Finally, after standing on the street for almost one and a half hours, they changed the guards at the gate, so I walked up to the new guard, explained that I work with the Sakharov Foundation, showed him my visa where it shows them as the sponsoring organization, and got in to the courtyard.  The only thing that was better about being inside the gates was that I didn’t have to listen to all of the quarrelling, and watch the local Orthodox Church parade around the block with their cross carrier in front.  After waiting there for another hour, they finally came out of the court.  The verdict was guilty, charged with “having incited hatred towards believers”, and they were fined around $13,000.

Tolstoys-Estate

I have had the opportunity to go to Red Square, Tretyakov Gallery, VDNKH (look this up in Wikipedia, it is really an interesting place), Cosmonaut Museum, Arbat, Ismailovskii Park, Tsarizevno, Kosmolenskii Park, to attend Sa’ban’tue (a harvesting holiday for a lot of the Muslim Minorities in Russia) and to little city’s around Moscow, such as Tyla where they have an Arms Museum as well as a Samovar Museum (tea pot like things) and Ya’snaya Polyana, where Lev Tolstoy lived and wrote his works.  I was lucky enough to come to Moscow the year that they set their record for highest summer temperature, 98 degree’s plus humidity.  And you always thought that Russia suffered from snow all year long.  I am greatly enjoying the time and opportunities.  Moscow is a great city.Austronaut-Museum

Jesse Gray, Scotland – June 2010

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Tuesday June 1- Today I was assigned a new project. I am working to find out the possibilities to get a marina on Millport in Cumbrae. I have been getting contacts of Marina consultants to be able to figure out what needs to come together to make it happen. I have gotten some good responses. Right be fore I left Kenneth asked me to write his speech on NHS funding for Thursdays NHS amendment debate. (8:00-5:00 9 hours).

Wednesday June 2- I pretty much spent all day researching and writing Kenneth’s speech for the NHS. Since it was my first speech I wanted to make sure that I covered all the details so I wanted to get as much good research in that I could. (6:00-5:00 11 hours).

Thursday June 3- Today I continued on the Millport Marina project. I am going to meet with Martin Ladimer for a preliminary meeting next Friday to see what we need to do. He has been a Marina consultant for 30+ years and is keen to see a Marina in Millport. I also went to the debating chamber to watch Kenneth give my speech. (8:00-5:00 9 hours).

Friday June 4- I took the weekend off and we rented a car to visit various places around Scotland. Today we went to the castle at Kirkcaldy and then to St. Andrews. At St. Andrews we saw the Castle, the old Parish and the golf course where the British Open is played. We then headed Aberdeen and spent the night.

Saturday June 5- We headed off to Balmoral Castle and it was excellent. We then went to Inverness and had some lunch there. On our way to Inverness we saw a ski resort so of course we stopped and had a look around. We then went to Loch ness, but unfortunately did not see anything out of the ordinary. We then drove to Oban and spent the night.

Sunday June 6- We left Oban and went to Stirling to see the Castle. It was very nice and big (aren’t all castles?). We then visited the William Wallace Monument. We left Stirling and went through Falkirk to Kirkintilloch. This has significance because it is where my family is from. After Kirkintilloch we headed back to Edinburgh.

Jesse Gray, Scotland – May 2010

Monday, June 7th, 2010

The Experience of Edinburgh

Wednesday May 12- Today I officially started at the Parliament in the offices. The first thing that I was assigned to work on was a motion. The motion was on “the rise of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom.” After I completed the motion I was assigned to work on two topics 1. Campaign strategies for the SNP and 2. Finding grants for renewables to people in Kenneth’s constituency to mitigate costs, with the purpose of incentivizing people to go green. The report focused mainly on home solar and wind technologies. Because the renewable energy grants project had greater precedent I decided to start that one first (after I finished my motion of course). On Wednesday I finished the anti-Semitic motion (which continues to gain votes as we speak). I started a report on finding grants for renewable energy on an individual basis as opposed to a commercial basis. I was also asked by Kenneth to put together research on how to effectively campaign for the SNP in this coming Scottish parliament election. (9:00-5:00 8 hours)

Thursday May 13- Today I worked on the renewables project all day. This day I mainly focused on the Scottish and British government’s role in supplying funding. I found a program that Britain is working on called a Feed in Tariff. It is modelled after the German program to help individuals gain access to subsidies for home renewable energy sources. I also got to see the First Ministers Questions today in the debating chambers. (8:00-5:00 9 hours)

Friday May 14- I continued my work the renewable energies and today I mainly focused on funding that the European Union has to offer. There are many programs that the European Union offers but many of them will begin to expire in 2013 and there is a need to gain access to them as soon as possible. (8:00-5:00 9 hours)

Saturday May 15- Kelsey and I visited the royal Botanical Gardens and the sites around it. On the way home we stopped and ate at Highlands take-away

Sunday May 16- A relaxing Sunday

Monday May 17- I came in early today so that I could finish the renewables project. I finished the project around 1:00. It detailed what types of energies were issued under the feed in tariffs and who could apply. I basically catered the report to the people in Kenneth’s constituency, so that they could gain access to this money therefore getting access to clean energy. (7:00-1:00 6 hours). After I finished the report Kelsey, Spencer and I went to hike Arthur’s seat. We made it halfway up and decided to turn back and feed the ducks and the ducks and the swans. We also went to an old cemetery where there was a memorial to Abraham Lincoln and the Scottish soldiers who had died in the American Civil War. Also buried in the cemetery was the great Philosopher David Hume. (6:00-1:00 7 hours)

Tuesday May 18- before I started my SNP campaign project Kenneth assigned me to do a project to fund grant money for the University Marine Biology Station Millport. So just as with the renewables project I sought to gain info on the Scottish programs first that would be able to help the UMBSM and then the possible EU grants that would be available to UMBSM. I started the project seeking out grant possibilities from Scottish and British sources. (8:00-6:00 10 Hours)

Wednesday May 19- I continued to work on the UMBSM grant funding project and still on this day only sought British sources. This required a lot of grunt work, mainly because I found a book through SPICe that had all the information on grants available by the British government. So I went through this book and got all the contact information of the possible trusts and grants that could be used for UMBSM. After I had collected all the contact info for the relevant donors to UMBSM I began to contact them. I got many leads. For the rest of the day I took down the information that I received and compiled it. (7:00-5:00 10 hours)

Thursday May 20- Today I mainly worked on the UMBSM report and how it could be funded through the European Union. I found the grant schemes the European Union provides for facilities such as UMBSM.

Friday May 21- Today I finally finished the Grants project for the University Marine Biology Station Millport. It looks like there are good options for the UMBSM to get some funding. Today I just cleaned up the project, put all the information together. I created the report so that the director of UMBSM would be able to and apply for grants following the criteria and steps in it. (8:00-3:00 7hours)

Saturday May 22- Today Kelsey and I went to Portobello Beach and I went swimming in the Firth of Forth. The Forth River dumps into the North Sea, so needless to say even though it is May the water was still extremely cold. When I got out of the water I was freezing. The beach was fun though and luckily the sun was out all day. I even got a little sun burnt (yes in Scotland!).

Sunday May 23- Just a relaxing Sunday.

Monday May 24- Today I am starting my project on how the Scottish National Party (SNP) can garner more votes in the coming Scottish elections. I am starting my project on the use of networking and communications tools for campaigning. When I first got to Scotland and helped to campaign for the Westminster Elections the biggest method we were using was that of “canvassing.” I know Election Day was that week, but I feel that an effective networking and communications campaign through the internet would significantly increase success of the SNP in Scotland. As the data in my report points out the majority of voters in Scotland are older voters. With the use of internet and social media networks the younger generation will be more easily approached. The younger generation are also those that fall more in-line with the ideologies of the SNP. This is what my data has been suggesting so far. (8:00-3:00 7 hours).

Tuesday May 25- I am continuing my report on the SNP campaigning. Today I am creating my report on how to staff and utilise tools such as blogs, facebook and twitter. (8:00-5:00 9 hours)

Wednesday May 26- I got some responses for my project on UMBSM, so I am doing some follow up research for the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). The SFC currently funds UMBSM but wants to know how giving more money will be in the SFC’s interest. The HIE also wants to fund UMBSM but wants it justified. So I am putting together a report for both to justify it. (7:00-5:00 10 hours).

Thursday May 27- This morning Kenneth asked me to write a motion on the unveiling of a memorial at the Auld Kirk in Beith in honour of reverend Dr. John Witherspoon who was a minister there in the early 18th century. Reverend Dr. Witherspoon was also one of the most prestigious President of the Princeton University and a signer of the declaration of Independence. I then continued on my campaigning report. I then wrote another motion on the North Korean sinking of the South Korean Choenan ship that was in the Yellow Sea. The motion was published but I do not think that it got much support. (7:00-5:00 10 hours)

Friday May 28- I took today off and Kelsey and hiked Arthur’s seat and afterwards went to the Elephant House Café where JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter.

Saturday May 29- we went to visit the cemetery of Adam Smith was born. It was really nice. We then went to visit the Islamic Mosque in Edinburgh. It was great and I got a lesson in the history and beliefs of Islam.

Sunday May 30- Yet another nice and relaxing Sunday

Monday May 31- Today I am continuing my project on the SNP and campaigning. I got more could information on Scottish voting trends and am working that into my report. I left work early to go walk on the river trail and the Edinburgh Museum of Modern Art. The museum was great and I really want to go back (8:00-1:00).