Interview with Reggie Bibbs on his life with neurofibromatosis

Friday, December 14, 2007

Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a genetic condition causing benign tumors (neurofibromas) to grow along certain types of nerves and, in addition, it can affect the development of bones or skin. There are several variants of the disease but type 1 and type 2 NF account for the vast majority of cases.

The disease manifestations can vary from very mild to severe. Major symptoms include growths on and under the skin; skin pigmentations called café au lait spots in type 1; acoustic nerve tumors and consequent hearing loss in type 2. Growths can affect nearly all parts of the body, and pressure on nearby structures can cause a wide variety of complications. There is a small risk that the tumors transform into malignant cancerous lesions.

NF is one of the most common single-gene human diseases; around 1 in 2,500-4,000 live births are affected by NF-1, whereas NF-2 occurs in about 1 in 50,000-120,000. Both type 1 and 2 are autosomal dominant conditions, meaning that only one copy of the mutated gene need be inherited to pass the disorder. A child of a parent with neurofibromatosis and an unaffected parent will have a 50% chance of inheriting the disorder. The gene responsible for NF-1 and possibly NF-2 is thought to function as a tumor suppressor gene.

In most cases of neurofibromatosis 1, patients can live normal and productive lives. In about 25-40% of patients there is an associated learning disability with or without ADHD. In some cases of neurofibromatosis 2, the damage to nearby vital structures, such as the cranial nerves and the brainstem, can be life-threatening. When tumors are causing pain or disfiguration, surgery is thus far the only proven beneficial treatment option.

Reggie Bibbs is a 43-year-old-man living in Houston, Texas. Mr Bibbs was born with a genetic disease called neurofibromatosis (NF), which causes him to develop tumors on his body (see infobox on the right). NF can be a subtle disease, but in Bibbs’ case it has left him with a disfigured face and deformed leg. But he is happy with the way he looks, and doesn’t want to change his appearance to please other people. He has launched a successful campaign entitled “Just Ask”, and that’s just what Wikinews did in a video-interview.

The interview was prepared by Wikinews reporter Michaël Laurent with the help of Bertalan Meskó (who has a popular genetics and web 2.0 blog). Their questions were sent to a close friend of Mr. Bibbs, Lou Congelio, who kindly conducted the interview.


  • 1 Infobox: What is neurofibromatosis?
  • 2 The interview
    • 2.1 On neurofibromatosis
    • 2.2 Growing up
    • 2.3 A head to toe body tour
    • 2.4 The daily life of Reggie Bibbs
    • 2.5 Raising awareness and his campaign
  • 3 Sources
  • 4 External links
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Posted in Uncategorized

Basic Elements Of Estate Planning

By Simon Volkov

Estate planning is a crucial element of life planning. It gives people the tools to pass along their property at death and provide directives regarding the type of healthcare they do or do not want if they become incapacitated.

Several estate planning strategies exist. The type required depends on value of estate assets. Small estates valued at less than $100k can usually be protected by establishing a last will and testament. Estates valued at more than $100k might better benefit from a trust.

Within the US, probate is used for estate settlement unless inheritance property is transferred to a trust. Two types of probate exist and include testate and intestate. Testate refers to estates in which a Will has been executed, while intestate refers to estates where no Will exists.

Testate estates usually pass through probate faster than intestate estates because estate settlement directives have been established. With intestate estates, a personal representative must be appointed and confirmed through the court and inheritance property is distributed according to state probate laws.

Many factors are considered when establishing a last will and testament. One of the most important is appointing an estate executor. This person is responsible for all facets of estate settlement. Duties range from filing the Will and death certificate through local probate court to settling decedents’ outstanding debts and distributing inheritance gifts to heirs and beneficiaries.

YouTube Preview Image

Estate executors should be able to work well under pressure; be good with finances; and able to comply with paperwork filing deadlines. By law, executors must be 18 years of age and never convicted of a felony offense.

When family discord is prevalent it can be beneficial to appoint a probate lawyer or estate planner to the position of estate executor. Hiring professionals can ease the burden of settling an estate when family members are prone to arguing over who should receive what.

Sadly, death tends to bring out greed. It is not uncommon for families to fall apart when loved ones die. Managing a loved one’s estate when family members are at each other’s throats can be a difficult position that adds more fuel to the fire.

If necessary, estate executors can obtain help from probate lawyers and estate planners. These professionals can be helpful regardless of if family dysfunction exists or not. Probate attorneys can be particularly helpful in settling estates when real estate or other valuable assets are secured with a bank loan.

Estate administrators are responsible for establishing an estate checking account using funds owned by decedents. Throughout probate, the estate must pay loan installments to ensure property is not repossessed. If there are insufficient funds to cover debts, a lawyer can help negotiate unpaid balances to reduce estate expenses.

On average, the probate process for testate estates is 4 months. If heirs contest the Will, inheritance property can be suspended for several months. Intestate estate settlement can be swift or prolonged depending on estate value and outstanding debts.

For individuals with estates valued below $100k, estate planning is a relatively simple process. While it is recommended to hire a lawyer to execute a last will, some people draft their Will using online companies such as LegalZoom.

Two other essential elements of estate planning include granting power of attorney rights and establishing a healthcare proxy. Power of attorney grants authority to a person to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

The person designated with POA rights should be trustworthy and able to make difficult decisions on your behalf. If necessary, they can access bank account or sell valuable property including real estate. This decision should be given careful consideration.

A healthcare proxy provides directives about the type of medical treatments you do or do not want to receive. Healthcare proxies are written directives which must be upheld by medical professionals. Therefore, it is crucial to let loved ones know that a healthcare proxy has been established.

Some people believe estate planning is only for the wealthy. The truth is everyone owns something valuable they would like to pass along to loved ones. If property is not protected by a Will or trust it is distributed according to probate law and may not end up in the hands of the person you intended.

About the Author: California probate liquidator and investor, Simon Volkov reveals powerful estate planning strategies, ways to avoid probate, and tips for establishing a trust via his estate planning probate article library at


Permanent Link:

Smoke from massive warehouse fire in Buffalo, New York USA can be seen 40 miles away

Monday, May 14, 2007

Buffalo, New York —A massive warehouse complex of at least 5 buildings caught on fire in Buffalo, New York on 111 Tonawanda Street, sending a plume of thick, jet black colored smoke into the air that could be seen as far away as 40 miles.

As of 6:40 a.m., the fire was under control, and firefighters were attempting to stop it from spreading, but could not get to the center of the fire because of severe amounts of debris. Later in the morning, the fire was extinguished.

“The fire is mostly under debris at this point. It’s under control, but it’s under some debris. We really can’t get to it. We’re just going to have to keep on pouring water on it so it doesn’t spread,” said Thomas Ashe, the fire chief for the North Buffalo based fire division who also added that at one point, at least 125 firefighters were on the scene battling the blaze. One suffered minor injures and was able to take himself to the hospital to seek medical attention.

Shortly after 8:00 p.m. as many as 3 explosions rocked the warehouse sending large mushroom clouds of thick black smoke into the air. After the third explosion, heat could be felt more than 100 feet away. The fire started in the front, one story building then quickly spread to three others, but fire fighters managed to stop the flames from spreading onto the 3 story building all the way at the back.

According to a Buffalo Police officer, who wished not to be named, the fire began at about 7:00 p.m. [Eastern time], starting as a one alarm fire. By 8:00 p.m., three fire companies were on the scene battling the blaze. Police also say that a smaller fire was reported in the same building on Saturday night, which caused little damage.

At the start of the fire, traffic was backed up nearly 4 miles on the 198 expressway going west toward the 190 Interstate and police had to shut down the Tonawanda street exit because the road is too close to the fire.

At one point, traffic on the 198 was moving so slow, at least a dozen people were seen getting out of their cars and walking down the expressway to watch the fire. That prompted as many as 10 police cars to be dispatched to the scene to force individuals back into their cars and close off one of the 2 lanes on the westbound side.

One woman, who wished not to be named as she is close to the owner of the warehouse, said the building is filled with “classic cars, forklifts, and money” and that owner “does not have insurance” coverage on the property. The building is not considered abandoned, but firefighters said that it is vacant.

Officials in Fort Erie, Ontario were also swamped with calls to fire departments when the wind blew the smoke over the Niagra River and into Canada.

It is not known what caused the fire, but a car is suspected to have caught on fire and there are reports from police and hazmat crews, that there were also large barrels of diesel fuel being stored in one building. Firefighters say the cause of the blaze is being treated as “suspicious.” The ATF is investigating the fire and will bring dogs in to search the debris.

Posted in Uncategorized

Pfizer and Microsoft team up against Viagra spam

Sunday, February 13, 2005

New York –”Buy cheap Viagra through us – no prescription required!” Anyone with an active email account will recognize lines like this one. According to some reports, unsolicited advertisements (spam) for Viagra and similar drugs account for one in four spam messages.


Spamming remains one of the biggest problems facing email users today. While users and systems administrators have improved their defenses against unsolicited email, many spammers now insert random words or characters into their letters in order to bypass filters. The Wikipedia article Stopping email abuse provides an overview of the various strategies employed by companies, Internet users and systems administrators to deal with the issue.

Ever since pharmaceutical giant Pfizer promised to cure erectile dysfunction once and for all with its blue pills containing the drug sildenafil citrate, spammers have tried to tap into male anxiety by offering prescription-free sales of unapproved “generic” Viagra and clones such as Cialis soft tabs. Legislation like the U.S. CAN-SPAM act has done little to stem the tide of email advertising the products.

Now Pfizer has entered a pledge with Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest software company, to address the problem. The joint effort will focus on lawsuits against spammers as well as the companies they advertise. “Pfizer is joining with Microsoft on these actions as part of our shared pledge to reduce the sale of these products and to fight the senders of unsolicited e-mail that overwhelms people’s inboxes,” said Jeff Kindler, executive vice president at Pfizer.

Microsoft has filed civil actions against spammers advertising the websites CanadianPharmacy and E-Pharmacy Direct. Pfizer has filed lawsuits against the two companies, and has taken actions against websites which use the word “Viagra” in their domain names. Sales of controlled drugs from Canadian pharmacies to the United States are illegal, but most drugs sold in Canada have nevertheless undergone testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is not the case for many of the Viagra clones sold by Internet companies and manufactured in countries like China and India. While it was not clear that CanadianPharmacy was actually shipping drugs from Canada, Pfizer’s general counsel, Beth Levine, claimed that the company filled orders using a call center in Montreal, reported the Toronto Star.

For Microsoft’s part, they allege that the joint effort with Pfizer is part of their “multi-pronged attack on the barrage of spam.” As the creator of the popular email program Outlook, Microsoft has been criticized in the past for the product’s spam filtering process. Recently, Microsoft added anti-spam measures to its popular Exchange server. Exchange 2003 now includes support for accessing so-called real-time block lists, or RTBLs. An RTBL is a list of the IP addresses maintained by a third party; the addresses on the list are those of mailservers thought to have sent spam recently. Exchange 2003 can query the list for each message it receives.

Posted in Uncategorized

U.S. did not inform Pakistan of bin Laden mission because of suspicions he was being harbored by government

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The U.S. did not inform Pakistan of the operation to kill Osama bin Laden because of fears they were harboring the leader of al-Qaeda and would warn him of the mission, a senior American intelligence official has said. Pakistan has defended itself against allegations it was protecting the world’s most wanted man, and expressed embarrassment after it emerged bin Laden may have been living in the compound in Abbottabad for as many as six years without being intercepted by Pakistan intelligence.

Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, said cooperation between the two countries “could jeopardise the mission” because there were suspicions that elements of the Pakistani government were working with bin Laden. Panetta disclosed U.S. officials had dismissed working with the government of Pakistan early on in the planning of the mission to kill him because of fears that they might “alert” the man named responsible for the September 11 attacks. The revelation will likely raise questions over the level of trust between officials in Washington, D.C. and Islamabad.

The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, has attacked “baseless speculation” that Pakistan was harboring bin Laden. The Pakistani foreign ministry also said in a statement that it has “deep concerns and reservations” over the U.S. fears it is sheltering terrorists, and stressed it shared information openly with Washington. But U.S. officials have raised concerns over how Pakistani authorities allowed bin Laden to remain undetected in the country for as many as six years, and tensions are likely to be further strained after the White House announced it would be throughly investigating claims bin Laden had “benefactors” and a “support system” inside Pakistan. John Brennan, a senior counterterrorism official, said: “We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long.”

Denying they were providing a shelter for bin Laden, Pakistani officials expressed “embarrassment” over failing to detect his presence so close to the capital; they said a full investigation would be launched. “We will inquire into the causes of what happened but it’s really important not to turn it into any allegation of complicity,” the Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, said. But Western politicians have expressed skepticism as to how the Pakistani government did not know bin Laden was in the country, despite him living a short distance from the leading elite military training academy. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham asked: “How could he be in such a compound without being noticed?”

It emerged yesterday that bin Laden’s daughter had told Pakistani officials that her father had initially been captured by the U.S. forces and then killed. The White House said on Tuesday that bin Laden had been unarmed during the raid, but the U.S. Navy Seals did meet resistance from other people in the building; it is thought as many as 18 people may have been in the compound. The U.S. left several people behind, including six children; afterwards, Pakistani authorities arrested everyone in the compound.

“If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate,” U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said yesterday. But the claim by bin Laden’s 12-year-old daughter that U.S. forces captured him and then shot him dead in front of his family appear to contradict this statement. The U.S. has also been forced to defend itself against allegations that the raid was unlawful, and claims that bin Laden was not a legitimate target. Holder told a Senate committee the killing of the al-Qaeda leader was “an act of national self-defence”.

More details have been emerging about how Bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. special forces on a compound not far from Islamabad over the weekend. The U.S. seized computer equipment and mobile telephones from the compound, which will be analysed with the hope they will reveal more information about the workings of al-Qaeda. U.S. president Barack Obama announced the raid on Sunday night. “I can report to the American people and to the world, that the U.S. has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” Obama said, and confirmed he had been told in August of a lead to the location of the al-Qaeda leader. Four other people were killed in the raid on the compound; the U.S. sustained no casualties. The body of bin Laden was buried at sea.

Osama bin Laden is not a trophy—he is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaeda has been eliminated.

Last night Obama officially decided the U.S. will not release images of bin Laden’s corpse, which have been described as “very gruesome”. In an interview to be aired on CBS News, Obama will say: “The risks of release outweigh the benefits.” Skeptics have demanded the U.S. release the photographs of the corpse, and officials in the White House have been debating whether to do so for the past several days. But Obama is to add that conspiracy theorists “will just claim the photos are doctored anyway,” and say his decision was partly based on fears that there could be anger in the Middle East if the images were released. “Osama bin Laden is not a trophy—he is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaeda has been eliminated.” The images are reported to show bin Laden shot above the left eye, with parts of his brain exposed.

After it was announced on Sunday night that bin Laden had been killed, many Americans begun gathering in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., Times Square and Ground Zero—the site of the World Trade Center—in New York, to celebrate, singing the national anthem. Reports have indicated the U.S. government is awaiting the release of a “martyr tape”—an audio recording made by bin Laden to be broadcast after his death. Many world leaders have said the killing of bin Laden marks a major turning point on the war on terror. “Osama bin Laden suggested that he was operating in the name of Islam, but in reality he makes a mockery of the fundamental values of his own and every other religion,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said. But NATO said it would continue the war in Afghanistan to ensure the country “never again becomes a safe haven for extremism, but develops in peace and security.”

The White House also confirmed they expect al-Qaeda may launch a retaliatory attack after bin Laden’s death. “We have anticipated a backlash, a desire, if not the ability, to exact some sort of revenge,” a spokesperson said. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has threatened to launch attacks in Pakistan and the U.S. in revenge for the death of bin Laden. Panetta said: “Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is not. The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must—and will—remain vigilant and resolute.” The U.S. has issued notices advising travelers to avoid large crowds in foreign countries.

Posted in Uncategorized

CanadaVOTES: NDP candidate Max Lombardi running in Cambridge

Friday, September 26, 2008

On October 14, 2008, Canadians will be heading to the polls for the federal election. New Democratic Party candidate Max Lombardi is standing for election in the riding of Cambridge. Lombardi is an information technology specialist who has lived in Cambridge for 25 years.

Held since 2004 by Conservative Gary Goodyear, the riding of Cambridge includes the city of Cambridge, Ontario and the Township of North Dumfries, Ontario. Also running in the riding are Gord Zeilstra (Liberal) and Scott Cosman (Green).

Wikinews contacted Max Lombardi, to talk about the issues facing Canadians, and what they and their party would do to address them. Wikinews is in the process of contacting every candidate, in every riding across the country, no matter their political stripe. All interviews are conducted over e-mail, and interviews are published unedited, allowing candidates to impart their full message to our readers, uninterrupted.

For more information, visit the campaign’s official website, listed below.

Posted in Uncategorized

Wikinews interviews Joe Schriner, Independent U.S. presidential candidate

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Journalist, counselor, painter, and US 2012 Presidential candidate Joe Schriner of Cleveland, Ohio took some time to discuss his campaign with Wikinews in an interview.

Schriner previously ran for president in 2000, 2004, and 2008, but failed to gain much traction in the races. He announced his candidacy for the 2012 race immediately following the 2008 election. Schriner refers to himself as the “Average Joe” candidate, and advocates a pro-life and pro-environmentalist platform. He has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles, and has published public policy papers exploring solutions to American issues.

Wikinews reporter William Saturn? talks with Schriner and discusses his campaign.

Posted in Uncategorized

If You’re In The Market For A New Home Learn These Thoughts}

Submitted by: Toney Fike

The way the real estate market works may seem more simple than it appears to be. You find a house you like, you put in an offer, and you move in if accepted. Nevertheless, from finding financing to locating the right inspector, there’s so much more that goes into it. Here are some of the things you may not have known about buying real estate.

Home Evaluation

Once it is time to place an offer on a home that you want to buy, be sure to include in your offer that you would like a house inspection to figure out if the house is in good shape or requires costly repair work. A home inspector will point out potential issues that will be important in your decision to pursue the investment of the home.

Before you complete your offer on a home purchase, it is important to hire an experienced home inspector to conduct a standard evaluation on the home. This can help you prevent a pricey home buying mistake. After arranging the home inspection, plan to be there with the inspector during the entire process. Make a checklist of any questions or items of concern that you want to resolve before wrapping up the purchase of the house. A detailed inspection should take two to three hours and cover everything from the foundation to the roof.

An investment of $ 200 – $ 400 for a home inspection is certainly worth every penny. It is going to take about two to three hours to complete and will provide details on more than 400 items of the home that may be a potential complication. This inspection can save you thousands of dollars in repairs once you buy the house.

A very important tip for prospective purchasers of real estate is to exercise great care when choosing real estate agents and home inspection professionals. Make certain to seek recommendations from people you trust, and take the time to validate qualifications and credentials. Buying a house is one of the most significant financial investments in anybody’s life, and therefore it is important to enlist the aid only of those whose expertise is thoroughly established.

Obtain a thorough home inspection. Although the house may appear perfect to you, it is important to get a home inspector check it out. There are many disguised issues that the untrained eye won’t see. If the home inspector discovers a complication, you ought to be able negotiate with the seller over the cost of repairs. In some cases, the seller will agree to repair the problem prior to sale, or they can simply take the cost of repair off the sale price.

If you need to buy a home immediately, make sure to have a back-up plan. There are so many things that can occur as you look to purchase a residential property; one common problem is that the home evaluation can reveal a significant problem that you are not equipped to deal with. Rather than starting back at the beginning, have another property already in your mind.

Even if you need to buy a home in a hurry, it is very important not to miss some of the fundamental measures that you need to secure the residential property. You may think that skipping the home evaluation will spare you time, but it could possibly create you an untold number of troubles when you move into the residence.

Things like these always seem to be so obvious in hindsight, yet you would certainly be shocked at simply how many homeowners are neglecting to use pointers like these when buying homes and various other types of residential properties out there. Do not become one of the many real estate losers out there. Use the tips mentioned earlier to come out ahead on any offer.

About the Author: This article was prepared to give you a better idea about the residential property inspection process. If you would like to find out a lot more about this topic or order a residential property inspection with our company, Compass Inspectors, kindly click the this link

or give us a phone calll at 914-380-3274! For additional material on home inspections, also look at dallas home inspection.


Permanent Link:}

Petition pressures City of Edinburgh Council to review clause affecting live music scene

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Live music venues in Edinburgh, Scotland are awaiting a review later this year on the 2005 licensing policy, which places limitations on the volume of amplified music in the city. Investigating into how the policy is affecting the Edinburgh music scene, a group of Wikinews writers interviewed venue owners, academics, the City of Edinburgh Council, and local band The Mean Reds to get different perspectives on the issue.

Since the clause was introduced by the government of the city of Edinburgh, licensed venues have been prohibited from allowing music to be amplified to the extent it is audible to nearby residential properties. This has affected the live music scene, with several venues discontinuing regular events such as open mic nights, and hosting bands and artists.

Currently, the licensing policy allows licensing standards officers to order a venue to cease live music on any particular night, based on a single noise complaint from the public. The volume is not electronically measured to determine if it breaches a decibel volume level. Over roughly the past year there have been 56 separate noise complaints made against 18 venues throughout the city.

A petition to amend the clause has garnered over 3,000 signatures, including the support of bar owners, musicians, and members of the general public.

On November 17, 2014, the government’s Culture and Sport Committee hosted an open forum meeting at Usher Hall. Musicians, venue owners and industry professionals were encouraged to provide their thoughts on how the council could improve live music in the city. Ways to promote live music as a key cultural aspect of Edinburgh were discussed and it was suggested that it could be beneficial to try and replicate the management system of live music of other global cities renowned for their live music scenes. However, the suggestion which prevailed above all others was simply to review the existing licensing policy.

Councillor (Cllr) Norma Austin-Hart, Vice Convenor of the Culture and Sport Committee, is responsible for the working group Music is Audible. The group is comprised of local music professionals, and councillors and officials from Edinburgh Council. A document circulated to the Music is Audible group stated the council aims “to achieve a balance between protecting residents and supporting venues”.

Following standard procedure, when a complaint is made, a Licensing Standards Officer (LSO) is dispatched to investigate the venue and evaluate the level of noise. If deemed to be too loud, the LSO asks the venue to lower the noise level. According to a document provided by the City of Edinburgh Council, “not one single business has lost its license or been closed down because of a breach to the noise condition in Edinburgh.”

In the Scotland Licensing Policy (2005), Clause 6.2 states, “where the operating plan indicates that music is to be played in a premises, the board will consider the imposition of a condition requiring amplified music from those premises to be inaudible in residential property.” According to Cllr Austin-Hart, the high volume of tenement housing in the city centre makes it difficult for music to be inaudible.

During the Edinburgh Festival Fringe during the summer, venues are given temporary licences that allow them to operate for the duration of the festival and under the condition that “all amplified music and vocals are controlled to the satisfaction of the Director of Services for Communities”, as stated in a document from the council. During the festival, there is an 11 p.m. noise restriction on amplified music, and noise may be measured by Environmental Health staff using sophisticated equipment. Noise is restricted to 65dB(A) from the facades of residential properties; however, complaints from residents still occur. In the document from the council, they note these conditions and limitations for temporary venues would not necessarily be appropriate for permanent licensed premises.

In a phone interview, Cllr Austin-Hart expressed her concern about the unsettlement in Edinburgh regarding live music. She referenced the closure of the well-known Picture House, a venue that has provided entertainment for over half a century, and the community’s opposition to commercial public bar chain Wetherspoon buying the venue. “[It] is a well-known pub that does not play any form of music”, Cllr Austin-Hart said. “[T]hey feel as if it is another blow to Edinburgh’s live music”. “[We] cannot stop Wetherspoon’s from buying this venue; we have no control over this.”

The venue has operated under different names, including the Caley Palais which hosted bands such as Queen and AC/DC. The Picture House opened in 2008.

One of the venues which has been significantly affected by the licensing laws is the Phoenix Bar, on Broughton Street. The bar’s owner, Sam Roberts, was induced to cease live music gigs in March, following a number of noise complaints against the venue. As a result, Ms Roberts was inspired to start the aforementioned petition to have Clause 6.2 of the licensing policy reviewed, in an effort to remove the ‘inaudibility’ statement that is affecting venues and the music scene.

“I think we not only encourage it, but actively support the Edinburgh music scene,” Ms Roberts says of the Phoenix Bar and other venues, “the problem is that it is a dying scene.”

When Ms Roberts purchased the venue in 2013, she continued the existing 30-year legacy established by the previous owners of hosting live acts. Representative of Edinburgh’s colourful music scene, a diverse range of genres have been hosted at the venue. Ms Roberts described the atmosphere when live music acts perform at her venue as “electric”. “The whole community comes together singing, dancing and having a party. Letting their hair down and forgetting their troubles. People go home happy after a brilliant night out. All the staff usually join in; the pub comes alive”. However licensing restrictions have seen a majority of the acts shut down due to noise complaints. “We have put on jazz, blues, rock, rockabilly, folk, celtic and pop live acts and have had to close everything down.” “Residents in Edinburgh unfortunately know that the Council policy gives them all the rights in the world, and the pubs and clubs none”, Ms Roberts clarified.

Discussing how inaudibility has affected venues and musicians alike, Ms Roberts stated many pubs have lost profit through the absence of gigs, and trying to soundproof their venue. “It has put many musicians out of work and it has had an enormous effect on earnings in the pub. […] Many clubs and bars have been forced to invest in thousands of pounds worth of soundproofing equipment which has nearly bankrupted them, only to find that even the tiniest bit of noise can still force a closure. It is a ridiculously one-sided situation.” Ms Roberts feels inaudibility is an unfair clause for venues. “I think it very clearly favours residents in Edinburgh and not business. […] Nothing is being done to support local business, and closing down all the live music venues in Edinburgh has hurt financially in so many ways. Not only do you lose money, you lose new faces, you lose the respect of the local musicians, and you begin to lose all hope in a ‘fair go’.”

With the petition holding a considerable number of signatures, Ms Roberts states she is still sceptical of any change occurring. “Over three thousand people have signed the petition and still the council is not moving. They have taken action on petitions with far fewer signatures.” Ms Roberts also added, “Right now I don’t think Edinburgh has much hope of positive change”.

Ms Roberts seems to have lost all hope for positive change in relation to Edinburgh’s music scene, and argues Glasgow is now the regional choice for live music and venues. “[E]veryone in the business knows they have to go to Glasgow for a decent scene. Glasgow City Council get behind their city.”

Ms Martina Cannon, member of local band The Mean Reds, said a regular ‘Open Mic Night’ she hosted at The Parlour on Duke Street has ceased after a number of complaints were made against the venue. “It was a shame because it had built up some momentum over the months it had been running”. She described financial loss to the venue from cancelling the event, as well as loss to her as organiser of the event.

Sneaky Pete’s music bar and club, owned by Nick Stewart, is described on its website as “open and busy every night”.”Many clubs could be defined as bars that host music, but we really are a music venue that serves drinks”, Mr Stewart says. He sees the live music scene as essential for maintaining nightlife in Edinburgh not only because of the economic benefit but more importantly because of the cultural significance. “Music is one of the important things in life. […] it’s emotionally and intellectually engaging, and it adds to the quality of life that people lead.”

Sneaky Pete’s has not been immune to the inaudibility clause. The business has spent about 20,000 pounds on multiple soundproofing fixes designed to quell complaints from neighboring residents. “The business suffered a great deal in between losing the option to do gigs for fear of complaints, and finishing the soundproofing. As I mentioned, we are a music business that serves drinks, not a bar that also has music, so when we lose shows, we lose a great deal of trade”, said Mr Stewart.

He believes there is a better way to go about handling complaints and fixing public nuisances. “The local mandatory condition requiring ‘amplified music and vocals’ to be ‘inaudible’ should be struck from all licenses. The requirement presupposes that nuisance is caused by music venues, when this may not reasonably be said to be the case. […] Nuisance is not defined in the Licensing Act nor is it defined in the Public Health Act (Scotland) 2008. However, The Consultation on Guidance to accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 states that ‘There are eight key issues to consider when evaluating whether a nuisance exists[…]'”.

The eight key factors are impact, locality, time, frequency, duration, convention, importance, and avoidability. Stewart believes it is these factors that should be taken into consideration by LSOs responding to complaints instead of the sole factor of “audibility”.He believes multiple steps should be taken before considering revocation of licenses. Firstly, LSOs should determine whether a venue is a nuisance based on the eight factors. Then, the venue should have the opportunity to comply by using methods such as changing the nature of their live performances (e.g. from hard rock to acoustic rock), changing their hours of operation, or soundproofing. If the venue still fails to comply, then a board can review their license with the goal of finding more ways to bring them into compliance as opposed to revoking their license.

Nick Stewart has discussed his proposal at length with Music is Audible and said he means to present his proposal to the City of Edinburgh Council.

Dr Adam Behr, a music academic and research associate at the University of Edinburgh who has conducted research on the cultural value of live music, says live music significantly contributes to the economic performance of cities. He said studies have shown revenue creation and the provision of employment are significant factors which come about as a result of live music. A 2014 report by UK Music showed the economic value generated by live music in the UK in 2013 was £789 million and provided the equivalent of 21,600 full time jobs.

As the music industry is international by nature, Behr says this complicates the way revenue is allocated, “For instance, if an American artist plays a venue owned by a British company at a gig which is promoted by a company that is part British owned but majority owned by, say, Live Nation (a major international entertainment company) — then the flow of revenues might not be as straightforward as it seems [at] first.”

Despite these complexities, Behr highlighted the broader advantages, “There are, of course, ancillary benefits, especially for big gigs […] Obviously other local businesses like bars, restaurants and carparks benefit from increased trade”, he added.

Behr criticised the idea of making music inaudible and called it “unrealistic”. He said it could limit what kind of music can be played at venues and could force vendors to spend a large amount of money on equipment that enables them to meet noise cancelling requirements. He also mentioned the consequences this has for grassroots music venues as more ‘established’ venues within the city would be the only ones able to afford these changes.

Alongside the inaudibility dispute has been the number of sites that have been closing for the past number of years. According to Dr Behr, this has brought attention to the issue of retaining live music venues in the city and has caused the council to re-evaluate its music strategy and overall cultural policy.

This month, Dr Behr said he is to work on a live music census for Edinburgh’s Council which aims to find out what types of music is played, where, and what exactly it brings to the city. This is in an effort to get the Edinburgh city council to see any opportunities it has with live music and the importance of grassroots venues. The census is similar to one conducted in Victoria, Australia in 2012 on the extent of live music in the state and its economic benefit.

As for the solution to the inaudibility clause, Behr says the initial step is dialogue, and this has already begun. “Having forum discussion, though, is a start — and an improvement”, he said. “There won’t be an overnight solution, but work is ongoing to try to find one that can stick in the long term.”

Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of Music Venue Trust, said she is unable to comment on her work with the City of Edinburgh Council or on potential changes to the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy. However, she says, “I have been asked to assess the situation and make recommendations in September”.

According to The Scotsman, the Council is working toward helping Edinburgh’s cultural and entertainment scene. Deputy Council Leader Sandy Howat said views of the entertainment industry needs to change and the Council will no longer consider the scene as a “sideline”.

Senior members of the Council, The Scotsman reported, aim to review the planning of the city to make culture more of a priority. Howat said, “If you’re trying to harness a living community and are creating facilities for people living, working and playing then culture should form part of that.”

The review of the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy is set to be reviewed near the end of 2016 but the concept of bringing it forward to this year is still under discussion.

Posted in Uncategorized