NYC travel review and tips

387044_10150988617261664_1226223863_nAs I took my first step out of a yellow cab into the city, ‘so good they named it twice’, I was overwhelmed.

“Welcome to New Yowrak,” the cabdriver yelled in a heavy local accent.

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Times Square

Horns sounding, lights flashing, buskers singing, smoke everywhere, smells of fast food filling the exhaust polluted air within the high buildings towering over my nervously excited body. You would think I wasn’t enjoying myself from the look on my stunned face. But the truth was I had never felt so exhilarated in my life.

After living, studying and working in the big apple for four months my tips to tourists would be people watch, ride the subway and walk the streets.

The subway is a maze of tunnels underground connecting this metropolitan city. As I looked around the carriage everyone was different. It was a host of different nations, races, religions and ages, taking each person to a different place. That multicultural aspect can be found in many big cities but in New York there is a feeling that everyone is like a big family. Get to know New Yorkers because they are what keep the city alive.

To experience the ‘real’ New York you have to live like the people.

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Central Park Lake

Take a stroll and feed the birds in Central Park, eat blueberry pancakes from a diner (don’t forget to tip!), buy a hot pretzel from a smoking street vendor, skate at the Rockefeller Centre in the winter, visit its range of museums, take time to explore different corners of the city if you have time – there is much more to it than Times Square, cross the Brooklyn Bridge in the daylight and then again at night to see the light reflection on the Hudson River, hang out on Washington Square Park with NYU students and the bird man.

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View from the Chelsea High Line

Do not limit yourself by only doing the ‘book guided’ attractions; experience your own New York by exploring.

At the weekends I would like to take a stroll on the High Line Park in Chelsea that is in middle Manhattan. This stretch of garden that hangs above the streets of the affluent area offers wonderful views. Pick up some lunch at the Chelsea Market and watch the city go by in this relaxing space.

For a different shopping experience stroll around Tribeca, Greenwich Village and SoHo where you can find quirky boutiques. For well-known brands stay on the main avenues in upper Manhattan. If your budget is almost limitless visit the Upper East Side home to the likes of Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Hermés and more glamour.

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$3.50 cupcake from Magnolia Bakery- well worth the try!

As for food, you are in the most multicultural city in the world, so take your pick! Little Italy is an area home to some of the finest Italian restaurants and is like a little pocket of Europe in the middle of New York, if pizza or pasta with a glass of wine is what you fancy then this is the place for you. My favourite place to eat was called Shake Shack, which is like a fancy McDonalds. When darkness is glooming take a trip to the fairy lit Madison Square Park Shake Shack for the ultimate fast food dining experience. For dessert – my choice would be to grab a deliciously soft and creamy cup cake from Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street.

The best thing about New York is it can offer you anything you want from a holiday. May it be a relaxing day in any of its parks, or a hectic shopping or sightseeing day it will not disappoint – just don’t forget your camera.

 

For more NYC info and advice visit my travel blog big-city-lights-ny.tumblr.com

 

 

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Date set for independence referendum

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Picture credit: the drum.com

It was announced in Edinburgh today, by First Minister Alex Salmond, that the Scottish independence referendum will take place on 18 September 2014.

Voters will be asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?” with the answer options of yes or no.

Previously SNP ministers said that the referendum would take place in 2014, many opposition parties deemed this unfair for voters.

When speaking in the Scottish Parliament today, Mr Salmond said: “It’s worth, just for a moment on the privilege this nation and this generation will have – nothing less than choosing the future course of our country.”

Salmond went on to say that the referendum day will be a historical one.

SNP’s majority in the Scottish Parliament will mean that the arrangements for the vote in the Scottish independence referendum bill will be assured and legislation will be passed.

Scottish ministers say that if the country votes yes Scotland will be able to build a better country by using its natural assets.

Other opposing parties supported Scotland’s union with the UK.

Johann Lamont, leader of Scottish Labour, said: “The truth is, Alex Salmond knows if he held the referendum now, he wouldn’t just lose it, he would be routed.

“All the self-aggrandizement of today isn’t just a sign of the first minister’s usual pomposity.

A separate draft legislation, introduced by the Scottish government, will allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the ballot.

The Scottish government have said the legislation of the vote would make sure that:

  • The referendum would have a 16 week campaign period on the run up to the 18 September 2014, with limited spending from each campaigner to ensure a level debate from both sides
  •  The independent Electoral Commission watchdog will oversea the vote, they are responsible for regulating campaign rules and informing the public
  • The ballot is conducted by direction of a chief counting officer
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OPINION: concerns over press freedom

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picture howstuffworks.com

So the day has come- we journalists are going to be regulated.

It was reported today that the three main political parties have come to an agreement on a new independent press regulation regime set up by royal charter.

The deal comes after Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into how press stories are gathered. The inquiry found that some journalists had hacked thousands of phones.

Newspapers, magazines, or websites containing news-related material are defined as publishers by the charter.

However there is some confusion how the regulation plans would impose on the rest of the Internet such as blogs.

The Leveson Report that came out at the end of last year proposed the creation of an independent regulator backed by legislation which would designed to test its working efficiency.

Christopher Jeffries who was wrongly ‘monstered’ by some media in the Johanna Yates murder investigation agreed with the regulation and said that the new system would ensure that press would be apologetic to victims, fines of up to £1m, a self-regulator body with independent appointments and funding, a strong standards code, free arbitration service for victims and a fast complaints system.

I am all for press regulation however I am worried that we are underpinned by law, because then there will be no freedom of the press, something we have experience around 300 years of.

Although it was said in the Commons that the royal charter will merely oversee the new regulator and it will not be underpinned in law.

This eases my worries as both victims and publishers have been met in the middle, nothing too drastic like underpinning law, but something, as a sort of controller. However if it will be underpinned by royal charter how can the press hold politicians to account?

To be truthfully honest, freedom of the press is a right, but I think some have spoiled that for the rest. Like school kids I the playground, some took it too far and spoiled the game for everyone. Now we all pay for others foolish decisions on how to gather stories.

In a BBC article they reported that when announcing the draft royal charter, Mr Cameron told MPs: “What happened to the Dowlers, to the McCanns, to Christopher Jeffries and to many other innocent people who’ve never sought the limelight was utterly despicable.

“It is right that we put in place a new system of press regulation to ensure such appalling acts can never happen again. We should do this without any further delay.”

 

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OPINION: Lets see change

Picture credit to spencerdailyreporter.com

Picture credit to spencerdailyreporter.com

When will the day come the media is free from an American shooting story?

This is the question on my mind today following the news of two separate stories that happened this week. One where four New Yorkers were shot dead in a barbershop and the other where a six-month-old girl was shot dead as her father changed her nappy.

I am sure that these will not have been the only cases of gun violence this week in the States.

I find it hard to comprehend such acts of violence but I just do not know what it is going to take for law restrictions about owning a gun in the US.

Towards the end of last year 28 people died in a school shooting in Connecticut. I was living close by to the state at the time and can tell you that the atmosphere was like nothing I have ever experienced before.

As I spoke to with distant or direct connections with the shootings they told me there was only one way to describe how they felt after the shootings – like they felt after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I stayed in New York for over four months last year, I can honestly say that I was never scared about gun crime, but I think I should have been.

Today a man strolled into a barbershop in upstate New York and open fired with a shotgun, killing two people before driving to a car wash and killing another two people.

On Monday six-month-old girl, Jonylah, was shot dead in Chicago when an attacker approached her father, who was changing her nappy in a minivan at the time, from behind shooting him twice then her five times.

Schools in the area were on a lockdown as a result of the shootings.

It was suspected that her father Jonathan Watkins was associated with a local gang.

I think America is a wonderful country, but I feel that their approach to the gun laws taints the view of the country. Tough regulations are needed to help this country move forward.

Click here for some views on gun laws in the USA reported by the BBC.

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Student’s work not valued

Hours of unpaid work, doing the tasks that no one who is actually getting paid wants to do is something many students or people doing ‘work experience’ face.

At the start of this month the House of Commons heard a second reading of a bill to ban the advertisement of unpaid internships which looks to reduce the number of young people being exploited in workplaces.

However that bill has now died a death and the campaign against people working illegally for free and is no longer a focus in the House of Commons.

Why? Because no party will support it.

This comes just a year after student protests against rising tuition fees, another factor to why students would benefit to get paid at least the legal minimum wage to help pay for fees.

A number of organisations like Intern Aware do recognize the importance of paying their interns however many are on the list which continues to use students in the view that they are doing them a ‘favour’ for allowing them into the work place.

As a journalism student who has to do numerous internships as part of my course I do feel that sometimes my work is not valued or even noticed.

As I love what I do and gathering as much experience as I can this only comes as a second thought to me as I feel the time I am loosing out on money by doing these internships will pay me back when I get a good job – hopefully!

I work full time during the summer in a small café. The money I use to live off for the following year. When I have to take time off my paid café job to do internships I am loosing out on money, therefore it is not possible for me to do many placements – this sets me at a disadvantage to people who can afford not to work for money during the summer months.

If I was to be paid the minimum wage for my internships I would be able to work for longer, at more companies for the benefit of my education and bank balance!

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OPINION: Public Relations is a necessity in the NHS

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 12.12.16The NHS have been getting a hard time lately, be it with poor patient treatment, corrupt waiting lists or sloppy medical procedures however I think that the latest news of the BBC comes as an attack on the industry we relay upon on a day-to-day basis.

A BBC London investigation has found that NHS London has spent almost £13m in the last three years on public relations.

Through the Freedom of the Information Act the BBC found the money, which was enough to recruit 600 nurses was dished out to press officer salaries at hospitals and private PR companies.

Some trusts have said that PR was necessary to educate the public on health issues.

Research revealed that 82 press officers were receiving an average salary of £37,278.

Now, being a press officer myself and a working journalist I know the importance of both PR and finding important stories like these.

I do believe that money spent on PR is necessary to make the public aware of both health issues and what services the NHS provide.

In an economically crippling world I think it is time that people start to take responsibility of their health and obviously when needed to go to NHS services.

At the end of the day the NHS is like a business and what businesses need is publicity. If they aren’t using twitter, sending out press releases and keeping the public informed they wouldn’t be running properly.

I do not believe that all press officers are worthy of their high salaries, however biased views of a press officer aside, they are vital for the workings of the NHS.

I think what could be done to ease the public’s condemning view of the NHS at the moment is to take a page out of Barclays Bank’s book and be more transparent about how much money goes to each sector – after all we are paying taxes.

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NYPD officer convicted of plotting to eat women

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Picture credit to nydailynews.com

Kidnapping, cooking and eating women was the plot set out by a convicted New York City police officer which revealed a fantasy online cannibalism world.

Gilberto Valle (28) was charged today for gathering target’s personal information through a law enforcement database, targets which included his wife.

When sentenced in June, the nicknamed “cannibal cop” will face up to life in prison on the charge of conspiracy to kidnap and up to one year in prison for database breaches.

His attorney, Julia Gatto argued that Valle was only engaged in a fantasy role online. His lawyers said they would appeal the case.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that the Internet was a forum for free exchanging ideas however does not discuss immunity for plotting and taking actions to carry out crimes.

The jury of six women and six men had deliberated since Thursday, before giving their guilty verdict, with evidence including “human meat recipes”, and images of women being cooked.

Valle’s defence lawyer Gatto told jurors that he had not met with any plotters he had discussed the fantasies online with, no money was exchanged or committed any crimes.

Kathleen Mangan (27), a former New York City school teacher and Valle’s now-estranged wife, was the first prosecution witness in the case. She testified that she had found plans on her husband’s laptop to torture her.

Mangan said she read that Valle had plans to tie her up and slit her throat.

As soon as she contacted authorities about the findings she left New York with her daughter to her parents home in Nevada.

Highlighting an internet underworld where people talk about topics like cannibalism, exchange images and videos, this trial has uncovered a section of the web which sits under the radar, however much of it is staged, often for sexual fantasies.

 

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