SUMMARY / RELATED TOPICS

Black Country

The Black Country is an area of the West Midlands, west of Birmingham and refers to a region of more than 1 million people covering most of the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton. During the Industrial Revolution, it became one of the most industrialised parts of the UK with coal mines, iron foundries, glass factories and steel mills producing a high level of air pollution; the first trace of the phrase "The Black Country" as an expression dates from the 1840s. The name is believed to come from the soot from the heavy industries that covered the area, although the 30-foot-thick coal seam close to the surface is another possible origin; the 14-mile road between Wolverhampton and Birmingham was described as "one continuous town" in 1785. Although the heavy polluting industry that gave the region its name has long since disappeared, a sense of shared history and tradition in the area has kept the term in use. In addition, the regeneration of the area by local and national government has brought official recognition to the region and to some extent defined its boundary.

The Black Country has no single set of defined boundaries. Some traditionalists define it as "the area where the coal seam comes to the surface – so West Bromwich, Oldbury, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Dudley, Tipton and parts of Halesowen and Walsall but not Wolverhampton and Smethwick or what used to be known as Warley". There are records from the 18th century of shallow coal mines in Wolverhampton, however. Others have included areas outside the coal field which were associated with heavy industry. Bilston-born Samuel Griffiths, in his 1876 Griffiths Guide to the Iron Trade of Great Britain, stated "The Black Country commences at Wolverhampton, extends a distance of sixteen miles to Stourbridge, eight miles to West Bromwich, penetrating the northern districts through Willenhall to Bentley, The Birchills and Darlaston, Wednesbury and Dudley Port, West Bromwich and Hill Top, Brockmoor and Stourbridge; as the atmosphere becomes purer, we get to the higher ground of Brierley Hill here as far as the eye can reach, on all sides, tall chimneys vomit forth great clouds of smoke".

He stated that "Wolverhampton is considered to be The Capital of the Black Country", as well as "The Capital of the Iron Trade in the Black Country". Today the term refers to the majority or all of the four metropolitan boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton although it is said that "no two Black Country men or women will agree on where it starts or ends". Official use of the name came in 1987 with the Black Country Development Corporation, an urban development corporation covering the metropolitan boroughs of Sandwell and Walsall, disbanded in 1998; the Black Country Consortium and the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership both define the Black Country as the four metropolitan boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton, an approximate area of 138 square miles. The borders of the Black Country can be defined by using the special cultural and industrial characteristics of the area. Areas around the canals which had mines extracting mineral resources and heavy industry refining these are included in this definition.

Cultural parameters include unique or characteristic foods such as Groaty pudding, Grey Peas and Bacon, gammon or pork hocks and pork scratchings. The Black Country Society defines the Black Country's borders as the area on the thirty foot coal seam, regardless the depth of the seam; this definition includes West Bromwich and Oldbury, which had many deep pits, Smethwick. The thick coal that underlies Smethwick was not mined until the 1870s and Smethwick has retained more Victorian character than most West Midland areas. Sandwell Park Colliery's pit was located in Smethwick and had'thick coal' as shown in written accounts from 1878 and coal was heavily mined in Hamstead, further east, whose workings extended well under what is now north Birmingham. Smethwick and Dudley Port were described as "a thousand swarming hives of metallurgical industries" by Samuel Griffiths in 1872. Another geological definition, the seam outcrop definition, only includes areas where the coal seam is shallow making the soil black at the surface.

Some coal mining areas to the east and west of the geologically defined Black Country are therefore excluded by this definition because the coal here is too deep down and does not outcrop. The seam outcrop definition excludes areas in South Staffordshire; the first recorded use of the term "the Black Country" may be from a toast given by a Mr Simpson, town clerk to Lichfield, addressing a Reformer's meeting on 24 November 1841, published in the Staffordshire Advertiser. He describes going into the "black country" of Staffordshire – Wolverhampton and Tipton. In published literature, the first reference dates from 1846 and occurs in the novel Colton Green: A Tale of the Black Country by the Reverend William Gresley, a prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral. Gresley's opening paragraph starts "On the border of the agricultural part of Staffordshire, just before you enter the dismal region of mines and forges called the'Black Country', stands the pretty village of Oakthorpe", "commonly" implying that the term was in use.

He writes that "the whole country is blackened with smoke by day, glowing with fires by night", that "the'Black Country'... is about twenty miles in length and

Viola Birss

Viola Ingrid Birss is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Calgary. She works on electrochemistry and the development of nanomaterials for sustainable energy and sensing applications, she has demonstrated a metal oxide perovskite that can be used as the air and fuel electrode in solid oxide fuel cells, as well as creating nanoporous carbon scaffolds to be used in batteries and capacitors. Birss grew up in Alberta, she moved to Calgary at the age of five. When she was deciding what to study at college she felt that physics was "too abstract", biology "too descriptive", so settled on chemistry. Having grown up with the wilderness close to her home, Birss was always aware of the environment, interested in identifying clean ways of storing and using energy; this attracted her to electrochemistry. Birss earned her doctorate at the University of Auckland as a Commonwealth Scholar, where she studied anodic films on silver electrodes, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Ottawa, where she worked on the supercapacitive properties of hydrous metal oxides.

During this post she specialised in Ruthenium oxide. Birss began her independent career at Alcan International, where she developed new techniques to evaluate the susceptibility of aluminium alloys to stress corrosion and pitting, her efforts resulted in the creation of a high-strength corrision resistant alloy. She moved to the University of Calgary in 1983 and was promoted to Full Professor in 1991. Birss studies nanomaterials for a range of different applications, including fuel cells, batteries and sensors, she is interested in catalysis and drug sensing. In 2002 she was a founder of the Western Canada Fuel Cell Initiative, which included over 35 research groups at eight institutions; this was supported by $2 million of funding under Birss' leadership. She subsequently founded the pan-Canadian Solid Oxide Fuel Cells Canada, an umbrella organisation for groups working on solid oxide fuel cells, her work has focused on understanding and modifying the electrochemical, chemical and morphological properties of thin films on electrode surfaces.

This has involved the development of redox-active metal oxides. Birss became a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Fuel Cells at the University of Calgary in 2004; the majority of her efforts have focussed on solid oxide fuel cells and proton-exchange membrane fuel cells, carbon materials and biological sensing. Her main contributions have been to the identification of the kinetics and mechanisms of oxidation and reduction in fuel cells using electrochemical methods, as well as developing new fuel cell materials, she has improved the performance and lifetime of low temperature PEMFCs through the development of carbon scaffolds. For high temperature SOFCs Birss has developed metal oxide perovskite catalysts that can be used as both the anode and cathode, allowing for carbon dioxide and water splitting, she has worked with Honeywell on electrodeposition of metal coatings to enhance their protection. She has since served as Co-Director of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Strategic Research Network, which distributes $5.5 million funding across 16 research groups.

Her awards and honours include. Grahame AwardShe is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Chemical Institute of Canada and the Electrochemical Society, her publications include: Birss, Viola. Historical Perspectives on the Evolution of Electrochemical Tools; the Electrochemical Society. ISBN 9781566773836. Birss, Viola. "High performance PtRuIr catalysts supported on carbon nanotubes for the anodic oxidation of methanol". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 128: 3504–3505. Doi:10.1021/ja0578653. PMID 16536508. Birss, Viola. "Conversion of methane by oxidative coupling". Catalysis Reviews—Science and Engineering. 32: 163–227. Doi:10.1080/01614949009351351. Hdl:1880/44970. Birss serves as associate editor of the Journal of Materials Chemistry A

AĆ©cio Neves

Aécio Neves da Cunha is a Brazilian economist and former president of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party. He was the 17th Governor of Minas Gerais from 1 January 2003 to 31 March 2010, is a member of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, he lost in the runoff presidential election against Dilma Rousseff in 2014. Born in Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais, Neves was the youngest governor in the state's history, he began his political career as a personal secretary of his grandfather, Tancredo Neves, elected President of Brazil in 1985, but died before taking office. Aécio Neves served the World Federation of Democratic Youth in 1985 and four terms as an elected deputy for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party in the Federal Chamber of Deputies from 1 February 1987 to 14 December 2002, representing Minas Gerais, he was President of the Chamber of Deputies in 2001/02. As governor, Aécio Neves introduced the "Management Shock", a set of sweeping reforms designed to bring the state budget under control by reducing government expenditure and promoting investment.

Having been tipped as a potential candidate for the Brazilian Presidential elections in 2010, Neves announced his intention to stand aside from the race at the end of 2009. He ran for the Brazilian Federal Senate instead, was elected a Senator representing the State of Minas Gerais, he took office as a Senator of the Republic on 1 February 2011. Aécio was a columnist at Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo until June 2014. On 5 October 2014, he received the second largest number of votes in the Brazilian presidential election, placing him in the runoff election to be held on 26 October 2014, against the first place candidate and former Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, who received 42% of the votes. Aécio Neves is son of politician Aécio Inês Maria. Neves hails from a family of traditional politicians in Minas Gerais, his maternal grandfather, Tancredo Neves, was a key figure in the re-democratization of Brazil, served as governor of Minas Gerais and elected via electoral college. Neves’ paternal grandfather, Tristão Ferreira da Cunha, his father Aécio Cunha were congressmen representing the state of Minas Gerais.

His paternal grandfather, Tristão Ferreira da Cunha, a native of Teófilo Otoni, a northern city in Minas Gerais, was a politician as well as a lawyer and a professor. He was Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce in the state government of Juscelino Kubitschek. Aécio Cunha, son of Tristão and father of Aécio, was state deputy between 1955 and 1963 and federal representative between 1963 and 1987. Neves moved to Rio de Janeiro with his parents, he had his first job at the Administrative Council for Economic Defense of the Ministry of Justice in Rio de Janeiro. In 1981 his maternal grandfather convinced Neves to return to Belo Horizonte, he moved into an apartment that he shared with his maternal grandfather and father and transferred to Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, where he studied economics. In 1982 Aécio began working in his grandfather's campaign for the state government, attending meetings and rallies in more than 300 towns. Tancredo Neves was elected governor of Minas Gerais, in 1983, Aécio served as his private secretary.

In the following years, Aécio participated in the movement "Diretas Já" and in Tancredo Neves’ presidential campaign. Tancredo Neves won the Brazilian presidency via electoral college in 1985. After the elections Aécio Neves accompanied the president-elect on visits to democratic countries, a political strategy used to enhance the retransition to democracy in Brazil, they visited the United States and US President Ronald Reagan, France with President François Mitterrand and Sandro Pertini, Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, King Juan Carlos of Spain and Pope John Paul II. Aécio Neves was appointed Secretary of Special Affairs of the Presidency by President-elect Tancredo Neves, but due to his early death, José Sarney assuming office the job was cancelled. In 1986 he ran for the National Constituent Assembly as a member of Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, he received 236,019 votes, which at the time was the largest vote for a congressman elected from Minas Gerais. In the Constituent Assembly he became vice the chairman of the Sovereignty and Rights and Guarantees of Men and Women and was one of the authors of the amendment that turned Brazil's voting age to 16 years.

In his second term he voted for the impeachment of President Fernando Collor de Mello. In 1992 Aécio was defeated, it was his only electoral defeat until his unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in 2014. Neves was reelected to Congress for a third term in 1994; the term lasted from 1995-1998. In 1997, he became PSDB's leader in Congress. In 2001 Neves was elected president of the Chamber of Deputies, he had run against Aloízio Mercadante, Inocêncio Oliveira, Valdemar Costa Neto and Nelson Marquezelli and received more votes than all his competitors combined. He serves as president of Congress from 14 February 2001 until 17 December 2002; as president of Congress he assumed, the presidency of Brazil starting on 26 June 2001. Under his leadership he promoted the so-called Ethical Package, a set of measures aimed at moralizing parliamentary action. Neves led the vote of the end of congressional immunity for common crimes, the establishment of a code of ethics and propriety and the Ethics Committee, he provided the processing and votes of bills on the Internet so that the public could monitor the processing of the legislative process.

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