Friday, December 30, 2005

In my newspaper today Laurie Lewis writes about the continuing crisis high in the snow-covered foothills of the Himalayas. The survivors of the Kashmir earthquake succumb to the snow and cold. He ends his report...

In the UK, the snow and minus 10C temperatures have brought some inconvenience and a happy diversion for children on holiday. In the Himalayan foothills, it inflicts greater suffering on those who have suffered enough.

This is really sad how these people are left to suffer and die from the snow and cold. They have been given feeble summer tents, totally unsuitable for a winter in the foothills of the Himalayas. Governments have ignored their plight and left these poor homeless people to die. The relief effort should not be difficult and the coming problems of survival in the winter was foreseen by the aid workers. This is an avoidable tragedy whilst the earthquake was not. This crisis casts great shame on all our governments who had plenty of time and resources to pay for and build adequate winter shelters for these homeless and ill people.

What a dreadful legacy we have given these poor helpless people to end the calendar year with - to freeze to death whilst others drink in warm, dry buildings wishing in the new year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

It brought a laugh to me when I read the story of a company who dismissed an employee after 15 minutes when they found she smoked . Dataflow Communications of Wells clearly state on their website "Subsidised monthly one-to-one lifestyle consultancy - Smoke free environment (non-smokers only) - Corporate membership of local leisure centre ".

I have no sympathy with Sophie Blinham as if she had done her homework before the job interview she would have known that she was unsuitable due to her addiction. Smokers do bring their habit to work with them, the smell clings to their clothes. They often want paid time off to get their hit and suffer from greater levels of sickness. Employers have the pick of recruits and it is not unlawful to choose not to hire smokers. It is good to work in a smoke free environment and not have co-workers bringing in their filthy habit with them.

Employees must know the score with their employers. My employer has a random breath testing policy which I view is part of the job. They also have a drug testing policy in place that has not been used because I believe the cost of testing is too high to monitor negative results. The stance taken by this company is a positive one and one I applaud.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Over in New York yesterday there was a strike of bus and underground workers. The MTA says it offered pay rises of between 3 per cent and 4 per cent over three years. But it wants to raise the pension entitlement age for new workers from 55 to 62 years old. Under state law, the action ordered by the Transit Workers Union is illegal. Lawyers for the MTA were in court seeking a contempt order and heavy fines not just against the union but all its employees, which could be as much as two days of pay for each day they do not work.

This I feel is out of order from a country that claims to be democratic and free. Everybody should have the right to withdraw their labour at any time and not face fines for doing so from a government they elected. OK, let the striking workers face the chance of being sacked for breach of contract by their employers - a gamble the strikers must be prepared to take. How can the state be allowed to act as though everybody is under martial law when the country is now at war on it's home turf? I have sympathy for the strikers as 3 to 4 per cent over 3 years is peanuts and a insult. I hope the bus and underground workers hold firm and united until a reasonable settlement is reached in their favour.

The New York Times has provided a good coverage of this strike as it has now entered it's second day. This newspaper informs the readers about everything they would want to know about this strike and how it affects the people and city life. It is good to get such a clear picture of real life across the pond.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Following my post on Friday about putting food safety reports online for the public to read, I sent an email to our council suggesting that they did this themselves. I have received a reply to my email...

Dear Mr Clynes,

Thank you for your e-mail which concerns the publication of hygiene inspection reports on the Authority's website.

Currently, hygiene inspections reports (subject to certain exemptions) are be made available to members of the public on request under the Freedom on Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations.

Consideration is being given to how information can be better provided to the public. This authority operates a food hygiene award scheme and issues a business with a bronze, silver or gold award if the required standards are met during a routine inspection. The authority's website is currently being improved and we are looking at how can publicise the awards issued to local businesses on-line.

A number of initiatives are currently being piloted by different authorities and considering the large resource implications we would like to await their review so we can decide the best course of action.

Yours sincerely,

Jason Coward

Group Leader (Food Safety)
Regulatory Services - Public Protection
Cardiff Council

It is nice to read that councils across our country are thinking about putting these reports online. Hopefully Cardiff follows the example set by Norwich.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I read a good article in The Independent today. It was about the environmental health officers in Norwich who put their food safety reports online for the public to read.

I think this is a brilliant idea and it is in the public interest. Council taxpayers pay for their environmental health officers to work on the public's behalf, so in effect the public owns the content of these reports. All councils in the UK should put this information online so that the public can read the inspectors reports and judge for themselves whether to risk eating out. By naming and shaming the food premises who fare badly, standards generally should rise and the remaining cowboys should go out of business once the public knows the score.

Transparent government like this is a good thing for everyone, it is a win, win situation. Well done Norwich City Council and I hope the rest of the UK follows your excellent example.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What is it with cards?

It was my wife's birthday yesterday and she was very happy with the clothes and flowers I had bought her but very unhappy with her birthday card. She claimed it was too small, it was a standard card size but she wanted a big one. I cannot understand this, the card does nothing and just sits on the mantelshelf before going in the green recycling bag. It is to me just a symbol representing a happy birthday wish. I cannot do anything with a card, just through it into a bin. Give me a bottle of beer or a packet of biscuits and I know what to do with them, keep your card and give me something I can put through my mouth.

It is getting towards Christmas and a lot of people are sending and giving each other Christmas cards. These people are not all worshipping Christians but they feel they should send and give them because it is what people do. They think that because someone has dumped this unsolicited junk mail on them that they have to return another card to the sender. This is a yearly tradition for a lot of people in the UK. It annoys me the money and time people spend on this junk, can they not think for themselves and take a stand against this junk consumerism?

The greeting card industry in this country is quite large and some people spend a lot of money on a card. I feel it is a shame they cannot choose something more personal or original that a useless piece of card only fit for the rubbish bin.

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