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Fast/Food Plan from God! 2004-05-19

Posted by clype in Health, Intolerance.
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You’ve seen the Mel Gibson film. You may even have read The Book itself. But now you can have the “biblical” diet to complete your multi-media spiritual induction.

‘The Maker’s Diet’ is fast becoming one of the most popular health plans in the United States of America.

Following “The Passion of the Christ“, a wave of interest in all things Christian has swept popular culture, and now Mr.Jordan Rubin has launched his own faith-based offensive — this time on the diet industry.

At first glance, the notion of an eating plan ordained by God smacks of dieting fads gone mad. But so far, “The Maker’s Diet” is winning many fans. And even nutritionists accept that this regime has its merits.

Not only that, but when it was released in April, the book debuted at number ten on the “New York Times’ bestseller list”, and shot straight into the top of online booksellers lists.

The diet centres around biblical advice on food, health and hygiene — and specifically on the “Old Testament” books of “Leviticus and “Deuteronomy“.

The idea is to get back to basics and eat as God intended. In short, that means eating certain ‘clean’ meats and fish, avoiding the other foodstuffs, for example pork and shellfish, and filling up on whole grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables. (more…)

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We’ve Never Had It So Good 2004-05-15

Posted by clype in Money, Scotland, Statistics.
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In 1980, Tracy Patterson was a ten-year-old girl growing up on a Glasgow council estate. Her family had little money for luxuries and holidays tended to be taken in places like Scarborough.

Today the 35-year-old works for a firm offering independent financial advice — and life for her has improved so dramatically that she feels guilty about her relative affluence. The holidays in Scarborough have been replaced by twice-yearly trips to places like Italy and Slovenia, and she has swapped Hillpark in Glasgow for a flat in trendy Leith.

(more…)

First Female Moderator of the “Kirk” 2004-05-15

Posted by clype in Intolerance, Scotland.
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This morning, Dr.Alison Elliot will become the first woman "Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland".

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Alison Elliot

Our attention is often drawn to supposed historic moments; this is a genuine, not a spurious one. Indeed it is a golden moment for our national church, mired as it has been in the problems of haemorrhaging membership and lost influence. But the election of a female elder rather than a male minister is a signal that the "Kirk" may be prepared to change its ways, and to respond imaginatively to its plight. Externally, there is a burst of interest and goodwill, and this opportunity can only be enhanced by the fact that Alison Elliot is herself gracious, personable and highly intelligent. But the opportunity is fleeting.

Dr.Elliot will be called straightaway to her one key role, the moderating of the Assembly. When the gathering breaks up in a week's time, her task will be technically finished. This being the case, it would be so much more sensible if the moderator chaired the Assembly at the end of the moderatorial year, rather than its start.

As it is, the "Moderator" is thrown right in at the deep end, (more…)

Freedom of Information — Authorities must be “open” 2004-05-11

Posted by clype in Intolerance, Scotland.
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The introduction of Scotland’s Freedom of Information Act requires public authorities to rethink their attitudes to the disclosure of information. Education and training are essential weapons in their armoury to achieve compliance, argues William Malcolm, of Masons Solicitors’ Glasgow office.

  • In less than nine months, the right of access to information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 will be a reality. The aim of the act is to increase the accountability of Scotland’s public services by allowing people greater access to recorded information held by those authorities.

The introduction of this right represents a shift in government’s approach to access to public information. The new assumption is that information should be public knowledge unless there is a compelling reason for keeping it private. Tavish Scott, the minister responsible, has said:

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‘The introduction of freedom of information in Scotland is a big step towards a more open and responsive public sector and a more empowered and participative civic society’.

These are ambitious words at a time when interest in the democratic process has suffered a steady decline.

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, is facing that challenge head on. Recognising that access rights are of no value unless they are used by the public, his office is planning a major public-awareness campaign, which is designed to educate the public about their rights under the Freedom of Information Act. Mr.Dunion commented:

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‘Scottish public authorities will have to upgrade, and in some cases completely overhaul the way in which they hold information and provide it to the public’.

He has also made it clear that he will not shrink from enforcing these aims. Authorities which are not prepared may find themselves squeezed between a demanding public and a tough commissioner.

It would be unfair, however, to suggest that the Commissioner will be simply looking for scalps come January 2005.

His office makes clear that they would prefer authorities to comply without requiring enforcement, and are currently working on assisting public authorities to ensure that public-sector organisations, including local authorities, the NHS, colleges and universities, the police, the Scottish Parliament and the Executive, understand and apply the act.

Authorities are faced with the task of training staff to prepare for the new regime, as well as working out how freedom of information sits with data-protection and initiatives such as electronic government.

The Executive has started to promote the education process. It has commissioned a set of training materials for the public sector from the training arm of Masons Solicitors, which can be downloaded from the Scottish Executive website (www.scotland.gov.uk).

Masons has worked with a range of public authorities on data protection and freedom of information issues, including training and compliance audits. This provides an open-learning workbook and a trainer’s pack. The Act requires public authorities to develop a publication scheme so the public can see what sort of information they hold. This is to provide information in an easily accessible form.

The Act allows any individual or organisation – anywhere in the world – to ask for information from a Scottish public authority.

Authorities are only obliged to provide recorded information, such as computer documents, handwritten notes and videos.

A code of practice provides guidance on the keeping, management and destruction of records – both paper-based and electronic. Experience from implementation of the Data Protection Act has shown effective compliance can be brought about only by cultural change.

That necessitates management buy-in, a commitment to the development of workable processes and standards and staff awareness. There are instances when information may be exempt from requests.

  • Some apply to areas that you would expect, such as national security. But people also want answers to real-life questions: Can we refuse to disclose bid and tender documentation? How do we deal with pressure groups? How do we assess what is in the public interest?

When personal data about a third party is requested, the public authority needs to consider if disclosure would breach the Data Protection Act; otherwise a public authority could be investigated by the UK Information Commissioner.

This may all seem daunting, but the Freedom of Information Act should hold no fears for those prepared for problems which may arise.

Links:

Dead Letters and Lost Mail 2004-05-05

Posted by clype in Statistics.
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Thousands of letters are delivered to the wrong address every month but few people take the time to complain to Royal Mail, a consumer group has said.

Postwatch estimates 14.4_million letters are lost every year — and of these 60 per cent are just put through the wrong letter box The watchdog has urged people to tell Royal Mail about mistakes, saying it causes problems for people and firms.

A spokesman for Royal Mail said they had 'substantially cut' the number of items mis-delivered, delayed or lost.

Postwatch said 2 000 people had made complaints about mis-delivered post in the past year. But a survey by the group of 2 100 people found more than half had received mail not intended for them in the past six months.

About half delivered it themselves to the right address but one in 20 said they threw the item away and a handful admitted they had opened post which was not theirs. Postwatch said only 10 per cent of customers complained to Royal Mail — and even those who posted the letter again or delivered it themselves took up to a week to do so.

Appointments missed

The group is publishing a pack urging customers to let Royal Mail know about mistakes.

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Peter Carr

Postwatch chairman Peter Carr said:

'Our message to customers is that if Royal Mail do not know about a problem they cannot fix it'.

He said the group had evidence of residents in Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland missing hospital appointments or failing to receive benefits on time because of wrong deliveries. An adventure holiday firm in Bangor, north Wales, said lost post had cost it thousands of pounds in business.

'It may not seem important if you get someone else's mail', Mr.Carr said.

'But thousands of letters every month are accidentally put through the wrong letter box and are never passed on to the correct address and that letter sitting in your home could mean a great deal to the person it is addressed to'.

The Communications Workers Union blamed underinvestment in the service and training for delivery mistakes.

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David Ward

Deputy General Secretary Dave Ward said Royal Mail should stop using too many agency staff, improve sorting and delivery training and employ more full-time workers on a higher salary.

'These steps, the union believes, would practically end the problem'. he said.

Improvements made

The Royal Mail spokesman said:

'We have been working hard to improve our services and have substantially cut the amount of mail that is mis-delivered, lost or delayed'.

He said the latest figures show the amount of mail lost and delayed had halved in 2002/2003 from the previous year's figure. About 280 000 letters/week were lost or substantially delayed in 2002/2003 — about 0.07 per cent of the total. He said:

'Every single letter matters to us, so we are continuing to all we can to reduce the problem, including improving training for new recruits and temporary staff and introducing better equipment in local delivery offices'.

Royal Mail has faced attacks over pricing policy, single deliveries and the conduct of some staff in the past fortnight.

Letter Box Litany:

  • Postwatch claims 12.4_million letters are lost each year.
  • Of these, 60 per cent are delivered to the wrong house.
  • One in 10 people complain to Royal Mail.
  • One in 20 people surveyed said they threw post away.
  • People take up to a week to post on letters.
  • A handful of people open post not meant for them.
  • Royal Mail says 322_million items were undeliverable in 2002-2003.
  • About 12_million items a year are posted with only the first name or surname.
  • The amount of undeliverable mail has gone up by 50% per cent in five years.

"Royal Mail 'loses 14.4m letters'", BBC News, 2004-05-04 Tu 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK

Postwatch: Tel: (0845) 601 3265

Royal Mail:

New Record for Picasso painting 2004-05-03

Posted by clype in Humanities, Money.
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Pablo Picasso’s ‘hauntingly beautiful’ “Garçon à La Pipe” portrait last night became the most expensive work of art in history, when it fetched a staggering 104.1 million USD (58.1 million GBP) at auction in New York.The portrait of an adolescent boy, holding a pipe and wearing a garland of flowers, was painted by the Spanish artist during his “Rose Period” in 1905. (more…)