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Voice from the Back

Lady Bountiful's cast-offs
The working class are used to being insulted and patronised but the Labour government's latest scheme to deal with the plight of the unemployed smacks of a "nobless oblige" arrogance unsurpassed since Victorian times. "Female celebrities are queueing up to give their cast-off designer clothes to unemployed women to wear at job interviews. Potential employers are not too sure about the scheme in which they will be facing job applicants from Liverpool, Doncaster and London wearing Cherie Blair's Paco Rabane trouser suit, Elizabeth Hurley's scarlet Versace heels or a grey suit formerly worn by the Duchess of York . . . Tessa Jowell, the Employment Minister is backing the idea and has donated a jacket. Mo Mowlam will follow suit." Times, 10 November.

Art s(m)ells
"Art today serves no socially worthwhile purpose. It's an extravagant waste of money. Yes, people die form hunger and poverty every minute, and no work of art has ever done anything to save the world. Cloaca [his machine on exhibition in Antwerp's Muhka Museum] if fed only our finest cuisine by people who can probably only afford a sandwich for lunch. The end product is both art and yet something we all produce ourselves every day. In a sense we're all artists" visitors have to hold their noses and staff have gone on strike because of the foul smell, yet, according to the report in Scotland on Sunday, 29 October, . . . "the machine's daily discharge of 200 grams is bottled, signed and sold for no less than £1000 a time."

Capitalism is lethal
In this country, one in five girls aged between 13 and 25 has made a suicide attempt (a figure which echoes the findings of American research). More young British men—some 2,000 a year—now die by their own hand than by any other single cause except for car accidents. You magazine, 19 November.

You have been warned
Greg Dyke, boss of the BBC, has recently appointed Jeff Randall to be the BBC's first business editor. According to Randall, he intends to be consulted on every programme dealing with business. So how did this self-confessed admirer of Rupert Murdoch and former City editor and associate editor of the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times land this influential post? "In May he wrote an article about the BBC's business coverage that attracted the attention of Greg Dyke. It included the assertion: 'Running through the Corporation, from top to bottom, like the word Blackpool through a stick of rock, is a liberal agenda set by patronising, middle class, guilt-ridden do-gooders who dominate its corridors." The article's pay-off was just as likely to endear him to his new colleagues: 'It's about time he looked at the Corporation's institutionalised bias against free enterprise wealth-creators and did something about it." Times, 10 November.

Dam worrying
A report this week by the Chartered Insurance Institute on the impact of climate change in Britain is sure to cause alarm. Professor David Crichton of Middlesex University, who helped write the report, said yesterday: "Climate change will lead to an increased risk of dam failure. About half the 2,500 large dams have earth embankments, most of them constructed before heavy soil compaction equipment was available." He also said that he was concerned at the secrecy surrounding the way that they were maintained. The report will say: "The thoroughness of inspection depends almost entirely on how much the dam owner is prepared to pay and the results are never published, not even to local authority emergency planning offices or the emergency services."

Bullying, USA
One in six people has experienced some form of workplace bullying by a co-worker or superior, according to the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying, which started a two-day conference yesterday at Suffolk University Law School to bring to light the problem and look for a way to help . . . [R]eports of bullying are on the rise, in part due to the rising awareness of the problem and the profit demands of the new economy. "More of us work in investment-driven workplaces, and many see that as a license to be cruel to employees and do so with impunity," Gary Namie explained. "What's more, usually they're promoted for it." Berkshire Eagle, 28 October.

Hopping mad
A hopping landmine that can leap up to 10m into the air and fill gaps left by minefield clearance operations is being developed by the American military. With a powerful piston-driven foot, ultrasonic sensors and radios, the self-righting mines will be able to detect the distance to neighbouring mines and sense when some are missing. The remaining mines will then be able to hop around to once more form a regular pattern covering the original minefield area. military chiefs have asked that this be accomplished within ten seconds. Western Australian, 30 September.