1990s >> 1998 >> no-1122-february-1998

Voice From the Back

Thought for food

Back in the summer, the weather expert in the Guardian chatted about global warming and came to the conclusion that it was capitalism that would cause the problems, not carbon dioxide. She or he said: “[A] Deep Truth about world food supply . . . has been clear since the Science Policy Research Unit made an in depth analysis of climate and world food in the 1970s. There is no difficulty in growing enough food to feed even the increased population of the globe in the 21st century, however the climate changes. The reason why there are famines now, and will be in the future, is that food is not distributed evenly. On many scenarios, the overall effect of global warming will be to increase world food supply. But the haves are likely to have even more, while the have nots experience the droughts and famines. People starve because of politics, not because of the weather.”

It’s a business

As the law stands, dealers in illegal drugs can register their trade for tax purposes and tax officials will protect their identify from the police and other government agencies . . . A spokesman for the Inland Revenue said: “Tax law does not discriminate between profits made from illegal or legal activities. We only report taxpayers to the police if we suspect they are involved in murder” (Independent on Sunday, 16 November)

It’s a crime!

Magistrates in Wales have fined a woman £200 for possessing a tiny piece of cannabis with an estimated street value of 50p. The 23-year-old single mother pleaded guilty to have 0.2 grammes of cannabis at her home in Cernarth, Dyfed, and on top of the fine was order to pay £40 costs. Her solicitor, Mr Alan Lewis, said. “The drug seized was no more than the size of a grain of rice, barely enough to smoke. It was so small she could have brushed it off the table and no one would have known” (Independent on Sunday, 16 November).

New sweatshops

Automatic all distribution (ACD) and information and communication technology (ICT) have enabled call centres to become hugely powerful business machines, and the UK has proudly assumed the mantle of Europe’s “call centre capital”. With more than 250,000 people already employed in call centres, and around 1 million expected to join them by the end of the decade, it is the fastest growing employment sector of the economy . . . Call centres are all about cost reduction. If companies learned one lesson from the recession it was from Direct Line founder Peter Wood’s brainwave: slashing wage bills by replacing hundreds of high street outlets with a shed full of telephones . . . In several of the largest call centres, operators are virtually chained to their desks, even having to ask permission for toilet breaks . . . John Orsmond, chairman of Advertising Research Marketing, which advises advertisers on how to use call centres, says he knows of employers in Scotland paying rates as low as £2.35 an hour.

A grateful nation

An 81-year-old crippled war veteran who was refused a place in a care home by his local authority, threw himself under a train after his pleas for help were ignored, a Northern Ireland inquest heard yesterday . . . Mr McLarnon has been taunted by youths for being an ex-soldier, the court heard. On the day he died, he had visited his local British Legion club–as he usually did–and asked friends for help. He had only 63p in his bank book and did not have enough for his bus fare home. Elizabeth Thompson, nursing manager of the Somme home for ex-soldiers in Belfast, said she had recommended Mr McLarnon’s admittance but the health board has refused to fund it. Health chiefs had been “irate” about the pressure being put on them (Guardian, 13 November).

Giving thanks

As the service of thanksgiving for the life of billionaire Sir James Goldsmith entered its second hour at St John’s in London’s Smith Square on Thursday, the first of the 700-plus congregation began to leave. Baroness Thatcher, who was due at another memorial service, for Viscount Tonypandy, was followed by GEC boss Lord Weinstock and the Earl of Suffolk. In the event the celebration lasted more than two hours, something of a shock for Goldsmith’s widow lady Annabel . . . (Mail on Sunday, 16 November).

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