Farangland News

2011: Jan-March

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21st March   

Offsite: Britain, a Bitter and Broken Nation...

No wonder not so many Brits can afford to come to Pattaya
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Over the past decade and a half, Britain has sunk into a dependency culture that is suffocating free enterprise. We do not praise the merits or teach the tools of entrepreneurship in our schools and universities. We scoff at the self-employed, telling them to get a proper job . Entrepreneurs are little better regarded in the popular consciousness than wastrels on benefits, because we fail to recognise imagination and audacity as the prime movers behind the advancement of technology, society and culture.

Meanwhile, the clunking, anodyne, eternally finger-wagging and nauseatingly hand-wringing face of the public sector, a cancer that has been allowed to engorge itself on the productive portion of the economy, continues to bear down upon us. Meaningless but eye-wateringly expensive regulations, enforced by a vast army of busybodies, have taken the place of ambition and enterprise.

Gone is the nation of shopkeepers: they have been replaced by armies of small-minded, mean-spirited clipboard Nazis, enforcing elf-n-safety legislation on an ever-dwindling clutch of industries gasping for air.

...Read the full article


12th March   

Britons Offended by Crap Policing...

Police threaten public order prosecution over jokey football sticker
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A Manchester United fan was told by police she faced legal action unless she removed part of a car sticker which teased Manchester City.

Sarah Webb-Lee had a sticker on the rear window of her car which read: On the first day God created United then completely fucked up and created City.

A local councillor passed on to police a complaint they had received from a resident about the wording of the joke and a police officer was sent to the motorist's home.

Mrs Webb-Lee and her City-supporting husband Graham were informed that the sticker was supposedly offensive under the much abused Section 5 of the Public Order Act. They were asked to either remove it or some of the letters within the swear word, and they did the latter.

Mrs Webb-Lee told the Manchester Evening News: I couldn't believe it when the police turned up. We don't have many rights left but freedom of speech is worth hanging on to. I won't take it down. It's just a bit of banter and you hear worse on the terraces. I see lots of things about United and take it on the chin.

Inspector Stephen Gilbertson said: We received a complaint about the language contained in a car sticker that, by law, is offensive.


10th March   

Hidden Vices...

UK follows Thai example and bans cigarette displays from shops
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Tobacco will no longer be displayed in shops under new legislation being implemented by the British government.

Only temporary displays in certain limited circumstances will be allowed, with the rules phased in to minimise the impact on businesses, according to the Department of Health.

The regulations will come into force for large stores on April 6 2012 and on April 6 2015 for all other shops.

Retailers have reacted with anger to the announcement saying there is simply no evidence that it will reduce smoking among young people. The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said the new regulations would impose £ 40 million of costs on small retailers in the absence of evidence to suggest the measures would work.


5th March   

Playing Expat Catch Up...

International BBC iPlayer to be available this year for less than $10 a month
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The BBC's Director General, Mark Thompson, has revealed that the international version of the BBC iPlayer will definitely be available before the end of this year, and will likely cost less than $10, or approximately EUR7.

Thompson is quoted as saying that the international iPlayer would cost, a small number of dollars per month, definitely fewer then 10.

The BBC iPlayer has huge potential internationally, with a strong BBC brand boosted by shows like Top Gear , and has the capability to earn significant revenues from the international iPlayer that could be re-invested back into the BBC to produce a greater number high quality shows.


21st February   

Bird Watching...

Nutter objects whinge at Tesco t-shirt whimsy
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Tesco is under nutter fire for selling a T-shirt with a logo which critics claim promoted voyeurism .

Women's groups said the shirt - which showed silhouettes of women in the sights of binoculars beneath the slogan Bird Watching - was objectionable and Tesco's decision to sell it deeply concerning .

This T-shirt is objectionable on so many levels, said Anna van Heeswijk of campaigners Object: It promotes voyeurism, dehumanises females into sex objects and uses sexist language to refer to women as 'birds'. These messages about women are worrying.

Somali Cerise of the End Violence Against Women coalition, added: It is deeply concerning that a major high-street retailer such as Tesco sells products that perpetuate the sexualisation of women. Our research shows that sexual harassment of young women is commonplace. Products like these T-shirts create a culture of acceptance and normalisation of sexual harassment.

Tesco  said no offence had been intended. It said: The T-shirt, which was intended as a humorous item of casual wear, was on clearance and is no longer on sale.


11th February   

Update: Scrapped...

British ID card database crushed
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Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

A database built to hold the fingerprints and personal details of millions of ID card holders has today been publicly destroyed.

Around 500 hard disk drives and 100 back up tapes containing the details of 15,000 early adopters have been magnetically wiped and shredded.

They will soon be incinerated in an environmentally friendly waste-for-energy process.

This signals an end to the National Identity Register which was built to hold the details of people who applied for an ID card.

The scheme was scrapped by the coalition government and the cards ceased to be valid legal documents on 22 January.

Home Office minister Damian Green helped shred the last of the hard disk drives at an Essex industrial site today.

Laying ID cards to rest demonstrates the government's commitment to scale back the power of the state and restore civil liberties, he said: This is about people having trust in the government to know when it is necessary and appropriate for the state to hold and use personal data, and it is about the government placing their trust in the common-sense and responsible attitude of people. This is just the first step in the process of restoring and maintaining our freedoms.'


22nd January   

Update: Identified as Scrap...

British ID cards no longer valid
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Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

As of 22nd January 2011 identity cards can no longer be used to prove identity or to travel in Europe.

The cards have been scrapped by the government under the Identity Documents Act.

Within days the National Identity Register - which was designed to hold the details of card holders - will be destroyed.

Immigration minister Damian Green said:

Laying ID cards to rest demonstrates the government's commitment to scale back the power of the state and restore civil liberties.

It is about the people having trust in the government to know when it is necessary and appropriate for the state to hold and use personal data, and it is about the government placing their trust in the common-sense and responsible attitude of the people.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) (new window) has written to all existing cardholders and informed international border agencies, travel operators and customers of the change in law.


19th January   

Update: Cheers!...

British government minimum alcohol price not so miserable as feared
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Full story: Drinking Restrictions...Drinking becomes the target of killjoy politicians

The Coalition has finally unveiled its alcohol minimum price regime in a statement to Parliament.

The minimum price for vodka will be fixed at 10.71 a litre, whisky at 8 for a 70cl bottle, cider at 40p a litre and 38p per 440ml can of lager or beer.

The minimum price will be based on the rate of duty plus VAT, not on the cost of producing the drinks. Thankfully shops will only have to raise the price for a small  number of products.

Miserable campaigners were somewhat disappointed. Professor Ian Gilmore, chairman of the UK Health Alliance, said: To bring in a measure that we know in practice will have no effect at all on the health of this nation I think is disappointing. It's a step in the right direction, but I have to say it's an extremely small step. It'll have no impact whatsoever on the vast majority of cheap drinks sold, for example, in supermarkets.

Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale with self interest at heart, said the price levels were too low to help the struggling pub industry. Chief executive Mike Benner said: The decision means pubs will continue to close as they are undercut by supermarkets selling canned beers at pocket-money prices.


11th January   

About Bloody Time!...

Pennsylvania State Police to end charging people for swearing
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Pennsylvania State Police reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that retires them from policing the dictionary. This, after 770 people were cited in a one-year period, and faced a fine and potential jail time, for speaking words the state police deemed obscene.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in May on behalf of Lona Scarpa, who called a motorcyclist an asshole after he swerved too close to her and another pedestrian. When she reported the incident to the police, Ms. Scarpa found herself charged with disorderly conduct for swearing and faced a possible $300 fine and 90 days in jail.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and many other courts, have made it very clear that profanity — including dirty words, foul language, and rude gestures — is protected speech. Nevertheless, an ACLU investigation revealed that the state police had, on average, issued more than two such citations per day.

Using profanity toward someone, whether an officer or not, is just not one of those things that you can put someone in jail for, explains Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

As part of the settlement, the state police have agreed to retrain their officers to make clear that they cannot cite people for profanity, indecent speech, or gestures.


8th January   

Offsite: Miserable Life Compliancy Officers...

Now even clowns are spied on by the British state
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In modern-day Britain, a man in a comedy suit can't even blow up balloons for children without first being okayed by the authorities.

Ten years of regulation is summed up on the website of Bimbo the magical clown , who performs tricks with stuffed toys. Next to booking information, Bimbo disclaims in bold red text, bordered by stars: Full Public Liability Insurance ; Health & Safety Risk & Control [of substances hazardous to health] ; Assessments available for viewing ; CRB checked .

...Read the full article


5th January   

Dreddful Policing...

British driver prosecuted for warning other drivers of a speed trap
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A driver has been convicted of a supposed criminal offence for flashing his headlights at oncoming motorists to warn them of a police speed trap ahead.

Michael Thompson believed he was doing his civic duty by alerting drivers on the opposite side of a dual carriageway.

Thompson was pulled up. He claimed the officer involved was a Rambo character who was acting like Judge Dredd in using the law unnecessarily.

When stopped by a police officer Thompson disagreed with the suggestion that he was perverting the course of justice and was then allegedly told: I was going to let you off with a caution - but I'm not now.

Thompson denied the bollox charge of wilfully obstructing a policewoman in the execution of her duty on July 21 last year, but was convicted after a trial at Grimsby Magistrates' Court. He ended up 440 out of pocket after being fined 175, ordered to pay 250 costs and a 15 victims' surcharge.

One solicitor at court criticised the decision to prosecute as a ridiculous waste of taxpayers money' and said the defendant, who represented himself, should be praised for his actions.


5th January   

Offsite: Behavioural Insight Team...

Nick Clegg's sinister nannies are nudging us towards an Orwellian nightmare
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British David Cameron and his yellow sidekicks have managed the remarkable feat of replacing nanny with an even more freedom-loathing, brain-invading political creed: nudging. Their desire to nudge the populace towards good behaviour makes New Labour's bossy prudery seem almost liberal and level-headed in comparison.

This year is likely to be the Year of the Nudge, the year of politicians using all kinds of Derren Brown-style mind-trickery to try to coax or cajole or hoodwink the people of Britain into adopting a state-approved lifestyle – that is, a healthy-eating, bike-riding, beer-avoiding lifestyle.

The Lib-Cons have a Behavioural Insight Team inside Downing Street. Inspired and advised by Richard Thaler, co-author of the phenomenally successful book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Wealth, Health and Happiness , the team aims not only to change people's behaviour but to change the way citizens think (to quote Clegg himself).

As yesterday's Independent reported, it will use various mental techniques and psychological tricks to alter our behaviour

...Read the full article

Based on article from network.civilservicelive.com

A new unit looking at alternative ways to influence public behaviour and choices is taking shape in the Cabinet Office.

The behavioural insight team, based in the Cabinet Office, was set up in July 2010 to look at ways to solve policy challenges using theories of behavioural economics, which considers the factors that influence individuals' choices.

The team will include civil servants and external advisers including Paul Dolan and Richard Thaler, authors of the influential book Nudge , and will be led by David Halpern, director of research at the Institute for Government.

It is being supported by a cross-government steering group, which includes David Cameron's director of strategy Steve Hilton, and is chaired by cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell.

O'Donnell announced the creation of the unit saying the team was being brought together to harness some of the best ideas and thinking from behavioural economics and translate those into practical solutions around key policy challenges such as public health and environmental behaviour .


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