Fingerprints (Almost) Never Lie:

When you go shopping, how do you pay for your purchases? Possibly with cash, if the amount is small. However, for a larger expenditure, you’re more likely to use your debit or credit card, either by entering your pin number or, if your card is “contactless”, waving it in front of the terminal. As we’re all aware, this latter option in particular involves risks: If you mislay your contactless card, anyone who finds it can then use it without having to provide identification.

As the Daily Mail journalist, Charlie Bayliss has noted, statistics provided by the UK Finance organization indicate that there has been a significant surge in contactless fraud, hence their advice that banks in Britain should not increase the existing limit of £30 for such payments. In many other countries, the limit is even less. For example, Spain (£17.90), Chile (£13.65), Brazil (£10.50), Italy (£22.47), although in the USA it’s higher – £78. Several UK banks have now come up with what they consider to be the ideal solution.

On 24th April, the Daily Mail columnist Joe Pinkstone, reported that NatWest is launching “Britain’s first biometric bank card which will allow people to verify payments over £30 just with their fingerprint and so without having to enter their PIN.” They will have to first arrange with their bank for their fingerprint to be converted into an encrypted digital template to be stored on the card, which they can then slot into any retailer’s terminal while placing their finger (or thumb) on the embedded sensor.

The technology has been developed together with the digital security company Gemalto, Visa and Mastercard, successfully tested in South Africa and “makes use of features that are naturally unique from person to person, so is thought to be much more secure than traditional authentication methods”.

According to research conducted by Purdue University in America and INHA University in South Korea – cited by the Guardian’s Money Editor, James Coney on 12th May – there is one “small problem” with this new system. Fingerprints fade as people get older, especially after they reach their sixties, due to the fact that the skin becomes thinner, and less moist. These “friction ridges”, as they are known by the experts, are found not only on our finger-tips, but also on our palms, our toes and the soles of our feet.

The BBC News magazine has pointed out that, although these patterns are durable and supposedly permanent, they can wear down. Builders who lay bricks, people who work with abrasive materials or frequently wash dishes by hand can lose some of the detail: “Labourers could also find their fingerprints are not recognised by new high-tech equipment. They are not alone: Typists, pianists, violinists and guitarists also face potentially inaccurate readings”.

The fingerprint expert, Raymond Broadstock, has emphasised that trying to change your fingerprints artificially – for instance by burning the finger-tips with fire and acid, as the American gangster, John Dillinger, did in the 1930’s – only works for a while, as the skin eventually grows back.

Another criminal, Robert Phillips, grafted skin from his chest to his fingers to erase his fingerprints – but was identified from the prints of his palms, which are also unique. “Others have tried smoothing their finger-tips with glue and nail-varnish. Again, they were caught from palm prints”, Even identical twins who have the same DNA have different fingerprints.

Although checking fingerprints to solve crimes might seem to be a relic of the past and to belong more to the era of Sherlock Holmes, it is still – according to IMI Data Search – “one of the best ways we have to track down offenders”. The Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) in America now deploys “Advanced Fingerprint Identification Technology (AFIT) which, it insists, “increases the accuracy and daily fingerprint processing capacity and improves system availability”.

Most Latin American countries require a fingerprint on their ID cards so that public and private institutions can verify immediately if the bearer is the person they claim to be. The European Commission has now also proposed that identity cards held by European Union (EU) citizens should be required to include two elements of biometric data: an image of two fingerprints and a facial image. The objective, it declares, is “to eliminate paper-based identity documents that are easy to falsify and can be used to enter the bloc from non-EU countries”.

This development is vehemently opposed by the civil liberties group, Statewatch as “unnecessary and unjustified”. More than half of EU Member States, it observes, “don’t currently collect their citizens’ fingerprints to store on identity cards, so hundreds of millions of people will become subject to this disproportionate measure. It should be rejected by the European Parliament and Council”.

In Germany, nationals can choose whether or not to have finger-print data on their ID cards. In Belgium, it will be added as from October 2019. In Spain, new ID cards already include fingerprints. There’s no obligatory ID card system in the UK.

Filed under: Society | Posted on June 4th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Limited Rights Of Airline Passengers:

If you’re taking a plane to go on holiday this summer, will you pay close attention to the safety instructions given by the cabin crew before take-off? Possibly not, if you’ve heard it all many times before. As the Daily Telegraph’s travel writer, Lizzie Porter, has noted, airline staff are not legally required to oblige people on board to take notice of their announcements, though they “can intervene if rowdy passengers are preventing others from listening”. Porter suggests it makes good sense to be familiar with the action you should take take in the event of an emergency and to check, for example whether there is really a life jacket under your seat. She quotes George Hobica, the founder of airfarewatchdog.com, who told the Huffington Post that “A plane might make several trips in a day, during any one of which a passenger could take a life jacket as a souvenir”.

Professor Robert Bor, an aviation clinical pyschologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, has acknowledged on “Sky Library”that there is a lack of awareness among many passengers as to why certain procedures should be followed: “Most people have little understanding as to why they shouldn’t stand up until the seat belt sign has been switched off”. He agrees that, because flying has become so routine, the airlines need to find more effective ways of delivering their messages – not least because research has shown that 40% of passengers don’t want to be informed about risk and safety since they’d really prefer not to be on the plane at all and are suppressing their anxieties.

Bor’s colleague on Sky Library, the aviation consultant John Barrass, considers that the challenge airlines face is to minimise the threat posed by recalcitrant passengers and engage with them in promoting and enhancing safety. He refers to an occasion when he was on a flight descending to Los Angeles airport: “Even while the cabin crew were reminding passengers not to switch on their mobile phones, I looked around and saw that many people were already busy sending texts to announce their arrival”.

This reluctance to comply with the rules can sometimes result in airlines taking extreme action. A recent case reported by the Guardian on 9th May involved a “wealthy-looking woman with a Louis Vuitton handbag” seated in an exit row who was removed from an Air New Zealand flight en route from Wellington to Auckland because she refused to watch an air safety video or read an instruction card handed to her and put her fingers in her ears to indicate she had no intention of listening.

The most notorious recent episode occurred in April 2017 when a Vietnamese-American doctor, David Dao, suffered concussion, a broken nose and lost two front teeth while being forcibly removed from a United Airlines plane by Chicago Department of Aviation police due to his refusal to give up his seat to a crew member who would be accompanying the flight but not working on it. In the opinion of the Fox News legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano, Dao had paid for the ticket, was in his seat and had every right to stay there. However, Timothy Ravich, an aviation law professor at the University of Central Florida, has pointed out that passenger rights are limited under the “contract of carriage” system and that airlines have the authority and power to remove people against their will if they choose to do so.

According to the Sun journalist, Becky Pemberton, there are many situations in which you can be “booted off” a flight. Among them (she asserts): American Airlines gives its staff the freedom to eject passengers who smell strongly; Delta Airlines may refuse people who are so overweight that they can’t fasten their seatbelt; Jet2 staff will not allow anyone on board wearing t-shirts displaying offensive language. A group of 18 women on their way to a “hen party” in Magaluf were apparently kicked off a Jet2 plane for that reason.

Other examples: A passenger forced off a Ryanair flight from Rome to Milan because they refused to move their metre-long toy crocodile which was blocking an emergency exit (The Metro); another who attempted to take a squirrel onto a Frontier Airlines flight to Cleveland (The Daily Beast); a third because they berated a Donald Trump supporter on a plane going from Baltimore to Seattle ( Daily Mail); a fourth who complained vociferously when she was put next to a mother with a crying baby”(The Sun): a fifth who “launched into a tirade” about being seated between two fat people on a United Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Newark NJ (Canoe.com News).

Nevertheless, the latest UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) statistics show that despite the number of departures from Britain’s airports increasing by 8.9% between 2016 -2018, the number of disruptive passenger incidents has remained relatively stable: 415 in 2016, 417 in 2017 and 413 in 2018.

Filed under: Travel | Posted on May 21st, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Uncertain Future Of Britain’s Public Libraries:

When was the last time you used your local council library? Is there one near you that you can go to? The Reading Agency (RA) emphasises on its website that anyone living in the UK is legally entitled to borrow books free from public libraries, so as to ensure that “everyone can have equal access to the power and pleasure of reading, information and ideas”.

The latest available statistics provided by the RA (for 2017/18) show that there are 3,618 public libraries, including mobile ones, in the UK with 15,483 staff who cater for 8 million active borrowers and issue almost 183 million books each year. During the 12 months cited, 58% of 5-10 year-olds, 72% of 11-15 year-olds and 36% of adults (of whom 38% were women and 27% were men)visited a public library .

The RA states that “72% of people in England think that libraries are an essential or very important service to the community, with 22% regarding them as fairly important”. The conversation.com/hard-evidence website has observed, however, that whenever a library is threatened with closure, “community groups and public figures spring into action to save it” yet simultaneously far fewer people are now using libraries than in the past.

This continuing trend has been attributed by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to the “catastrophic’ scale of library closures resulting from £66 million being “slashed from libraries’ budgets as part of the Government’s austerity programme, which is turning the sector into a “war zone” and making it difficult to recruit staff.

As Rob Whiteman, the chief executive of CIPFA, has pointed out, in order for public libraries to be able to thrive, local authorities need adequate and sustainable levels of funding. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has responded to the criticism by insisting that the government is “completely committed” to helping libraries to prosper and that it recognises the “important place they have in communities across the country”.

The “Top Five” most visited public libraries (according to “The Bookseller”) are: the Library of Birmingham, Central Library Manchester, Wembley in Brent, Woolwich Central Library in Greenwich and Croydon Central Library.

One way libraries have traditionally been able to augment their finances, of course, has been to levy fines for books that have been borrowed and then returned late. The amounts involved, though, are fairly modest. Lewisham Council,London’s “standard overdue charge” for customers aged 14-59 is 20p per day (maximum £10) and for senior citizens / over 60’s it’s 10p per day (maximum £10).

The rates are similar elsewhere in the capital and Hackney Council, for example, has a policy of no fines at all for anyone aged under 18. Last year, Trafford Council in Greater Manchester abolished the fines altogether with the objective of removing all barriers to its residents accessing its libraries. Hatton Council in Cheshire did likewise as from 8th January, for the same reason.

There have been several recent cases of books being returned many years after they were due back: On 4th January, BBC News reported that a copy of the crime novel “A Touch Of Danger” by James Jones which had been borrowed from the central library in Aberdeen in Scotland in 1978 had just been taken back: “Luckily for the person concerned, the fine was capped at £3.60”.

On 19th April, the Guardian journalist, Sarah Marsh, highlighted the reappearance of “The Manual of Daily Prayers and Litanies” by Jeremy Taylor, handed in anonymously after 43 years to the Royal Holloway University library – which estimated the accumulated fine to be worth about £6,278. As Marsh’s colleague, Alison Flood, has noted, this was still far less than the £209,000 theoretically owed for “The Law Of Nations” by Emer de Vattel, borrowed by the first US President, George Washington, in 1789 and returned to the New York Society Library 221 years later.

Universities tend to be much stricter regarding library items returned or renewed after the due date. As with many of its counterparts elsewhere in the UK, Kings College London charges 10p for each day beyond a stipulated 4-week loan period; 30p per day in excess of a one-week loan; £5 per hour or part of an hour for laptops and 50p per hour or part of an hour for headphones. If the amount owed reaches £20 or more, borrowing rights are suspended until the total is reduced to less than £20.

Research conducted by the Press Association a few years ago and cited in the Guardian revealed that Britain’s universities had collected almost £50 million in library fines over a six-year period. Top of the list was the University of Leeds with £1,2869,340, followed by Manchester (£1,299,342), Wolverhampton (£1,252,253), Kings College London (£1,197,715) and Hertfordshire (£1,147,238). The University of Westminster apparently doesn’t fine its students for returning library books late but instead bans them from using the library for the length of time the books were overdue. The investigation also indicated that many UK universities bar students from graduating until they’ve paid their library debts.

Filed under: Society | Posted on May 7th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

How To Judge Someone: Look At Their Shoes:

What are you wearing on your feet at the moment? Perhaps slippers or just socks if you’re relaxing at home, trainers if you’re going outside to walk or jog and something rather more formal if you’re on your way to work. According to a report issued by researchers at the University of Kansas – quoted by Peter Harris, a contributor to careers.workopolis.com – your choice of footwear provides not only an indication of your current lifestyle and employment status but also reveals essential details about your personality.

The 63 students involved in the survey were required to look at hundreds of pairs of shoes and guess the age, gender and social status of the people to whom they belonged. That part was apparently quite easy. What was more surprising, pointed out Harris, was that they were also able to determine 90% of the owners’ characteristics. Among their conclusions: The most agreeable people like to wear practical and functional shoes, but ankle boots are suggestive of a slightly aggressive nature; if the shoes are not new but have been well cared for, then that’s a sign of a conscientious person.

Activists on the left of the political spectrum may not be too pleased to be informed that their shoes tend to be “shabbier and less expensive” than those of their more conservative rivals. The survey furthermore associates “plain and boring shoes” with “aloof and repressive” individuals and “showy and brightly coloured ones” with extroverts. As the Daily Mail columnist, Eddie Wrenn, has noted, in the opinion of the researchers, “shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about the wearer. They serve a practical purpose but also offer non-verbal cues with symbolic messages. People pay attention to the shoes that they and others wear”.

Bernhard Roetzel, the German author of “Gentleman: A Timeless Guide To Fashion”, has however taken the footwear debate into more controversial territory. His view (states styleforum.net) is that “in more sartorially inclined cultures, brown shoes are not appropriate for many occasions, including work (even on Fridays)”. This attitude was echoed during a recent speech at a conference at the Hilton’s Tower Bridge London hotel, reported by the Daily Mail correspondent Isabella Nikolic on 8th April and tweeted by the legal affairs journalist Catherine Baksi, who was present at the event: An unnamed city lawyer advised delegates that, although wearing brown shoes with a blue suit “might be fine for footballers”, it would be considered “unsuitable dresswear” for anyone hoping to obtain professional employment in the City of London.

Nikolic highlighted the fact that this was reminiscent of the results of a Social Mobility Commission (SMC) investigation carried out in 2016, namely that “investment banks are less likely to hire men who wear brown shoes to a job interview”, that managers place as much importance on a person’s speech, accent, dress and behaviour as on their skills and qualifications and that often only those applicants who fit the “traditional image” are selected.

One unsuccessful candidate was told after his interview that, although he was “clearly quite sharp”, he wasn’t right for the bank because he wasn’t “polished enough”, the tie he was wearing was too “loud” and so was inappropriate for the suit he had on. The problem for bright working class university graduates, in the assessment of the Evening Standard writer Hatty Collier, is that – unlike their better-off counterparts who attended Oxford, Cambridge or the London School of Economics – they are unfamiliar with such “opaque” dress codes. The SMC did, though, acknowledge that the banks consider these are necessary in order to “reassure their clients about the quality of the service they will receive”.

So exactly what type of shoes should you wear to an interview? If you choose the wrong ones, declares Irene A Blake on work.chron.com, you’ll completely ruin your chances of getting the job. They should coordinate in colour and style with your clothing. For men, Blake recommends leather lace-ups or slip-ons. For women, “flats or low-heel pumps with sturdy wide heels, in black, white or a colour that combines with your outfit”. New shoes and those with extremely high heels should be avoided as “they can be uncomfortable, make you walk oddly or even fall”.

Blake emphasises that the condition of your shoes is as important as the type you select. Rather obviously, “If the tops, toe-caps or heels appear noticeably worn, choose a different pair or ask a cobbler to repair them”. If they only need mild cleaning, you should remove dirt, dust or scuff marks, use a shoe repair kit to cover any scratches, then shine or brush the tops. If they feel loose, install inserts or wear thicker socks. If the outsoles feel slippery, rough them up with coarse sandpaper. Furthermore:

Your socks or stockings should be of a neutral colour that matches your shoes and should contain an element of elastic that will prevent them from slipping around when you move”.

Filed under: Society | Posted on April 23rd, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Licences For Cyclists: As Contentious As Brexit?

Did you watch ITV’s “Good Morning Britain (GMB)” programme on 1st April? If yes, you’ll have seen the furious argument that erupted between one of the presenters, Piers Morgan and Stanley Johnson, father of Boris, the Conservative MP and former London Mayor. They were discussing the proposal made by the IVF specialist, Professor Lord Robert Winston, that cyclists should be required to display licence plates. As the Sun journalist, Phoebe Cooke, reported on 29th March, Winston had claimed that two days previously, when he challenged a woman in the Bloomsbury area of London for riding her bicycle on the pavement, she became very antagonistic, swore profusely, snatched his mobile out of his hand, threw it into the road, kicked him, then rode off. Winston explained to Cooke that he hadn’t reported the incident to the police because it would be impossible to identify the cyclist.

Subsequently, on GMB, Morgan lambasted what he depicted as the “completely unaccountable cyclists creating havoc on the road”. Johnson’s response was that introducing licences for cyclists would be “crazy” and that the costs involved would be huge. The Manchester-based criminal defence lawyer, Nick Freeman has noted that the relationship of cyclists not only with pedestrians but especially with motorists has become “combustible and likely to get worse”, due to the booming popularity of cycling: More than 2 million people in Britain cycle every day. He acknowledges that many cyclists are “lawful road users” but is critical of the ones who “swathed in balaclavas or dark helmets, weave in and out of traffic with impunity, who feel untouchable because they remain anonymous”. He advocates a compulsory proficiency assessment for intending cyclists as well as the equivalent of the annual MOT test for motor vehicles: “Brakes, tyres, they all need to be checked”.

Freeman also cites the conclusions of the “Sharing The Road” survey conducted by the Halfords Bicycle company on behalf of YouGov and analysed by the “This Is Money” correspondent, Rob Hull: 59% of the 2,042 people questioned want all bikes to have registration plates, four out of five consider there should be tougher penalties for riders who jump red lights, 35% support the idea of a roadworthiness test for bikes and 65% feel strongly that cyclists should wear reflective clothing at all times to ensure that they are clearly visible to motorists and pedestrians. However, 80% also called for penalties to be increased for motorists behaving aggressively towards cyclists and 45% would like to see dedicated cycle lanes on all UK roads to “guarantee the safety of these vulnerable road users”.

Brian Canty, a contributor to “the42.ie” has identified some of the situations that most annoy cycling commuters, such as: pedestrians, buses and cars encroaching on bike lanes (“stay away from them unless you are on two wheels”); other cyclists, for example, those who brake suddenly or are not completely focused because they are wearing earphones, are talking to friends, are still half asleep or simply admiring the scenery; Bike lanes which suddenly end for no reason. Grant also concedes that some “smug and self-righteous” cyclists attract hostility because they profess to be saving the world by pedalling to work every day, ignore red lights, mount kerbs, ride down one-way streets the wrong way and think that sounding their bell and saying “sorry” is a sufficient apology.

The Independent columnist, Tom Batchelor, has meanwhile pointed out that cycling campaigners and some motoring groups are totally opposed to

the introduction of numbers plates on bicycles. Edmund King, President of the Automobile Association (AA), has dismissed the idea as both “impracticable and unnecessary” and has observed that the police anyway already have the power to detain cyclists who are breaking the law. The “Cycling UK” organisation similarly regards compulsory licensing and cycling training as unworkable and unjustifiable, not least because it’s unrealistic to expect children as well as adults to acquire licences. The Cycling UK campaigner, Sam Jones, told Batchelor that registration would be very costly to implement, a bureaucratic nightmare to administer, would deter both newcomers and occasional cyclists and that it makes no sense to put obstacles in the way of taking up an activity which is clearly so healthy and environmentally-friendly.

The Cycling UK website highlights the fact that other countries and cities such as Toronto and Switzerland have experimented with but then abandoned a variety of regulatory systems for cyclists. The organisation affirms that it doesn’t condone unlawful cycling on pavements but urges the police in such circumstances to make a distinction between “those whose behaviour is dangerous and antisocial and those who are acting out of concern for their own safety without presenting any threat to others”.

The Government, as Lord Ahmad confirmed while he was a Minister with the Department of Transport, has no plans to make insurance compulsory for cyclists, but does encourage them to take out liability insurance. Cycling UK emphasises that all its members are automatically covered for up to £10 million third party insurance and that they offer a discounted rate to members of affiliated groups.

Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on April 9th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Money In Your Pocket: Genuine Or Counterfeit?

Do you ever worry whether the banknotes or coins you have with you are fake? Perhaps you should. It seems that, despite all the efforts of the Bank of England and the National Crime Agency, there’s still a considerable amount of bogus currency circulating in Britain . The Daily Star Sunday journalist, Joe Hinton, has asserted that false £20 notes have been flooding the UK and that in the first half of 2017, more than 237,000 counterfeit banknotes with a “value” of more than £4.88 million were seized by the police.

On 13th March, the London Evening Standard’s Court Correspondent, Tristan Kirk, reported the conviction of a gang that had been running an “Amazon-style factory” in east London producing phoney identity documents, passports and and driving licence along with enough material to create 40,000 sham bank cards and £15,000 in cash. As the local commentator for BBC News, Cormac Campbell, noted on 7th February, there was a similar scenario in Northern Ireland: Seven men were sentenced for their role in a “unique” £1 million pounds counterfeiting enterprise whereby they had been printing forged sterling and euro banknotes “which were good enough to beat the counterfeit pen test”.

Just before Christmas, Amy Fenton, Business Editor of the North-West Evening Mail, publicised the case of a shop owner in Barrow-On-Furness who had spotted that an imitation £10 note was being used to purchase items in his store. He’d realised that the logo on the bottom left of the note was orange instead of holographic silver. Another recent incident, highlighted by Jess Clark, a contributor to the south London publication “News Shopper”, involved a man from Orpington in Kent who had been helping to distribute more than £135,000 worth of fraudulent banknotes.

The Bank of England has issued an “Easy To Follow Guide To Checking Banknotes” encouraging us all to take a closer look at currency which comes into our possession. This includes a warning apparently directed in particular at shop and supermarket employees that the common practice of using detector pens which react to the starch present in “normal” paper (which is still used for printing £20 notes) isn’t always effective and is no help at all in identifying counterfeits printed on polymer.

In the opinion of Trevor Mogg, an Associate Editor with “Digital Trends”, the more robust structure of notes made of polymer, a thin and flexible plastic material, not only renders them extremely resistant to dirt and moisture, so they last much longer than the previous ones, but has enabled the Bank of England to introduce a range of innovative security features. Around 440 million new £5 notes were produced in 2016, followed by polymer £10 ones in 2017, though the changeover for £20 banknotes won’t take place until next year.

The Sun journalist, Jane Denton, has pointed out that the “scam artists” have not been deterred by the fact that the new notes are supposed to be impossible to reproduce. If your £5 note is genuine, she emphasises, the image of the Queen looking at the Elizabeth tower will be gold on the front and silver on the back. When it’s tilted at an angle, the word “Five” changes to “Pounds” and a multi-coloured rainbow effect is visible. The printed lines and colours should be “sharp, clear and free from smudges or blurred edges”. If you happen to have a magnifying glass with you, you’ll be able to see the lettering below the Queen’s portrait detailing the value of the note written in small letters and numbers and on the back there should be a circular green foil patch containing the word “Blenheim”.

In addition, we are advised to feel for the raised print across the words “Bank Of England”, hold the note up to check the watermark and look for the metallic thread running through every genuine paper note. Likewise, the News Shopper’s Jess Clark suggests we examine the front of a £10 note under a good quality ultra-violet light: The number 10 should appear in bright red and green whilst the background remains dull in contrast.

The main problem with all of this, of course, is that few of us have the time or inclination to stand around in a shop or supermarket analysing whether the change we’ve just been given by the cashier is bona fide. Nor are we likely to be carrying around with us the ultra-violet (UV) lamp that the Bank Of England recommends as ideal for checking the fluorescent features on all notes.

The old round-shaped £1 coin, which was apparently very easy to imitate, with an estimated 45 million forgeries in circulation, was replaced in 2017 by the current 12-sided version. Although the Royal Mint has claimed that it’s “the most secure coin in the world”, according to Joe Hinton, gangsters have already worked out how to mimic it, apart from a few minor details such as the fine markings on the head of the thistle emblem on the reverse side. “Anything can be copied”, they told him.

Filed under: Society | Posted on March 26th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Laws On Finding Lost Money & Buried Treasure:

What would you do if you discovered a bag of money in the street? Try to hide it under your jacket & hope no-one else saw you, take it to the nearest police station, or just put it back wherever it was, perhaps next to a letter-box or lamp-post or on a pavement bench? As the Sun journalist, Gemma Mullin, pointed out on 2nd March, that was a decision an employee of the Cordant company had to make when she found £300,000 in a brown envelope while she was cleaning a London bus. She handed the money to the police, though the Sunday Times observed on 3rd March that it wasn’t yet clear whether she would be rewarded for her honesty.

The temptation to keep mislaid cash and use it to pay off debts, go on holiday or share it with friends is perhaps understandable in this era of austerity and restricted finances – but, in the opinion of Mullin’s colleague on the newspaper, Sarah Barns, “You should never pick up money someone’s dropped on the floor”. If it’s a substantial amount, doing so may be particularly inadvisable, as it could represent the proceeds from illegal activities. Whoever it “belongs to” will undoubtedly look for whoever has taken possession of it. That was the scenario in episode two of the BBC TV’s current Sunday evening fictional drama, “Baptiste”, in which a criminal gang based in Amsterdam, Holland, was determined to recover the million euros which had been stolen from them.

When a bag of £20,000 in cash, consisting of £20 and £10 notes tied together by red rubber bands, was discovered by the West Mercia constabulary in Telford, Shropshire, it was never reclaimed, reported the Birmingham Mail columnist, Mike Lockley, because it was drug money and had been “flung from a car amid fears it was being pursued by the police”.

The case of Nicola Bailey, a 23-year-old woman from Blurton, Stoke-on -Trent with no previous convictions, has attracted particular media attention. She was filmed on CCTV picking up £20 from a floor in a local shop. It emerged later that it had been accidentally dropped by a man who’d recently withdrawn it from a cash machine. Bailey was prosecuted and was ordered to pay £20 in compensation, a £20 victim surcharge and £135 in court costs – equalling a total sum, noted the BBC News correspondent, Alex Homer, which was more than eight times as much as she’d pocketed.

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers”, commented Homer, is an old adage that these days doesn’t actually stand up to legal scrutiny. He quoted the view of Professor Robert Chambers, an expert in private law at King’s College, London, that if you are in the street, you could reasonably believe you don’t have a chance of finding the person who lost what you found, whereas if you find a lost object in a shop it may not be so difficult to find the person who mislaid it.

According to the Theft Act 1968, a person is guilty of theft if they “dishonestly appropriate property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it”. However, a person’s appropriation of property belonging to another is not to be regarded as dishonest if they do so in the belief that the person to whom the property belongs cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps.

The definition of what constitutes “sufficient effort”, declares Professor Chambers, varies according to the location where the discovery is made. Furthermore, “if you make a reasonable attempt to find the person who lost it and they don’t come forward, you can keep it with a clear conscience”. Lost property, so Daniel Wise, an associate solicitor with the Slater Heelis law firm, informed the Metro contributor Ashitha Nagesh, continues to belong to another unless it has genuinely been abandoned by the owner: “The fact that cash has been dropped in the street doesn’t necessarily mean it has been abandoned”.

Meanwhile, the rules regarding looking for buried treasure are governed by The Treasure Act 1997, since when the number of reported treasure finds – sometimes worth in excess of £1 million – has grown every year. The Daily Telegraph’s Laura Silverman has cited estimates that there are now 10,000 treasure hunters in the UK with metal detectors. They are, states BBC News, searching mainly for coins that are older than 300 years and other objects which contain at least 10% gold or silver and are also at least 300 years old.

If they do find any of these, they are legally obliged to report it to their local police within 14 days, otherwise they risk a heavy fine or three months in prison. A coroner and the Treasure Valuation Committee will then assess its worth in order to determine how much should be paid to the finder by a museum if it wants to acquire it.

Eligibility for a reward is based on whether the finder is themselves the owner of the land or had the agreement of the tenant or freeholder to be there. As BT.com/lifestyle/money has emphasised “Whether it’s a public park, a friend’s back garden or the local beach, all land belongs to someone. Not asking for permission before you start metal detecting could see you getting charged with trespassing or may affect any reward if you’re lucky enough to find something”.

Filed under: Society | Posted on March 12th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

London Fashion Week AW19: Fresh Faces On The Catwalks:

MATTY BOVAN AW19 Show at London Fashion Week February 2019

 

Is there a risk that the twice yearly London Fashion Week is becoming a bit too predictable and routine? The press release issued by the British Fashion Council (BFC) prior to the latest LFW (Friday 15th – Tuesday 19th February) – which emphasized that the event would feature the very best of both the established and emerging names within the industry – indicated that the BFC is aware of this possibility and determined to ensure that it doesn’t happen. It welcomed back the long list of internationally celebrated designers who appear at LFW on a regular basis, but also highlighted the new additions to the schedule such as 16Arlington (founded by the Italian couple Marco & Kikka), Asai (of Chinese / Vietnamese heritage) and Symonds Pearmain (“a complex London-based collaboration between designer Anthony Symonds and stylist Max Pearmain”)

As the BFC pointed out, the UK fashion industry continues to make a significant contribution of £32.3 billion to the country’s GDP and it “employs almost as many people as Britain’s financial sector with 890,000 jobs”. The London Evening Standard columnist Richard Gray, observed in the ES special Fashion Edition on 15th February that the world’s fashion media and buyers would be descending on the capital for LFW AW (Autumn/ Winter)19 in their thousands but that it would be “the new generation, those young designers and graduates from our world-beating fashion colleges and art schools” who would be sparking the most interest”. Despite adversity and cuts in government arts education funding, he added, the capital’s fashion innovators are finding new ways to create and collaborate on clothes.

Gray cited as examples Asai “who creates bold and beautiful dresses by mixing tie-dye silks with overlooked fabrics” and Ahluwalia Studio,”meshing youth cultures from around the world to create a new and truly unique take on streetwear”. Gray’s ES colleague, Sabrina Carder, likewise focused on “the emerging designers to watch out for at LFW AW19”, namely the debut of British designer Bethany Williams, “who tackles social issues through fashion” (Tuesday 19th February), the “bright and bold knitwear” of Katie Ann McGuigan from Ireland (Saturday 16th February) and the presentation by Supriya Lele (Monday 18th February), whose designs “explore the cross-cultural points of her Indian heritage and British cultural identity”.

Although 180 The Strand is now the established HQ for LFW , Somerset House – just a few minutes walk away – has become the venue for the International Fashion Showcase, which takes place simultaneously to LFW, though for longer (11th – 24th February). The purpose of this event – organised jointly by the BFC, British Council, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London (UAL) and Somerset House – is to nurture and present work from the best up-and-coming fashion talent from around the globe. This time,in a new format called “Brave New World”, 16 designers – from Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, India, Georgia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Lithuania, Netherlands, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Vietnam – had been selected to exhibit “ a series of compelling installations” from their respective countries.

Colombia was represented by the Bogota-based designer Laura Laurens, whose “Wraparound” display of intricate beaded Okama necklaces had been created together with two LGBTQ+ members from the indigenous Embara community. The contribution of the Uruguayan womenswear designer, Clara Aguayo, from Montevideo was titled “Anxious Memories From the End Of The World”and reflected her predisposition for using “fabrics rescued from the past glory days of Uruguay’s textile industry”. A pivotal objective of Brazilian David Lee, another of the chosen 16, is to “explore the dual notions of masculine strength and fragility”. The centrepiece of his display was crochet and sportswear from Ceara in north-east Brazil.

Emerging brands, however, according to the Northern Irish designer Jonathan Anderson, are struggling to gain exposure on social media because it is saturated by the established labels. There was a moment, he told the ES journalist Lizzie Edmonds on 13th February, when social media was great for young brands because the big brands weren’t using it. Now newcomers are being “squeezed out” by the large fashion houses who are buying up a huge market share of celebrity content. Anderson acknowledged that Brexit is causing uncertainty in the industry. At the official opening of LFW on 15th February, the BFC Chief, Caroline Rush, declared her priority was to prove London fashion is open and to counter the “closed-off” image the UK may be suffering.

Meanwhile, the Guardian correspondent Zoe Wood has reported that big clothing retailers such as Primark, Boohoo and Misguided have been criticised by some MPs for “fuelling a throwaway fashion culture linked to the exploitation of low-paid workers in UK factories”. If shoppers are paying only £2 for their T-shirts, they are more likely to view them as “disposal”. The result, noted Wood, is that about 1 million tonnes of clothes are discarded each year in Britain – 700,000 tonnes of which is collected for reuse and recycling. The remainder is sent to landfill or incinerated, at an estimated cost of £82 million.

Roberta Einer                        Junne      LFW AW19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FASHION HONG KONG

Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on February 25th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Political Cliches That Dominate Brexit:

An Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman walk into a bar. After a while, the Englishman decides he doesn’t want to stay any longer and insists the other two leave with him”. That, according to the “Independent” newspaper, is one of their favourite jokes about Brexit, “because everyone needs to laugh at what’s happening”. It’s of course a reference to the fact that on 23rd June 2016, Scotland voted by 62% – 38% to remain in the European Union, as did Northern Ireland by 55.8% – 44.2%, but the English & Welsh voted to leave and so provided an overall UK anti-EU majority of 51.89% to 48%.

The fortnightly satirical magazine, Private Eye, regularly publishes what it calls a “EU-phemism” cartoon. In it’s latest edition, it shows two Brussels bureaucrats agreeing that they can’t allow Brexit to distract them from the EU’s “main mission”, namely “bankrupting member states” – a clear allusion to Italy’s budget dispute with Brussels and the possibility (says the Independent) that the country’s latest financial crisis could “blow up the single currency” (the euro).

Some media commentators, however, are distinctly unamused by the Brexit situation. The Spectator columnist, Matthew Parris (a former Conservative MP), has written that the “whole ridiculous thing is driving me slightly mad” What’s the point, he has asked, of “waking up at 3 am and fretting sleepless until sunrise that we are leaving the European Union”. His counterpart at the Guardian, John Grace, has speculated whether “some days it really is better not to get out of bed” . The Mail on Sunday reported on January 13th that many British constituents are telling their MPs they are “sick of the sight and sound of Brexit”.

The London Evening Standard (currently edited by former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne) on 6th February portrayed Prime Minister Theresa May as “living in a bubble, trying to hold back time – but Brexit reality is ticking to a different clock”. Grace has caustically depicted the PM as a badly programmed “Maybot”  incapable of coherent thought who has turned the UK into an international laughing stock. The reason the UK is in its current mess, he declared, is “because of the EU’s insistence on maintaining a withdrawal agreement that she had negotiated and signed up to”.`

The opinion expressed by Grace’s colleague, Ros Howard, is even harsher: She acknowledges that “politicians and empty rhetoric are no strangers”, but considers May to have gone to an even higher level: “She gives the impression of having direction, delivering her words with intense breathless conviction, often reiterating principles and hopes. These can sound like plans but aren’t” Many of May’s phrases, notes Howard, are “vague and aspirational, and become indistinguishable from platitudes”.

None of this will come as a surprise to Peter Bull, a psychologist with York University who has conducted research into how and why politicians avoid giving direct answers to questions. As he explained to another Guardian correspondent, Zoe Williams, “It’s primarily to do with face: Positive face is concerned with making sure they themselves don’t look bad and negative face is about keeping one’s freedom of action and not committing to anything”.

Theresa May’s “signature evasion”, notes Bull, is to answer a specific question with a non-specific answer. She rephrases the question, then answers it as she posed it. In one interview on the BBC’s Sunday morning Andrew Marr Show, analysed by Bull for “Conversation.com”, May gave a straight answer only 14% of the time.

The “Media Helping Media” website offers trainee journalists advice as to how politicians should be interviewed: Political organizations, it points out, “spend a fortune on hiring media training consultants (often former journalists) who coach politicians on how to avoid answering questions and ensure they get their message across. There’s a big business in manipulating the media”.

Raf Weverbergh and Kristien Vermoesen on “finnpr.com” have listed 35 evasive techniques that politicians use during interviews. Among them: Ignoring, querying or attacking the question; Repeating the answer to the previous question; Making a political point (such as criticising the opposition); Refusing, delaying or giving just a fraction of an answer; Implying that the question has already been answered.

Carla Callaghan of the “Daily Record”, the Guardian contributor Sarah Hall and the BBC’s Amy Stewart have all provided a list of politicians’ preferred cliches that the electorate “can’t bear to hear” and many loathe. These include; “We’re all in it together”, “Let me be clear”, “The Great British people”, “There are no easy answers”, “Let me be absolutely open and honest”, “It’s going to take time”, “The dire situation we inherited from the previous administration”, “Our long-term economic plan”, “There’s no instant solution”, “We’re putting in more money into the NHS in real terms than any previous administration”, “Not fit for purpose” and “There’s a job of work to be done”.

Meanwhile,  perhaps the PM should stop arguing that her Brexit withdrawal deal with Brussels (even if there’s a change to the Irish “backdrop”) is the only one available. Neither Parliament nor much of the British public seem prepared to accept this any more.

Filed under: Politics | Posted on February 11th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Tinnitus: The Noises That No-One Else Hears:

What do the American singers Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Will.i.am have in common, apart from having had successful careers? They all suffer from a condition known as “tinnitus”. According to “ranker.com”, Dylan developed it “after a lifetime playing loud music at concerts worldwide, it forced Young to stop recording for a while in the nineties and Will.i.am, a rapper, producer and actor, has announced in a Youtube video that he “doesn’t know what silence sounds like anymore”. There are many other celebrities who have this problem: The actor Steve Martin blames his on a “pistol-shooting scene” for the movie “The Three Amigos”, Barbra Streisand has suffered from it since early childhood and William Shatner believes his was the result of standing too near to the speakers when he was being filmed for his role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series.

The British musician, Pete Townsend, achieved fame as the lead guitarist with “The Who”, renowned for being “one of the loudest bands in rock history”. Apparently, along with tinnitus, he’s now completely deaf in one ear and has only partial hearing in the other. “Tinnitusterminator.com” has cited suggestions that the German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven may have developed the condition around 1796 “due to his habit of submerging his head in water to stay awake”. There has even been speculation that it might have contributed to the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his left ear: He was known to have impaired hearing, an intolerance of loud noises and to have been troubled by “the ringing and roaring in his head”.

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has estimated that the condition affects at least 10% of the UK population. Its counterpart in the USA (the ATA) calculates that 45 million Americans “are struggling with tinnitus” and in Germany (states the “Deutsche Tinnitus-Liga), 19 million people have had some experience of it, 2.7 million of them persistently & one million severely.

So what exactly is it? As the Daily Mail journalist, Isla Whitcroft, has noted, although the word originates from the Latin for “ringing”, the noise can be a buzz, hum or even whistle, heard in one or both ears or the middle of the head and has no obvious source. She quotes Dr Veronica Kennedy, consultant audiovestibular physician with the NHS Foundation Trust in Bolton, North-West England, as emphasizing that, for many people, when they have a “mild episode”, their brain screens it out, so they can ignore it. However, “if something happens to exacerbate it – such as exposure to prolonged loud noise – they suddenly notice it and it becomes an issue”, The condition, Whitcroft reports, can be caused by “injury to the complex auditory pathways in the ears and brain, a build-up of ear wax, infection, a perforated ear drum or a head injury”.

Thomas Goulding, a correspondent for the “Independent” has highlighted a campaign called “All Ears” launched in 2018 by three “music lovers”, Matt, Oli and John, who are convinced that the problem is often self-inflicted. They strongly recommend that any “raver” intent on going to a crowded nightclub or a rock concert should wear ear plugs, “to avoid the risk of damaging the hair cells in the inner ear”. Two of them suffer from tinnitus, so they founded “All Ears” to prevent anyone else getting it. They work with live music venues, festivals and other music organizations across the UK to promote safe listening environments.

For anyone who has or acquires the condition, observes Whitcroft, there’s no specific cure. Treatments range from relaxation techniques to sound therapy, although there is now a new invention: “A handheld ultrasound device placed behind the ear for one minute and designed to give temporary relief”. Meanwhile, a University of Nottingham survey has revealed that a third of tinnitus patients are unhappy with what they consider is their doctor’s lack of knowledge and sensitivity regarding this ailment. The BTA’s Chief Executive, David Stockdale, has complained to Whitcroft that sufferers are “either being told to learn to live with the condition or being given inaccurate information”.

The BTA advises that if the wax in your ears is not causing you any problems such as tinnitus, you should leave it alone: It keeps the ear canal lubricated and and protects the ear against dust, dirt and bacteria. If though, it starts to feel blocked, then you should either get some ear drops from your local pharmacy or, preferably, use olive oil to soften the wax. It should then come out after a few days. If not, your local surgery might remove it for you, usually by ear syringing. However, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently declared that this procedure is unsafe because it’s difficult to control the water pressure and there’s a risk it will harm the eardrum. Microsuction is now the recommended alternative method – but the NHS doesn’t usually provide this service, so you’ll have to have pay between £65 – £85 to have it done at a private clinic.

* TINNITUS WEEK 2019 will be from Monday 4th February to Sunday 10th February.*

 

Filed under: Healthcare | Posted on January 28th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

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