Taking your mind off it all

When croquet kills To The Times Further to your letters on croquet, I have been researching deaths of soldiers whose number was not on the bullet throughout 1914-18, but who died in bizarre or unfortunate circumstances after their Great War service. I discovered one Anglo-French officer who survived the horrors of Verdun only to be …

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American inequality – this house may not stand for long

The widening of the racial wealth divide has coincided with the extreme concentration of U.S. wealth. The wealthiest 0.1 percent of households have grown richer while millions of families face poverty and deep-seated economic insecurity. The median American family saw their wealth drop 3 percent between 1983 and 2016, while the richest 0.1 percent have …

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Practical Epicureanism: What you can do to combat global warming

The following is excerpted from the December 8-14, 2018 edition of the New Scientist, written by Graham Lawton, staff feature writer: Keeping global warming below 1.5°C will require behavioural changes – but that doesn’t mean you have to don a hair shirt. The cumulative effect of small, low-effort actions can be great, and the more …

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Brexit: my most instant, heartfelt posting ever

Britain on Tuesday: May lost by over 400 votes! The rolling, roiling disaster gets worse by the day. Lack of forethought, bullying, and downright ignorance rule the day! Epicurus would advise me to calm down, to be philosophical, to assume all will eventually settle down and rationality will be restored. It is possible that he …

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Artificial intelligence – in the right hands?

The Guardian Weekly of 4 January 2019 carried an article by Vivienne Ming about Artificial Intelligence. In theory, she says, poverty, mental health, climate change, inequality – almost everything – could be addressed by AI. The problem, she says, is not the concept of AI, but the people behind it. She points out that AI …

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If you don‘t like it don’t buy it

A woman struggles to park a car. A man seems unable to change a nappy. Adverts portraying the sexes in a stereotyped way can be very irritating, says Tom Welsh. But it’s one thing to think they’re crass and outdated, quite another to prohibit them. Yet that’s what the UK’s advertising watchdog plans to do. …

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Homelessness in Britain

At least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain, according to research by the housing charity “Shelter”. This amounts to a year-on-year increase of 13,000, a 4% rise, despite government pledges to tackle the crisis. The estimate suggests that nationally one in 200 people are homeless. Shelter says its figures, which include rough sleepers and people …

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Marriage, ancient and modern

Care of the Husband’s Person On 8 April 2010 the London Review of Books reviewed a 14th Century Parisian book of household management called The Good Wife’s Guide: A Medieval Household Book. This is a compendium of medieval lore which aimed to instruct young wives how to be good, efficient, and obedient. The following is …

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Big retail. No.2

The other day I commented on scanners in shops, the fact that they almost encourage shop-lifting, and the cavalier attitude of companies to “wastage” (or non-payment for goods by customers). Why do retailers shrug their shoulders? 1.  The purchase of scanners shows up on the balance sheet as depreciation, and the government has decreed that it …

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The curse of American monopolies

Three quarters of all US industries became more concentrated between 1997 and 2012. Ten pharmaceutical companies control the production and sales of the world’s medicine. Three chemical companies control the supply of seeds and pesticides. One corporation controls nearly all the non-craft beer for sale on the planet. Industrial concentration has now reached the highest …

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Brief update on British university grade inflation

An official British report has found that grades at more than 80% of universities have inflated beyond a level attributable to rising standards. Last year, 18% of students who got CCD or below at A level graduated with a first; 50% of students at Surrey University got a first; at Bristol, UCL and Durham, 2:2 …

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The age of rapid disruption, Part 2

These are some of the industries due to be overtaken by new technologyy in the next 5-10 years: – Hotels: Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties. – Artificial intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. Last year a computer beat the best Go-player …

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