Not Another Statistic!

Don’tcha just love statistics! Here’s a beauty today from the BBC:

“Vegetarian and vegan: A quarter of UK dinners have no meat or fish”

More than a quarter of all evening meals in the UK are vegan or vegetarian, research shows.

In the 12 weeks to the end of January, 29% of them contained no meat or fish, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Trends like Veganuary (going vegan for January) and “sustained interest” in meat-free diets are affecting habits, the market researcher said. [1]

Okay, so if a quarter of all evening meals are now meat-less and fish-less that must mean a massive drop in meat and fish sales. Except, further down the same report the BBC tells us:

[…] the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) says in the short term, meat sales are increasing.

In another report, Kantar’s analysis shows that 0.9% more meat and poultry and 2.9% more processed meat and poultry (like bacon and sausages) was bought over the 2017 festive period than the previous Christmas.

While the AHDB – funded by farmers and growers – recognises the growth of flexitarians – who are reducing their meat consumption overall – it says most people are still enjoying meat dishes at the weekend or replacing red meat with fish or chicken.

In the long term, it said, meat-eating has slowed, but just 0.2% of meat and fish buyers stopped doing so last year.

Nearly one third of the UK population is eating no meat for dinner, according to Kantar Worldpanel, yet only 0.2% has gone vegetarian, and meat sales are increasing?

It begs the question: what is Kantar Worldpanel?

Kantar Worldpanel is part of WPP. WPP began life in 1971 as ‘Wire and Plastic Products, plc’, making baskets and trolleys for supermarkets. It didn’t last long. In 1985 control of the company passed to ex-Saatchi and Saatchi executive, Martin Sorrell, who ran the firm into the ground and resurrected it as a holding company, renamed WPP.

A year later, Sorrell took control of Picquotware, a manufacturer of metal teapots and pans. In 2004 the company was wound up and WPP sold off all the assets. That was just the beginning. Company acquisition after company acquisition rapidly followed, and in 2000 WPP ‘acquired’ the U.S.-based advertising company Young & Rubicam for $5.7 billion, making it one of the biggest advertising agencies on the planet.

Advertising isn’t WPP’s only expertise. Tax avoidance comes high on the list. In 2009 the Guardian ran a report detailing how WPP was duping the British taxpayer out of millions of pounds, despite the efforts of the U.K. government to thwart it.

[…] critics say WPP has also spent the past decade successfully running a series of elaborate avoidance schemes, involving billions in assets held in low-tax regimes in Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands. Overseas company filings show that over the years, in response to the UK revenue blocking a loophole, WPP appears to have ingeniously reorganised itself with even more hard-to-grasp spiders’ webs of legal entities.

We calculate that there could be a notional “tax gap” of some £100m between the UK tax charge declared by WPP over the last six years and a commonsense view of the total amount one might expect such a company to pay in proportion to its UK presence.

WPP itself estimates, for example, that 15% of its profits come from the UK. On this basis, one might expect it to have paid a total of around £126m. In fact, the company paid only £27m. It would take the average income tax paid in a year by 20,000 individual households to fill up such a tax gap.[2]

Which could go some way to explaining why British householders are finding it difficult to afford meat.

[1] “Vegetarian and vegan: A quarter of UK dinners have no meat or fish” BBC, January 7th 2018

[2] “Seeing double: Avoidance scheme allegedly used by UK ads agency” Guardian, February 4th 2009

Demise Of The Waiting Room Glossies

I have occasion to be sitting in the radiography waiting room of our local French hospital. As one would expect there’s a fairly average cross-section of the populace patiently awaiting their turn. The room isn’t very large. Chairs around the walls are mostly occupied, and a battered old table stands in the centre, supporting a lop-sided stack of dog-eared, once-glossy, magazines.

I gingerly appropriate one such journal, but rapidly relinquish it again after noting it’s nearly two years old. Why can’t they at least update them occasionally, I think, feeling somewhat annoyed at this lack of basic customer service? A glance around the room soon reveals the reason. Almost without exception, my fellow occupants are busily engaged in their own personal entertainment. Aged from seventeen to seventy, smartphone owners are in abundance. Digits are diligently swiping little screens with a dexterity impossible a decade or two ago. The swift evolution of the human forefinger is much in evidence.

As one who has managed to avoid the pitfalls of such devices I find the situation slightly unnerving. What can be so engrossing to twenty-odd individuals? Is it a sudden worldwide newsflash? Has Trump started a nuclear war, or perhaps, the happening of another 9/11 attack? Hardly, it’s the fifteenth of December and ’15/12′ somehow doesn’t have the same smooth ring to it.

I don’t know why smartphones annoy me so much. I’m something of a computer freak – hardly a ‘nerd’, but I have swapped processors and upgraded RAM memory, and stuff like that. And, I’m considering changing the motherboard on my desktop for a secondhand one I bought sometime ago on eBay, though I’ll have to blow the dust off it first. Yet smartphones, and to a lesser extent ‘tablets’, really get up my nose. My wife spends more time swearing at hers than gleaning information from it.

I do own a mobile phone, of course. It’s an aging Motorola Razr, circa 2003.

I use it to – okay, I’ll admit it – make phone calls. I know that’s a really old-fashioned, square, thing to do with a phone, but just call me an old fuddy-duddy. At least I don’t have to suffer constant updates and reminders, and of course that dreadful ‘social media’.

The folk in the French waiting room are not focused on any earth-shattering news report. They’re mostly just searching desperately for some online item that isn’t too desperately boring, reading old emails, checking out their friend’s Facebook page, or possibly seeking pornographic titillation. Perhaps it is marginally more interesting than some old, beat-up, magazine.

Come to think of it, given the inordinate length of time one has to wait one’s turn in any medical ‘salle d’attente’ in France a bit of pornographic titillation probably wouldn’t come amiss. I’ve been here forty-five minutes and there’s still no sign of any doctor.

Oh, well, nothing ventured, I guess I’ll risk giving that two-year-old glossy another glance.

How Bad Can It Get?

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse:


What the F***!!!?

Americans are TRULY losing their minds.

This is the woman who ‘gave away’ 276 brand new Pontiac G-6s to her audience and failed to inform them they’d have to pay up to $7,000 for the vehicle in gift taxes.

When Oprah Winfrey gave away 276 cars last week to the audience of her show, images of people laughing, jumping, crying — some hysterically — filled the airwaves and the give-away became stuff of legend. Late night talk show hosts and newspaper columnists are still talking about it.

But now some of those eager prize-winners have a choice: Fork over $7,000 or give up the car.

According to a spokeswomen for Harpo Productions Inc., Oprah’s company, the recipients must pay a tax on the winnings, just like any prize.

For a brand new Pontiac G-Six, the model given away on the show, the sticker price is $28,500. The $28,500 would need to be claimed as income so, depending on the individuals tax bracket, the tax could be as high as $7,000. And that was after Pontiac agreed to pay most of the local charges, including state sales tax and licensing fees.

The Harpo Spokeswomen said winners had three choices. They could keep the car and pay the tax, sell the car and pay the tax with the profits or forfeit the car. [1]

Hey, great way to raise taxes, President Oprah – why not give ALL Americans a new car, then everyone would have to pay an extra $7,000 in taxes. Great Idea! It’s amazing Mister Trump hasn’t thought of it.

In Britain, the (not so) Honorable Tim Farron…

…who was leader of the U.K. LibDem Party from 2015 to 2017 has now decided homosexuality is a sin, despite having denied it during an interview in the lead up to the 2017 general election:

…in another Channel 4 News television interview, […] Nigel Evans asked him in Parliament whether he thought being gay was a sin, to which he replied, “I do not” and said that he was “very proud” to have supported his party’s efforts to introduce gay marriage.[2]

Farron is an evangelical Christian, and his pronouncement must have played on his conscience because…guess what?


The former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has said he regrets telling people he did not believe gay sex was a sin when he was forced to clarify his position during the election campaign.

The MP said he had felt “isolated” and under pressure from his party to say gay sex was not sinful, suggesting he ended up misleading the public about his views.

He said he had spent weeks dodging the question but wanted to draw a line under the issue, which led to him “foolishly and wrongly” giving an answer that was “frankly not right”. [3]

It’s a politician’s roundabout way of saying he lied. Still, even as a Christian he’s not alone. One well-known disciple denied Jesus three times before he was crucified upside down, so Tim’s got another two denials in hand before he needs to start worrying. Just don’t expect too much future support from the gay community, Tim. They’ll likely provide the nails.

And now, a word on the British cabinet reshuffle that wasn’t. With much media hype to support her, British prime minister Theresa May announced a major cabinet reshuffle. (For our American readers this does not require the shifting of any furniture, but has more to do with moving members of the government from one ministerial post to another. Or, if they’ve not been good, sending them to sit at the back of the class (known in parliamentary lingo as the ‘back benches’).

Sadly, the reshuffle backfired on Mrs May when all those she wanted to shuffle refused to go anywhere. Jeremy Hunt insisted on remaining Health Minister, David Davies refused to give up his job cocking-up Brexit, and Boris Johnson was determined he definitely was not going to clean any toilets. Poor Theresa, aware she could be ousted from her job by these bullies, was forced to concede and allow them to remain where they were.

Jeremy Hunt, wringing a little more blood from stony Theresa, demanded his title be changed to ‘Minister for Health and Social Care’. The prime minister agreed.

The very next day, headlines in the British press revealed:


From the BBC:

Patients are dying in hospital corridors as safety is compromised by “intolerable” conditions, doctors say.

The warning has been made in a letter to the prime minister signed by 68 senior A&E doctors, spelling out the danger patients are facing this winter.

It comes as reports have emerged of people being left for hours on trolleys in corridors and stuck in ambulances.

And hospital bosses said they had run out of beds as they battle with “very high” rates of flu.

Official figures show the number of hospital admissions from flu has risen by more than 50% in the past week in England, although Public Health England officials said the levels were certainly not “unprecedented”.

Instead, hospital bosses have blamed the bed shortages on a lack of money and staff.

The letter from doctors in England and Wales sets out some of the impact of this pressure.

It says:

  • Patients are having to sleep in makeshift wards set up in side rooms
  • Trolley waits of up to 12 hours are being routinely seen as staff struggle to find free beds
  • Thousands of patients are left stuck in the back of ambulances waiting for A&E staff to take them in
  • More than 120 patients a day are being managed in corridors in some places, some dying prematurely

In response, Britain’s Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, (now Minister for Health and Social Care) stated:

“We know there is a great deal of pressure in A&E departments. We are grateful to all NHS staff for their incredible work in challenging circumstances.”

But he added that plans were in place to help, including extra money for council-run care services so people could be moved out of hospital more quickly and the single biggest expansion in doctoring training places in the history of the NHS – 25% in the coming years. [4]

There’s just one slight flaw in your plan, Jeremy:


According to a report last year in the Mirror newspaper:

Soaring numbers of junior doctors are leaving the NHS after their foundation training, an official report has revealed.

Just half of those who finished their first two years on the job in 2016 went straight into NHS training to become a specialist or GP.

Doctors’ union the BMA blamed the “deeply concerning” figures on low morale as the government forces through new contracts that prompted unprecedented strikes last year.

Rachel Clarke, a campaigning junior doctor from Oxford, added: “These figures are a tragedy for the NHS and an indictment of the way in which Jeremy Hunt went to war with junior doctors last year.

“Morale was already rock bottom, thanks to the chronic understaffing and gaps in our rotas which make it almost impossible to do a good job at times, let alone guarantee our patients’ safety.

“But his attacks on us and our professionalism were the last straw.”[4]

Never mind, Rachel, when Jeremy Hunt finally fulfills his ambition and opens the doors of Britain’s National Health Service to all those nice U.S. hedge funds and medical insurance companies waiting in the wings for privatization, you’ll earn so much money you won’t care anymore about your patients dying, losing their homes, or suffering abominably from lack of medical care when they can’t afford their insurance policies.

Finally, a moment of silence for all the razor blade companies bankrupted by the latest men’s fashion mode requiring them to ape aging hobos. The trend, which appears to have been made popular by the perverted Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein…

…has spread rapidly throughout the male population after a rash of stubble-laden ‘celebs’ began sporting the unshaven look:

Steve Bannon took on the look of the ‘retarded psychopath’…

…and it’s added an extra six inches to the length of John Kerry’s chin…

…but perhaps it’s improved the U.K.’s Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, by hiding an otherwise weak and flabby lower lip.

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse!

[1] “Oprah car winners hit with hefty tax” CNN Money, September 22nd 2004

[2] “Tim Farron – Political Positions – LGBT” Wikipedia

[3] “Tim Farron says he regrets saying gay sex is not a sin” Guardian, January 10th 2018

[4] “Soaring numbers of junior doctors leave NHS training after their first two years” Mirror, February 3rd 2017