Category Archives: Society

Shocker: It’s who you know, not what you know that counts

Why the British government felt they needed to ask 2,272 people to confirm an ancient proverb, I have no idea. 65 per cent thought that who you know is more important that what you know when it comes to finding a job. But the results were actually a lot more interesting than the headline figure suggests, because of how contradictory they are.

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Why you should totally ignore the media coverage of Nigella Lawson being throttled

Nigella Lawson

Jean-Paul, The Sunday People / Mirror

Apparently the Leveson Inquiry didn’t yield terribly much, because pictures of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson being strangled by her husband in public are all over the front pages. It’s rather drowned out the more important story about the UK government spying on world leaders during a summit the country hosted in 2009.

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The NSA surveillance scandal explained

For those who have heard some of what’s been going on but got a bit lost in the storm of media coverage, I thought I’d do a nice quick(ish) summary.

What happened?

The Guardian and Washington Post broke a story last week about the extent to which the US National Security Agency spies on people. This is the US equivalent of GCHQ – a spy agency specialising in digital communication. The reports basically said that the NSA had been saving huge quantities of data in partnership with companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Skype (not Twitter, oddly enough). They have also been recording phone call information from the large US carrier Verizon.

The targets of such digital surveillance have been mostly foreign to the US, although the system they use only has a 51 per cent confidence measure, which means that pretty much anyone could be on the list. Other governments have also been implicated, including the UK.

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Do employers hire the pretty ones?

Which one would you hire? (it's the same woman by the  way)

Which one would you hire? (it’s the same woman by the way)

 

Unfortunately, yes. It’s not just women – the dreaded “halo effect” gets us all. Turning heads is a great way to get a job, and when they do get employed, attractive people are likely to earn 3-4 per cent more than a person with below-average looks. But that’s not the whole story.

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Dear over-reacting Britain, spying is not the answer. Here’s a better one.

Getting cleavered to death is a nasty way to go. It’s emotive and graphic. But it’s also very small scale. The country’s reaction to Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder on the streets of London has been completely overblown.

Most of the controversy among the media and politicians is about Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposals to revive legislation to increase police powers over hate groups (popularly called the snooper’s charter). This would include possible banning orders for extremist groups, even if they don’t explicitly encourage terrorism, and a crackdown on internet activity.

This is missing the point. Even if you prevent radical speech online, you can’t stop it in the privacy of people’s homes. At least online you can monitor it, whereas if you start banning online preaching,  it’ll just go off the radar. Plus, two radicalised young men with cleavers cannot be stopped because they no longer have access to their favourite YouTube cleric. You have to detain them, which is a whole other slippery slope.

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Does online dating actually work?

Answer: only if you play by the rules. But, apparently, people don’t. The founder of Plenty of Fish, the UK and US’s most popular dating website, has announced a bunch of measures to stop abuse, including scrapping an “Intimate Encounters” section of his website because  it “can be summed up as a bunch of horny men talking to a bunch of horny men pretending to be women.”

How tragic.

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