Friday, May 23, 2014

The recently privatized Royal Mail is to start delivering parcels and opening delivery offices on Sundays as part of a new trial

Remarkable stuff, that privatization

Online shoppers could soon be receiving their purchases on Sundays under a new service from the Royal Mail.

The postal service will begin to distribute parcels on the traditional rest day in a large-scale trial this summer.

The move was welcomed by internet retailers who said customers should be given “as many options as possible” to receive deliveries at a “convenient” time.

Royal Mail announced on Wednesday that parcels will be delivered in the trial to addresses within the M25, which encircles London. The initiative is part of a move by the group, which was privatised last year, to make it easier for shoppers who are not at home on working days to receive goods.

It will help the firm keep pace with commercial rivals who are already carrying out deliveries on Sundays. In January, Amazon started offering Sunday deliveries through its Amazon Logistics service.

About 100 delivery offices with the highest parcel volumes will be open on Sunday afternoons. Delivery offices are currently open six days a week.

Separately, Parcelforce Worldwide, Royal Mail Group’s express parcels business, will begin a permanent Sunday delivery service in June through internet retailers which choose to take part in the scheme.

Customers will be able to opt for Sunday delivery if the individual retailer has a contract with Parcelforce.

Moya Greene, the chief executive of Royal Mail Group, said: “Through these new Sunday services we are exploring ways to improve our flexibility and provide more options for people to receive items they have ordered online.”

Patrick O’Brien, a retail analyst at Verdict Research, suggested the move was a response to the growing popularity of “click and collect” services, which let shoppers buy goods online and pick them up at local stores or collection points.

“The couriers are quite concerned about the level of click and collect that is taking place now,” he said. “Our research shows that 50 per cent of click and collect sales are sales that would have been done online for home delivery.”

The popularity of the service could largely depend on whether it is more expensive than receiving deliveries during the rest of the week, he added.

Shoppers who choose Parcelforce’s Sunday service will receive a text message between 30 and 90 minutes before delivery.

The online auction website eBay predicted that Sunday deliveries would prove popular with internet shoppers.

A spokesman said: “Shoppers want convenience, speed and choice — they want to shop any time, anywhere, on any device.

“They also want to be able to get their hands on their purchases as quickly as possible, and Royal Mail’s Sunday parcel pick-ups will no doubt prove popular, as around 60 per cent of UK shoppers have used click and collect services in the past year.

When consumers are buying online, they don’t want to have to work around Sundays.”

Royal Mail said the moves were being planned under its “agenda for growth” agreement with the Communication Workers Union.

Dave Ward, the union’s deputy general secretary, said: “As the online retail market goes from strength to strength, consumer expectations are rising fast. That’s why it’s great to see Royal Mail providing customers with this much-desired Sunday delivery service.”


Richard Scudamore's 'sexism’ isn’t worth getting steamed up about

I have started to loathe the words “unacceptable” and “inappropriate” and what they reek of. Previously reserved for heinous or obnoxious behaviour, unacceptable has started to branch out. Unacceptable has gone into showbusiness. There is almost no area of life, it seems, where something “unacceptable” is not going on, or where an individual cannot be accused, with hand-rubbing glee, of doing or saying something to upset a sensitive flower.

The perfect 2014 story would be about a person who has done something “unacceptable” that leaves social media instantly boiling with rage. Take the case of Richard Scudamore, which I discussed earlier this week on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 show.

The chief executive of the Premier League had a temporary PA called Rani Abraham. Ms Abraham saw some emails that Mr Scudamore had exchanged with an old friend. The emails were crude, blokey and contained a jibe about a female colleague called “Edna”.

Ms Abraham decided that, because her boss’s emails contained “inappropriate remarks”, it was her “duty” to take them to a Sunday newspaper. She was so upset and disgusted that she appeared in full make-up on breakfast television.

Thanks to Ms Abraham, Richard Scudamore became Dirty Dickie, the hate object of thousands of souls so virtuous they have never shared a tasteless joke with a friend. When I suggested on Twitter that the reaction to Scudamore’s sexist emails was out of proportion, one respondent tweeted: “Vile that someone thinks this about half the population.”

So it’s not how the head of the Premier League conducted himself professionally that counts. No, it’s a crime to even have entertained such incorrect thoughts in an email, even though it was meant to be private. It’s here that we enter more sinister waters. Are the social-media Stasi entitled to pass sentence on someone for what they think that he thinks? Shall we really know the content of a man’s character by his email?

The claim that Mr Scudamore was doing a high-profile, “public” job, so his behaviour was even more culpable, hardly bears scrutiny. If sexist thoughts were a bar to people entering public service, the UK would have neither an Army nor a Navy, which could be awkward.

As total strangers on social media took grave offence, all of Richard Scudamore’s female colleagues stood by him, including Peta Bistany, the woman he called “Edna”. The Premier League’s planning and projects director said she was not offended by her chief executive’s emails. Believe me, women do not rally around hate-filled misogynists. If Scudamore were a dirty old man, the office mavens would have put the LK Bennetts into his centre-forwards. When the league announced that its “previously unblemished” boss would face no further disciplinary action, Margaret Byrne, chief executive of Sunderland FC, said: “I am delighted that common sense has prevailed.”

Not everywhere, alas.

The Prime Minister told Radio 5 Live that Mr Scudamore’s emails were – go on, have a guess – yes, “unacceptable”. David Cameron hadn’t actually read the “specific emails”, but this need be no impediment to finding them inappropriate. Was the PM aware, I wonder, of a subsequent revelation: that one of the tasteless jokes in his inbox had been forwarded to Scudamore by a female colleague? Such telling details seem to be missing from accounts of the scandal.

I’m not going to downplay how hideous it is to work for an old lech of a boss who treats female staff like a box of Milk Tray, but I’m damned if Richard Scudamore is one of them. Rani Abraham says that the Premier League’s decision not to take further action is “a kick in the teeth for all women”.

Speak for yourself, honey. Or, better yet, try reading an interview in The Telegraph with Julia Gillard. Australia’s former prime minister was subject to sexist abuse that really did merit the term “vile”, and she came back not whingeing but fighting. I would also suggest that, very often in life, it is Mr Squeaky Clean not Dirty Dickie that you have to watch out for.

According to G K Chesterton, a Puritan “is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things”. In that case, we are beset by pesky Puritans. As I write, there is another synthetic “sexism” row brewing, this time over a large opera singer at Glyndebourne. Male critics are under fire for pointing out that Tara Erraught, who plays Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, is, ahem, a bit hefty to make a credible principal-boy type. Alice Coote, a leading mezzo soprano, fumed: “We cannot people our operatic stages with singers that, above all, are believable visually or sexually attractive to our critics – that way lies the death of opera.”

Perhaps Ms Coote hasn’t noticed that, in a highly visual age, it is no longer ideal if an opera’s romantic heroine – or hero – is so fat they have to be wheeled on stage on castors. That’s not sexist, it’s just life.

Besides, what frivolous nonsense it all seems when Meriam Ibrahim, a pregnant Sudanese woman, has just been sentenced to hanging for apostasy (leaving Islam), but not before she has 100 lashes for adultery (not that she actually committed adultery; she merely married a Christian).

If we treat “inappropriate” or “unacceptable” language in private emails as a hanging offence, what does that leave for actual hangings and the truly barbarous treatment of women? Words can hurt, of course, but try facing real sticks and stones.


Theresa May goes to war on police: Furious Home Secretary accuses officers of holding public in 'contempt' as she axes ALL funding for Police Federation

Home Secretary Theresa May left rank and file officers in shock today - after launching a furious assault on the police. The Tory minister, speaking at the Police Federation's annual conference in Bournemouth, accused officers of treating the public with 'contempt' over the way they treated victims of abuse and domestic violence.

She also announced that she was scrapping all Police Federation funding because the organisation sits on 'vast reserves' of cash worth tens of millions of pounds.

Mrs May's intervention came as a fourth police officer was sacked over the Downing Street 'plebgate' row involving the former Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell.

Theresa May, addressing the Police Federation's conference in Bournemouth today, launched a furious assault on officers' behaviour and accused them of holding the public in 'contempt'

Theresa May, addressing the Police Federation's conference in Bournemouth today, launched a furious assault on officers' behaviour and accused them of holding the public in 'contempt'

Theresa May's bombshell attack came as a it emerged another police officer has been sacked following the investigation into the Downing Street 'plebgate' row.

Susan Johnson, a serving PC with the diplomatic protection group - which mans the gates in Downing Street - was dismissed today for gross misconduct.

The 'plebgate' row erupted after Cabinet Minister Andrew Mitchell launched into a foul-mouthed outburst when he was denied permission to cycle through the main gate at Downing Street on September 19, 2012.

Mr Mitchell and the gate officer at the time PC Toby Rowland gave conflicting accounts of what happened.  The officer claiming Mr Mitchell used the word 'pleb', something Mr Mitchell has always denied.

Scotland Yard said a person 'closely connected' to PC Johnson, who was not on duty at the time of the incident in Downing Street, contacted The Sun newspaper the day after the incident.

Another officer, PC Gillian Weatherley, was sacked at the end of April over leaks to the press linked to the row. She was on duty in Downing Street on the day of the confrontation.

Four officers have now been sacked over the scandal. Scotland Yard today confirmed one further gross misconduct case remained.

Mrs May warned the Federation, which represents ordinary police officers, that it was time for them to 'face up to reality' and change their ways.

Mrs May said she was determined to change the way officers behave and announced that she was willing to grant the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, more powers to investigate corrupt PCs.

She said: 'It cannot be right when officers under investigation by the IPCC comply with the rules by turning up for interview but then refuse to cooperate and decline to answer questions.'

The minister said this behaviour 'is often encouraged by the Federation'.  She said this revealed an attitude 'far removed from the principles of public service felt by the majority of police officers'.

Mrs May added: 'It is the same attitude exposed by HMIC when officers, called to help a woman who had suffered domestic violence, accidentally recorded themselves calling the victim a “slag” and a “bitch”.

'It is the same attitude expressed when young black men ask the police why they are being stopped and searched and are told it is “just routine” even though according to the law, officers need “reasonable grounds for suspicion”.

'It is an attitude that betrays contempt for the public these officers are supposed to serve – and every police officer in the land, every single police leader, and everybody in the Police Federation should confront it and expunge it from the ranks.'

She said 'it is not enough to mouth platitudes about a few bad apples' in the face of a slew of high profile scandals that have hit the police. Mrs May said a third of the public do not trust officers to tell the truth.

During questions and answers, one Police Federation representative, who said he had served as an officer for 21 years, told the Home Secretary: 'I've never had such an attack and a personal kicking from what you said there.'

He added: 'We all accept we need to change. We want to do that. We do not need to be politicised.' 'You're threatening to bully us,' he said.

Earlier, delegates heard from outgoing chairman of the Police Federation Steve Williams, who said the organisation was 'more than stories about plebgate'.

The chairman, whose successor is expected to be chosen on Friday, told the Home Secretary said that members are 'deeply concerned' that officer numbers are falling across the country in the face of 20 per cent budget cuts, and claimed that staff levels were falling close to those in the 1980s.

Despite previous claims that he had been bullied out of his role, he received a long round of applause at the end of his final annual address.

The Government has already reduced the Police Federation's funding from £320,000 to £190,000 a year.  But in a speech to around 2,000 officers Mrs May said: 'I can announce today that this funding will be stopped altogether from August.'

The Federation came under fire earlier this year for having tens of millions of pounds stashed in unregulated accounts.

There were murmurs through the audience after Mrs May told members: 'It is not acceptable that when the Federation is sitting on vast reserves worth tens of millions of pounds, it is in receipt of public funds to pay for salaries and expenses of the chairman, general secretary and treasurer.

'We have already said we would reduce this spending from £320,000 to £190,000 per year but I can announce today that this funding will be stopped altogether from August.

'Instead, the money will go into a new fund to accelerate the introduction of Police First - a new scheme designed to attract the brightest young university graduates into the police.'

The Home Secretary also announced that officers will no longer automatically become members of the federation, and instead will have to opt in.

Earlier, the Home Secretary told police officers who question the need for change to 'face up to reality'.

Mrs May listed a string of damning controversies faced by forces across the country including the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and the so-called plebgate row .

She said: 'If there's anybody in this hall who doubts that our model of policing is at risk, if there is anybody who underestimates the damage recent events and revelations have done to the relationship between the public and the police, if anybody here questions the need for the police to change, I am here to tell you that it's time to face up to reality.'

In a forceful speech, Mrs May told members if the Federation does not change and accept reforms recommended by Sir David Normington, it will be forced to do so.  She said that she will change the law to allow the Home Office access to the Federation's so-called 'number two' accounts, many of which are currently inaccessible even to the Federation's national leadership. 

Mrs May said: 'I do not want to have to impose change on you, because I want you to show the public that you want to change. 'I want you to show them that you have the best interests of the police and of the public at heart.'

But Mrs May added that she would overhaul the police with or without their support.

She said: 'Make no mistake, if you do not make significant progress towards the implementation of the Normington reforms, if the Federation does not start to turn itself around, you must not be under the impression that the Government will let things remain as they are.

'The Federation was created by an Act of Parliament and it can be reformed by an Act of Parliament. If you do not change of your own accord, we will impose change on you.'

Mrs May was greeted with silence from audience members as she finished her speech, and no round of applause.


Are cavemen the reason we believe in God and ghosts? Deeply engrained survival instinct makes us believe in supernatural, claims expert

There is no doubt that man is a religious animal

Notions of gods arise in all human societies, from all powerful and all-knowing deities to simple forest spirits.

A recent method of examining religious thought and behaviour links their ubiquity and the similarity of our beliefs to the ways in which human mental processes were adapted for survival in prehistoric times.

It rests on a couple of observations about human psychology.

First, when an event happens, we tend to assume that a living thing caused it. In other words, we assume agency behind that event.  If you think of the sorts of events that might have happened in prehistoric times, it’s easy to see why a bias towards agency would be useful.

A rustling of a bush or the snapping of a twig could be due to wind. But far better to assume it’s a lion and run away.

The survivors who had this tendency to more readily ascribe agency to an event passed their genes down the generations, increasingly hard-wiring this way of making snap decisions into the brain.  This is not something that people need to learn. It occurs quickly and automatically.

The second trait is about how we view others. While living together in a tribe would have had many advantages for survival in prehistoric times, getting along with everyone would not always have been easy.

Comprehending others’ behaviour requires you to understand their thoughts and beliefs, especially where these may be incorrect due to someone not knowing the full facts of a situation.This is known as 'theory of mind'.

This idea says that we automatically assume that there are reasons behind others’ behaviour which we try to work out in order to better understand why they behave the way they do. Not having this ability has been proposed to underlie developmental disorders such as autism.

You may be wondering what these two hard-wired processes have to do with belief in gods.

Imagine a pebble falling in the back of a cave. Our agency device tells us that someone caused that to happen. With nothing in evidence, could it be an invisible creature or a spirit? If so, why would it be sneaking around? To find out secrets about us or to discover if we are good or bad people?

Another example might be a volcanic eruption. In the absence of geological knowledge, our tribal ancestors' agency system would have ascribed this event to a person - but one that surely has superhuman ability.

And why would they want to cause such destruction? Perhaps the eruption signified a punishment, perhaps because the tribe had not acted in accordance with the being’s wishes.

These two very simplistic examples should help illustrate how these hard-wired mechanisms could lead to the beginnings of a belief in gods, as well as ghosts and other supernatural creatures.

Our ancestors would have drawn conclusions about supernatural occurrences by fitting together these instincts towards agency and the theory of mind.

This even applies to the Abrahamic, all-knowing, all powerful god. He may seem very inhuman at first glance, but it has been shown that we reason about Him in a very human way.

For example we depict Him helping one person before moving to the other side of the world to help someone else. Hard-wired reasoning processes helps explain how religious ideas are so durable, spreading across continents and down through generations.

Both these and other ancient instincts appear to be in evidence from observations of children. Very young children seem to show very accurate understanding of physical laws.

For example they know that two solid objects cannot merge into one or that horses do not have metal gears inside them. Developmental psychologists have suggested that children are intuitive biologists, physicists and - using theory of mind - psychologists.

Concepts which violate these intuitive understandings seem to be more memorable than others. A rose that whispers in Latin violates an intuitive understanding that plants do not have minds or mouths and therefore cannot whisper in an ancient language - or any language for that matter.

It may be that violating an intuitive concept draws special attention and interest and therefore helps embed the idea in memory.

Many religious stories contain concepts that seem to violate this special kind of intuition, such as a man walking on water or a burning bush that talks. These tales take advantage of this feature of memory to successfully propagate themselves and resist being forgotten.

Putting these ideas together is one way of explaining religious thought and behaviour. You could go further and suggest that, if these ideas are correct, religion is merely a by-product of mental processes operating in error.

But this assumes that religious/supernatural experiences are not true. If the human mind was to truly experience a god, then the theories of agency and mind and our memory for the counterintuitive would help us make sense of it. If that were to happen, the conclusions would not be in error at all.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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