‘Junk food’ to be banned in schools
Ruth Kelly, the government minister determined to introduce something eponymous during her tenure, is apparently to ban junk food in schools. My question is: How?
Many schools are locked into implausibly long contracts with suppliers, from both catering and vending machine companies. These contracts include a great financial disincentive to early ending. So where’s the money coming from to end these contracts by September 2006? Or does the government plan to do something quite sneaky, like change the law to make it illegal to supply such items in schools, and hence make any company doing so a law-breaker? It’s an interesting idea, but it’s hardly true to Labour values.
Or is Kelly just going to leave the ending of the contracts as each individual school’s problem, possibly meaning that many will get into financial difficulty, and, by definition, all will have less to spend on, erm, education?
Or, in typical New Labour style, is this a well spun fudge? Kelly actually said…
So today I can announce that we will ban poor quality processed bangers and burgers being served in schools from next September.
It would therefore appear that good quality processed bangers and burgers will be fine. And which company is really ever going to admit to selling ‘poor’ quality ones? And how is this ‘quality’ going to be regulated and judged?
On the subject of vending machines, the words falling out of Kelly’s mouth were actually…
And because children need healthy options throughout the school day I can also announce that from next September no school will be able to have vending machines selling crisps, chocolates, or sugary fizzy drinks.
It’s noticeable, particularly on the fizzy drinks front, that most ranges have now switched over to production with ‘no added sugar’ – so presumably they don’t count as ‘sugary fizzy drinks’. And so on that front, there needs to be no change. As for crisps and chocolates, that seems fair enough, but it clearly doesn’t rule out all sweets, biscuits, and similarly unhealthy snacks. And, of course, school ‘tuck shops’ will still be able to sell all of these things – because they are not vending machines.
Perhaps I’m just being overly cynical, but it appears to me that Kelly has announced a headline-grabbing policy of precious little substance. How very New Labour.
Watching the Prime Minister on Sunday AM this morning was depressing. If you think you’re up to it, you can watch the interview here on the BBC site. To think he was just eight years ago the fresh-faced everyman who would change the face of politics – a pretty straight sort of guy – is nothing short of tragic.
This morning, he stumbled over even the most simple questions about his innermost beliefs – clearly not struggling to express himself because of enthusiasm, but struggling to remember the prepared answer the focus groups told him he needed to spout. When faced with the tough questioning over Iraq, he largely ignored the questions posed in order to give his own egotistical speech. He looked disinterested, bored, and above all, exhausted. This is not the ‘Great Leader’ elected in 1997 – this man could hardly be further than that. He’s not even effectively manipulating the media any more – when questioned about stepping down, he replied (I’m paraphrasing) that he knew what he was going to do, but he wasn’t going to tell us lowly mortals. Eight years ago, he wouldn’t have dreamed of making that so obvious – he’d have given a crowd-pleasing non-answer, not taunted the interviewer.
The questions about the BBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina were met with the worst of all answers – He could have easily stuck to the ‘private conversation’ line, he could have given a flattering answer about the Beeb not covering things as he saw it, but the Beeb being impartial and him perhaps being more personally involved, or he could have simply chosen not to answer at all, saying that it was not his place to comment on the Beeb’s editorial decisions. Instead, he chose the worst bits of all of those options, saying that it was a private conversation but then divulging details of it anyway, and openly criticising the BBC all at the same time. That’s not the Blairite way.
Of course, there could be greater forces at work here, with the PM intentionally being painted as weak and over the hill in political terms, so that Gordon Brown’s confident conference speech will make him look like the natural successor. That’s one suggestion I can’t even entertain. Mr Blair couldn’t play down the statesman in himself intentionally even if he wanted to. He thinks he’s bigger than his party, and certainly his place in history is more important to him than the future electability of his party.
So what’s going on? Blair’s lost his touch, he’s drained, and ultimately, his eight years at the top have left him completely soulless, more a creation of spin-doctors than a real human being. He climbed the ladder for what he saw as the good of the country, attempting to be the great saviour. But he lost himself along the way, and allowed the advisers with which he surrounded himself destroy his very person. How very Shakespearean; how very tragic.
Six years in the making…
Six years ago today, I registered my first domain name and set up my first proper website. That domain name, which still belongs to me, was simonhoward.co.uk. I just thought that this was a significant enough milestone to mention. You can, of course, see older versions of this site (dating back to 2000) at archive.org, with archived versions of simonhoward.co.uk here, and those of sjhoward.co.uk here. Some of them were truly terrible…
David Mery’s front page piece in today’s Guardian certainly makes for interesting reading – and raises some very valid and important questions about the actions of the police in the wake of the London tube bombings. Well worth reading, and worrying.
Me, Bill Gates, and seven Vistas
Eight months ago, in response to claims that there’d be seven different editions of Windows Vista (then referred to by the codename Longhorn), I said:
This seems a rather unlikely story
Today, reports state that
there are seven separate editions of Vista headed your way
So you’ll notice that I picked up on quite a small rumour months ago, and trashed it. And it turns out to be true. That’s a pretty big bobo, even by me. But hey, when I was I ever right?
Anyway, the seven editions are reported to be Starter Edition, Home Basic Edition, Home Premium Edition, Professional Edition, Small Business Edition, Enterprise Edition, and finally the Ultimate Edition. Nice to see that they’re keeping it simple. How on Earth do they hope to educate users as to which version they need? It was hard enough to educate people when there was just XP Home and XP Pro – seven versions is going to be a bit of a marketing nightmare. But, as I’ve said before…
At the same time, though, this would be a good move by Microsoft if it meant that the most basic version of Windows could be sold at a very low price, so that it could compete in that field for the home users that Linux and the like are trying to target, since these could become more of a threat over the next few years. And, of course, Microsoft has been shifting in this direction by adding two further editions of Windows XP to the market (Media Centre and Tablet), as well as the stripped-down bargain version sold in countries where piracy is a particular problem. So there are clear advantages to taking this proposed stance on the release of Longhorn, and clear signals that this path is being taken.
Hey ho, I’m sure Microsoft have done their research, and I have little doubt that Vista will be very successful. So good luck to them.
How secure is Firefox?
Firefox not only has more vulnerabilities per month than Internet Explorer, but it is now surpassing Internet Explorer for the number of exploits available for public download in recent months…
As you can see, the facade that Firefox is the cure to the Internet Explorer security blues is quickly fading. It just goes to prove that any popular software worth hacking that has security vulnerabilities will eventually have to deal with live working exploits. Firefox mostly managed to stay under the radar from hackers before April of 2005. Since that time, new exploits are being released almost on a monthly basis
I have to say that my perception has always been that Firefox is more secure than Internet Explorer, but this does appear to be quite a strong challenge to that perception. At the same time, it’s questionable whether some of the Firefox holes are as serious as IE’s gaping chasms, but perhaps my perception of Firefox’s security is somewhat overblown. As Jack, one of Firefox’s biggest media fana, says:
I have to admit to some disappointment. I wasn’t naive enough to think Firefox would cure all IE’s security ailments, and I’m not stupid enough to think open source software has no security problems, but even taking George’s numbers with a kilo of salt, I expected better.
With this on top of the other potential disadvantages of Firefox George points out, it is beginning to look like a less attractive proposal. It certainly tightens the gap between them, and makes me wonder about just how superior Firefox is. I’ve always considered Firefox to be very much superior to IE, yet I’ve tended to use IE most of the time due to some of the sites I use being incompatable with Firefox. I will, no doubt, continue to use Internet Explorer, but perhaps I’ll stop feeling quite so inferior for a while…
Des replaces Dick
According to today’s Sunday Times, Mr Lynam has been selected as the new presenter of Countdown. I think he’s a pretty good choice – someone who will still be popular with the target audience, whilst being different enough in style to avoid the appearance of copying Mr Whiteley. I can really see him making the show his own, as Richard did.
Carol will, of course, be continuing. And the article says she’s very enthusiastic about Des as a replacement, though I think this possibly says more about the main competitor – Paul Merton – than it does about Des. Merton just would not have suited the show at all, as far as I can see.
So, all-in-all, this seems a good thing. Although, of course, no-one can ever truly replace Richard Whiteley.
Being a teenage mum
If any proof were needed that the Guardian is the same as ever, Decca Aitkenhead’s profile of teenage mum Hannah White provides in the new ‘Family’ supplement. It’s a very inspiration insight, and well worth a read.
The leader of the free world wants a wee-wee
This was from today’s Guardian (also on the Newsblog, here). It could so easily have been an internet fake sent round by email, but it’s a genuine picture from the UN. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad, particularly with his clearly poor linguistic skills: Why’s half of it capitalised? Is it some kind of sign?!
Anyway, since I’ve stolen it from the Grauny, it only seems polite to include their copy as well:
Schoolboys through the ages have raised their hands with a pained look on their faces and a blurted: “Please, Miss!” — but what is a US president to do?
Faced with a suddenly pressing need to go to the toilet at Wednesday’s UN summit, George Bush turned to the woman whose job it is to guide him through the constraints of diplomacy, secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. “I think I MAY NEED A BATHROOM break. Is this possible?” the president wrote, resorting to capitals to convey the urgency of the situation. The pencilled note, during a security council meeting, was spotted by a Reuters photographer.
It was not clear whether the leader of the free world got his wish — the White House made no comment.
That photographer deserves a raise. At the very least.