Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Hidden Dangers of Food Fakery

Food fakery is now a serious health hazard.

Food fraud is becoming the new scourge affecting everything from olive oil to tuna and fruit juice. Extra-virgin olive oil is being diluted with cheaper vegetable oil while tea bags might be bulked up with lawn grass or fern leaves, according to US experts who report a sixty per cent rise in cases of faked food.

Apparently, healthy white tuna may actually be the less-expensive escolar, a fish that has been banned in many countries because of its links to food poisoning.

Some manufacturers are secretly adding cheap pear and grape juice to pomegranate, the US Pharmacopoeial Convention, an independent scientific body, has found.

While the problem was made known in the US, the products in question are traded in the UK. British experts have found that honey, cheese, eggs, organic meat and even fish and chips are not what they seem. One estimate suggests families are wasting up to £7 billion a year on faked food.

Director of Policy at the Trading Standards Institute, Andrew Foster, said: ‘In times of recession, when people are looking for a bargain, you start to find more food fraud.’

It’s all very well to explain the reason why food fraud has become rampant in our shops, but the authorities are failing the public by not legislating against this vile practice which could be a real health hazard. The latest scandal using horse meat in our hamburgers should alert the authorities to be more vigilant and to make sure that the description of food sold must not be faked. The health of the nation is much more important than the pursuit of a bargain.

A free economy must not degenerate to allow fakers to cheat the public and get away with it. Nutrition is not something we should take lightly. Fakery is a crime and should be dealt with on this basis.

There is no time to waste. Action is needed now before a major food scare grips the nation with dire consequences.

Richard Branson: A Magnet for the Media

I once had lunch with Richard Branson when he lived on a boat on Maida Vale’s canal. That was over three decades ago and I don’t reckon we hit it off very well for our paths never crossed again.

Since then he rocketed to great wealth, owning a Caribbean island renowned for its beauty and an international airline to boot. Although mega-rich, he has become a celebrity-obsessed freak who loses no opportunity to hog the limelight whatever the cost. His name-dropping is legendary as well as laughable.

For a man who has achieved a great deal with his business acumen and sharp dealings in the enterprising worlds of industry and finance, it seems rather odd that he should turn himself into a ludicrous caricature due to his boundless media flirting.

Branson

Through the years, he has been photographed in a variety of poses surrounded by a cluster of ladies of different glamorous shapes and celebrities of both sexes, whose claim to fame veered between notoriety and where ladies are concerned pronounced physical attributes.

His love of the camera has not diminished through the years. On the contrary, we see more of him in improvised situations than ever before. Publicity is obviously in his genes and self-promotion in his blood.

He does not need the acknowledgement of others for he is able to congratulate himself better than anyone else, so why bother.

In a world where celebrities are the new elite, he stands as master of his craft. We may ridicule his propensity for attention but we must not forget that, as a matter of fact, he is laughing all the way to the bank.

Wise people say that beauty, particularly in women, is potent but money is omnipotent. Richard doesn’t have to choose between the two, for he has both.

The lucky blighter must know what he is doing – look at where it got him.

The European Quandary

I am totally perplexed about the present government’s policy on Europe.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, and his party the Liberal Democrats, are pro-European and will certainly not go along with the Tory party’s stance on this highly contentious subject. The Tories themselves are divided as to how far they want to extricate themselves from the EU and its legislative powers.

The prime minister’s long-awaited speech, hailed by many as the most eloquent he has so far given, is I must admit cleverly constructed, rich on rhetoric but weak on substance. It simply avoided the crucial issue by postponing any real decision until sometime in the future. I have no truck with leaving Europe for the grandiose idea that Britain will prosper more by untying its links with Brussels.

David Cameron’s commitment to call a referendum in 2017, when the Tories hope to regain power, is a hollow undertaking.  My best guess is that their return to power is incongruous; rather a matter of conjecture, more accurately described as ‘ALL LOMBARD STREET TO A CHINA ORANGE’.

My assumptions are based on the fact that this coalition government is tackling subjects that will render the Tory party unelectable. The gay marriage proposals soon to be pushed quickly through Parliament are a poisoned chalice which will haunt the Tories for generations to come. They will undoubtedly alienate those who follow the Christian faith and cause turmoil among the ranks of those who believe such legislation will open the doors to other measures that will impair family life as we traditionally know it.

The government’s priorities, given the global financial upheavals, are topsy- turvy. The economy is haemorrhaging while time is spent playing the macho game to placate the critics within their own parties, by waging a war of attrition against the middle classes whose tax burdens are becoming too heavy to bear.

The rich are not really affected to a larger degree since they have the means and the know-how from years of practice to defeat the system, by resorting to all sorts of stratagem to avoid having to contribute to the Exchequer more than they are willing to do comfortably.

Instead of the government protecting the middle classes who are the backbone of the nation, they have inflicted punitive policies to reduce their standard of living to the point where they no longer feel any incentive or disposition to help lift the economy from its present state of doldrums to a sustained growth.

There is nothing worse than piling miseries on those without whose input the nation will suffer. That would be a legacy this coalition government will live to regret.

The question that remains: will the Tories see the light when the economy stagnates as a consequence of the misguided policy of the coalition government who covets power at the expense of public interest?

Time will tell. We need positive action for ‘words are but sands; it is money that buys lands’.

My Weekend Review

Is Prince Harry going off the rails?

Show some gratitude, Army chiefs tell Prince Harry

Prince Harry has been my favourite royal for many years. He has a devilish character, a lovely smile and a sense of humour that endears him to the majority of people in this country. His high-spirited kicks have raised some eyebrows in the past, namely his Las Vegas romp which was tacky and did not earn him much credit – yet it left his popularity undented.

However, his latest gaffe is far more serious than any of his previous escapades; it has already angered many of his most ardent admirers.

On what was supposed to be his triumphant return home, it turned out to be a public relations disaster. To start with, he talked about the killing fields in Afghanistan, a highly explosive subject likely to render him a possible target for the jihadists – and there are many of them in Britain. Then he followed it by a long list of complaints: the way other soldiers stared at him in the mess; the fact that no woman would wish to be his wife; and the media’s intrusion in his private life.

Out of the three complaints he fired, the last two stretch credibility to breaking point. Women flock to land him as a future husband and the media are given enough fodder to feature him in their columns. His lifestyle is the prompting factor of the so-called intrusion.

The thing that baffles me most is the inadequacy of the royal advisers who seem to get everything wrong these days. A case in point is their fluffing of the Duchess of Cambridge saga and her topless photos, which as a result of their stupid action gave the story a much greater prominence than it should have had.

As for Prince Harry, why did they allow him to give an interview which was ill-advised and ill-timed given the violent conflicts raging in some parts of the world, the latest example being the hostage calamity in Algeria that cost so many innocent lives?

His whinging is another matter since it does not affect his own security, but the rest does.

His advisers must now be fretting for this faux-pas, which puts additional pressure on those responsible for the prince’s protection.

Let’s hope Prince Harry will learn to keep some of his thoughts to himself and gracefully enjoy the privileges of being the most desirable young royal around. Most people would love to be in his shoes, so wake up Harry and count your blessings and stop talking gibberish. You would have me believe that the moon is made of green cheese.

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I was disappointed to read that Anna Wintour’s hopes of becoming the next American ambassador to Britain have been dashed.

President Obama has appointed instead Mr Matthew Barzun, who was National Finance chairman for the Obama re-election campaign.

The two rival candidates for the most coveted US foreign service appointment come from totally different backgrounds. Mr Barzun, a likeable fifty-two-year-old from Kentucky who made his fortune from a Californian tech-media website, served from 2009 to 2011 as Mr Obama’s ambassador to Sweden. Ms Wintour, sixty-three, who is British by birth but is now an American citizen, has reigned over US Vogue since 1988. Her famous mien labelled her as Nuclear Wintour and we are told she was the inspiration for the film The Devil Wears Prada, starring the formidable Meryl Streep in the title role.

What both candidates have in common is the prodigious fund-raising talent which helped bolster the finances of Obama’s election campaign.

Ms Wintour’s candidacy came to light at a dinner Mr Obama hosted for dozens of donors in November, when she made it clear to the president that she would be interested in the London ambassadorship which comes with a residence on twelve acres of land in Regent’s Park.

Contrary to the media’s perception of Anna’s demeanour as icy, I found her a warm and rather genial individual when she was in London editing British Vogue in 1986. I was then embarking on my first book, Women, and she was one of my early interviewees who went on to help me secure other women for inclusion in a tome of two hundred and eighty-nine participants.

I can never forget her kindness and her indispensable counsel, which went a long way to make my dream come true. She would have made a great ambassador with her ingenuity and charm and above all her uniqueness in the art of savoir faire.

All that is left for me now to say is dear Anna, you can count me as being one of your most devoted fans.

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Is the Shard a sexual odyssey?

The Shard

A novel way to get sexual arousal is to climb to the sixty-eighth floor of the Shard building, lock yourself in the men’s lavatory which has a stunning view of London and bonk to your heart’s delight.

It seems height and a sensational view of the great metropolis is the latest craze likely to give your libido a wake-up call.

The Shard is the tallest building in Europe, rising to a height of one thousand and sixteen feet above the capital, and includes six hundred thousand square feet of offices, three floors of restaurants, a hotel and twenty luxury apartments costing up to £50 million each.

With a breathtaking view of London, it will open to the public on the 1st of February and the first two days are sold out at £24.95 for adults and £19.95 for children. They will be able to climb to the top of the building and experience the thrill of a panoramic view, the likes of which London has not seen before.

Early visitors to the Shard have apparently indulged in sexual activities in front of floor-to-ceiling windows, while enjoying the length and breadth of the view across London as a way of showing their appreciation to those responsible for the creation of this mammoth wonder building.

Shocked staff discovered a pair of skimpy knickers in the men’s toilets near the viewing platform located on the sixty-eighth floor. The black thong was found after a visit by an exclusive party, presumably made up of celebrities whose extra zeal must have led them to leave a memento of a more intimate nature. There are now fears that the public will as a result consider it fair game to be initiated in a new sexual pang that they believe the Shard will provide.

Who can say that the English are sexually dormant? It is a myth that has grown over the years simply because they do it without bragging about it. This is what one may call an outward sexual reserve that the English practice to perfection without batting an eye lid.

Our bonking mayor Boris, a man of many talents, will be delighted at this latest sexual phenomenon linked to heights and a stimulated view of his domain – promising to bring tourists in their droves, anxious to experience this rare sexual discovery to enthral the young as well as the old in equal measure.

A Kindred Spirit

Next Tuesday I am having lunch with a kindred spirit, the delectable Tamara von Schenk, who in 1993 graced the offices of Quartet Books in her capacity as publicity manager.

I first met her at a cocktail party and in no time at all was bewitched by her aura and spell-binding looks. Her body was crafted elegantly as if the supreme artist, the God of heaven and earth, had willed it as a sample of his great creative ability. We gelled instantly and that was the start of a close friendship that defied the vicissitudes of time.

I can’t wait to see her and exchange wonderful memories of many an adventure we had which cemented the relationship. I took her to Cologne as my interpreter to visit a chocolate fair when I was involved in luxury chocolate making. We had a giggle and a sojourn of unforgettable mirth.

An avid reader, Tamara devoured many of our books and insisted I inscribe them to her. I wrote a different message in each until I ran short of phrases. These books are now well cared for and represent a treasure trove in her library.

There are people you meet who make a great impression that lasts throughout your life, and Tamara is certainly one of them.

As we grow older, memories become treasures that time cannot efface. We get comfort in our solitude that nothing else matters. We reflect and look at our surroundings in a different light.

That in effect keeps our flame lit and thus banishes darkness lest it stifle our spirits. We then come to appreciate the privileges and beauty of life despite its melancholic side-effects that often cloud our thinking, in order to keep revitalising it from time to time.

The complexity of life is a great challenge we face and that in itself is the catalyst to keep us motivated until the day we leave this earth in anticipation of a new form of life, the concept of which is beyond our comprehension.

The Hypocrisy of Our Politicians

One cannot stop writing about Tony Blair.

The Houdini of politics is a perfect target for those who abhor hypocrisy. He is versatile in his moral values; anything he does he justifies in his own mind so as to give his conscience total immunity from any ill-doing.

He has turned amorality into an art form and is riding high in his quest to amass a great fortune. No target is beyond his reach and he proves time and again that his horizons are endless and his capacity to dazzle his audience with evangelic fervour knows no bounds.

He does not seem to care with whom he deals, whether they be dictators, torturers or shady characters – as long as he can forge a relationship to make money or further his ambitions to remain a key figure in world politics.

He is thick-skinned and has conditioned himself to discard criticism with his usual nonchalance, as if those lampooning him are way beneath him and don’t merit a mere reflection on his part.

He talks about poverty and philanthropy with such zeal that you tend to believe him and then you realise that perhaps your ears have let you down.

He side-steps questions that he does not want to answer with such ease that you marvel at his capacity to keep cool and handle the trickiest of situations.

He cuts a preacher’s figure who is guided by his strict religious beliefs, when in practice his actions prove the fallacy of his posturing.

He’s certainly the devil’s advocate but like vintage wine seems to improve with age.

Although he is my bête noire I can’t resist to follow his tracks. He would have equally made a lucrative career as a magician because in a world of illusionists he stands unchallenged.

The Church of Scientology

Scientology, a religion based on sci-fi author and founder L. Ron Hubbard’s claims of alien invasions inhabiting our bodies, is much too weird and laughable to contemplate.

As a buffer against ridicule, the Church of Scientology recruits famous Hollywood stars to front it, so as to give it greater prominence and a kind of credibility to entice the common Hollywood star-struck community to join the faith.

John Travolta was its first shining light in the wake of his success in such films as Saturday Night Fever when he was at the peak of his fame. Then things went badly wrong when rumours started circulating in the seventies that their biggest star could be gay. Church bosses became very concerned that this would harm the image of their cult and organised a campaign to squash the rumours, which to some extent they succeeded.

But it was time to woo Tom Cruise, the biggest star in Hollywood, to take over the mantle from Travolta. He became a demi-god surrounded by adoring acolytes who were constantly at his beck and call, always addressing him as ‘sir’.

They grew him a wild flower meadow in the desert where he and Nicole Kidman could frolic hand-in-hand. And when he needed a new woman in his life, they auditioned dozens of actresses for the role.

The extraordinary lengths to which the Church of Scientology has allegedly gone to secure their man are detailed in a controversial new book which contrasts his demi-god status in the organisation with the miserable existence of its rank and file devotees.

To the public at large it has always seemed odd that the Hollywood superstar has lavished praise on the church as a force for good in the world when a growing number of ex-members have portrayed it as a ruthless and exploitative cult that rules its brain-washed flock with a rod of iron.

Now a book by Pulitzer-Prize-winning American writer Lawrence Wright, published in the US last week, has painted a withering portrait of an organisation which has always seen celebrity endorsement as essential to its mystique.  The book has also taken the lid off the way the church conducts its affairs and unravelled the lifestyle of Tom Cruise, their most bankable asset.

It is incredible that in this day and age, a Hollywood superstar could be given the accolade reserved solely in bygone centuries to mighty Potentates who ruled a third of the globe and dispensed with whoever failed to do their bidding.

Is Tom Cruise a fabricated god ruling his fifedom, backed by a cult that has no spiritual dimension and is based on the assumptions that aliens – presumably more advanced creatures than ourselves – have decided to invade our bodies to lift us to superior parameters of learning and scientific accomplishments to dwarf our own? What a load of poppycock to digest when the whole cult is conceived by imbeciles for the benefit of other imbeciles who will no doubt degenerate to become crazed illusionists with nowhere to go but outer space.

I wish them better luck on their journey, for the earth is not their proper abode and then perhaps their philosophical lunacy will find less hostile outlets in their new environment.