London Diary: Saviours or predators?

A British government scheme encouraging people to host Ukrainian refugees has got mired in allegations of sexual misconduct amid reports that some male hosts are trying to exploit single women

London Diary: Saviours or predators?

Hasan Suroor

Saviours or predators?

A much-touted British government scheme encouraging people to host Ukrainian refugees has got mired in allegations of sexual misconduct amid reports that some male hosts are trying to use the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ programme to exploit single women seeking refuge in the UK.

There have been allegations of men sending explicit sexual images to female applicants and verbally abusing them when they protested. One woman told The Times: “I’ve had several men send me abuse, calling me a whore and nasty things about my photos.”

Another said that after she posted on a Facebook group set up to connect refugees with potential hosts, men started sending her obscene pictures.

“It’s put me off coming to the UK to be honest,” she said. Some alleged receiving “creepy” messages from single men inviting them to move in with them.

An engineer from London sent a Ukrainian woman a message saying: “I am single, I live alone...Where do u live, where are u now?”

Ukrainian immigrant groups have expressed concern that the scheme is vulnerable to abuse. Distressed single mothers and young girls seeking safe shelter in Britain risked exploitation by human traffickers, they said.

The programme has also been hit by a series of bureaucratic glitches including massive delays in issuing visas and complicated paper work. Thousands of Britons have signed up for the programme but more than a month after it was launched amid much fanfare, it’s still struggling to get off the ground.

Four-day week beckons

A four-day week may still be far off, but an ambitious exercise to assess its pluses and minuses is set to get underway soon. in Britain. In what is billed as the world’s biggest pilot scheme, over 3,000British workers at 60 companies will take part in a four-week trial which will run from June to December examining the impact of a shorter working week on productivity. According to media reports, it will be on a bigger scale than a similartrial conducted in Iceland.

The push towards a shorter week has been prompted by the postpandemic trend among workers for more flexible working conditions. Employers are struggling to attract and retain staff as workers demand more family time arguing that a stressful and rigid work environment hampers productivity.Evidence from the work-from-home experience during the pandemic supports the benefits of flexible work arrangements.

The trial will be run by academics from Oxford and Cambridge universities and Boston College in the United States. Workers have welcomed it and believe it will vindicate their stand. Fingers crossed.

Obsession with calories

Once,the worst thing you could say about restaurant menus was the sexed-up names of the dishes on offer. But at least they didn’t put you off your favourite food.

But henceforth menus will come with red flags popping up everywhere: new regulations require restaurant and pub chainsto display the calorie counts of each dish as part of the government’s campaign against unhealthy food and obesity.

And, according to experts, some of the most popular dishes are likely to have shockingly high calorie levels.

“Menus from restaurants already publishing calorie counts in advance of the new rules show that roast beef with all the trimmings can come to 2,000 calories — four times the number in a Big Mac. The menu of one north London gastro pub has a roast pork belly dish at more than 2,600 calories. The daily recommended calorie intake for men is 2,500 and 2,000 for women,” The Times reported.

It’s only one of a long list of popular dishes, including starters and desserts, that contain unexpectedly high calorie count. Predictably, the move has met with a backlash both from diners and chefs claiming that it will do little to fight obesity or promote healthy eating.

“Eating well and eating healthfully is not necessarily just about the calories,” said a high-profile London chef. Eating was about nutrition and a balanced diet, he argued.

Any takers for common-sense?

Downing Street blues

If you thought only businesses were obsessedwith “feedback” — bombarding customers with box-ticking surveys and cold calls—it’s time to catch up with new management practices creeping into government departments, including in Downing Street.

The Prime Minister’s office now hasmood-monitoring machines all over the place apparently designed to get a feedback from the staff how they are feeling. Theyallow people to record whether they have had good or bad experiences by pressing brightly coloured buttons with either happy or sad faces on them.

But the staff has reacted sharply accusing their bosses of “patronising them”. Media reports quoted unnamed staff members as saying that the move had incensed” them and showed how out of touch the bosses were.

And to think that it was meant to “turn around the morale” in the building after a series of scandals in recent months.

Lastly, meet the “eyeballers” --a new generation of 20-something vodka lovers who instead of drinking it with their mouth pour it directly into their eye, the theory being that this gives a bigger kick as the alcohol passes directly through the mucous membrane into their bloodstream.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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