Monday, April 30, 2012

What's so 'great' about Great Britain?

Back in the day when FDR was giving everybody jobs through such government programs as the Workman's Progress Administration the joke of the times was, "What does WPA stand for?" And of course the answer was, "We Ponder Around" and that usually got a laugh from somebody.  I actually pulled the joke on my dad for he was a product of that generation and he obviously knew the correct answer...and he certainly understood the "We ponder around." line as his laugh was instant and hearty.  I'm not sure of the exact origin of the 'ponder' quote but it was understood that if you had one of those government jobs there was a lot of 'standing around' time...and in some cases just sitting around doing nothing.  Picture a group of guys all standing around with shovels in their hands and no-one is working...that's pondering!  Well now comes the question of Great Britain, "What's so great about Great Britain?"  There's plenty to ponder over in the following collection of not so great stuff about the formerly prim and proper capital of the world.  ~  Norman E. Hooben

Society: British homes have smallest rooms in Western Euorpe' / The Guardian
'Welcome to 'rabbit hutch Britain'. Homes in Britain have the smallest rooms in western Europe, with the average floor space almost a quarter smaller than in Denmark, which boasts western Europe's most spacious living accommodation. The rooms in newly built private housing are so small that close to half of buyers find their kitchens are so cramped they cannot cook properly for their families, according to the survey by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.' (more)
Society: 'British tourists named the worst behaved in Europe' / Expedia
British tourists have been named as the worst behaved in Europe, according to new research out today. For the third year running, Europeans have also voted the Brits messy, bad tippers and very likely to complain. The Expedia Best Tourist Index, running annually since 2002, gauges the opinions of over 4,500 hoteliers worldwide to rank different nationalities on their behaviour abroad - everything from spending habits to their willingness to try and speak the local language.' (more)

Society: 'UK is the violent crime capital of Europe' / Daily Telegraph
'The United Kingdom is the violent crime capital of Europe and has one of the highest rates of violence in the world according to new research. The total number of violent offences recorded compared to population is higher than any other country in Europe, as well as America, Canada, Australia and South Africa. The UK had a greater number of murders in 2007 than any other EU country – 927 - and the highest absolute number of burglaries, with double the number of offences recorded in Germany and France. (more)

Society: 'Britain is UN's 'cocaine capital of Europe'' / The Independent
'Britain is the cocaine capital of Europe with more than one million regular users of the drug, according to a United Nations report. The report states that the UK "continues to be – in absolute numbers – Europe's largest cocaine market, with its second-highest cocaine use prevalence rate."' (more)

Economy: 'UK leads Europe on food price rises' / Daily Mail
'Food price inflation in the UK is almost four times higher than in the rest of Europe. Figures from the OECD show that UK food inflation las year was 8.6%, compared to an average of 2.2% for the EU. In Germany there was a fall of 0.7%, while in France prices rose just 0.8%.' (more)
Society: 'Britain has the lowest rape conviction rate in Europe' / The Times
'Rape victims are to be asked why they feel that they are being failed by the criminal justice system as new research suggests that Britain has the lowest conviction rates in Europe. Britain came bottom of 33 countries in the study, which is based on 1,100 case files and takes account of varying official definitions of rape, as well as the different legal processes. The first Europe-wide study of rape conviction rates found that the conviction rate in England & Wales has fallen to 6.5% (from 19% two decades ago); France, by contrast, had a conviction rate of 25% in 2006.' (more)
Health: 'UK has worst cancer survival rate in Western Europe' / Daily Mail
'Britain has the worst cancer survival record in Western Europe. Survival rates are on a par with Poland and the Czech Republic, even though they spend two-thirds less on cancer. A damning league table shows that Britain is 16th out of 19 countries surveyed. Patients in some European countries are 15% more likely to be alive 5 years after diagnosis. The figures come from the hugely respected Eurocare-4 study, which compared the five-year survival rates of 2.7million adult patients up to 2004.' (more)

Society: 'Britons least likely to intervene' / The Independent
'Research by the think-tank Reform [The Lawful Society report] found that British people are the least likely of all Europeans to step in if they witness a crime. Three-quarters of Britons – as opposed to 45% of French or Germans – think it's the responsibility of the police and courts to confront anti-social behaviour. The idea that intervention is an individual's responsibility seems to be falling away in the UK.' (more)

Environment: 'UK tops league for toxic traffic funes' / Sunday Times
Britain suffers from the most widespread levels of dangerous traffic fumes in Europe, posing a serious risk to health, according to a government report. Hundreds of local authorities breach EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which has been linked to asthma, stunted lung growth in children and premature death. The fumes on certain stretches of roads breach safety levels in 95% of cities and regions in the UK, compared with 82% in Austria, 52% in Germany and 21% in France.' (more)
Society: 'British children worst in Europe for cannabis use' / Daily Telegraph
Children in Britain are the worst in Europe for cannabis abuse, after UN [International Narcotics Control Board] researchers found that almost half of youngsters admitted having used the drug. Some 44% of 15-16 year-olds said they had tried the drug. In comparison countries such as Norway, Sweden and Greece found less than 10 per cent of their youngsters used the drug. Its use by adults in Britain was also among the highest in Europe.' (more)

Transport: 'British rail prices highest in Europe / AFP
'Rail fares are on average at least 50% higher in Britain than in the rest of Europe, a study by customer watchdog Passenger Focus for the government showed. The report found that in Britain, long-distance turn-up-and-go fully flexible return fares to the principal city (London) were 1.87 times more expensive than in Germany, the next most-expensive country surveyed, and 3.31 times more expensive than in the cheapest country, the Netherlands. British annual season tickets for journeys of up to 25 miles were 1.88 times pricier than the next most-expensive country, France, and 4.19 times more expensive than Italy, the cheapest country.' (more)
Society: 'British youths are most alienated in Europe' / Daily Telegraph
'British youths feel more alienated than those in any other European country, according to a new happiness league table. Interviews with more than 40,000 people across the continent found that 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK have the lowest levels of trust and belonging. Among adults, only those in Slovakia and Bulgaria felt more isolated and distrustful of others. Britons are also less likely to be close to their neighbours than anyone else in Europe, with just 42 per cent claiming to feel community spirit. Among young people this figure falls to less than a third.' (more)

See also: 'New research commissioned by the BBC suggests life in UK 'has become lonelier', with traditional community life fading away.' BBC News

See also: 'Britain tops DNA log league' / The Scotsman
'The proportion of British citizens whose details are logged on a DNA database whether or not they have been convicted of a crime is the highest in the world, a House of Lords report reveals today.' (more) '[The cross-party report also records that] Britain is the world's biggest user of CCTV with an estimated 4 million cameras in operation' / Bloomberg (more)

View: 'Our safety-first culture [isn't] building a good society but a sick one. This government clings to the fantasy that rules can eliminate risk. They can't, but they can destroy our faith in one another. European countries haven't chosen this path of endless suspicion. Why have we?' / Jenni Russell, The Guardian
Society: 'Britain on top in casual sex league / Sunday Times
'A new study has found the British are the most promiscuous western nation. In an international index measuring one-night stands, total numbers of partners and attitudes to casual sex, Britain comes out ahead of Australia, the US, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany.' (more)

[See also: 'The number of women having an abortion in England and Wales exceeded 200,000 for the first time last year. Britain's termination rate is already the highest in Western Europe.' / Daily Mail (more)]
Economy: 'Free-spending Brits have highest credit card debt' / Forbes
'Free-spending Britons have the highest credit card debt of 14 European countries studied by the Datamonitor research group. [Their] propensity to pay for everything from washing machines to weddings on their credit cards has led to the average person having 1,349 euros worth of outstanding credit card debt as of the end of last year. That compares to an average outstanding credit card debt level of just 156 euros in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.' (more)

Society: UK retains EU cocaine abuse title / Guardian
'The UK remains at the top of the European "league table" for cocaine abuse for the fifth consecutive year, according to the annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Britain's continuing position at top of the table of 27 EU countries is based on the fact that 12.7% of young adults aged 15 to 34 have used the drug.' (more)

Economy: 'UK energy bills rise twice as fast as EU average' / BBC
'Energy prices in the UK have increased twice as fast as the European Union average, according to latest figures. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development statistics showed gas and electricity bills rose 29.7% in the past year compared with 15% in the EU. Government watchdog Consumer Focus said UK customers were being hit "faster and harder" than those in Europe' (more)
Education: 'British primary schools offer least PE in EU' / Independent on Sunday
'In a league table of time spent on physical education in primary and secondary schools, Britain came 15th out of 27 EU nations. In primary schools, some pupils aged between five and 11 are offered just 30 minutes of PE a week – which, together with Ireland, is the lowest in the EU. Schoolchildren in France have four hours a week of PE.' (more)

Transport: 'UK motorists pay more than European neighbours for fuel' / uSwitch
'An in-depth study of petrol and diesel prices in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK over the past 8 years shows that every time a British driver fills up, they are paying an average of 12% more than their European neighbours. In fact, since the year 2000, UK motorists have consistently paid 20% more for their petrol and diesel compared to drivers from the other four largest European countries. In contrast, the Spanish pay 16% less for petrol than anyone else at just 96p per litre.' (more)

Health: 'Britain has highest rates of gullet (oesophageal) cancer in Europe' / Daily Telegraph
'Britain now has the highest rates of gullet (oesophageal) cancer in Europe, leading Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, to issue a "public alert" [in his annual report] urging doctors to look out for the condition, which is declining in other parts of Europe. In Britain cases of oesophageal cancer have risen by 87% in men and 40% in women causing more than 6,000 deaths a year, twice the European average.' (more)

Economy: 'Britain has worst and most expensive fruit and veg in Europe' / Belfast Telegraph
'Britain has the worst supply of fruit and vegetables in the EU, a new Eurostat report [pdf] claims, putting the UK on a par with Lithuania when it comes to the availability of fresh produce. The findings – which also demonstrate that British fruit and vegetables are among the most expensive in Europe – point to the failure of a series of government initiatives to increase our consumption of fruit and vegetables.'

See also: 'UK food prices rising faster than most of the rest of Europe' / Guardian
Society: 'Britain detains more children than any other country in Western Europe' / The Times
'Britain detains more children than any other country in Western Europe, with 2,900 under18s locked up in the past year. The four Children’s Commissioners for England, Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland have issued a report for the United Nations condemning the punitive youth justice system and the vilification of teenagers as yobs. The report also questioned whether enough was being done to end child poverty. Poor families pay out a bigger proportion of their income in tax than richer families and punitive prepay tariffs often mean that they pay much higher prices for gas and electricity.' (more)

See also: '"It's a moral disgrace that we still have one of the worst child poverty records in Europe," said Kate Green, Child Poverty Action Group's chief executive. "Other countries do better, so why should British children suffer? We can end our child poverty shame and we must." The Independent (more)

Education: 'English school pupils are amongst the most tested in the world' / HoC May
'Many witnesses argue that..repeated testing has a negative effect on children, leading to demotivation. Teaching to the test and narrowing of the curriculum are also thought to have a negative effect on children. The resulting lack of creativity in teaching impacts on children’s enjoyment of a subject and their motivation to learn.'
House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee report Testing and assessment [pdf]

See also: 'Truancy rate 'highest since 1997' / BBC News (more)

View: 'A fear of paedophilia as morphed into a general panic about adult-child relations. [In schools] the priority isn't pupils' wellbeing but to protect teachers from any accustations' / Jenni Russell, The Guardian
Education: 'UK schools worst in Europe for bullying' / The Guardian
'Bullying in secondary schools is worse in the UK than the rest of Europe, a new British Council survey has found. The study, published today, found that nearly half of UK secondary school pupils (46%) think that bullying is a problem in their school. The situation is perceived to be worse in England, where 48% of pupils think bullying is a problem in school, compared to 43% of pupils in Scotland and 32% in Wales. But more UK students (42%) said they were happier in school most of the time than on average in the rest of Europe (33%).' (more)

Health: 'UK's teenagers most likely to be heavy drinkers' / BMA
"The British Medical Association is very worried about alcohol consumption among young people, particularly young girls. It is shocking that, in Europe, the UK's teenagers are most likely to be heavy drinkers," Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said. The BMA report called for a raft of measures to be introduced and pointed to alarming statistics on how much youngsters, particularly teenage girls, drink. It said UK teenagers are among the most likely in Europe to admit heavy drinking and being intoxicated.' (more)

See also: 'Britons drink more heavily that Russians' / Sunday Times
'Britons are heavier drinkers than the Russians, according to official data from the World Health Organisation. Alcohol consumption per head is greater in the UK, and England on its own tops the European table for child and teenage drunkenness.' (more)

See also: Swimming with Crocodiles - The Culture of Extreme Drinking / Ed. by Marjana Martinic, Fiona Measham. Routledge (more)

Transport: 'UK roads more congested than any major EU country' / Policy Exchange
'In no other major European country are roads as congested as in the UK. On every kilometre of Britain’s road network more than 1.6 million passenger kilometres are travelled every year – more than twice the European average.* It has been estimated that traffic congestion costs the UK economy as much as £21 billion per year.' (more)
* Calculated using data from Panorama of Transport, Eurostat, 2007

[See also:'Huge rise in traffic choking the roads' / The Times
'Motorists are using cars more and more despite record fuel prices, higher vehicle taxes, and entreaties by the Government for greater use of public transport. Traffic has risen sharply in the past decade in almost every part of England except Inner London.The figures, published in a written parliamentary answer yesterday, show that across England road traffic rose by 12 per cent between 1997 and 2006.' (more)]
Society: 'Britain rated worst in Europe for protecting privacy' / Guardian
'Britain, the country with the world's biggest network of surveillance cameras, has the worst record in Europe for the protection of privacy, according to a report from a London-based international watchdog. The UK is billed as "an endemic surveillance society" alongside Russia, the US, Singapore and China in the survey of 47 countries by Privacy International (PI). Britain is bottom in Europe because of its cameras, ID card plans and lack of government accountability.' (more)
Society: 'Britain stuck at bottom of social mobility league' / Reuters
'Social mobility has not improved in Britain in 30 years with bright children from poor families being overtaken by less able youngsters from rich homes by the age of seven, a report [says]. The findings show that the academic progress of children is still overwhelmingly linked to parental income, providing few opportunities to close the wealth gap, said the Sutton Trust charity which commissioned the study [pdf]. "Shamefully, Britain remains stuck at the bottom of the international league tables when it comes to social mobility," said Peter Lampl, the trust's chairman. "It is appalling that young people's life chances are still so tied to the fortunes of their parents, and that this situation has not improved over the last three decades." (more)

[See also: How equal are educational opportunities? Family background and student achievement in Europe and the US / Ludger Woessmann, CESIFO Working Paper No. 1162 [pdf]:
'The results of this paper are generally in line with the broad pattern of the existing crosscountry evidence on intergenerational earnings mobility, which found that the United States and the United Kingdom appear to be relatively immobile societies']

Economy: UK still setting the pace on personal debt / Financial Markets
'The UK is now responsible for a third of all unsecured debt in Western Europe
- average consumer debt in the UK: £3,008
- average consumer debt for Western Europe: £1,558' (more)

Economy: Britain retains European shoplifting supremacy / Times
'Britain is the shoplifting capital of Europe, with more than £1.5 billion worth of products a year being stolen by customers. The annual Global Retail Theft Barometer [compiled by the Centre for Retail Research in Nottingham and Checkpoint Systems] looked at more than 800 retail giants, covering 32 countries, and responsible for £447 billion worth of sales every year and found that Britain had the worst record for what it refers to as “shrinkage”. It has topped the table for the past three years in Europe.' (more)
Environment: 'UK still top of the rubbish heap' / EDIE
'The UK is the "dustbin of Europe" and dumps more household waste into landfill than any other EU country, the Local Government Association has said. More than 22.6m tonnes of UK rubbish was buried in landfill in 2005 - the same amount of rubbish as the 18 EU countries with the lowest landfill rates combined, although together they have almost twice the population of the UK.' (more)

Transport: 'UK motorway network bottom of the European league' / Road Users' Alliance
'Decades of under-investment have placed the UK motorway network at the bottom of the EU–25. Road File 2007/08, the annual compilation of road statistics published today by the Road Users’ Alliance (RUA), reveals that Britain has more cars per motorway mile than any EU-25 nation. Far from competing with Germany or France, Britain’s roads languish on a par with Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary.' (more)

Society: 'Britons have worst state pension in EU' / Daily Mail
'Millions of Britons are being condemned to poverty in old age by the worst state pension in the EU, a study shows. The basic state pension of £87.30 a week is equivalent to just 17 per cent of the average wage, it found. This figure rises to 30 per cent once pension payments related to earnings are taken into account. But this is still only half the EU average of 60 per cent, the financial firm Aon Consulting said. Its study concluded: "The inadequacy of the state system is beyond question." (more)

Health: 'British are the fattest in Europe, says Government' / The Independent
'British people are the fattest in Europe, drink more alcohol, eat less fruit and vegetables and are more likely to die from smoking than the average across the European Union. Despite declining teenage pregnancy rates, the UK still has the highest proportion of births to under-20s compared with other western European countries. The figures are set out in the Health Profile for England 2007, published by the Department of Health yesterday.' (more)
Society: Britain still top for teenage pregnancies / Daily Telegraph
'Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe, according to a worldwide report into sexual and reproductive health risks to women. The authors of the report A Measure of Survival: Calculating Women's Sexual and Reproductive Risk [released by Population Action International] warned that teenagers, whose pregnancies were often unplanned, run a higher risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth.' (more)
Health: 'Britain the worst for deaths from strokes' / The Times
'Patients who suffer strokes receive worse treatment in Britain than anywhere else in Western Europe. More die and more are left disabled, a leading expert says in this week’s British Medical Journal, even though Britain spends [at least as much as] other countries on stroke care. The gap is wide, according to Hugh Markus, of St George’s University of London medical school. One study showed that 15 to 30% more stroke patients were left dead or disabled in Britain than in other countries'. In many countries in Europe, and in North America and Australia, 20 to 30% of patients get [clot-busting] drugs. In Britain the figure is less than 1%. Britain also treats fewer patients in dedicated stroke units than other countries, though setting up such units costs nothing and there is abundant evidence that they improve outcomes.' (more)

Economy: 'UK bottom of the league for holiday entitlement' / BBC News
'The UK is set to stay at the bottom of the league for holiday entitlement in the EU even after a rise to 28 days in April 2009, a survey warns. A change in EU rules means the UK will have to stop counting its eight public holidays towards the EU 20-day minimum. But Incomes Data Services says the UK will still lag entitlement elsewhere, which ranges from 28-29 days in the Netherlands to 39.5 days in Denmark. (more)
Society: 'British teens the worst behaved in Europe' / Daily Mail
'British teenagers are the worst behaved in Europe, a report has revealed. They are more likely to binge-drink, take drugs, have sex at a young age and start fights. The IPPR report found that 44% of British youngsters had been involved in a physical fight in the previous year against 28% in Germany, 36% in France and 38% in Italy. 38% confessed to under-age sex, almost double the French figure. The same percentage had tried cannabis, more than five times the rate in Sweden. Our teenagers are also bigger drinkers, with 27 per cent admitting to getting drunk regularly. In Italy, the figure is five per cent and in France it is just three per cent. The researchers found that UK children rarely talk in any depth to their parents or sit down to family meals. The IPPR also says British adults areless likely than our European counterparts to confront teenagers about antisocial behaviour and vandalism.' (more)

Education: 'British students are laziest in Europe' / The Times
'British students are the laziest in Europe, according to a survey of how much time they devote to their course. Undergraduates across the UK confessed to putting in an average 32-hour week during term-time, including lectures, seminars, library time and working at home. The British performance was some way below the European average of 39 hours, and ten hours a week behind the French, according the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market at Maastricht University. The survey [also] indicated that British students were the least likely to carry on with their studies at a higher level. Only 5 per cent of British students took up postgraduate study compared with the European level of 18 per cent.' (more)
Society: 'British more dependent on cars than any other European nation' / The Times
'Despite being less likely to own a car, Britons rely on them more heavily. They are reluctant to catch buses and will leave their cars behind only if there is a convenient train. Only the Portuguese walk less, a survey has found. The Government's Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) studied travel patterns in major European countries to learn how to reduce congestion and improve quality of life. The starkest difference between Britain and the rest of Europe was in the level of cycling. The CfIT study found that the average Briton cycled 75km (46 miles) a year, while the average European cycled almost three times as far, covering 18km.' (more)

See also: 'Britons rely on their cars for 80% of travel' / Guardian
"UK citizens know the transport system lags behind those in Europe. The UK's congested network would do better with a dose of European medicine, showing how to run a truly joined-up transport system." (more)

Economy: 'British hotel prices the highest in Europe' / The Times
'Hotels in Britain are the costliest in Europe, with the price of an overnight stay in London rising by 22 per cent last year. The overall average cost of a night in a British hotel is £98. Bath, at an average of £114 per night, offers the nation’s most expensive lodging. The figures are compiled from data gathered from millions of travellers who book accommodation via the website, which lists 20,000 hotels in more than a thousand locations worldwide.' (more)

Society: 'UK jobless households highest in Europe' / The Times
'Britain has the highest number of children in Europe with no working parent, a European Commission report says. Two million live in “jobless households” on state benefits. The 16.2% of under-18s with no working parent at home is far higher than both the EU average of 9.5% and the general unemployment rate of 4.8%. The figure reflects the concentration of poverty in parts of Britain as well as the high level of one-parent families, experts say.' (more)

Health: 'UK women officially the fattest in Europe' / Daily Mail
'The scale of the obesity crisis was laid bare last night when an alarming report revealed Britons are the fattest people in Europe. The authoritative Eurostat yearbook places Britain at the top of a chart of obesity of the EU's 27 member countries. Second and third place are taken by Germany and Malta. British women head the EU league, with 23 per cent clinically obese, and men fare little better, with 22.3 per cent classified as obese -behind only Malta.' (more)
Society: 'Britain's children unhappiest in Western world' / The Times
'Britain’s children are the unhappiest in the West, according to a Unicef study of 21 industrialised countries. Not only do they drink the most, smoke more and have more sex than their peers, they rate their health as the poorest, dislike school more and are among the least satisfied with life. Their relative poverty, the lack of time spent eating meals with their parents and mistrust of classmates mean that Britain languishes at the bottom of the wellbeing league table.' (more)


Findalis said...

"Great" Britain stopped being Great in 1914 when they fought World War 1. They lost a whole generation to bad tactics and never learned anything from them.

Add the Socialism that was imposed on the nation in 1945 and it went down from there.

Think of this: The British stopped their rationing for WW 2 on 4 July 1954. The United States stopped rationing in 1946.

Storm'n Norm'n said...

Appears that you're up on British history...I never ventured in that direction but did have one semester of 'British Politics' back at UTSA circa 1983.


UTSA = University of Texas at San Antonio