For North Americans, particularly Canadians planning to live or stay a substantial amount of time in Britain, there are a few things you'll need to accept as part of daily life. Aside from the obvious ones like driving on the opposite side of the road and always carrying an umbrella, I have compiled what I believe to be a helpful list of some simpler things that may aid you in your new life abroad.
Scotland rejected independence on Friday in a referendum that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact but paved the way for a major transfer of powers away from London. The Scottish referendum has smashed the status quo in the U.K. and is the most recent, high profile, non-violent example of the rise of the consumer-citizen.
With polls suggesting a nail-biting finish to the referendum on Scottish independence Wednesday, it is unsurprising that so many Westminster MPs pleaded for the Queen to make a clear public declaration in favour of the "No" campaign. The unusually blunt response from Buckingham Palace, however, is far more intriguing, especially to Canadians.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra, Anacin) is the top-selling over-the-counter painkiller, available without prescription since the 1950s, yet there have long been serious questions about its safety. Canada and the United States do have warning labels saying the stuff is hard on your liver, but the Canadian ones don't exactly jump out at you, often buried deep in the fine print. Meanwhile, sountries like France and Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, have even begun restricting where you can buy acetaminophen.
If a pilgrimage to ancient spiritual sites is on your wish list, look no further than the holy Isle of Iona. With its connection to early Christianity, this tiny rocky island located off the west coast of Scotland has been attracting pilgrims since medieval times. And this year just so happens to mark the 1,450th anniversary of St. Columba's arrival on this mystical island.
There are a number of human financial gurus working to help you become wealthy, and their advice is based on years if not decades of knowledge and experience. However, there are a number of microbial economic geniuses who have centuries of expertise developing "economic" success. Germs seem to have knowledge to keep economies solid.
A conference was held a few weeks ago in Ottawa to discuss yet again the adoption of a pan-Canadian government-run drug insurance plan that would cover prescription drug costs for the entire population. Such a program would instead risk increasing the burden currently weighing down public finances. Such a plan would not only entail extra costs for taxpayers, but would do nothing to change governments' current propensity to restrict and delay access to new drugs. Foreign experience can teach us much about the dangers of adopting a monopolistic drug insurance system in Canada.
A couple of days ago, a friend sent me a video of Nigel Farage speaking at the European Parliament. I hit "play" expecting the general "as polls show..." but before Farage was half-way through his speech, my sides were splitting. It was the greatest and most eloquent utterance on the topic of the EU I have heard from any British public figure since Sir Jimmy Goldsmith spoke at a conference in 1996.
In September 2012, a successor to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the current Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, will be appointed. The new rabbi will begin his tenure in September 2013. If the post will not undergo a major transformation and become purely one of spiritual and educational leadership, then it is far better to leave the post empty than to continue the institution of a chief rabbi.
The world has reached the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of cutting by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water, five years ahead of the 2015 deadline. While that is good news, millions of people, for instance, still live without a toilet. Not a very sexy topic -- but one which is of great concern if the world is to meet goals on reducing under-five mortality.