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Journalism - The Guardian

City diary
Wednesday November 20, 2002

  • Bank of England economist in Harrods arrest shame! Strange but true, as deputy governor Mervyn "King of the 180s" confessed yesterday. Giving his usual spellbinding performance, Merv told of how a young BoE lackey was dispatched to Harrods to jot down food prices. Unfortunately, the innocent economist was mistaken as a spy for a new store across the road and apprehended by security. What ingratitude, especially since the Bank was planning to use Harrods prices as an effective long-term inflation index. That's what Merv claims anyway. We suspect someone had asked him if he knew the price of a pint of milk. So, naturally, he sent an employee to find out. A Harrods pint, of course.

  • Congratulations to the Publican magazine's food safety and hygiene pub of the year - the Ratcatcher Inn in Norfolk.

  • PwC recently made big play of its new ethical code of conduct, emphasising the "quality and integrity" of its staff. The code states: "We treat our clients ... with respect, dignity, fairness and courtesy." How that ties in with the company's treatment of website is open to debate. The site (username: PwC; password: College) was set up by a disgruntled former customer of PwC's internet incubation scheme. On it, he outlines the failings of the scheme and questions big corporations' involvement with small start-ups. PwC's response has been to send legal letters insisting he hand the site over for infringing their rights, but as a PwC spokesman correctly pointed out to us: "No formal steps have been taken to close the site." Just goes to show that nothing is black and white when it comes to ethics.

  • Thanks to lawyer logic, we have grown used to such nonsense as "Warning: May contain nuts" on a packet of peanuts or "Warning: May cause drowsiness" on a container of sleeping pills, but leading the way, as ever, comes the US fast-food industry. On the front page of Burger King's US website is the following warning: "Burger King Corporation makes no claim that the BK Veggie Burger or any other of its products meets the requirements of a vegan or vegetarian diet." A warning, we suspect, that is more reassuring to the company's lawyers than to its vegetarian customers. Perhaps this is why BK felt the need to trademark the term "BK Veggie" - just in case we all misunderstood what the word means in this day and age.

  • If you thought only Whitehall could turn wasting money into an art form, the German audit office has news for you. In a recent report, it highlighted three particularly wasteful government schemes. First, the 4.6m euro spent on an unwanted building in Genoa that the foreign ministry now can't sell. Second, 157m euro on a missile defence system scrapped after 25 years' development. And third, a 47m euro tax rebate given to a satellite surveillance system. Why? Because it was outside Germany. In outer space to be exact.

  • You've got to hand it to Nigerian fraudsters. Now they offer you not one but two ways of being ripped off. A recent email from Dr G Jackson Obaseki kindly offered us a 30% cut of the $15m he's squirrelled away. He only wants a small deposit to show our commitment, but even so we're not sure. We're in luck though - if the $4.5m doesn't appeal, just SMS Dr Obaseki on his mobile and he'll put you in a draw for a PlayStation 2. Is there no end to the man's generosity?

  • If you're talking unwanted emails though, JP Morgan comes out on top. Unit trust clients may just have heard their savings are worth 30% less than they were thanks to its fund managers, but why not spend those few remaining pounds on some Moet & Chandon champagne - at a remarkable 30% discount, only through JP Morgan. As the company points out: "There's bound to be a few occasions for celebration even after the new year."

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