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Worked to death, labour and destiny, who's the serf now? Add to ...

Worked to death

"A Japanese court has for the first time found the executives of a company liable for the death of an employee from overwork, a ruling that may open the floodgates for further claims against corporations that demand too much of their staff," The South China Morning Post reports. Last week "the Kyoto District Court found Nihonkai Shoya Co. and its four most senior executives liable for 78.6 million yen [$908,000]in damages in a suit brought by the parents of Motoyasu Fukiage. His parents said he died of karoshi, or death by overwork. Fukiage, 24, had joined the company in April, 2007, and worked in a restaurant in Shiga Prefecture, southern Japan. He died in his sleep just four months later. A postmortem examination determined that he had died of heart failure, and an investigation found he had been working an average of 112 hours' overtime each month."

Who's the serf now?

Life in medieval Britain, The Daily Telegraph reports, may not have been comfortable but its inhabitants had a dedication to debt-free living that we could learn from today, a think-tank has claimed. "Health care and a terrifyingly low life expectancy were some of the downsides to 12th-century life, but medieval Britons could at least claim to have a 'healthy skepticism about money.' The harshness of life in the 1100s was mitigated by endless holidays and parties and a healthy attitude toward work and debt, an audience at the Guardian Hay Festival was told. David Boyle, of the New Economics Foundation think tank, said: 'No one wants to live with medieval dental arrangements, or on a diet of mead and wheat husks. We do know that the medieval period was full of terrible things like rape, pillage, torture and droit du seigneur. We wouldn't want to live there. But they did have a very healthy skepticism about money and money values.' Asked what the 12th-century lifestyle could teach modern Britain, he said: 'Debt-free living; a lot of holidays and parties and a lack of work ethic; the idea of a 'just price' for goods; some aspects of the medieval guilds and the importance of craftsmanship; and a more spiritual response to money.' "

Work smarter

Seventy-five years ago this summer, Ukrainian coal miner Alexsei Stakhanov hewed 14 times more coal than the norm, beginning a movement to boost output that rapidly spread to other branches of the Soviet economy. Soon, there was even a Stakhanovite cobbler and a Stakhanovite milkmaid. Despite Stalin's approval of the movement, there were skeptics about its usefulness - and thousands of them were carted off the labour camps. In 1985, The New York Times noted: "Many workers … privately resented the fact that records by Stakhanovites - who would be rewarded with rich bonuses and perquisites - were usually followed by increased quotas for everybody else, cutting back ordinary workers' ability to earn bonuses for over-fulfilling their norms."

Other source: The Times of London

Labour and destiny

This Saturday, a young couple in eastern Pennsylvania plan to be married. Amy Singley and Steven Smith were born on the same day, April 17, 1986, in the same hospital, St. Luke's in Fountain Hill, Pa. - and their mothers even shared a room in the maternity ward. The two families continued to keep in touch through their church. Mr. Smith asked Ms. Singley on a date to the movies when they were high-school sophomores. She said she knew he was the right guy for her after their second date. She says people are convinced the 24-year-olds were "destined to be together."

A day at the beach

"Rehoboth Beach in Delaware isn't a topless beach - but a few transgender women caused a stir by treating it like one," Associated Press reports. "Police say passersby complained after [the women]removed their tops and revealed their surgically enhanced breasts over Memorial Day weekend. A lifeguard asked them to put their tops back on. They initially refused, but covered up before police arrived. Even if they hadn't, though, Police Chief Keith Banks notes they were doing nothing illegal. Since they have male genitalia, they can't be charged with indecent exposure for showing their breasts."

Thought du jour

"Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark."

- Annie Dillard

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