Black Flag News
2004/March
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space news
SPACE NEWS

Earth Menaced By 500 Metre Space Rock!!!

Annihilation by 2004 AS1As Prez Bush delivered his speech committing the USA to return to the Moon and head for Mars, the world was going through a 'nine-hour crisis'. Space watch staff had estimated that there was a 25% chance of a newly discovered asteroid hitting the Earth.
   The initial data suggested that the rock had a diameter of 30 metres and that it would explode in the atmosphere over the northern hemisphere – possibly destroying a major city if the rock broke up above it. Cloudy skies prevented professional astronomers from making further observations. But luckily, an amateur in Colorado was able to see clear sky instead of an incoming asteroid and tell the White House to stop panicking.
   All this went off on January 13/14 but the news of the panic has only just got out. Further observations of 2004 AS1 gave it a size of 500 metres and confirmed that it missed the Earth by 12,000,000 kilometres. Even so, maybe Mr. Prez should rethink his grand plans for dashing out to the planets and divert some of the cash to putting some telescopes in orbit where they can see approaching death rocks without clouds getting in the way.
   And some sort of system for deflecting incoming space debris would be nice, too.
Update2004 FH, another space rock of diameter 30 metres, missed the Earth by just 26,500 miles on March 18th. To add some context, that's just beyond the orbit of geostationary weather and communications satellites, which orbit at 22,300 miles. This is the closest recorded approach of an asteroid, which doesn't mean much as most of these small ones sneak by the Earth unnoticed.

CometRosetta mission getting off to a bad start.

The European Space Agency has trusted to the French, the important job of launching the Rosetta space vehicle, which will rendezvous with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in ten years' time. The first launch attempt was postponed due to weather conditions but the second was aborted due to a defect in the Ariane 5 rocket, which had to be returned to the final assembly building for repair.
UpdateThe French finally got their rocket into the air and Rosetta is on its way. More news in about 2014

v1Stargazers are advised to keep their eyes peeled for Comet Neat (C/2001 Q4) and Comet Linear (C/2002 T7), as both may become visible to the naked eye in late April/early May. But bearing in mind what a flop Comet Halley was last time around, stargazers are advised not to get their hopes up too much!
   p.s. The merchants of doom reckon that if one comet brings bad luck, then two is a prospect too awful to contemplate. But are comets unlucky? The comet in 1066 is said to have cost King Harold II the battle of Hastings. But William of Normandy did quite well despite the comet. And Harold having to beat the pants off the Vikings up north three days earlier had a lot more effect on the outcome of the battle than any comet.
   So merchants of doom – up yours!

v2The latest 'news' on the Open University's lander Beagle 2, which should have landed on Mars on Christmas Day, 2003, is that the Martian atmosphere might have been warmer and thinner than expected due to dust storms, and its parachutes and air-bags were unable to provide a sufficiently soft landing. NASA encountered this same problem when its Spirit vehicle landed a week or so later, but it had more parachutes and tougher air-bags than Beagle 2.

SednaNASA finds new planetoid

The latest substantial addition to the solar system has been named Sedna after the Inuit goddess of the sea. The reddish planetoid is thought to have a diameter of 800-1,100 miles, which makes it smaller than Pluto (1,400 miles) but bigger than Quaoar (800 miles), the Kuiper Belt Object discovered in 2002. Unlike the planets, which have roughly circular orbits, Sedna has a highly elliptical, comet-like orbit. Its year lasts 10,500 Earth years, it is 8,000 million miles from the sun at its closest approach (Pluto orbits at 3,600 million miles) and 84,000 million miles from the sun at the most distant point of its orbit.
   Is it a planet, or what? Well, there a definition growing in popularity which declares that a planet is something of sufficient mass that it's own gravity gives it a spherical shape. Which means that Sedna does qualify as a small planet.

Storm Tide by Philip H. Turner   Spring Bonus   Spring Bonus   Spring Bonus

BlackFlag News would like to offer its readers a chance to read this work by one of Romiley's premiere authors.

   Read the Book on Jenson Farrago's website
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Category : Crime, 1980s

ROMILEY NEWS

Repeat snow fails to paralyze Romiley

snowman
Xmas Tree
Xmas decorations are supposed to be history by 12th Night. So what's Romiley's tree doing still in place?
It was quite interesting, wandering around the village on the last Saturday in February and spotting places 'where the sun don't shine'. The south side of Compstall Road, for instance, had snow-covered pavements beyond the shopping area while the north side was completely dry and clear of snow and ice.
   The only exceptions were places where a car had been parked continuously at the roadside since Friday morning. Here, there was a snow shadow surrounded by perfectly dry regions of Romiley's broken pavement.
   Another place where the snow had lingered was on a metal manhole cover at the BP petrol station. It had been cooled enough during the night to keep snow solid into the early part of the morning.
   Shoppers were agreed that one day's light snow, with no overnight freeze and thaw cycle, is the ideal way to enjoy the 'winter experience' and they would like Weather Control to stick to this recipe in future.
   As a final thought:- our Triv-Dem council hurled a lot more salt/grit mixture onto this relatively light fall of snow than we got for the much more serious snowfall at the end of January. Looks like someone has his priorities upside down.

Meanwhile, Romiley's less than magnificent Xmas tree is still there, which leaves the residents wondering if the council has forgotten about it or someone has realized that a living tree can be reused in future years. The only problem with this idea is that it's sensible and financially prudent, concepts which seem alien to local councils and national governments alike.

Home News
HOME NEWS

Back-scratching put the UK
on course for war in Iraq?

UK flagAttorney General Lord Goldsmith is reported to have dithered over the legality of last year's Iraq war right up to about 4-5 minutes before the bombing started. As he's a crony of Vice-Prez Bliar's, who elevated him to the House of Lords and gave him his job, is it beyond the bounds of possibility that the Vice-Prez reminded his pal that favours going one way in the past command favours going the other way in the right-now? Given the generally dodgy state of the New Labour Experiment, it sounds entirely likely.

gasBritish Gas will always let you down

This is the message that comes over from the current TV advertising campaign. Which leaves the viewers wondering:-

  1. What sort of idiot at BG approved the campaign? and
  2. Is it the same agency that told Sainsburys that John Cleese shouting at people would encourage people to go to their supermarkets?

v2Vice-Prez Bliar's credibility in no danger of being damaged – official!
After all, you can't damage something that doesn't exist.

Snippets from the Department of Guesswork

(1) Kingston upon Hull is top of the league when it comes to obese residents. And guess which fat bloke is their MP! [clue: he has 2 Jags and 3 homes] And by a curious quirk of nomenclature, Kingston upon Thames is bottom of the obesity league.
   (2) If the number of people drawing state benefits for being too stressed to work grows at the current rate, the entire working population of the UK will be sitting at home feeling poorly by September 15th, 2056.

v6Talking about Hull, what did the Labour-controlled council do about a failing school which was facing an Ofsted inspection? They only brought in 8 top-class, fully qualified teachers and sent the 9 worst ruffians among the pupils away on a week-long course. Sneaky lot, these Labourites!

A Department of Transport audit has found that all 6,000 speed cameras are positioned to save lives and not just to raise money. The DoT refused to reply when asked if Lord Hutton performed their audit.

Residual Royal NavyHaving run the Royal Navy down to 2 cabin cruisers and a rubber dinghy, the government has suddenly realized that a naval review to mark the 200th anniversary of Lord Nelson's victory off Cape Trafalgar will be a bit of a problem. So they've incorporated it into a NATO exercise and invited any nation with some ships to bring them along, the French and the Spanish included. And in line with New Labour's wishy-washy image, there will be no triumphalism. Guaranteed!

v6After trying to put the frighteners on Clare Short, Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull has decided that civil servants work for the government of the day, not the Crown. He reckons that they have to be proper little Bliarites now or the government wouldn't trust them.
   And if the public don't trust a civil service which has become a bunch of party political stooges, that's just too bad.

v1Lord Hutton is said to be deeply upset at being thought a dotty old judge over his whitewash report. Which confirms that he lives on another planet.

Vice-Prez Bliar hits the deck

The Vice-Prez is reported to have fallen over with sheer delight at the prospect of getting the miserable Mugger out of his carefully styled wig. Some dunderheids have confused his reaction with shock and dismay. They are instructed to 'get real'.
   Insiders are suggesting that the Mugger is eager to head up the International Monetary Fund because he is irked by that organization's constant adverse criticism of his handling of the UK's finances. He is also known to be desperate to run away from the £37billion black hole that he has created in his government's finances.

v4Isn't it amusing, seeing the prime monster in a verbal ass-kicking match with convicted con-man Peter Foster? And being stuck at level-pegging on credibility! Especially after the same con-man helped Mrs. PM to spend a quarter of a million quid; less discount; on 2 flats in Bristol and she claimed she didn't tell her hubby about the deal.

Vote!Vote early, vote often!

The government is keen to introduce postal voting as the elector's only option for the local- and Euro-elections in four areas. Why? Because the Labour Party has a lot of experience in manipulating postal votes and outright fraud. Opponents of the scheme are citing the many instances where someone has gone to a polling station only to find that a postal vote has been issued on their behalf and cashed in by a certain political party. The low turn-out at the above elections is given as the reason for switching to postal voting. But people not caring about the outcome of local- and Euro-elections, and not knowing that a vote has been cast on their behalf, is also what makes life so easy for the fraudsters.

National Nosmo King DayMarch 10th was National No Smoking day, when all smokers were supposed to give up for 24 hours. Anyone see them not smoking?
Warning : smoking creates vast amounts of litter, it makes people impotent and poor, it puts them in hospital and if they give up, they are likely to gain 6-8 lbs on average.

v2The Guantanamo 5 have a legal team deciding if they can sue the US government for compensation for their 2-year holiday in Cuba. The US State Department is reported to be standing by with a bill for accommodation and services to match anything awarded by a rogue judge.
   Does that sound far fetched? Well, not a lot of people know this, but the Home Office sends a bill for board and lodgings to people who are released as innocent after spending time in prison. Presumably, the thinking is that if they're in gaol on false pretences, they're not entitled to what used to be Her Majesty's hospitality. As a result of this policy, two men who were sent to gaol for murder in 1989 and freed on appeal 14 years later have each received a bill for £42,000.

v3In Edinburgh's court of sessions, Lord Drummond has binned Mohammed Fayed's claim that his son and Princess Di were killed by the British security services. His lordship decided that the idea was 'speculative' and 'irrelevant', and he added that courts will accept only concrete evidence. [Well, there's a novelty - Ed.] Mr. Fayed, however, is undaunted and he plans to continue flinging cash at lawyers.

Ian Deadly SmithIDS is innocent, OK!

Former Tory leader Ian Smith has been cleared of dishonestly paying his wife a secretary's salary. The parliamentary standards commissioner has decided that he didn't give taxpayers' money to his wife for work she didn't do.
   How refreshing to hear about a non-dodgy MP!

train1Midland Mainline has found a solution to its late-running trains. Only 60% were running to timetable at the last survey because the customers were loitering on the platform. So MM staff were issued with loud whistles to chase them onto the trains. As a result, 78% of trains on the London-Sheffield route are now arriving on time.

Rain!Stockport Council has decided that 2 new chimneys at Sovereign Rubber have to be painted grey to blend in with the usual sky colour. Apparently, Romiley's neighbour enjoys 22 wet days per month and just 2 hours' sunshine per day during the winter. So it's no wonder that the Triv-Dem council is such a gloomy bunch!

Campbell the Forkbender

Harold Wilson, Britain's worst prime minister since Lord North, had Lady Forkbender writing honours lists on her lavender notepaper. According to former sports minister Kate Hoey, Alastair Campbell did the same job for Vice-Prez Bliar (and still does, for all we know). So grumpy Alex Ferguson, Man. Utd.'s belligerent manager, had the twin forces of bunging New Labour and being one of Ally's pals to thank for his knighthood.
   p.s. Hoey reckons she got the sack for opposing Campbell's private honours lists.
   p.p.s. The civil servant in charge of gongs back then was the present cabinet secretary, Andy Turnbull, who thinks civil servants work for the government of the day not the customers.

The Budget – the verdict : The Mugger is being too optimistic and still heading for a huge black hole in his finances, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Death gives no escape from the problems of obesity

Some of today's large people need oversize coffins, which create all sorts of problems for funeral arrangers. They can be too big to pass through mechanical doors at crematoriums, leaving burial as the only option. They can be too big to pass through the church door, ruling out an indoor ceremony. And worse, the relatives could find themselves forking out for 2 burial plots if the deceased overflows a standard single. Health and safety concerns persuade funeral arrangers to use a trolley in some cases instead, of a gang of bearers, and a lack of ramps can give further problems.

NOT TO BLAME NEWS

Current official positions on matters arising

Campbell McAllisterClare Short no longer exists. So New Labour would appreciate it if everyone would stop talking about her.
   p.s. Don't mention the War, either!
Lord Woolfe does not exist So New Labour would appreciate it if everyone would stop taking any notice of his opposition to the Blessed Leader's plans to rebrand the House of Lords and the justice system.
p.s. He's the dotty old judge who thinks burglars should not be sent to gaol.
Immigration Minister Bev Hughes cannot be blamed for letting her minions admit thousands of migrants from Eastern Europe while cooking their books. The cult of ministerial responsibility went out with the Tories.
Further, it is not good enough for IND (Sheffield) officer Steve Moxton to say that he spent 3 months trying to contact the Minister before going public. If he had tried harder, he would not be facing the sack now.
The Department of Trade, the Treasury and the Government Actuaries Dept. cannot be blamed for failing to regulate the fiscally reckless activities of the insurance company Equitable Life and letting the company go bust.
Further, it is unreasonable to expect the state to compensate the EL investors who have been ruined.
The Immigration situation is under control.
There was nothing wrong with the Labour members of the Foreign Affairs Committee chosing to let Alastair Campbell off for rewriting the government's 2002 Iraq WoMD dossier and then denying doing so.

Criminal News
CRIMINAL NEWS

The Police and Customs & Excise
are spying on criminals!

The Surveillance Ombudsman has found that cops and Customs are regularly going beyond their authority, not putting names on authorizations to spy on people on security grounds and renewing surveillance authorities without doing a review of necessity. They're also paying cash to unregistered informers, putting material on national databases without adding the source and ignoring codes of conduct designed by Parliament to give criminals an easy time.
   Well! Who'd have thought they could be so sneaky!

Million bucksMillion-Dollar Shopper!

Alice Pike put goods worth $1,600 in her basket at a Wal-Mart branch in Covington, Georgia, USA then, when she got to the checkout, she tried to pay for them with a $1,000,000 note. The staff refused to give her $998,400 change and called the manager, who called the cops when they found 2 more million-dollar notes in her handbag. Mrs. Pike told the police that the notes were a present from her husband and she thought they were real.
   BlackFlag News advises her to make up for her disappointment by suing Wal-Mart for invading her privacy by making an illegal search of her handbag.

Mrs. Vice-PrezPersecute 'les anti-pub'

Drawing moustaches or writing rude words on advertisements in the Paris Metro is now a crime against humanity. 62 people were hauled into court this month for doing just that. The charges were vandalism and damaging the Paris transport authority's (RATP) advertising revenues.
   The trial followed a mass arrest of anti-publicity campaigners in December. The campaigners claim that they have nothing against good advertising but they do object to the commercialisation of public space, brainless consumerism and sexism in advertising. In practice, they stand accused of zapping all types of advertising but small posters for cultural events.
   The RATP would like the protesters to turn their pockets out and stump up damages of €922,000 (625,000). Like that's going to happen!

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REBRANDING NEWS

If it ain't working, disguise it!

The Crown Prosecution Service, usually known as the Can't Prosecute Service, is a breeding ground for incompetence. So what is the Home Secretary going to do about it? Tell them to do a proper job or else? No, Blunk wants to change the name to the Public Prosecution Service. We applaud his decision to shift the blame from Her Majesty the Queen to the unwashed customers, but we fear that the PPS will soon be known as the Pig's-ear Prosecution Service or something similarly uncomplimentary and descriptively accurate.
   p.s. Vice-Prez Bliar's cowboy outfit is planning to abolish prisons and give us Offender Management Centres instead. And then he's fixing to roll over for the dolts of the EU and give the inmates the vote!
   p.p.s. Vice-Prez Bliar is suffering from whiplash after his hasty U-turn on rebranding the CPS.

Bogus to Beneficial in one foul swoop!

The government doesn't want to admit bogus asylum seekers to the UK but it is keen to attract 'beneficial migrants', who will work and pay taxes. So last August, the civil servants of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate came up with an ingenious way to cut their lists of unprocessed would-be migrants. All the customer had to do was write 'Business Plan' on a piece of paper and the IND would promptly reclassified him or her as beneficial and desirable.
   Another successful exercising in Bliarite rebranding!
   p.s. The bloke who blew the whistle on this scam has been suspended from his job, partly for breach of civil service regulations but mainly because he works in Sheffield, Home Sec. Blunk's constituency.

Green revolutions

The Green Party is to abandon tree-hugging as part of a rebranding exercise to make its members more electable. Their target voters are now disaffected Labour supporters. The Greens now believe that they can bamboozle this vast army of unconnected customers if they can come up with a new logo and a new paint job, following the New Labour Experiment's lead.
   As another excercise in image-remaking, Greenpeace plans to give up "chugging" in big cities, where other organizations are doing it. They are finding that people don't appreciate being stopped in the street and browbeaten into signing standing orders for regular donations. And so Greenpeace is to restrict its chugging activites to smaller towns where the customers are not so familiar with this form of financial predation.

The MuggerSex-change for the Mugger?

Adopting Tory policies proved so successful for the Labour Party that it was elected to office in 1997. Big Gordie Broon slid his bum onto a government bench confident that his next move would be from the Chancellor's job to the top job when Tony moved over for him. But he's starting to realize that the move-over ain't going to happen.
   So Big Gordie is going back to basics. He's recycling himself as Mrs. Thatcher by using rewrites of her speeches in the hope of making himself look like prime ministerial material. So it looks like he's given up all hope of getting the top job at the IMF.

v1New Labour has turned the UK into a safe haven for terrorists and their supporters, says the former Head of Defence Intelligence. The government no longer has control of its borders and it has no idea who's here or where the dodgy characters are.

v2The Department of Health has blown £3million of taxpayers' money on revamping its website. Apart from a new URL, users report that it's pretty much the same as the old one except that it's plagued by technical problems and less user-friendly.
   Nice to know New Labour is spending the Stealth Taxes wisely.

Pubs to open 25 hours per day

The so-called Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, is to abolish fixed opening and closing hours for pubs in July (or maybe later). The police say this will lead to increases in drunken brawling, robberies, domestic assault, traffic accidents and assaults on police officers. The medical profession is aghast at this U-turn in the government's previous policy of trying to stop people drinking.

Curious Happenings

1. Vice-Prez Bliar is to abolish spin by making the PR consultant who did John Major's 1997 general election campaign his head of government communications.
   p.s. He's one of Mandy's mates.
      p.p.s. The budget for Downing Street spin has gone up by 230% since 1997.
   2. Jarvis, the railway engineering firm sacked for the Potter's Bar crash, is being hired to replace track in that area by Network Rail, the outfit set up by the government to provide tracks and signals to train operators.
   3. Tom Kelly, the government stooge who called WoMD expert the late Dr. David Kelly 'a Walter Mitty figure' has been promoted to Vice-Prez Bliar's sole official spokesman.
   4. Darren Murphy, who used to be in charge of slandering Health Sec. Alan Milburn's dissatisfied customers, is joining the Downing Street spinners.

SCIENCE NEWS

Free Radicals needlessly persecuted

It has been dogma in the health food industry that oxygen free radicals (OfR) are body destroyers which have to be exterminated with massive doses of antioxidants, preferably in high-priced patent medicines. OfR have been blamed for premature ageing, baldness, insomnia, and causing Alzheimer's disease and a whole bunch of other conditions.
   But a study at University College, London, has cast doubt upon the fashionable notion that OfR attack healthy tissue when they can't find harmful bacteria and fungal infections to battle. The message is that OfR have become an enemy for commercial rather than medical reasons.
   Even worse, there is no research to prove that OfR scavengers work. So it looks like there's a window of opportunity opening for dietary supplement manufacturers. All they have to do is rehabilitate OfR and flog preparations containing vast amounts of them to the gullible.

Drug of the Month

The big new thing in pharmaceuticals is going to be Rimonabant. Clinical trials have shown that not only can it increase the rate at which fat people lose weight, but it can also double the success rate of people trying to give up smoking. The Department of Health is reported to be over the Moon at the thought of being able to brag about how New Labour will converted the nation from obese smokers into trim non-smokers just by handing out a few pills.

world news
WORLD NEWS

Terrorist bombers attack railway system in Madrid

Ten bombs on trains and at 3 railway stations left about 200 people dead and thousands injured. ETA, the Basque terrorist organization, was the immediate suspect as the type of explosive used was thought, at first, to be their usual choice. And a couple of their members were arrested recently while driving a van full of explosives. Al Qaida immediately jumped on the bandwagon with one of its emails claiming that the outrage was pay-back for the Crusades in the 12th Century while ETA had nothing to say right away. ETA later protested their innocence and the suspects rounded up were all described as Al Qaida members or sympathizers.
   Maybe Steve Moxton was right about using up surplus nuclear weapons on terrorists.
UpdateTerror bombing produces regime change in Spain
Tony B. Liar quaking in his boots

The terrorists have bombed the Popular Party out of office in Spain and the incoming Socialists are promising to take the Spanish troops out of Iraq and stop supporting Prez Bush. Vice-Prez Bliar is reported to be terrified of calling an early general election in 2005 for fear of what will happen and how much blame he will cop for it. Worse, he has lost an ally in the European Union's eternal ass-kicking match for control of power and cash. The incoming Spanish government is Socialist, which means that the Vice-Prez has nothng in common with it, and it plans to cosy up to France and Germany, expecting a bigger slice of the EU's budget for not rocking the Franco-Prussian boat.
   Meanwhile, in Taiwan, Prez Chen Shui-bian's would-be successor is claiming that the assassination attempt on Mr. Prez and his deputy on the eve of elections there was a fake. The Prez was returned to power by a majority of under 0.2% and his rival is claiming that there was election fraud as well as an artificial sympathy vote.

Ban the BogVert

BlackFlag News would like to leap aboard this particular bandwagon. We support with enthusiasm, the global campaign to ban TV adverts for lavatory products at mealtimes. Most of all, we don't want to see stinky kids not wiping their bums while we're eating. And we urge our readers (both of them) to join the global boycott of the products featured in such adverts.

What's so great about democracy, anyway?

Prez 'Arris Tweed chucked out of Haiti, Prez Mugabe driving Zimbabwe to rack and ruin, and Prez Bush elected via dodgy doings in Florida even though his opponent got more votes. If this is what democracy can produce in nations large and small, is it really fair to impose the same system on the people of Iraq?

Death Rock 65million years BCEYucatan asteroid is innocent, OK!

An asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula 65million years ago and got the blame for wiping out the last of the dinosaurs. But fossil evidence from cores drilled at the impact site suggests that the meteor hit 300,000 years before the extinction phase began. So it's back to the drawing board on the cause of the final demise of the dinosaurs. [Or not, if you believe the rivals who say the research is 'inconclusive' which is a polite way of calling it a load of old rubbish.]

Lost cause

We won't bother sending greetings to schoolkids in China because no one there can see this publication. The Chinese government has decided not to give schools Internet access to spare them 'harmful cultural information' – like 'Communism is crap and that's why the Soviet empire crumbled' and access to the gory details of the corrupt practices of their leaders.
UpdateBlackFlag News has been informed that there are people beavering away to give the Chinese access to banned websites, like the BBC website, via proxy servers in places like Canada instead of Chinese servers. They are also being offered encryption technology and ways to evade the 30,000 spies employed by the Chinese government to check its citizens' emails.
Note: Most Chinese people aren't interested in pottering around the external Web, mainly because most of it is in English, a foreign language which they neither speak or read.
p.s. The Chinese government is planning to revise schoolbooks containing the claim that the Great Wall can be seen from space. Why? Because Yang Liwei, their first astronaut, reported that he couldn't see it. Hooray for accuracy!

Prez BushMr. Prez sorts out Iraq

Prez Bush is reported to be considering a federal solution for Iraq. It will be divided into Kurdish, Sunni and Shia regions, along the lines of the former Yugoslavia and left to get on with it. And if the whole mess drops to pieces after the Yanks and the Brits have bugged out, then the UN will have to pick up the pieces.

$The Mugger to screw up the IMF? Big Gordy Broon is reported to be in line for the top job at the International Monetary Fund, which should demolish the world's confidence in the organization if he's selected. The man who demolished the pensions and savings industries in the UK, and raided the public pocket mercilessly with his 81 (and counting) Stealth Taxes, is a notorious meddler and obscurantist. If he does head up the IMF, the customers can be sure that there will be plenty of cash going into the coffers but precious little escaping past the Mugger's barriers of red tape.

v2The Saudi government is trying to sneak in votes for women at this October's municipal elections. Be advised, chaps, that nothing good will come of it.

No SpamMicrosoft and Yahoo! to conquer spam?

They're going to do it by charging people to send emails, which will destroy the spammers' profit margins. Quite what this will do about the people sending out bogus Hotmail emails, many of them containing a virus, has not been disclosed.
   Anti-spammers have pointed out that the firms which charged for sending emails in the 1990s are all extinct. So could the charging policy spell Microsoft's doom?
   Another anti-spammer alternative is to make the PC sending the email do a small sum and consume a bit of its computing power for a short time. This would have no effect on genuine message senders but it would stop a PC dead in its tracks if it tried sending out a million spams.
   The cost of extra PCs to get round the bottleneck would have the same effect on spammers' profits as a mailing charge. But Microsoft and Yahoo! don't seem to be going down this road because there's no money in it. Although, if they're going to charge their customers, they're going to have to have credit card details. And would the bulk of email-senders be willing to trust Microsoft with such exploitable information?

Screaming kids – the ultimate weapon

The US military is planning to issue a new weapon to its troops in Iraq. It's a sonic gun which emits the sound of a baby screaming (played backwards) at 110 dB, a level which makes the human skull vibrate. The weapon is designed to inflict pain, deafness and even cellular damage in rioters, suicide bombers and snipers. At higher power, the weapon can be used to force snipers from buildings and caves without cause structural damage. The effect can travel 300 yards at a level of 145 dB. The human threshold of pain is 120-130 dB.

Libyan agenda"If you want some serious shooters, Muammar, you'll have to come up with more than some one-hump camels."

The agenda behind Vice-Prez Bliar's 'historic' trip to Libya is clear: its oil and natural gas, weapons and trade. Prez Gadaffy is getting on a bit and he's starting to worry how history will see him. Which is why he's now a reformed character, who has given up his Weapons of Mass Destruction and turned into an all-round nice guy.
   What he'd like to do is get back into the international swing of things so that British and European firms will develop Libya's oil and natural gas reserves. Then he'll be able to get rid of all of his old weapons and buy some nice new ones. And build up an even nicer pension fund in his off-shore bank accounts. And if a few dollars happen to fall into the hands of the wrong sort of people – like Al Qaida or Vice-Prez Bliar's re-election fund – well, that will just the old bugs working out of the system and nothing to worry about.

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CONTENTION

This month's topics

Kaboom!UN678 in 1991 authorized war to eject Iraq's forces from Kuwait and UN687 made eliminating Iraq's WoMD programmes a ceasefire condition. UN1441 in 2002 declared Iraq in breach of UN687, which meant that the ceasefire was off and the 1991 war could continue, which it did in 2003.
   No further UN resolution was necessary and whatever the British Attorney General thought about continuing the war was irrelevant.
   Discuss


Saddam's palaces in flames

Did this make the world a safer place? As Vice-Prez Bliar would have us believe? Remembering what happened in Madrid on 3-11 and that London is waiting for more of the same.
   Discuss


"Would you not agree that only someone psychotic would question anti-discrimination laws?"
"I would agree that only someone idiotic would use psychotic in this context."

FOODY NEWS

Fancy a Kumato?

KumatoSainsbury's is selling South American black tomatoes in stores in London, Epsom and Tunbridge Wells this month. They are described as having a similar texture to red tomatoes but a stronger, sweeter taste. They also provide the same nutritional benefits and they are alleged to turn Galapagos Islands giant tortoises into sex maniacs.
   p.s. Purple carrots will be back on sale later in the year at selected stores when this year's crop is ready.

Dieting makes you miserable – official!

The Atkins diet starves the brain of 'happy hormones' and turns its victims into emotional zombies who are grumpy and too idle to move. So says the latest research from M.I.T. While the Atkins industry says it has research results which prove the exact opposite.
   p.s. As well as causing bowel and kidney problems, the latest research suggests that Atkins gives you gout as well!

Dietary insult woman arrested

The Customs at Gatwick took an interest in a passenger from The Gambia when they found her shoving 13 stones (68 kg) of luggage around. It turned out that Nenneh Jaiteh had brought her own supply of goat meat, snails and fish for her visit to the UK. She was promptly arrested and charged with seeking to avoid the effects of genetic monstering, BSE, heavy metals, pesticide residues and the other crap with which the EU insists our food must be afflicted.

genetic monsteringGenetic Monstering is okay - official

The government is allowing commercial planting of genetically monstered maize for inclusion in animal feed. There will be no requirement to label products containing milk and meat from animals fed with GM products and organic farmers can go whistle for compensation if their land is contaminated by GM fallout. Prez Bush has commanded us to go with the GM Revolution and Vice-Prez Bliar is happy to do as he's told. And if that means ignoring the views of consumer groups and the scientists appointed by the government to provide an informed opinion, that's just too bad.
   But on the up-side, Bliar crony Lord Sainsbury will make a bomb if GM crops prosper and New Labour can be sure of receiving further generous bungs from him.

v1Most restaurant servings of chicken tikka masala contain illegal levels of harmful dyes, e.g. tartrazine, sunset yellow and ponceau 4R red dye, says the latest shock-horror survey.

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REALITY CHECK

Just send us your cash and we will make you rich!

A survey of former hopefuls, who have paid good money to learn the secrets of proof reading, copy editing and writing, has thrown up rather dismal results. To be blunt about it, the publishing world doesn't want to know them. Given the choice between someone who has learned their way through the industry and someone who has taken a correspondence course of uncertain merit, the outsider loses every time.
   Sadly, the world is not full of editors who are gagging for the services of unknown writers and novice proof readers and copy editors. If you do not have a name or a reputation to sell, forget it. Your chance of making any money out of the publishing industry is comparable with the chance of winning a national lottery jackpot.
   So why do people continue to offer courses in the black arts of writing and proof reading? Because they can make money out of it even if their pupils won't. Nothing more and nothing less.

NOT-SPORTING NEWS

New dimension for horse racing

racingLike Formula 1, horse racing has become a bit dull and predictable. So some of its participants have decided to spice things up by building in another element of uncertainty. Previously, the punters had to decide which horse is the fittest and best suited to the course, and which jockey knows what he's doing better than the others.
   Now, they also have to decide whether the trainer will deliberately enter a lame horse and bet on it to lose (accusation against Alan Berry), whether the jockey will pull up a favourite when it's well in the lead and let it be overtaken (21-day suspension for champion jockey Kieren Fallon for doing this) or even jump off the horse when it's in the lead to ensure that it loses (accusation against Sean Fox).

v2If some women drivers want to know why their insurance premiums have shot up, the EU is to blame. Their insurance company decided that they were a better risk than male drivers and worthy of a lower payment. But that's gender-based discrimination under EU rules and illegal. Hard luck, girls!

v3A policeman playing for Witton Albion tripped a streaker, who was getting in the way of the Cheshire Senior Cup final, which was being played at Altrincham FC's ground. The ref promptly gave him a red card for 'violent conduct' and sent him off! And the other team, Woodley Sports, went on to win 2-1 via a last minute goal. Which left everyone asking: "How did such a brain-dead tosser every qualified as a ref? And how's he going to get out of Altrincham alive?"

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Rip-Off News
RIP-OFF NEWS

BBC to sue Coca-Cola for nicking
intellectual property?

C-C Bottling plantIn an episode of Only Fools And Horses, Del Trotter sold tap water in posh bottles as 'Peckham Spring'. Coca-Cola is selling filtered Thames Water's product (with added minerals*) under the name 'Dasani' at 95p for a 500 ml bottle – a mark-up of 300,000% on the cost to them of the water.
   The National Mineral Water Association and the Food Standards Agency are also after Coca-Cola, which insists that it is offering 'an excellent product at a very good value price' – a claim which falls flat on its face next to 30p for a pint (568 ml) of milk.
   (* carbonates of calcium, magnesium and sodium to give it some taste)
UpdateCoca-Cola has been forced to recalled its entire stock of 'Dasani' in the UK - half a million units of its overpriced, messed about tap-water - because the stuff contains up to twice the legal amount of bromate. The good news (for them) is that it contains 10-22 parts per billion of bromate, which is below the European limit of 25 ppb. So they can flog the stuff across the Channel if they can find enough mugs willing to part with the equivalent of 95p/bottle in euros.
UpdateCoca-Cola has decided not to bother relaunching their overpriced, messed about tap water in the UK. And they're not bothered about trying it in Europe, either.

The MuggerThe Mugger has succeeded in sowing so much confusion and obscurity on the fertile ground of the tax system that 90% of his customers are paying too much. In 2003, he misappropriated £3.7billion more than his entitlement for Vice-Prez Bliar and his cronies to waste.
   The Mugger's obsessive meddling is leaving increasing numbers of customers in need of an accountant to sort out what they can claim in the way of allowances, what counts as a legitimate expense (which can be offset against income) and most important of all, what they really owe. An independent assessment of liability is important because the Inland Revenue is notorious for getting its sums wrong.
   Many people, however, have no way of knowing whether employing an accountant will save them more than the accountant's fees. And most choose not to challenge the Revenue's demands. Which is what the Mugger is counting on.

Stealth Tax #73 Another assault on savings – anyone with shares in a PEP or ISA will lose their tax break on dividends.

The next Stealth Tax? The Mugger is reported to be keen to get his hands on cash left in dormant bank and building society accounts. The money belongs to customers who, mostly, have forgotten about the account or died. The Treasury would like to annex the cash if the bank/building society has been out of touch with the proper owner for 15 years. But the Mugger is reported to be thinking more in terms of 15 minutes!

v1In his Budget, the Mugger promised to get rid of 40,000 civil service jobs over the next 4 years. This was on the day after the recruitment plans of the government's Efficiency Tsar were leaked. Sir Peter Gershon is planning to spend £9billion per year on creating 360,000 public sector jobs over the next 2 years. So the Mugger's 40K will get the sack and redundancy money, and then be hired back by Gershon to keep the trade unions sweet.
   Nice deal for everyone but the taxpayer and more smoke without substance from New Labour.

Stealth Tax #74 A £550 increase (at the standard tax rate) for people who use a company van or people-carrier out of work time.

Stealth Tax #75 Council Tax will be up at least 7.4% next year according to the Budget.

Stealth Tax #76 The financial incentive for owner-operator small businesses to become companies will be removed. (The Mugger introduced the scheme but he's changed his mind because people were actually getting some benefit out of it.)

Stealth Tax #77 Legislation on cross-border payments for goods and services between companies in the same group is to be extended to transactions within the UK.

Stealth Tax #78 Tax on trusts up from 34% to 40%.

Stealth Tax #79 Duty on red diesel up 1p/litre above inflation (57% rise).

Stealth Tax #80 Duty on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) used as fuel up 1p/litre above inflation (45% rise).

Stealth Tax #81 Personal allowances for taxpayers under 65 frozen.

LOTTERY NEWS

The split for Saturday, March 06th, 2004
Jackpot: £5,932,962

Numbers Matched

Winners

Payout

6/6

2

£2,966,481

5/6 + bonus

11

£165,957

5/6

473

£2,412

4/6

28,432

£88

3/6

580,225

£10

The above item is included for the benefit of anyone who wants to know the value of the lesser prizes between the jackpot and the lowly ten quid for 3 correct numbers.

NHS Lottery – An awful warning!

A consultant brain surgeon, who was accused to taking more soup than the hospital canteen's ever-shrinking, ever more expensive portion, has been sent home for an indefinite period by the Queen's Medical Centre NHS Trust in Nottingham. He says that all he got was some extra croutons.
   Perhaps it would be a good idea for Her Majesty to remove her endorsement from this hotbed of jobsworths, who clearly have no regard for the medical needs of their customers.
UpdateAfter gardening for 9 days, the surgeon was allowed to get back to work. And the patients who missed operations had to lump it.

WILDLIFE NEWS

Plague of locusts in Australia

Eastern Australia is beset by billions of rampant locusts. The residents of Queensland and New South Wales survived the worst drought for a century and then heavy rains and floods. A good soaking led to bumper crops, and then the locusts moved in. Looks like some people just can't win!

v4Meanwhile, in the UK, wild boars were driven to extinction 400 years ago. But this year's official wildlife census is including them for the first time. Apparently, there are getting on for 300 of them strolling around in the Midlands and the South of England and they are all descendants of captive stock, which escaped in 1987. The curious are warned to keep clear of these animals, which can be very fast and very aggressive, particularly when defending their young. An illegal trade in wild boar meat is expected to be the next growth industry when poachers who hunt wild deer think they can make a few quid from it.

v5Somewhat to the east of the boars, police twitchers in the capital were able to observe the common anoraked exhibitionist larking about on the Big Ben clock tower. Their pals said they were protesting about the Iraq situation. But as nothing they did is likely to have the slightest influence on Vice-Prez Bliar, it looks more likely that they were just exhibitionists showing off.
   Afterthought: the Palace of Westminster's clerk of works should send them a bill for having the tower checked by a steeplejack for damage. Nothing sends exhibitionists into hibernation faster than being held financially responsible for their showing off.

DEPARTURES

Sir Peter Ustinov

Peter Ustinov as Charlie Chan
Double Oscar winner Sir Peter Ustinov has died at 82. A man of international origins, he was fluent in the European languages and Russian. He will be remembered for his appearances as a performer on radio (e.g. In All Directions on the BBC Home Service in the 1950s with Peter Jones) and television, and in 90 films. He directed films, plays and operas as well as writing books (including his autobiograph Dear Me) and plays.
   His film roles ranged from the emperor Nero to Charlie Chan and Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot. Mr. Ustinov was a noted humorist, raconteur and mimic, and he was famous for his rich, speaking voice. He projected a cuddly, nice-guy image but there was a cutting edge when things didn't go his way. He also served as one of the first Unicef goodwill ambassadors.

DEPARTURES

Alastair Cooke

Alastair Cooke
The broadcaster and writer Alistair Cooke has died in New York at 95. He is best known for his radio series Letter from America, the world's longest-running speech radio programme, which ended its run after 58 years when Mr. Cooke retired on health grounds just weeks ago. The Letters began in March 1946 and the series was supposed to last only for 3 months but the BBC forgot to cancel it.
   Born in Salford, Mr. Cooke moved to the United States to avoid World War II and he became a US citizen in 1941. After the war, he took on the uphill task of educating Americans about the British way of life and our TV programmes. He received an honorary knighthood in 1973 in addition to a Bafta for his contribution to Anglo-American relations and a Sony Radio Award for his services to broadcasting. He presented the influential cultural TV show Omnibus in the US in the 1950 and his personal take on his adopted country Alistair Cooke's America was shown around the world.

This Month's Garbage

The Garbage Tory political ancient Michael Mates sticking with the Butler Inquiry because Vice-Prez Bliar has just made him a Privy Councillor.

The government's abrupt shift into reverse gear on rebranding the CPS, etc. 

 The Home Office tried to pretend that just 7,000 Eastern European migrants had been allowed to enter the UK unchecked by the rogue immigration staff. Minister For Not Knowing What The Hell Is Going On In Her Department Bev Hughes has been forced to correct the total to 25,000.
UpdateBogus marriages are letting 15,000 migrants into the UK every year, ten times the official Home Office figure. Bev Hughes pleads ignorance on this one, too. And the true number of bogus students is another area of her ignorance.

Clare Short's mutinous behaviour can go 'unpunished but not unremarked'. – Official Labour party line. 

 "There is less tax!" Johnny 'Two Jags' standing in for Vice-Prez Bliar at prime monster's questions, 2004/03/24.

 
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