Black Flag News
2004/May
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Romiley News
ROMILEY NEWS

Doom and Gloom for the Astronomers.
Again.

There was a total eclipse of the Moon in the first week of the month. So what did we get in Romiley? Clear skies on the night before and bloody rain bucketing down on the night of the eclipse. That Tony Bliar's got a lot to answer for.
   In the meantime, Romiley's astronomers are looking out their eclipse-viewing gear but placing large bets that there will be exceptional amounts of rain on June 8th, the date of the first transit of Venus visible from the UK for 700 years.

k1MKD Holdings, operators of Manchester-based Kitchen Direct, have been ticked off by Ofcom for making 'silent calls'. Their computers have been power-dialling hundreds of phone numbers simultaneously and just dropping the line if someone answered their phone and there was no salesperson available to make the call. BlackFlag News commented on the nuisance calls to Romiley residents last month. Looks like we know who's doing it now.
   MKD made 1,500,000 such nuisance calls between November 2003 and February 2004. The company has been told to clean up its act or face fines and compensation orders as many of those who receive a silent call assume that it is burglars ringing around in the hope of finding somewhere unoccupied to do over.

k2The Romiley Traders Association has brought out a fine leaflet in association with Stockport Council. There is a useful map on one side, which suffers from the glaring deficiency of missing out the Post Office and Jackson's newsagents. For the benefit of visitors to the village, both are on Stockport Road.
   Maybe they'll do better in the next edition.

k3How long does it take to install, paint and number 28 new lamp posts? If we're talking about the ones which Stockport Council put up in the centre of Romiley, then the answer is :

66 weeks at least

Because at the end of this month, the numbering job hadn't been finished. And they didn't get around to painting the last lamp post until this month.

Stockport Council bogs it up

Romiley's parent council has made a complete bog of printing the ballot papers for the June 10th elections. Complete in the sense that Stockport Council has made such a bog of it that everything has to be reprinted over the bank holiday weekend at the end of this month if the postal-voting 'packs' are to reach the customers by the June 1st deadline. That's a quarter of a million voting 'packs' to be redone. And all this at great expense to the local taxpayers. No wonder Stockport has one of the highest rates of Council Tax in the country.
   And anyone who's voted already with a defective voting pack will have to do it again.
   Of course, a big chunk of the blame has to fall on old Two Jags Prescott and the government. They were warned that trying to include 4 areas of Labour rotten boroughs in the postal voting plan instead of just one or two would be a recipe for disaster. The only good news to come out of the mess is for the legal profession. They are confident that people will be challenging close results in the council elections (majorities of 50 or so) if enough people complain about not receiving their voting pack.

Death In Small Corners by Henry T. Smith   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 the Romiley Literary Circle website
   Read about the Book on the RLC website
   Buy the Book at the Lulu.com website

Category : Crime, 1980s

Home News
HOME NEWS

Damp squib in Manchester

The massive police operation in Manchester last month has fizzle out and become 'file & forget' fodder. There was wild talk in the tabloids of foiling a suicide bomb plot against a Man. Utd. versus Liverpool match at Old Trafford but that was just wishful thinking. 10 suspects were raked in by 400 coppers (many of them on overtime?). All have been released without charge.

Man at home with NatureWe have ways of making you enjoy yourself

Members of ethnic minorities are not visiting the countryside. So local councils and environmental groups across the country are planning to dig blacks, Asians, Orientals, bogus asylum seekers, etc. out of their homes and drive them into the countryside in droves.
   Once in the great outdoors, the reluctant ethnics will be nagged into climbing mountains in wet Wales and struggling though the mud on Lake District nature trails.
   This further exercise in social engineering is expected to consume a few more millions of tax-pounds, so watch out for further Stealth Taxes to pay for it.

k1Sky has been voted the world's most useless sports coverage provider in a national poll. The satellite broadcaster came bottom of the heap by a long way in both 'quality of delivery of programme commitments' and 'amount of time wasted on unwanted frills' – which surprised a lot of frustrated BBC sport viewers.

Skull and crossbonesPhotographic reality or poisoned propaganda?

The Daily Mirror is in trouble for printing faked pictures, which are purported to show British troops beating up Iraqis. Rivals eagerly provided detailed analyses, pointing out a wealth of questionable detail, including the wrong sort of equipment, a total lack of bruising on the allegedly abused prisoner and the cleanliness of the scene in what was supposed to be a dusty, sweaty environment. Looks like this could be the Mirror's Hitler Diaries.
UpdateMirror editor Piers Morgan refused to quit, so he was given the bum's rush out of the building by Security.

k2Good news for savers this month; the Bank of England base rate is up one-quarter point to 4¼%.

k3Burnley Council has told undertakers to schedule cremations of fat people for before 9:30 a.m. The rule applies to deceased weighing more than 18 stones. The reason given is that cremation furnaces are hotter during the afternoon and larger bodies produce excessive amounts of ash, which clogs up the works.

k4The Red Cross and Amnesty International reckon they've been warning Vice-Prez Bliar and his minions about torture of Iraqi prisoners for the last year. So if the British public weren't informed, either these two organizations have zero credibility or New Labour just swept everything under the carpet.
   But in the rush to condemn the Vice-Prez for being useless, let us not forget that both the Red Cross and Amnesty International have been taking 'evidence' from prisoners of war, criminals, the bereaved and people with a vested interest in telling lies about the British and American forces in Iraq either for propaganda purposes or in the hope of extorting 'compensation'. So while some of the material in their reports might be sincerely held belief, the dastardly dossiers are not necessarily 'the truth' or even within 100 miles of 'the truth'.

k5The UK is bottom of the Eurolist of dentists per 10,000 head of population. Greece and Sweden are top with 10, the UK trails in last place with 3.65.

John Prescott with minderJP 4 V-P?

There is a growing campaign to replace Vice-Prez Bliar with a man of stature who has considerable political experience and a proven track record for actually doing what he says he'll do. Deputy Vice-Prez John Prescott (pictured left with a minder) is seen as someone capable of delivering all that, in the opinion of most voters. This was the surprise result of a national poll conducted in mid-May.
John Prescott in action   BlackFlag News would agree that what the nation needs right now is a Vice-Prez who can bring a little joy into the lives of his customers. John Prescott can be relied upon to get himself into entertaining punch-ups with his customers (pictured right after escaping briefly from his minder) when he's not amusing them with merry quips and original contributions to the use of the English language.
UpdateVice-Prez Bliar is saying that he won't quit until the Iraq situation is sorted out. BlackFlag News says, "He should live that long! And maybe someone should remind him he's supposed to be the Vice-Prez of the UK, not bloody Iraq."

k6The immigration shambles is beyond this government's capacity to repair. So what are they going to do about it? Let the spin-doctors spend millions of tax-pounds telling the customers that everything's okay really.

k1The UK Independence Party seems to be gathering strength at a furious pace in the run-up to the June Euro elections. Opinion polls now put them well ahead of the Triv-Dems. Maybe the UKIP is telling the voters something they want to hear – and something they can believe!

k2What do people want from Europe?
The latest surveys are saying it's the Common Market they were promised not the European Superstate which politicians are foisting off on them.

This is the way it works

New Labour received a £100K bung from supporter Paul Drayson.
   Not long afterwards, Drayson's company got a contract to buy smallpox vaccine for the government without having to go through the usual tendering process.
   The Parliamentary Ombudsman has been trying to find out how the contract was awarded for the last 2 years. Eventually, she ticked off Health Sec. John Reid for obstruction (which is all she can do, lacking any teeth).
   The Labour-dominated Standards & Privileges Committee told Reid he'd done no wrong and cancelled the ticking off.
   Meanwhile, Drayson copped for a peerage.
New Labour in action – "Don't you just love the smell of sleaze?"
   Meanwhile ...

k3David Hill, Vice-Prez Bliar's replacement for Alastair Campbell, told his colleagues that the building collapse at Charles de Gaulle airport was an opportunity to rubbish Paris's transport system and promote London's 2012 Olympic bid. Give that man a Jo Moore Sensitivity Award!

Bliar downsizes his European ambitions

Vice-Prez Bliar has settled for what's available rather than his dream job. He has admitted to himself that the European Superstate isn't going to happen and he's never going to be Prez of Europe. So he's now busily lobbying for support with his greedy eyes on the job of Prez of the European Commission.
   And he would like the job as soon as possible, please, to escape either being booted out of his current job or inevitable defeat at the next general election.

DEPARTURES

Richard Biggs

The actor who was Dr. Franklin in the Babylon 5 universe has died at 44. He studied theatre at university and his first major role was as a doctor in the soap opera Days of our Lives. He then became Dr. Franklin.
   His career back on Earth included more doctors, including his final part in the medical drama Strong Medicine. He also became a regular in Tremors: The Series, the spin-off from the sci-fi films, and the long-lived soap Guiding Light.

TRAVEL NEWS

Speed(cam) Kills?

speed cameraEssex has the country's highest rate of prosecutions for speeding based on speed camera data. This one county collects 10% of the entire rake-in of fines for the whole of England plus Wales. And guess what – Essex also has the highest rate of deaths and serious injuries on its roads.
   Yes, folks, it really is all about the money, not safety, when it comes to speedcams.

k1The EU is fixing to compel the UK to set up police road blocks and carry out random roadside tests on motorists for drink and/or drugs.

VIRUS NEWS

This Month's First (?) Virus

Virus!

Sasser is aimed at Windows 2000 and later versions, it sneaks in from the Internet without the benefit of an email as a carrier and it slows down a PC and/or crashes it. So some Windows users might not be able to tell if they've got it.
   Applying Microsoft patches for their buggy operating systems, keeping your firewall and your anti-virus software up to date, and sticking with Windows 98, offers the best chance of avoiding this bug.
UpdateThe Bremen police have busted an 18-year-old computer geek, who claims that he wrote the Sasser virus. It will be interesting to see if a court dares to sentence him to a lifetime of slavery with his pay going to repair a little of the damage that he has caused. Meanwhile, the Stuttgart police reckon they've busted the author of the Phatbot 'supervirus' and 5 suspected helpers.

k1If you see a doctor wearing a tie, run for your life. Research at the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens has shown that 50% of ties worn in hospital carry potentially disease-causing bugs. And yet patients are supposed to have more confidence in a doctor wearing a tie. Spit the bones out of that!

BBC NEWS

  The post-Hutton Inquiry

The predicted outcome of this internal inquiry was a whitewash saying Andrew Gilligan, who's been dumped, is guilty and everyone else is okay.
   Unsurprisingly, the prediction has turned out to be 100% accurate.
   The score in whitewashes is now Hutton 1, BBC 1.

PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE

Give Blood Now!
Do this NOW!

world news
WORLD NEWS

Yobs out in force in Ireland on Mayday

The Dublin police had to use water cannon to control the yobs who tried to crash the EU enlargement junket, which welcomed Poland, Hungary, Czecho, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta to the club. And the Belfast police had to get stuck in at the Irish Cup Final when yobs started battling at the Windsor Park stadium.

k1Chinese scare for smokers : Cancel the view that nicotine from cigarettes protects the brain. Substitute the opinon that heavy smoking causes Alzheimer's Disease. That's the cheerful conclusion of a study at Daping Hospital, Changquing. And don't try switching to dope, you smokers. Research in the US has shown that binge smoking of cannabis can cause a stroke.

Prez Bush apologizes for Iraq

"I'm sorry it's such a shit-hole and the people are such brutal, murdering barbarians," the Prez said at an international press conference at his ranch in Texas. "I'd like to assure my fellow Americans that we're doing everything humanly possibly to get our people the hell out of Iraq just as soon as we've tied up the oil rights.
   "As far as other matters are concerned, let me just say that the allegations are garbage and the alligators are idiots.
   "I'm sure America's good friend Tommy Blair can plug any gaps with his troops when we're gone. And I would like to say a special thank-you to Tommy for his faithful support. The Brits are at their finest when they stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of God's country.
   "God bless America and God bless Tommy, too. I thank you."

How Greece can save one billion euros

Cancel the physical Olympic Games and do it all on the internet. That way, the Greeks can spend the security budget for the Games on hunting down the terrorists who've been planting bombs in Athens. And with the cash left over, the Greek government could even afford to build a nice, comfortless gaol on a remote island especially for the captured terrorists.
   p.s. For the first time ever, the International Olympic Committee has insured this year's Games against partial or full cancellation. The €135million policy covers them against terrorism, earthquakes, flooding and landslides.

US FlagIs the US Army running Iraq under WWE rules of engagement? Iraqi prisoners certainly seem to be getting the benefit of Vince McMahon's version of sporting values rather than the Geneva Convention or any of that rubbish!

Jim MorrisonGone but certainly not forgotten

The self-styled Lizard King is still causing trouble 30-odd years after he took his leave of this world. The Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris celebrates its 200th anniversary this month and it has become the city's 5th top attraction after Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre. Even so, its administrators would love to get rid of the most famous resident – Jim Morrison, vocalist of The Doors, the greatest rock band of all time.
   Jim's grave attracts so many visitors that the cemetery has been forced to hire a security guard to keep them in order. Unfortunately for the disgruntled relatives of unfamous people buried near Jim, his plot is on permanent lease rather than the standard 10-year contract, so an eviction isn't on the cards.
   Another foreign resident is also giving the cemetery's administrators problems. People keep kissing Oscar Wilde's tombstone and, apparently, the waxes in lipstick are unshiftable.

"You want shock-horror? We got it!"

Posing as a victim of American torture is the new growth industry in Iraq. The locals just wrap themselves up in bandages and tell horror stories to anyone gullible enough to listen. Although the stakes are rising after a number of them have been stripped of their bandages and exposed as frauds. Any future victims are going to have to beat themselves up before applying the bandages to gain a bit of credibility.

k220% of the police in Frankfurt an der Oder regularly nip over the border to Poland to top up their panda cars with petrol. Cross-border refuelling not only saves them 20p/litre, they also avoid paying an additional environmental tax on fuel. Nice to see some cops with a bit of initiative.

k3How come it's taken the Yanks until 2004 to set up a national memorial in Washington to the dead of World War II? What have they been doing for the last 59 years?

PARLIAMENT NEWS

Carry on grabbing, chaps!

Efforts to reform the European Parliament's expenses system before this June's European elections hit the buffers at the beginning of this month.
   There have always been complaints about MEPs claiming for business class flights, travelling economy class and pocketing the difference. The abuse which has received most publicity recently, however, is the practice of MEPs signing in at the parliament building in Brussels or Strasbourg then zapping off, knowing that they will cop for a daily allowance of €260 to cover accommodation and food.
   The last reform attempt was blocked in January. European Parliament President Pat Cox and the 14 vice-presidents 'ran out of time when debating the issue' at a meeting on the first Tuesday of this month. Mr. Cox's spokesman added, "They will look at it again on 13 July in a special meeting."
   [No great sense of urgency then? Ed.]

"Just don't expect me to do anything about it." – VP Kinnock on EU fraud.
Detected fraud in EU up 100% in one year

The National Audit Office has found 'errors' in 90% of the EU's accounts – which means, in practice, that 100% of them are dodgy. Accordingly, the EU's auditors have refused to sign 'the books' for the 9th year running. The officially detected loss to fraud from the EU's £60billion budget was £365million in 2001 and £700million in 2002. The actual fraud rate is estimated to be nearer 10% of the total EU budget.
   In 1999, a certain 'Welsh windbag' and failed British politician called Neil Kinnock was appointed EU Vice-Prez In Charge of Ending Corruption. His sole contribution to fraud-busting in the last 5 years came in 2002, when he suspended from office, the EC chief accountant Marta Andreasan. She had dared to make public the fact that the EU's accounting practices were (and remain) so lax that the place is a fraudsters' paradise.
   A leaked memo showed that the head of the EC's internal audit system told Kinnock that Ms Andreasen's work was going 'in the right direction' and that her removal amounted to a 'serious blow to reform'. It added that the Commission will be able to start reforming its accounting practices only when 'it has a commissioner... who has the stamina and spine to... see it through consistently'. Mr Kinnock steps down from the Commission in 2004. And not a moment too soon.
   p.s. Kinnock's wife is one of the MEPs accused of signing on to collect the daily allowance and then zapping off.

k1 The Russian parliament building was ritually cleansed in 1994 by the Orthodox Church. But MPs feel that it has become infested with evil spirits drawn by the negative energy generated by rowdy debates. So this time, they're calling on the services of a Siberian shaman. They hope that the mystic will produce longer-lasting results than the church.
UpdateWhen spoons started to disappear in large quantities from the cafeteria at the Russian parliament, the staff were told they would have to pay for the losses. So they decided to hand out less nickworthy plastic spoons to the MPs, who are the chief suspects. In the opinion of Gennady Raikov, head of the Russian parliament's Credentials and Ethics Commission, "The MPs would even roll up a carpet or two and slip them out if they thought they could get away with it."
   Sounds like MPs are the same the world over!


Will Vice-Prez Bliar realize there's an obvious counterblast to the UK Independence Party's slogan for the June European Parliament elections? Probably not.

Purple powderedVice-Prez Bliar purple-dusted in Commons

A member of Fathers 4 Justice launched a purple powder bomb at the Vice-Prez from the public gallery during V-P's questions. The missile-hurler was in an area not blocked off by the security screen, which was installed recently at vast expense. The Mugger and Two Jags received colateral damage. As soon as they realized that something untoward had happened, the panicky Westminster Wonders fled the chamber at high speed – which would have spread any contamination around the building if the attacker has used anything noxious.
   "Thank God it has not led to danger and fatality," commented Home Secretary Blunk, who was not in the Chamber at the time. There was a certain wistfulness about his tone as he contemplated the fact that he could have been Vice-Prez at that very moment had the missile contained something toxic.
   The protester is reported to have had considerable time to plan his demonstration in view of the infrequency of the V-P's visits to the Commons. Meanwhile, civil liberties organizations are up in arms over the panic security measures being taken at Westminster. They feel that the measures infringe the fundamental right of the British citizen to hurl noxious objects at politicians who are making a bog of things.
   And let's face it, politicians are infinitely replaceable. When one falls, his body is trampled into the dust by the rush of wannabe successors. So it wouldn't be a great loss to the nation if everyone who happened to be in the chamber of the House of Commons was wiped out by missiles from the public gallery.

A Government Spokesman says:

"Although there are problems with printing and delivering voting packs for the June local and European elections, and more problems with the software for electronic scanning and counting, everything is going swimmingly.
   We are on time, on target and well within the budget after the latest revision of these parameters."

CONGRATULATIONS

are in order to :

Sete GibernauSete Gibernau for staying on his bike and winning his home grand prix after holding the lead for most of the race . The rain in Jerez was truly torrential all the way through and there was a river flowing across the track at one corner, which meant that every rider had to confront disaster there on every lap.
   Also to Valentino Rossi for staying on his bike when it did a bucking bronco act after the brakes locked, and finishing 4th.

k1Graham Dot for triumphing over Matthew Stevens to reach the final of the world snooker championships and proving to Mr. Stevens that no one with a hairstyle that silly deserves to prosper.

Scotish Claymoresthe Scottish Claymores for finally winning a match in the NFL Europe League. Their defence did a great job of keeping a win possible and the offence kept everyone in suspense until the last 13 seconds of their home match against Rhein Fire.
   All they have to do now is win every subsequent match on their schedule and they might just have a distant shot at a place in World Bowl 12.

British EurosportBritish Eurosport for showing the world snooker championship with fewer commercials and less time-wasting than the BBC. Snooker fans who have grown accustomed to spending half the night yelling, "Get on with it, you bastards!" at the Beeb's operation are desperately grateful for Eurosport's presence.

Arsenal FCArsenal FC for winning the Football League championship and also completing an unbeaten season in the top league – a feat not achieved since Preston North End did it in 1889.
    Arsenal's record for the 2003/4 season was Played 38, Won 26, Drawn 12, Lost 0. They finished the season with a 2-1 win at home against Leicester, who were a goal up a half-time.

Jarno TrulliJarno Trulli for winning the Monaco Grand Prix (his first win) in fine style from pole position; Young Button for finishing a very close 2nd; and Juan Montoya for finishing 4th after surviving a bonehead brake-warming manoeuvre by M. Schumacher, who crashed out behind the safety car in the tunnel and limped back to his garage as a 3-wheeler Ferrari.

Penny blackThe Royal Mail for turning a profit for the first time in 4 years – even if it was at the expense of all 15 of its delivery and performance targets, which are just arbitrary numbers dreamt up by the government, which misses (or shifts) its own targets all the time.

dead chicken
FOODY NEWS

Health scares? We got plenty!

k1Dairy products give you prostate cancer (but only if you're a bloke).

k2Vitamin pills interfere with the liver, increase the levels of 'bad cholesterol' and increase the risk of a heart attack. Vitamins C and E are the main baddies.

k3Ozone will be so much of a threat if we get a hot summer that everyone will have to stay indoors wearing a charcoal mask. Why? Because plants and trees release vast quantities of isoprene when heated above 35 deg.C. Isoprene is an excellent catalyst for the breakdown by sunlight of oxides of nitrogen in vehicle exhaust gases.
   Under EU law, the public has to be warned when the atmospheric ozone level exceeds 180 micrograms per cubic metre. The level reached 300 in parts of London last August. Anyone remember the government's warnings?

k1Fizzy drinks cause cancer of the gullet, according to researchers at the Tata Memorial hospital in India.

k2 The European Commission has ended the moratorium on Genetically Monstered foods under pressure from the US producers. So it is now officially okay to eat GM sweetcorn grown in the United States but it can't be grown in Europe.

k3It's official! Artificial colourings, preservatives and flavourings in children's snacks really do make them hyperactive.

k4Now, some good news! Brassicas – sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, swedes, mustard, horseraddish, etc. – can protect against colon cancer if consumed at least 2-3 times per week. And a daily aspirin prevents breast cancer.

k5Now, some not so good news! Tesco & Asda added to the labels for fruit and vegetables, the government propaganda that eating them can prevent cancer. But jobsworths for Shropshire County Council and Swindon Council are prosecuting supermarkets in their respective areas under the 1939 Cancer Act, which was introduced as a counterblast to quack cures, and 1996 food labelling regulations. The government has been too embarrassed to make a comment on the situation.

Huntley & Palmer's biscuitsHuntley & Palmer's biscuits are to make a comeback. The brand, founded in 1822, went downhill to extinction after being bought by a succession of multinational foody companies from the 1960s on. It has been revived by business partners Nigel McCrea and John Sandom, who have ambitions to revive all the traditional H&P favourites. They would also like to revive the famous tins, which have become collectors' items fetching as much as £50K at auction.

k6Nestlé are introducing low carbohydrate versions of KitKat bars and Rolos. Anyone mug enough to buy them will have to swallow a 400% price rise compared to the standard products.

LIKE ANYBODY CARES

British bloke retains world text-sending championship

FMDThe bloke held on to his crown by keying in the singularly pointless message: The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human. His 160 taps on the keys took just 67 seconds to execute.
KFO   The world champ later admitted that he spends most of the day sending pointless text messages to his buddies – something like 500 messages per week. [Isn't that tautology? Pointless text messages? Ed.]
   The guy's mobile phone company must really love him when it sends out the bills!

For the benefit of non-texters,
FMD ATA is an expression of incredulity. [F**k Me, Doris! Ain't That Amazing?]
IDK KFO is a standard message for pests. [I Don't (wish to) Know (that). Kindly F**k Off!]

Three cheers for spontaneous combustion!

Given that Brit Artists are largely unskilled labourers, incompetent embalmers and/or tedious sensationalists playing a 3-note samba on bad language, sexual matters and/or mockery of religion, no wonder true art lovers are feeling a whole lot better after the Great Fire of Leyton.
   But we can say one good thing about the demolished Brit Artists – at least they didn't make their junk fireproof!

No big pay day for Mandy

The Mandelson ship of state has hit the rocks again. Vice-Prez Bliar has decided that he's just too dodgy to be the UK's next European Commissioner. The Vice-Prez feels that after Neil Kinnock's total failure as European Vice-Prez In Charge Of Ending Corruption, appointing someone equally dodgy as Commissioner would turn the British voters off the EU even more.
   So why's V.P. Bliar looking at Chris Patten as his next choice for the Commissioner's job?

space news
SPACE NEWS

Job done for NASA's Mars Rovers!

Mars rover, 2004NASA's twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have finished their primary 90-day missions. Anything they do from now on is a bonus. Funding for an extended programme has been approved to the end of September. Component life, dust accumulation on the solar cells and decreasing sunlight strength will all contribute to the rovers grinding to a halt eventually.
   Opportunity ended the first week of May on the brink of 'Endurance' crater. Its operators are confident that it can drive down into the crater but they are trying to calculate whether the slopes are likely to be firm enough to let the rover drive out again. Spirit is heading for highlands named the Columbia Hills.
   As for the geology of Mars – the rovers' operators are getting excited about evidence of a 'wet' Mars but the advocates of a 'dry' Mars remain undismayed. Reaching a decision will probably have to wait until something bigger is sent to the Red Planet. Something which can drill holes a kilometre or so into the ground and find out what's down there.

Professor Colin PillingerThe Bad News: we don't know what went wrong
The Good News: we do have a scapegoat

The European Space Agency has completed its inquiry into the loss of the British Mars lander Beagle 2 on Christmas Day last year. Professor David Southwood, ESA's director of science, told a press conference: "We won't ever know for sure what went wrong." But even so, the loss of the probe will be blamed on poor management of the project.
   Professor Colin Pillinger of the Open University (left), the man behind the project is ticked off for spending too much time fund-raising. But if he hadn't raised the money, the lander would never have been built!
   The report also says there was too little testing of the airbags and parachute system. But if the Martian atmosphere was much warmer and thinner than expected – as NASA found with the Spirit rover 10 days later – all the testing in the world wouldn't have done Beagle 2 any good as its parachute/airbags wouldn't have been up to the job anyway.
   So a good summary of this report would be: "We have no idea what went wrong but we're going to make Professor Pillinger our scapegoat anyway."

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

Bill Gates as Dutch Uncle

Uncle Bill GatesThis has been a good month for illiterate bogus lottery emails from the Netherlands. The fraudsters are now claiming that their multi-million dollar prizes are donated by a committee of philanthropists which includes world's richest man Bill Gates.
   Oasis Lottery International has been a bit too quick off the mark in anticipating Vice-Prez Bliar's 'not compulsory but you have to have one' IDs cards as it asks for 'a photocopy of your ID for age verification' along with phone and fax numbers.
   Awed International Lotto gives away the scam in the first email by warning lucky winners that 'NON RESIDENCE of THE NETHERLANDS' (sic) will need 'an Affidavit of Lotto Claim/Court clearance certificate from the Court in the Netherlands prior to award payment'. This is alleged to be the policy of 'The Netherlands Gaming Board'. Getting the affidavit, or having a claim to a rival bogus lottery operator processed, will cost the lucky winner a big chunk of cash. But with millions on offer, the mugs aren't expected to care about parting with a few grand up-front.
   For the benefit of anyone wanting to read the full text of the above emails, they can be found in the Crooks In Action section of Jenson Farrago's website:
CLICK HERE to view them.

ART NEWS

Big bucks flying around at auction

No. 12, Jackson PollockGarcon a la pipe, Pablo Picasso

Jackson Pollock's drip painting "No. 12" [left, above] has been sold for $11.55million, which must have left the artist rotating in his grave while working out how much booze he could have bought with that level of loot. The purchaser got a much better bargain, and a far more interesting picture, than the headbanger who paid $104million for Picasso's pedestrian "Garcon a la pipe" [right, above] earlier in the month.
Romiley Art Gallery   Serious art lovers are invited to visit Romiley Art Gallery, which has an extensive collection of modern paintings (good ones like the one shown right, no rubbish!) as well as works from more traditional periods. Members of Romiley's thriving community of artists are usually on hand to supply enlightenment and high-quality pictures at reasonable prices.

ROBBING US BLIND NEWS

Freedom of information has a high price

It's all about the money!Stealth Tax #85 The Mugger is planning fees of £50-575 for material made available when the Freedom of Information Act comes into force in January 2005. The fees will be 666% to 958% higher than those given in the Bill which Vice-Prez Bliar and his cronies placed before Parliament.

Stealth Tax #86 A further £110 on Council Tax bills in the affected areas to pay for 'Two Jags' Prescott's regional assemblies.

A report compiled by the House of Commons Library has calculated that Brussels red tape has imposed costs of £25billion on British businesses in the last 5 years. Yet Vice-Prez Bliar is eager to let the Eurocrats cause even more havoc in his eagerness to get himself a top Eurojob after the British electorate gives him the thumbs down.

#The Ministry of Defence is spending £5.25billion of taxpayers' cash on 150 fighter aircraft from the US firm Lockheed-Martin. The project is a year behind schedule and some bright spark has just discovered that the Harrier-replacements are a ton and a half too heavy to operate from the 2 new aircraft carriers, which are being built for the Royal Navy. Fixing the problem will cost another £60million. Well, it's only taxpayers' cash, isn't it?
UpdateAfter too-heavy Harrier replacements and helicopters which can't fly in poor visibility, we now have a £20billion fleet of Eurofighters which can't fly in clouds because of wonky computers.

Vice-Prez Bliar wants clubs 'n' pubs, and their customers, to pay for the extra police needed to control violent binge drinkers. He also wants to keep pubs open all day to keep the taxes on drink and ciggies flowing into the coffers. It really is all about the money for New Labour.

Criminal News
CRIMINAL NEWS

The Sweeney Foils Heist of the Century

It was the Great Millennium Dome Diamond Robbery all over again. A gang of seasoned crooks turned up to bust £80million or so in currency and gold bullion out of a warehouse at Heathrow airport. Only the Flying Squad had been watching the bad guys for weeks and they turned out in force.
   The gang threatened warehouse staff with a mixture of guns, knives and various blunt instruments. But as they were making their getaway, armed police officers shot out the tyres of their white van and 6 of them went into the bag at the scene. 2 others hijacked a van and escaped. One of them was arrested after a chase but the eighth man was still at large on the day of the robbery attempt.
   The appeal following conviction of the Millennium Dome raiders was livened up by allegations that the judge had nodded off at times and that they had not received a fair deal. No doubt the present bunch are hoping to get a similarly dozy judge to give them a shot at getting out of gaol early.

k1The best cartoon about Abu Hamza's remand in custody until his lawyers have made themselves seriously rich at the taxpayer's expense was the one by Austin in TheGuardian for 2004/05/28. It shows 2 prisoners in a cell. One is holding a leaflet labelled 'Belmarsh Drama Society' and he's saying: "We can do Peter Pan this year!"

Real justice New Labour style

Worried about a big fine next time you're busted for being drunk and disorderly? Just tell the magistrates you blow most of your disposable income on lottery tickets, scratchcards, ciggies, booze (of course), a Sky subscription, clothes, your mobile and credit cards.
   All these things now have to be taken into consideration when magistrates work out what sort of 'affordable fine' a criminal can pay. In fact, if you're creative enough, the court might end up owing you money!

NEW SCIENCE

Rapid reality check required

It's a movie, stupid!The presenters of alleged TV news programmes have been asking various 'experts' if the premise behind the latest disaster movie is good or bad science.
   Wrong question, you idiots.
   You should be asking if the film entertains the audience and they go away feeling that they have received value for money. Films are intended to take an audience out of their boring lives for an hour or two and not necessarily provide education.

Spontaneous Combustion risk raised by Global Warming?

The fires which wiped out the historic Market Hall at Ashton under Lyne and the warehouse in Leyton, East London, housing Charles Saatchi's collection of modern junk might have a common cause. A new theory says that relatively small changes in ambient temperature due to global warming could produce a surprisingly large increase in the likelihood of sensitive materials suffering spontaneous combustion. Sounds like another headache for the insurance trade – and further big holes in their customers' wallets.

This Month's Garbage

The Garbage Ambulance-chasing 'human rights' lawyers trawling for business in Iraq and intending to screw the British taxpayer.

12½% of all British adults have been stalked or are being stalked right now

 John Scarlett's appointment as HoD of SIS. He's the guy who let the Downing Street Mafia sex up Vice-Prez Bliar's dodgy dossiers then allowed Alastair Campbell to put his (Scarlett's) name on claims such as the one that Iraq could deploy chemical and/or biological weapons in 4-5 minutes. Clearly a reward for his part in the Hutton Whitewash.

Sir Nige Casp's annual report on the NHS, which would have us believe that everything is going swimmingly and everyone who says different is wrong. 

Vice-Prez BliarVice-Prez Bliar saying, "I will quit if I ever think I have become an electoral liability." Like someone as self-deceiving as the Vice-Prez is ever going to think that!

"Buff" Hoon, the Minister for not reading Red Cross reports on alleged mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq. 

 Vice-Prez Bliar's Equality & Human Rights Commission, aka the Ministry of Compensation & for handing Taxpayers' Cash to Lawyers & the Unworthy.

The Home Office practice of warning illegals that they're about to be deported so that they can disappear before the heavies knock on their door. 

 Trade Sec. Pratty Hewitt pretending that a 'no' to the European Constitution would lead to the UK being chucked out of the club.

 
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