Week ending 05.09.05


Get off the train
Transport chiefs are urging people to reduce congestion at Covent Garden Tube station by using other forms of travel. Transport for London (TfL) says people can use the bus, National Rail or even the boat, to get to the popular West End area.

The campaign by TfL hopes to reduce the 55,000 people that use the station on Saturday and the 45,000 on weekdays. Covent Garden is the most heavily-used deep level station served solely by lifts on the Tube network.

The campaign, including a new leaflet, will encourage visitors to London to use all modes of transport and shows the quickest walking routes to Covent Garden from Holborn, Charing Cross and Embankment.

Is that the official answer to all London underground’s problems, if it gets too much shut it down. Perhaps they should introduce a quota system where those whose train tickets are even numbers travel on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while the others travel the rest of the week.


Saddam Hussein has confessed to crimes during his regime – including executions – and deserves to die, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said. Mr Talabani, who has a record of opposing the death penalty, told Iraqi state TV a judge “was able to extract confessions” from the ousted leader.

“Saddam deserves a death sentence 20 times a day because he tried to assassinate me 20 times,” he said.

What is the likelihood that this is true, Saddam Hussein just giving up that sort of information, just before he goes not trial for his life? It looks like Saddam’s  old minister for information during the war has found new employment advising the Iraq president what to say.

Some might even say that he is trying to prejudice the trial by making those comments. I mean really, being killed twenty times a day, what kind of rational President says that?


Barbara Bush
The mayor of New Orleans has ordered the forced evacuation of people refusing to leave the city, amid fears of serious threats to their health. Mayor Ray Nagin said all citizens except those involved in the rescue effort should leave immediately.

“There are toxins in the water, gas leaks… We are fighting at least four fires… It is not safe,” he said. There are fears water contaminated by dead bodies, raw sewage and rusting vehicles could pose a health risk. Fuel and chemicals leaking from flooded vehicles have created a thin oil slick floating on the water.

This is an interesting story because it coincides with Barbara Bush, George Bush’s mother saying in a radio interview that Hurricane Katrina victims in Houston, Texas were “underprivileged anyway” and life in the Astrodome sports arena is “working very well for them,” The former first lady Barbara Bush continued “Almost everyone I’ve talked to says ‘we’re going to move to Houston,'”

Well we can certainly see why George Bush has been so slow to act, and then provided so little when he did. Too little, far too late.


Sinking feeling
An all-star charity concert to raise money for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina is being organised in the US. Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast will be held on 9 September to appeal for donations.

The as-yet-unnamed stars will pay tribute to victims and rescuers who worked in the stricken area. The event is being put together by producer Joel Gallen, who was behind a similar event aired in the days after the 11 September attacks on the US.

Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn, 45, went to New Orleans to rescue children stranded by the floodwaters. But the small boat the actor was piloting sprang a leak and began taking in water seconds after launch, leaving Penn and his entourage to paddle back.

R&B singer Macy Gray also joined the ranks of celebrities trying to help those affected by flying to Houston, Texas, where up to 200,000 victims are being housed in shelters and the city’s Astrodome stadium.

Now in fairness, we should not laugh. Let us give Sean Penn the benefit of the doubt, let us assume that it was not a publicity stunt and that he was trying to save all the stranded children in a 7ft by 4ft boat, which conveniently sprung a leak before he and his large entourage, who themselves had boats, could help one child. At least he was seen trying to do something….right?


Small work
Dwarfs in the southern Indian state of Kerala have come together to fight for their rights. The Kerala Small Men Association has 300 members across the state and is demanding what it calls “special recognition” from the government.

A recent regional film “Adbhutha Dweep” or Wonder Island, which cast 300 dwarfs, has been a huge hit and is thought to have inspired action. The men want job quotas, free bus rides and other facilities.

Don’t tell me there is a job shortage in Kerala. And there used to be so much call for human cannon balls. I guess they all missed out on the one film this year for which they had stature.

My partner and I know Kerala quite well and this problem is no small fry. There is little to be done at the best of times, caused by an under-grown economy. Kerala’s economy is dwarfed by that of Goa.

Sharia law
Protests have been held in cities across Canada aimed at stopping Ontario province from adopting sharia-based law to settle Muslim family disputes.  Ontario is considering a report which recommends that it allow sharia religious arbitration for issues such as divorce and child custody.

Opponents say the proposed arbitration process will violate women’s rights. Approval would make Ontario the only Western jurisdiction to adopt a form of sharia arbitration. The demonstration outside the Ontario legislature was the focal point for several protests across Canada.

Sharia-based laws would be similar to faith-based tribunals already permitted by the Canadian province for Catholics and Jews to use the principles of their faiths to settle family disputes. The government insists that the process would only have its roots in sharia and that the equal rights of women would continue to be protected under Canadian law.

This is an interesting case which if taken to its full conclusion would have interesting consequences for Adulterers under the Jewish law, than would be stoned in the street. Under the catholic religion all thieves would be hanged, and under Sharia law the same thief would have their hand removed. Justice is served.

Microsoft plans to make its next generation games console, the Xbox 360, as difficult as possible to hack. The 360 will have security built directly into the hardware, said Xbox engineer Chris Satchell. Fans have modified the first Xbox to turn it into a media centre, upgrade the hard drive or allow it to play imported games.

Modifying a console is illegal in the UK as it can be used to get around anti-piracy measures on the Xbox. Consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation 2 can be modified by chips that are soldered to a console’s main circuit board to bypass copyright controls.

The chips allow people to play games purchased legitimately in other countries, as well as running backup copies or bootleg discs.

Microsoft are ‘having a laugh’ if they feel that they can stop fans hacking the Xbox360. I am a little surprised that they would want to make it so difficult. Fan Developed the Xbox into more than just a games machine. Fans made the Xbox the centre of their home entertainment system by giving it added function. If I was Microsoft, I would not bite the hand that feeds me.

Green and pleasant land
England faces losing most of its real countryside in a generation if current trends continue, a report claims. The Campaign to Protect Rural England’s document says rural traffic is getting heavier, bird species are dying out and farm workers are declining in number.

The group wants ministers to curb land development and to encourage local food and commodity procurement. The government says it does not accept the “doomsday scenario”, saying the countryside is “attractive”. The CPRE report – Your Countryside, Your Choice – opens with a portrait of England in 2035, when the countryside has all but disappeared.

The government has chosen to ignore the experts, nothing unusual there. Perhaps it is because the farming lobby does not have the teeth that it once did. I bet that John Craven will have something to say about all this.

BB Birth
A pregnant woman on the Dutch Big Brother will not be allowed to give birth live on TV, authorities ruled. Restrictions on the hours the baby will be able to appear on screen once it has been born have also been put in place.

Contestant Tanja joined the series seven months pregnant, and permission had to be granted for the baby to appear under child labour laws. Show producers said: It’s not a show about birth, but about people in a social process.”

There are people out there that did not want to see there own children being born, let alone someone else’s child. Has entertainment gone to far when watching a mother give birth counts as entertainment?

MBA Monks
Eighteen Buddhist monks in China are pausing in their spiritual pursuits to concentrate on more worldly issues. They have joined business classes in temple management at Jiaotong university in Shanghai, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Their study will include corporate strategy and religious product marketing. Much of China’s Buddhist heritage has been rebuilt by the Communist Party in the last 25 years to attract tourists.

I think that it is a great idea. I can not think of a more tranquil environment in which to study, plus you get ‘on the job’ training. It is a bit of luck that they are not Shaolin monks, you do not want to be the person to give them a bad grade.

Farmers in the poor Chinese province of Shaanxi have been stealing oil from a state-owned pipeline, and carrying it off in large plastic bags. The state controlled China Daily said farmers were making $1,000 a month from the scam, which is partly being driven by China’s rocketing demand for fuel.

The farmers, based near Yan’an and Yulin cities, have been selling the stolen oil to small refineries. The paper said their plastic bags, when full, weighed 50kg (8 stone).

One of the farmers involved told the paper that local people had not benefited from the region’s recent oil development. “Because of a decrease in our farmland, we have no land for crops and have no way to get money out of the land,” he said.

We they certainly found one way of getting money out of the land. I wonder what they do, did they drill a hole and attach a tap, or maybe they went for the wine cork option.

Cover up

MEPs are to vote on Wednesday on a law that would make employers responsible for workers’ exposure to sunlight. Critics say the law would oblige bosses to treat workers like children – to order bricklayers to wear shirts and make barmaids cover up their cleavage.

But supporters say it will help protect people who work outside from the risk of contracting skin cancer. The law is principally designed to limit workers’ exposure to lasers, welding torches or ultra-violet lamps. However, the European Commission, which drafted the law, decided to include sunlight, with the backing of most or all member states.

Surely these laws already exist. Workmen on sites sign a document saying that hey will follow the companies rules, and one of those rules is about protective and modest clothing. The rule is not enforced which is why we have bare chested men on sites.

As for barwomen, why are they uncovered anyway? It is not like they are lifting heavy equipment, thus getting hot and sweaty. It do not need to see their breasts to by a drink so put them away.

Hanging out the washing only to witness a downpour five minutes later has long been accepted as one of life’s little bugbears. But a final year student at Brunel University has come up with a weather-predicting clothes peg he hopes could solve the issue.

The peg holder can sense changes in air pressure and send electrical signals to metal strips on household pegs. If rain is forecast within the next half hour, the peg will lock itself.

The lock-down prevents the washing being hung on the line. It could prove a more scientific gauge than the time-honoured method of assessing the amount of cloud in the sky directly above the washing line.

Surely this also means that if the clothes are on the line and the pegs lock due to rain, you can not get your clothes off the line. What if the washing line is outside, but under cover

Bottles of limited edition designer HP Sauce went on sale at Harrods at four times the usual price. The first 500 of the special bottles of HP sauce, customised by British designer Paul Smith, went on sale on Monday and sold out within hours.

Produced at the company’s factory in Birmingham each £2.95 bottle is numbered and comes with its own certificate of authentication. Some 10% of the proceeds from the sale will go to the baby charity Tommy’s.

Andre Dang, press and product manager for Food Hall and Restaurants at Harrods, said he had been told one bottle had already appeared for sale on eBay. “The first 500 arrived yesterday and people travelled from far and wide to buy them,” he added.

“We are expecting the next delivery very soon but will have to limit the sale to one bottle per customer.”

If the first 50 arrived today, then they are clearly expecting more, which begs the question ‘just how limited is this sauce?’ And why is Paul Smith designing sauce? I know that that a lot of us end up wearing sauce on our shirts but still…

No pain…
US experts say they have strong scientific proof that mind over matter works for relieving pain. Positive thinking was as powerful as a shot of morphine for relieving pain and reduced activity in parts of the brain that process pain information.

The Wake Forest University researchers say their findings show that by merely expecting pain to be less it will be less. Their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Robert Coghill and his team studied 10 normal, healthy volunteers who had a heat simulator applied to their legs while their brains were being scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The heat simulator was used to produce pain and fMRI was used to map brain activity. Before subjects underwent brain imaging, they learned to expect mild, moderate, or severe painful heat stimuli following different signals. None of the stimuli were hot enough to cause burns or damage the skin.

During brain imaging, a small percentage of the severe stimuli were incorrectly signalled as moderate stimuli to create expectations of decreased pain. All 10 volunteers reported less pain when they expected lower levels of pain.

These expectations reduced reports of pain by more than 28% – similar to an analgesic dose of the potent painkiller morphine. At the same time, activity in areas of the brain important to both sensory and emotional processing of pain decreased. These areas included the primary somatosensory cortex, the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex.

So the next time that you break your arm or cut your leg open just remember the phrase “that did not hurt as much as I thought it would” and you will be fine.

Pink cat
A west Devon couple are baffled by how their nine-year-old white cat turned pink after a weekend stroll. Brumas, who was named after the first polar bear to be born at London Zoo, went out for a walk on Friday near his home in Bratton Clovelly.

But when he returned later, his white fur had turned pink, astonishing owners Philip and Joan Worth. The couple took the cat to their vet in Launceston, Cornwall, who said he was in good health despite his new colour.

What is the matter with people? I do not understand why this is a story. People act as if they have never seen a pink pussy before.

Death by chocolate
German sabotage agents developed an exploding bar of chocolate and what was probably the first shoe-bomb during WWII. Photographs of these and other devices, held in the files of the security service MI5, have been cleared for release by the National Archives.

The devices were intercepted by British intelligence in various locations, including Turkey, but there is no evidence that any such bombs were used – and certainly not in the UK. These ingenious objects got no further than four explosive cans of peas, which were found on German agents who landed in Ireland by small boat and claimed that they hoped to get them into Buckingham Palace. Details of this plot were reported two years ago.

The latest pictures show how a bomb could be hidden inside a chocolate bar and how explosives could be disguised as the soles of a shoe

I have to say they would have got me, as everyone knows that chocolate is my weakness. But I do not understand why they did not just make the chocolate poisonous. It is quicker, less noisy, and would not leave such a mess.

Fake Spook
A former barman who posed as a spy to trick his victims out of almost £1m has been jailed for life. Robert Hendy-Freegard, 34, of Blyth, Nottinghamshire, persuaded his victims they were being hunted by the IRA.

London’s Blackfriars Crown Court heard they endured years of poverty and carried out bizarre “missions” for him over a 10-year period. He was convicted in June of theft and kidnapping-by-fraud. After the trial, police said he was an “evil” conman.

Hendy-Freegard used the cash he took from his seven victims to fund a luxury life of top-of-the-range cars, designer suits, expensive meals, and five-star holidays in Brazil and elsewhere. The former barman and car salesman, who worked at a pub in Newport, Shropshire, when the con began in 1992, told the victims he was an MI5 agent and that they were being hunted by the IRA.

Five of his victims were women, including a solicitor, a psychologist and a recently married PA who ended up leaving her husband and sleeping on park benches, surviving on a slice of Mars Bar a day. John Atkinson, a student befriended by Hendy-Freegard, handed over more than £300,000 to him.

This sounds like a storyline from ‘True Lies’ It just goes to show that there is truly “one born every minute”. If he were a spy, surely he would not tell anyone. Are people so starved of excitement that they are willing to believe stories like these?

“Knowledge is power…because being stupid sucks”


~ by jeditopcat on 8 November, 2008.

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