* Posts by Mike Richards

3615 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Defra moves to protect UK honeybees

Mike Richards

The power of RTD

Vanishing bees get mentioned on Doctor Who on a Saturday, and a government taskforce (presumably complete with helicopters, thrilling logo and fully-reclinable secretaries) is on the case by Tuesday.

Now that's impressive!

If he puts a line about global warming into the next episode, we should have that licked by next Thursday.

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Apprentice contestant to offer Zeppelin trips above London

Mike Richards

@Ian Ferguson

Yup, Zeppelins were used to bomb the UK, France and Belgium between 1915 and 1918.

They were a huge propaganda success - the thought of Germans attacking the enemy capital was wildly popular in Germany and produced near panic in the UK. But the raids were little more than a nuisance in terms of the damage they did - about 500 people were killed in Britain by Zeppelins throughout the war.

The biggest problem for the Germans was their navigation, they rarely found their intended targets and even when the did, precision bombing was impossible. The Zeppelins were soon outclassed by improved planes with incendiary bullets, forcing them to fly even higher which made them even less useful.

Perhaps surprisingly, by the end of the war bomb loads were in the tonnes - far higher than the aircraft of the time. But the cost of the Zeppelins and their fragility made them obsolete as the Germans, including the Zeppelin company, developed long-range multi-engined bomber planes.

Zeppelins did do a bit of reconnaissance for the German fleet and for the army over the Western front, but incredibly no one seems to have thought of using them in association with U-boats to find Allied convoys and direct attacks.

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London Olympics drives dash for terrestrial HDTV

Mike Richards

"People are used to buying new boxes now"

Says it all doesn't it? Bugger upgradability, people will buy a new box.

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Plugs pulled on satellite paedo tracking after pilot flops

Mike Richards

@Ian

"I wrote to my MP when the ludicrous proposal was first made, and got a patronising ``experts say it'll work'' response from the hilariously named Paul Goggins. Nice to see I was right and they were wrong."

Go on, write again asking if he'll apologise for misleading you.

Writing to MPs is the last legal type of bear-baiting allowed in this country. Enjoy it before it's banned.

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Global-warming scientist: It's worse than I thought

Mike Richards

@Kevin Patrick Crowley

'Check out the Bakken Oil Reserves'

Yup lots of oil in the Bakken formation, it's already producing oil in South Saskachewan. Sadly the porosity of the Bakken rock is generally very low - good oil fields have very high porosities which allow oil to accumulate between rock grains and move through the rock. The lower the porosity, the lower the amount of recoverable oil. Highly productive fields generally have porosities in the 20 - 25%. The exceptional Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia has 35% porosity; by contrast Bakken in down around 3 - 4%.

The numbers about Bakken are derived from mathematical models with only isolated drill logs and production figures. It's hard to say how much of the oil that could have been formed in Bakken has migrated into traps where it can be exploited; how much remains locked up in useless non-interconnected pores and how much has been lost through faulting or pyrolisis. Oil geologists are very wary about citing figures like these because there is a long and fabulous history of new elephant fields proving to be entirely dry.

The conservative industry figures for recoverable oil in Bakken, add about 10% to the known US reserves. These figures might be improved with horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing, but they would not come anywhere near the headline figure of 413 billion barrels.

There's far more recoverable energy in Montana's enormous coal fields, though exploiting them would be an ecological catastrophe for the American west and the rest of the World.

Mine's the one with the Silva compass and the geological hammer in the pocket.

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EU sets cellphone users loose in aircraft

Mike Richards

Simple solution

If the spokesdroid really thinks "In-flight mobile phone services can be a very interesting new service especially for those business travellers who need to be ready to communicate wherever they are, wherever they go."

Then put the picocell in £20K wanker-class and a nice thick bulkhead between those tossers and the rest of us travelling as veal.

(Unless of course I'm one day invited to turn left on entering the plane, in which case I want the upgrade to be accompanied by the sort of Zen-like calm needed to answer questions like 'what is the sound of one mobe being rammed up an EU commissioner?')

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FIPR: ICO gives BT 'green light for law breaking' with Phorm

Mike Richards

Not a lawyer - but...

BT says the trials in 2006 and 2007 were legaland were not in breach of RIPA or the DPA, as a consequence they did not need to inform the customers nor amend the terms and conditions of the service.

HOWEVER, before WebWank goes live, BT says it must amend the terms and conditions of the service. Presumably to protect themselves from the wrath (hah!) of the DPA and RIPA.

So which is it? Legal or illegal?

Well my DPA request is in the post to BT. I'm awaiting their response with interest.

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Top cop: e-crime is the new drugs

Mike Richards
Coat

Clarification needed

"Some [UK police] forces don't have a high-tech crime unit at all," he said. "Those that do spend 90 per cent of their time on child pornography."

Investigating or downloading?

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BT: 'We did not let anyone down over Phorm... it was not illegal'

Mike Richards

Pro-forma to BT for anyone wanting to make a DPA request

If any of you are BT customers, feel free to adapt this to your own purposes.

I'm not a lawyer, I'm sure others could do better, but if you're wondering how to start a DPA request here's a start.

It'll help if you have your BT account code. And don't forget you'll need to write a cheque for £10 to cover processing costs.

I'm secretly hoping they say they can't tell me any of the information because then questions are raised how they recruited and kept track of those people in the trial and where that information has gone. All of which should interest the Information Commissioner greatly

Data Protection Manager,

Box 17,

BT Centre,

81 Newgate Street,

London.

EC1A 7AJ

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am a customer of BT Total Broadband and I am gravely concerned by the revelation that your company may have been illegally intercepting my communications. During 2006 and 2007, BT and a third party, Phorm, held secret trials of targeted advertising software involving many thousands of BT customers.

Please send me the information which I am entitled to under section 7(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998, informing me:

• if I have been unknowingly involved in any trials of Phorm software during 2006 and 2007

• the dates of any trials to which I was subscribed without my permission;

• what data was intercepted during those trials, and;

• to whom this data was transmitted.

Please would you also advise me of the logic involved in any automated decisions taken by you about me pursuant to section 7(1) (d) of the Data Protection Act 1998.

If you are unable to provide the information requested above, I will refer this failure to the Office of the Information Commissioner, so that they may investigate further.

As required under the Data Protection Act I have enclosed a cheque for £10 to cover any processing charges. This should enable you to complete this request within the stated period of 40 days.

If you do not normally handle these requests for your organisation, please pass this letter to the Data Protection Officer for BT Total Broadband or another appropriate officer.

Yours faithfully

[YOUR NAME HERE]

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Mike Richards

Just filed a DPA request...

...asking BT to disclose all information they have regarding my involvement (or otherwise) in the Phorm trials.

The following paragraph mentions I won't be satisfied if they say they don't have that information, in which case I will make a formal complaint to the DP Registrar.

The one after that tells them that if they confirm I was in the trial I will consider all legal options under RIPA 2000.

So anyone else DPAing BT's ass?

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Blu-ray Xbox 360 to be sold at a loss?

Mike Richards

Money better spent...

...would be for Microsoft to invest some serious money in raising the build quality of this wretched console.

Mine's just back from the all-to-familiar RRoD repair and it's already developed a rattle like a fan is improperly seated or is sticking. So I guess in a few weeks it'll die on me, then it's back to the repair shop.

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Child protection project hit by delays

Mike Richards
Coat

Simpler solution

Get all the kids to put all their information on Facebook. They want to do it and they'll tell you everything you want - and so much more. That's the sharing bit of the equation and the government hasn't had to spend a penny.

But it gets better!

When they get the inevitable 'do you want to see some puppies' IM, the precious little snowflakes can call the Home Office approved paedosquad number at the top of the screen - so that's the child protection bit taken care of, *AND* it shows joined-up government in action!

Mine's the one with £10 million of consultancy fees in the pockets.

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UK.gov demands 999 ads on social networking sites

Mike Richards

Okay did this get held over from yesterday?

'It also found that 34 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds were happy to give out sensitive personal details including their mobile number and, or, email addresses.'

So the New Labour Net Nanny is appalled that millions of people are sending personal information to unaccountable organisations where that data might be misused, lost or stolen?

Imagine Jacqui Smith's reaction if someone suggested that it would soon be compulsory for people to hand personal information to an unaccountable organisation where that data might be misused, lost or stolen!

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Fixing the UK's DAB disaster

Mike Richards

Graph lies

The graph does *not* show a failing format; it shows a slowing rate of adoption - sales are continuing to grow but at a slower rate. There are a number of reasons, it could have been a technology that matured relatively rapidly and can't grow into a mass-market because the cost of receivers is noticeably higher than that for analogue sets, or it could be failing in the sense no one wants DAB at any price. But that graph proves nothing.

I have plenty of other problems with DAB, but to claim evidence based on that graph is misleading on a scale Alistair Campbell would be proud of.

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Blighty's Museum of Computing forced to go mobile

Mike Richards
Flame

Funding...

You just know if this had been a third-rate Italian knock-off sculpture of a sub-par Roman interpretation of a lost Greek original picked up by the syphilitic elder son of an 18th Century nobleman during a wine, poetry and all-you-can-eat shagging tour of Europe [deep breath]; then the know-nothing likes of Tessa Jowell and the great-and-the-good kleptocracy at the top of the arts world would have willingly blown ten million quid of public money to preserve 'an essential bedrock of British culture'.

Perhaps if we can show that a *BRITISH* BBC Micro was used to formulate the first foetid nugget of totalitarian policy at the Home Office, they'd consider computers to be 'an essential bedrock of British culture'?

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Assyrian clay tablet points to 'Sodom and Gomorrah' asteroid

Mike Richards

Sodom and Gomorrah

I love the fact a complete lack of archaeological evidence for either city ever having existed, doesn't get in the way of a media-friendly theory about their destruction. A shame they didn't go so far as to explain the halification of Lot's wife, but perhaps that's a follow up paper.

BTW. We all know about what was meant to be happening in Sodom, but what the hell was going on in Gomorrah?

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Jules Verne creeps up on ISS

Mike Richards

Jules Verne?

One of the greatest imaginations ever and his name is given to a cargo truck?

Couldn't we call it the L Ron Hubbard and celebrate each time it's consigned to fiery oblivion?

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Get your German interior minister's fingerprint here

Mike Richards

Don't count a victory just yet

Because if this does defeat current fingerprint readers, the companies will simply wail loudly and apply for more money from the public teat. Biometrics have become so much of an article of faith with the UK government that they can't be seen to lose face - bottomless amounts of taxpayer pounds will be made available to any multibillion pound company who needs the cash.

The security lobby is today's military-industrial complex - not that that's gone away. Hmmmmm Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the security lobby is the bastard child of the military-industrial complex and David Blunkett.

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Want to get into 10 Downing Street? Get a Lithuanian ID card

Mike Richards

Of course this would never have happened...

...if we had ID cards - oh hold on, something's wrong there.

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Botanist sues to stop CERN hurling Earth into parallel universe

Mike Richards

Credit where credit's due

An American has noticed what can be colloquially called 'the rest of the World'.

And it's thrilling to see commaed geography back in action 'Generva, Switzerland' - bless. The latest in a veritable Whicker of glamorous destinations, 'Paris, France', 'Venice, Italy' and everyone's favourite 'London, England'. Though it really needs a bit of stock footage for full effect - possibly a cuckoo clock or a vault filled with Nazi gold*.

*That's for Generva, Switzerland obviously; not Paris, France or London, England**.

** which can only be summed up by a consumptive Julie Andrews in a bowler hat.

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Send your loved one's ashes to the Moon for $10k

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Did Neil Armstrong et al bring their poo poos back with them or leave them behind?'

Worryingly, I know the answer to this one.

After rendezvousing back in orbit, all the trash and dirty nappies were loaded into the lunar module which was then crashed into the Moon for the benefit of geophysicists* and their seismographs.

* Children the lot of them.

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Mike Richards

@Matthew

We're pretty damned sure there's no life on the Moon, nor has there ever been. The US and USSR both returned samples from the surface and we have a large collection of lunar meteorites, which (amongst many other fascinating bits of geochemistry*) have one thing in common - they're completely anhydrous - there is no water on the Moon, either on the surface or in the minerals***, so no water for life. The killer temperatures and solar radiation would also do for organic chemistry.

And before anyone jumps on the story that bacteria were found on the Moon during the Apollo 12 mission to the Ocean of Storms...

Apollo 12 landed right next to the abandoned Surveyor 3 lander. The two astronauts took samples from Surveyor to see how it had withstood 18 months of radiation, heating, cooling and micrometeorite bombardment. When they were brought back to Earth, spores were found on some of the insulation. These were cultivated and found to belong to Streptococcus. For a long time it was believed that the spores had set when a lab technician assembling Surveyor had sneezed on the instrumentation, and that they had survived their exposure to space.

HOWEVER, this is now disregarded. The samples were not placed in biological isolation on their journey back from the Moon or on their way to the lab and it is far more likely they were contaminated on the way back to NASA. And experiments on the same species where they are exposed to freeze/thaw/dry cycles like those on the lunar surface always results in dead bugs.

* if you're a geochemist**

** guilty as charged

*** there *MAY* be some superficial ice at the Lunar South Pole carried by comets, although the evidence is somewhat patchy.

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T5 opening turns into Airplane 3.0

Mike Richards

Gets worse...

A friend who's trying to fly BA out of Terminal 5 just sent me a message saying that all check-in has been suspended.

Bodes well for Day 1 of the Olympics don't you think?

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First permitted in-flight mobile call made

Mike Richards

Reminds me of an IT joke

A passenger is sitting in an airliner using his laptop, and a message appears on his screen:

'Bluetooth: new device found: Airbus A310'

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Transgender man prepares to give birth

Mike Richards

Good luck to them...

...and get an agent with Channel 4 on speed-dial, they're always in need of new shock doc docs.

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UK's biggest meteorite impact rocked Scotland

Mike Richards

@The Prevaricator @Slaine

Silverpit is still not confirmed as an impact crater (and probably won't be unless someone stumps up the readies to drill it). There are problems with it being an impact structure because it doesn't resemble anything else on Earth - multiring craters such as those seen on the Moon and the Galilean moons of Jupiter are usually orders of magnitude larger than Silverpit.

There is a plausible alternative hypothesis that it is nothing more than a collapse caused by the withdrawal of the underlying Zechstein salt deposits.

@Slaine

Some of the reports are putting this as a 145 gigatonne explosion, it would have thrown enough crap into the air to darken the skies across the entire Northern Hemisphere, so yes, the good burghers of Inverness would have had plenty to worry about.

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Hutton: UK must become world No 1 in nuclear power

Mike Richards

Another example of joined up thinking

Hutton being a minister in the government that just flogged off state-owned BNFL's Westinghouse reactor-building business to Toshiba in return for a quick buck. So rather than the taxpayer (finally) getting some money out of BNFL, we're all going to have to pay to import technology we once owned.

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Virgin taps Boeing for 787 compensation

Mike Richards

@Edwin

Actually it's the pilot's decision whether he or she can fly the plane with a failed system. Some things (such as an inoperative engine) automatically rule out a take-off, but a plane can still be rostered if a suitably redundant component has failed.

If planes were grounded for not being in 100% working order, the airlines would have failed long ago.

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China unbans the Beeb

Mike Richards

Putting money on...

...the service being blocked the day after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games when the Chinese government don't have to try and play nice any more.

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Religious MPs get free vote on hybrid embryos

Mike Richards

Extraordinary

The likes of Ruth Kelly and Des Browne were in the Cabinet that voted for war on Iraq and were expected to toe the government line, but when it comes to this all of a sudden their consciences are paramount.

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ICO queries Heathrow T5's huge fingerprint scam scan

Mike Richards

@Graham Dawson

More likely the culprit will be BAA who regard the whole airplane malarkey as getting in the way of turning airports into shopping malls.

Haven't you noticed that the ever-earlier time you need to turn up at the airport and the curious absence of seating in the departure lounge leaves you all the more time to mooch around BAA's crappy, overpriced shops?

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BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

Mike Richards

Isn't the BBC Micro just a synonym

for 'middle class'?

Yeah after all these years I'm still embittered and jealous of the owners of these lovely machines.

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BBC races away with five-year F1 rights deal

Mike Richards
Flame

Undisclosed amount

How the hell is the BBC allowed to refuse to say how much they pay for people pottering around in motorised fag packets and wankers like Jonathan Ross? We all pay into their budget, it's only reasonable to know where it's going.

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Famous Five film lined up

Mike Richards

It gets better

The BBC article is either a: the funniest thing you've ever read, or b: the raping of your childhood.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7306752.stm

Now am I just being unduly cynical or do they all look more than a little like the cast of Scooby Doo?

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Mike Richards

Anyone else thinking of Thunderbirds the Movie?

In other breaking news;

Kirrin Bay is now Kirrinatoga, California!

They all have superpowers!

Everyone enjoys lashings of Coca Cola at the local McDonalds!

Timmy's a robot!

George's dad is a scientist working for an evil maniac in the secret volcano lair on Kirrin Island!

The American kid saves the day!

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V-22 Osprey combo-copter hits fresh tech snags

Mike Richards

Is it some rule in America?

That anything, no matter how small has got to have a flag-waving-salute-the-stars-and-stripes-gorge-rising patriotic theme?

'Osprey's AE1107C "Liberty" turboshafts'

Dear god in heaven above. What will I do when my MkIII "Iwo Jima" bezel gromit fails?

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Ofcom says yes on more TV ads

Mike Richards

Because American advertising is so popular

If this goes through, buy shares in PVR manufacturers. TiVo took off in the States when customers were told they could skip the adverts.

BTW. These regulations for seven minutes per hour - are they actually enforced? Watching Channel 4 at prime time it seems about double that when you include all the programme trailers, what's coming next, now on Film Four, oooh aren't we great we made Four Weddings and a Funeral half a lifetime ago, if you missed this then catch the repeat of the news on Channel 4 + pi, don't miss tonight's celebrity death shagfest live on E4...

And don't get me started on the cable channels.

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Mega-mortuary creaks open its doors in Westminster

Mike Richards

Other purpose

It could be used to store a large number of New Labour's backbench zombie army within easy lurching distance of Parliament for when they're needed to vote through a particularly gruesome piece of lorranorder legislation.

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Robo spy-zeppelin prototype in test flight

Mike Richards

Oh the humanity!

Is curiously absent.

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Phorm agrees to independent inspection of data pimping code

Mike Richards

There's one lot we haven't heard from yet

Try as I might, I can't find the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to browse free.

BT and Phorm claim there are untold millions of users who bending over, positively gagging to be pimped to the armpits.

But they're like Tony and George's weapons in Iraq - strangely elusive. In fact the harder you look for them, the more insubstantial they seem to be. The BT forums are in meltdown with customers outraged about WebWise; the same story over at Virgin and TalkTalk. Their support staff are being inundated by customers thirsting for the blood of Phorm.

But not a person who wants this on their system.

Has anyone spotted a pimpee in the wild? Perhaps the Reg could offer a prize for the first sighting?

Best be quick, the way things are going, Phorm won't be worth jack by the end of the month - not unless they can salvage their share price by merging with a classier outfit like thailadyboysluts.com

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Brown: Jack Bauer spook horde to tackle terrorism

Mike Richards

We're twice as safe as last year

But we still need ID cards and a whole lot more repression?

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ICO to focus on reducing risk, not enforcement

Mike Richards

Can but dream

"He also asked for the power to put an immediate stop to data processing by any organisation that he thought was "seriously unlawful""

In breaking news, the British government has been closed down by the Information Commissioner for repeated abuses of information technology, and is not expected to reopen. Reports that the Home Secretary is being dragged by members of Liberty to a small, portable gallows erected on Tower Hill cannot yet be confirmed.

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Captain Cyborg plans to milk you, human scum

Mike Richards

So he's back

I was getting worried because recent BBC IT programmes had started featuring the transatlantic swivel-eyed cyber-nutter Ray Kurzweil. He comes across like a character from the first draft of a Charles Stross novel, but rejected as being a little too extreme.

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Facebook says occupied territories are Israel

Mike Richards

@Anonymous coward

'How about that, we call Gaza 'Lesotho Palestine' and the West Bank 'Swaziland Palestine'. '

Hmmm I like the idea, but it's not quite accurate - you really want something more like the old bantustans where the Afrikaaners coralled the indigenous people without proper housing, resources or employment.

Since the names Bophuthatswana and QwaQwa are now up for grabs, it's be useful to rebrand the Occupied Territories as such and remind people that apartheid is alive and well in the Middle East.

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Brainchipped flesh-cloak cyborg bug-bug passes milestone

Mike Richards

I see the genius of this plan

Osama bin Laden's credibility will take a tumble when his latest Al-Jazeera blockbuster features him in moth-eaten rags.

It's genius when you think about it.

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Scotland Yard criminologist: DNA-print troublemaker kids

Mike Richards

Announcing e-phrenology.com

Okay who's up for creating a start-up?

The pitch is that parents / social workers / the rozzers can send in pictures of kids and we'll use a biometric / neural net / [insert cool tech name here] approach to examine the shape of their skull and categorise the little horrors into one of a number of fields.

Within moments, any child can be tagged for life as a good citizen or criminal scum.

I think we should get a top-notch board of executive directors including Gary Bushell and at least one former Home Secretary. The whole thing can be marketed with a charming animated Artful Dodger 'Oi'd have been on the straight an' narrow if that nice Mister Blunkett had felt me bumps!'

The next stage, a huge Home Office contract under their 'Building an Orwellian Tomorrow' outreach scheme.

So who's in?

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Lonely Paris Hilton seeks new best friend

Mike Richards

@ Jonathan

Actually of your three options I think I'd rather have my legs chewed off by the mosquitoes than be dragged into the latest Paris freakshow.

Hmmm do you think we could all club together and vote Lester into the show?

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Al-Qaeda seeks geek fanatics for Jihoo!

Mike Richards

Just a thought...

...could this move to televisual perfection be our best hope of finding Osama bin Laden?

After all, if the World's favourite terrorists have suddenly become more professional, then they must be employing qualified media developers. (How the Taliban handle the copious nose candy requirements of these people must remain something of a mystery).

Which means they must have advertised.

And adverts have return addresses for the CVs and application forms.

Ergo, we can close down al Qaeda by reading the Guardian's Media section.

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Security firms split over Phorm classification

Mike Richards

@ Geoff Mackenzie

'Or does this mean all Phorm victims will be asked first? Won't that kill this thing stone dead?'

If BT are any indication you'll get something along the lines 'BT Webwise is a free service for BT Broadband customers which will help protect you against online fraud and provide a more enjoyable experience.

'You're just moments away from a safer Internet, click [OK] to enjoy the wonderful world of BT Webwise; otherwise click [Cancel] if you feel more comfortable in the presence of hucksters and paedophiles.

'Even if you're a weirdo and don't want to use Webwise right now, you can always opt in to our service by calling 0845 KIDY FDLR and choose 'I'm a sinner and I need to be punished' from the menu.'

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MPs get £2k home cinema on taxpayers

Mike Richards

But on the upside...

...John Lewis is 'never knowingly undersold' so if any of our pork-barrelling representatives find their taxpayer funded lifestyle cheaper elsewhere, JL will refund the difference.

Which is a morsel of comfort isn't it?

Oh, no, it's not.

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