Thursday, October 03, 2013

Controversy as "Blackmailer who never was" is freed

Riverdale County Court Wisconsin USA, Thursday October 3rd, 2013.

Astounding, astonishing, amazing - just some of the superlatives uttered, printed and captured on camera this afternoon in reaction to a decision made by Riverdale County Circuit Judge Emily McPherson to dismiss the case against Greg Jaskowiak, 58, dubbed the "Blackmailer who never was" by regional and national press organisations. The case is becoming a national and international Cause célèbre.

The case against Jaskowiak came into being following the tragic suicide of 43 year old Silvia Mary Hammond, in Riverdale, Wisconsin on Christmas Eve, 2012. Detectives who interviewed friends and family of the deceased began to become aware of a sudden change which had taken place in the behaviour of Mrs Hammond in the weeks leading up to the holiday period. She became withdrawn, moody and started drinking alcohol to excess. This behaviour was out of character and those close to her were very worried by these developments. They firmly believed that her state of mind had resulted directly in her self administered demise.

Then detectives made a startling find. Hidden among her possessions, trapped between the pages of one of her books, was an envelope, addressed to Mrs Hammond using her home address. Inside the envelope was a folded piece of paper, which when unfolded revealed five words "I KNOW YOUR LITTLE SECRET". From this point on, the police investigation became a hunt for a potential blackmailer. A blackmailer who may have indirectly caused the death of Silvia Mary Hammond.

Then the police had tremendous amount of luck. Analysis of the envelope and its postmark revealed that the letter had been mailed at a Post Office in a small town some 200 miles west of Riverdale on the 12th December 2012, at 3.15pm. Interrogation of footage from CCTV cameras, which had been installed in the Post Office only months before, revealed that only four people had purchased stamps and posted mail within the identified timeline. As it turned out, all four were locals and known to staff at the Post Office and were therefore very easy to trace. One customer in particular drew the attention of investigating officers. It could clearly be seen that he had posted a small bundle of envelopes. Envelopes which even on the grainy footage looked very much like the one sent to Mrs Hammond.

Before approaching any of the four potential suspects, on-line searches were carried out to try and discover any links between the individuals and Mrs Hammond. In addition, other records were searched with the same aim. No connections were found.

Acting on a hunch, and with the CCTV footage in mind, they decided that their first call would be to Greg Jaskowiak, who lived alone in an old converted farmhouse four miles out of town. Armed with a search warrant, a team of six officers made a dawn raid on the remote property. Detectives were astonished when the first thing Jaskowiak said to them was "Is this about the Hammond woman?" He told them that he had read about her death in his weekly newspaper. They were convinced that they had captured their blackmailer. However, they were to be further astounded when, following a full search of the dwelling, they found what was thought, at that time, to be the ultimate incriminating evidence. In a neat pile, beside the computer printer were 50 sheets of printer paper, on each one of which had been printed the five words "I KNOW YOUR LITTLE SECRET" The paper, the font and the placement of the letters on the paper were all an exact match to the letter sent to Mrs Hammond on the 12th December.

Jaskowiak was arrested and taken away for questioning. Evidence from the house was bagged and confiscated for analysis and to be used as exhibits in the subsequent trial.

Following his arrest, a very strange thing happened. The local press got hold of the story and details of the blackmail note were somehow leaked. Following publication of some of the facts, detectives working on the case received a number of calls from other police forces across the country. They had all worked on cases where people had either attempted to, or had actually taken their lives after receiving similar anonymous letters. They also heard from others who had received the letters and approached the police in anticipation of being blackmailed.

Jaskowiak had an explanation. For the past eight years, every month, he had dispatched 50 similar envelopes, containing the same message, to random people all over the states. Every envelope was personally addressed. At first he had simply taken random names and addresses from phone books. More recently, he had searched for names and addresses randomly on-line, through social media and other sites. He did not know any of the people to whom he sent the message. He made no request for money or favours, and so argued that no crime had taken place. For the charge of blackmail to stick, there must be a threat of menaces, or a request of some sort made. His only motive for acting in the way he had, was to receive a psychological thrill as he anticipated how the missives would be received and acted upon at their destination.

At his trial, he stated "We all have some guilty little secret. Something which we would not want others to know. For some of us, it is something relatively trivial. For others, they would be mortified if they were found out. People cheating on their husbands or wives. People cheating on their employers, their taxes, their country". Later in his testimony, he continued: "I did us all a favour. How many people, as a direct result of receiving one of my 'Conscience Prompters' stopped stealing from work, stopped cheating on their partners, stopped beating their kids? Fear of being caught, fear of being found out, that is what motivates people. It's the only motivator". "All I did, was plant a seed".

In a dramatic turn of events late this afternoon, following extensive legal advice, for technical reasons, the trial was halted, the jury were dismissed and all charges were dropped. Mr Jaskowiak is expected to make a full statement tomorrow, Friday. The controversy surrounding this case looks likely to be around for a very long time to come


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Slugs, specifically bred to eat only weeds, wiped out in bizarre accident

Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, England - Wednesday 21st August.
For the last thirty years, Charlie Carr, 54, who operates from a converted barn just above the small, but relatively well known town of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, has been working towards solving a perennial problem which has plagued generations of gardeners and commercial farmers the world over. Working in partnership with scientists from the University of Leeds in a project jointly funded by a host of "Green" and organic gardening organisations, his team were preparing to announce a breakthrough which could have transformed our relationship with the common slug forever. 

His vision was to provide protection for those crops, plants and flowers which are susceptible to slug attacks leading to decimation and loss. This was to be achieved without the use of chemicals or poisons and without the wholesale destruction of the gastropod molluscs. On the contrary, the slug was about to become the farmers' friend and his work would have led to slugs becoming welcome in every garden in the land.
Through years and years of selective breeding, with many false dawns and setbacks, Dr. Carr and his team had finally produced a breed of super slugs which were genetically programmed to be attracted only to common weeds such as the Dandelion (Taraxacum) and Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) as a food source and to find selected cultivated plants and crops unappealing.  In August 2009, a batch of 88 individual slugs, with the batch number R84-27,  finally all demonstrated the characteristics for which they had been bred.  Extensive trials immediately began in a bid to replicate the behaviour in other batches before any announcements could be made. No longer would we be planting vegetables such as cabbage using the four for us and "one for the slugs" ratios.

The team successfully bred further batches. The next step was to try and cross breed the super slugs with common slugs in a way that retained the  new traits so that these could be passed on through future generations and spread geographically. Finally, early in 2013 they were able to demonstrate that they had achieved this aim and were able to produce super slug/common slug offspring which retained the genetic propensity intended, and to do so consistently. They were ready to publish their results to the world. In May 2013, a  three day conference was organised to disseminate the findings to experts in the field prior to wider publication. A press conference was due to take place two weeks after the conference for this purpose. 

However, whilst Dr. Carr was attending the conference in Leeds, some 20 miles away, his elderly mother, Mavis, who was staying with him temporarily whilst her flat was decorated, decided that she would help about the place by doing some weeding in his absence. Searching for gardening tools, she entered the part of the converted barn serving as the research facility. As she moved further into the area, she observed row upon row of trays filled with plants which were obviously part of her son's research (she wasn't really sure exactly what his work encompassed). However, to her horror, she also noticed that they had been overrun by a super-abundance of black, slimy slugs.  Thinking that she ought to try and save the plants before they were eaten by the infestation, she took the next  bus to Mytholmroyd, a small village some four miles away, and purchased two very large containers of slug pellets. 

When Dr. Carr returned from Leeds, his mother informed him, with pride, what she had encountered in the research facility, but told him not to worry, most of the plants were still alive and that she was sure she had managed to kill each and every slug. The reality was that all of his breeding stock had been wiped out and all that he was left with were his research papers and the knowledge that he had achieved his goal, even if he was not going to be able to replicate it, because all his subjects were dead. The project had cost more than £2.5million over its lifetime. It is thought that the research has since been taken over by another expert in the field, Jean Pilkington, although a wall of secrecy prevents this being made public.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Man "protects" neighbour's Solar Panels with SPF 50 in the most bizzare neighbour dispute ever

Birmingham, England - Tuesday 4th June -  In February 2012, the Harrison family of Small Heath, Birmingham, England, had photovoltaic Solar Panels installed on the roof of their neat Bungalow (a one storey house) in the city suburb, in order to capture the sun's rays and turn them into electricity in a bid to save money on their energy bills. They were not alone. A Government scheme in place at the time guaranteed that any surplus energy produced could be sold directly to the energy companies at a rate fixed for twenty five years and there was a rush by many householders to install panels before certain cut-off dates. 

For the first three months, the Harrisons' were very happy with their panels. They could see, from a meter provided by the installers, that the panels were producing the four kilowatts of energy promised by the company. However, when readings were taken in July, one of the sunniest months of the year, they demonstrated that the panels were producing hardly any electricity at all. 

Carl Harrison called the installers and asked them to look at the system. The Solar Panel company were completely baffled. They spent a whole day carrying out tests on the transformers, the converters, all of the internal and external wiring and the meters. They could not find any faults. A representative of the manufacturers of the equipment was flown over from Germany, at great expense, to try and get to the bottom of the problem. Thousands of panels were being produced every day and exported all over the world, so a potential problem with panels, or the related equipment, had the potential to cost the firm millions. Again, no solution could be found.

A date was fixed for the panels to be removed and taken back to the manufacturers for more detailed testing in laboratory conditions. However, in the early hours of the morning one day in late July, Carl Harrison, who was having difficulty sleeping, was disturbed by a noise from outside of the house. As he went to investigate, he was about to do what several teams of workmen, boffins and scientists were unable to do - discover the cause of the solar hardware's inability to produce electricity as they were designed to do.

He found his neighbour, Jack Donnelly perched on the top of a pair of step-ladders, in his slippers and dressing gown, smearing sun cream on the panels with the aid of a soft mop. The aim was clear. The factor 50 sun cream "protected" the panels from the rays of the sun. The same rays which produced the electricity for which the panels had been acquired. Because the product was "Non-greasy", it was impossible to spot the coat of protection or know that it was there. This was the second time the neighbour had "topped up" the coat.

The two men had been involved in neighbour disputes for the previous five years, starting with an argument over a Leylandii hedge grown by Mr. Donnelly, which blocked out light from Mr. Harrison's garden. Mr. Donnelly had been ordered to trim, or remove the hedge by a Court Order. The two men had had several arguments since, culminating in the present action.

Mr. Donnelly was found guilty of criminal damage on Friday 31st May and is awaiting sentencing, subject to reports from previous related convictions.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Sailing By" violinist sails off into the sunset after 50 years.

London, Tuesday 28th May - Colin Crabbe, First Violinist with the Alan Perry/William Gardner Orchestra, will hang up his bow this Friday night having performed the same orchestral piece daily for almost exactly 50 years; an incredible feat and one for which he will be recognised in the next edition of  the Guinness Book of World Records. Technically, his retirement begins on Saturday morning (1st June), as the piece, Sailing By is performed daily at 00:48hrs every morning in preparation for the reading of the Shipping Forecast beloved of BBC Radio Four listeners both at home and abroad.

Contrary to popular belief, Sailing By is performed live daily by a 24 piece orchestra and this has been the case since 1963 following an agreement between the BBC and the Musicians Union which successfully campaigned to "Keep Music Live" within the Corporation. Although the agreement has come under fire several times over the years in times of austerity, it has survived many changes of management and the different regimes which have been in place in the last half century. Staunch Radio Four listeners have also played a role in keeping the music live, once (in 1982) circulating and submitting a petition which attracted over 80,000 signatures of disgruntled "Sailing By" fans when the BBC announced that it wanted to start using a pre-recorded version.

Colin was 25 years old when he was first contracted to play the piece in 1963 with the newly formed orchestra. "It's been like a second family to me ever since. There have been lots of comings and goings. People have died, retired, left to have families, or just moved on to other things. I am the only surviving member of the original orchestra". Colin has been blessed with very good health, although he has performed over the years with: a broken ankle; raging tooth ache (twice); following minor operations and after the birth of his twins in 1972. 

He has made other sacrifices too, which includes never having taken a holiday outside of travelling distance of the BBC studios where the daily performance takes place. In 1969 his new bride watched from the gallery whilst her groom played his part in the piece before they departed to celebrate their 24 hour honeymoon.

 Sailing By was written by Ronald Binge in 1963. In 2008, a researcher from the BBC calculated that the whole of Sailing By is only heard approximately 25% of the time as the live performance is faded in and out dependant on the finishing time of the preceding programme, which does not always run to time. Jarvis Cocker chose Sailing By as one of his Desert Island Discs in April 2005. 

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Quiz contestant to sue over length of the Amazon

Warrington, England, Sunday June17th 2007 - Terry Copthorne, a laboratory technician, of Warrington, Cheshire, England, today announced that he had started proceedings to sue Celador, makers of the popular television quiz programme Who wants to be a Millionaire? for £1million, which represents the amount of money he could have received had the company been aware of the true facts concerning the actual relative lengths of the Amazon and Nile rivers. "My geography teacher, Earl Bretton, had always taught us that although the common perception was that the Nile was longer, there was enough evidence available, even then, that the Amazon was the longest river in the world". "He taught us that in 1972 and I have always used it as a yardstick in quizzes and tests ever since, and argued the case when challenged". " I did so in this case, and as a result lost £250,000, which was the value of a correct answer at this stage in the game. However, my principles were just as important to me as the money. Now I have been fully vindicated and I want a reward for my integrity".

In the show, broadcast in August 2004, Terry had to choose between four options. The host, Chris Tarrant, sought the answer to the question "Which is the longest river in the world?" The options presented were:
  • A The Nile
  • B The Yangtze
  • C The Amazon
  • D The Po

Terry prevaricated and gave his reasoning for choosing the Amazon after much thought. His answer was rejected, as the prevailing knowledge at the time was that the Nile deserved this distinction. As a result, he feels that he not only lost £250,000 directly, but that he also missed the opportunity to go for the ultimate quiz show prize of £1million.

There were other consequences for Terry: "This lack of knowledge on behalf of Celador also led to the death of my brother-in-law, who was bludgeoned to death following an argument in a South Manchester pub the day the quiz was aired"."I will have to live with the consequences of that until the day I die.", said Terry. Terry also blames the show for the break up of his fourth marriage and the death of his dog Mr. Dahl, named after the famous children's author.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Survey finds that exclamation marks are overused!!!!!

Tuesday 5th June 2007 - Exeter, England - A survey conducted by boffins at Exeter University has discovered that bloggers, on average, use 37% more exclamation marks in their writing than those who use other written forms!! Further, the Internet in general causes an increase of 19% in the use of the punctuation mark!!!

Professer Tim Hatton, who was the lead researcher on the project, said today that he was not surprised by the results!!!! "Anyone who has taken anything more than a cursory glance at the web cannot fail to notice that it is littered with surplus and totally redundant re-enforcement!!!!" "The exclamation mark is slowly losing its ability to mark out a title or passage as special or worthy of extra attention!!! As a result, we are entering an era where the only way to clearly emphasise the importance of a phrase or block of speech or make it stand out is to raise the stakes by adding more and more marks!!!!!!"

Over 4,000 blogs were examined, in addition to the 8,000 web-sites tested earlier in the year!!!!!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Blackpool Tower "sinking"

Blackpool, England, Friday - The most famous landmark in the North of England, the Blackpool Tower, has been sinking at the rate of half an inch (125mm) a year since 1997 it was announced today. A spokesperson for the owners assured members of the public that the tower is perfectly safe and that contingency plans have been made to arrest the slow disappearance of the Tower into the Blackpool sea front.

Structural engineers, called in to attempt to discover the reason for the Tower's recent behaviour have made a startling find. Working with experts from the University of Warwick, they have discovered that downward movement of the Tower can almost certainly be put down to fat kids and their families using the facilities. "The Tower was built at a time when the average weight of the population was about two thirds of its current average." said Mr Eddie Ryan, Chief Engineer. "The weight of thousands of visitors at a time being present in the Tower is just one of the factors taken into consideration in the design". "However the current weight of visitors is adding extra strain to the foundations and to supports for the structure".

One of the strategies being actively considered in order to save the Tower for future generations, is a ban on obese patrons. Another option, is to price tickets to the attraction on a sliding scale dependant on the weight of the individual buying the tickets. "This would mean installing scales adjacent to ticket booths, linked to our central computer, which would do the calculation, and we wouldn't anticipate much disruption once installation was complete and customers had got used to the idea" said a company spokesperson.

A local Councillor, Gordon Purdy, has used the news to call for a ban on the sale of chips within three miles of the sea front. "I'm sure that our visitors would much rather be offered a healthier fayre, such as salads and fresh fruit". "If we are to keep the Tower intact, we must stop feeding our guests so many saturated fats and carbohydrates - and have you seen how much salt they use - that can't be good for them".

The tower is currently 158 m (518 ft 9 in) tall. It was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It cost £42,000 to construct, and it first opened to the public on 14 May 1894.


Recipient of first full face transplant named

London, England, Friday - Despite the fact that doctors had promised that the identity of the first person to undergo a full face transplant would remain a closely guarded secret, we understand that the name of the patient, which was initially disclosed accidentally through inclusion in an NHS in-house publication, has since been disseminated through countless blogs and other Internet sites and is therefore now in the public domain. The operation is due to take place either just before, or just after, Christmas.

The patient, a Mr. A. Blair, currently lives in Westminster, London. Although he was planning to move home shortly, the news that he had been chosen for the operation convinced him to put these plans on hold. Mr. Blair has been very specific about the type of donor he would like to provide his new face. Black hair, bushy eyebrows, large nose and large ears would be ideal. Mr. Blair says he even has a particular person in mind. Although donations would usually be made posthumously, Mr. Blair is convinced this would not be necessary in this case. "The person I am thinking of is two faced anyway, so I'm sure he can spare one" said Mr. Blair.

An artists impression of the potential donor.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Madonna now adopts village

London, Wednesday - It has been revealed early this morning that Madonna now plans to use her vast personal wealth to adopt a whole village in Malawi, which was the birthplace of her new "son" David so that he will not miss his extended family and their friends. They will be flown in her private jet, initially to London, and will then follow her around the world to her homes in Los Angeles, the Caribbean and other locations. It has been estimated that over 40 people are included in the cohort. Sorting out passports, visas and travel documents for so many people would normally take between six months and a year. However, the paperwork required has, in this case, already been completed in a matter of hours and villagers will now join David and Madonna on Friday of this week. A government spokesperson was anxious to play down any talk of special privileges. He insisted that the fact that Madonna is rich, famous and well connected did not affect any decisions made regarding fast track approvals and the swift production of documentation. A friend of Madonna said today that the popstar had heard from an elderly African woman that "It takes a whole village to raise a child" and so had straight away arranged to purchase one to help her in the task.

It is understood that Madonna has purchased a small hotel in Bayswater to house her new "family" and engaged an "Ethnic interior designer" to transform the building with a £1.5million facelift so that they feel at home in their new surroundings.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Isle of Wight set to become a prison island

London, England, Monday - In order to relieve severe overcrowding in the British prison system, the Labour Government has today revealed secret plans to evacuate the population of the Isle of Wight and turn the whole island into a high security fortress, eventually housing 90% of British prison inmates. The move is expected to bring over 12,000 extra jobs to the island. Construction work on new prison buildings will commence within months. The scheme will cost over £3billion, but is still cheaper than many of the alternative solutions being put forward. Compensation payments to current residents, who will have to be rehoused on the mainland, will run to over £500million. Capacity will be increased by 30% once building has been completed. In the meantime, the Government are having to use police station cells to house the overflow from the prison system during the current crisis. The island already has one prison and has housed some of the most notorious of British criminals, including the "Yorkshire Ripper", Peter Sutcliffe, who murdered thirteen women in the North of England in the late 70's.

The island will house both high and low security prisoners. Three quarters of the island will effectively be an open prison with prisoners free to come and go and hold down jobs just as long as they stay on the island. "This will be the modern day equivalent to sending convicts to Australia and many convicts may choose to settle here once their tarrif has been spent" Prison Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, said today. "Although this is a very controversial proposal, I'm sure with time, it will be seen as a very imaginitive solution to an almost intractable problem".

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Teach yourself surgery and save money

Kansas, USA, Tuesday - To the large number of do it yourself manuals and guides which have been produced on a wide range of subjects, can be added a new publication, Teach Yourself Surgery, created to provide subscribers with the skills and knowledge needed to conduct minor surgical operations on themselves and on their families and friends.

After a few weeks of study, and following instructions in both a written form and on media such as DVD and computer software, readers can carry out procedures which require a Local Anaesthetic such as in-growing toenails, setting broken limbs and the removal of bullets and other foreign objects from the body. Having gained confidence, the student can then progress on to more difficult surgery which requires a General Anaesthetic such as appendix removal or some minor heart, lung and kidney work.

The publication, which comes in monthly parts, is accompanied by all the instruments needed to build a library of tools to enable the purchaser to carry out years of home surgery. Issue one comes with a scalpel for making incisions; issue two with a clamp and cotton wads and so on.

Publisher Max Bretton is convinced he has found a whole new DIY market which will attract a very large number of subscribers in a short space of time. "The home surgery market could be worth billions of dollars". "Given the current cost of some operations in hospitals and clinics and the amount which could be saved by the enterprising amateur surgeon performing surgery in their own neighbourhood, take up could be huge".

His predictions are proving to be well-founded. The kits started to go on sale at 9.00am on Monday 25th September and all branches of Wall-Mart were completely sold out by 11.00am nationwide. Other stores reported similar business. He has since promised that further supplies of the first edition were being flown in from Chicago for distribution and that the manufacturers who were producing the stainless steel instruments were working round the clock to meet the new orders.

Cherie Blair - what she really said - CCTV footage analysed

Manchester, England, Tuesday - Cherie Blair Q.C., wife of the British Prime Minister, was the centre of controversy today over remarks allegedly made yesterday during the speech of Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader in waiting, Gordon Brown. Friends rallied round and insisted that Cherie had said "I like his tie", rather than the reported "That's a lie" during a part of his speech which suggested that the two men were working well together. She is also alleged to have uttered the words "That's not true" in another part of the speech. "I like his shoes" is the version being offered by Ms Blair. However, analysis of CCTV footage from the conference lobby, tells the whole story.

Although the audio track is completely unusable because of the background noise in the busy area, a transcript produced by a consultant, skilled in the techniques of lip-reading, after hours of analysis, confirms Cherie Blair's version of events. In addition to the words attributed to her by her friends, which contradict those of the journalist who broke the story, she has also confirmed to have called Brown "The ultimate banker" and said that he is "Full of wit". The consultant, a Mr. Mandelson, insists that because he is a totally independent and disinterested witness, the transcript he has produced tells the true story and vindicates the Prime Minister's wife completely.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The animals cried the day Steve died - Exclusive

Brisbane, Australia, Tuesday - "The animals cried the day Steve died" said animal trainer Pete Wilson this morning - see yesterday's News in Brief post. "Of course it's hard to tell underwater, but I swear that the stingray which killed Steve cried after it had dealt him the fatal blow". "I'll never forget the pitiful, soulful, look in that poor creature's eyes shortly before we bludgeoned it to death for what it had done to Steve". "Call me a sentimental old fool if you wish, but I'm sure that that stringray, of the family Daysyatidae, loved Steve just as much as we did, and it died with a deep sense of regret and guilt". Reports were being received that the stringray has been brought ashore and will be stuffed, before going on display in a Brisbane museum later in the year. "It's what Steve would had wanted" said a fan, who was inconsolable at Steve's loss.

Steve Irwin dies aged 44

Brisbane, Australia, Monday - Steve Irwin is dead - thousands of animal extras made redundant at a stroke.

The man who was passionate about wildlife and who constantly put his life on the line for his art, has finally met his match and succumbed to an attack from one of the cast. Pete Wilson, the man who trained animal extras for the show for the last twelve years announced that he is "devastated". In addition to the shock of the loss of Steve, Pete said "I am upset that thousands of crocodiles, alligators and deadly snakes will never work again. Some may end up being put down. Only a small percentage would be able to survive being released into the wild after years of being trained not to attack. Some of these guys have been with us since the beginning. All they know is how to act as if they are fierce without really hurting anybody. They are all big softies when you get right down to it. They would not last two minutes in the real world". Some of the animals will end up in zoos across Australia, but homes are sought for most of the others. "They are very good with children" Pete says, "and most would make good family pets. They just need the space to be able to spread out".

Asked if he blamed himself for Steve's death, Pete is cautious. "The stingray which caused Steve Irwin's death was not trained by me, but by one of my assistants whilst I was on holiday in France. I had warned Steve that I could not guarantee that the creature had been trained fully and understood the rules".

Monday, August 28, 2006

Computer breaktrough - Computers which work 60% of the time

San Fransisco, USA, Monday - A San Fransisco computer company has come up with a revolutionary new computer design which enables desktop and laptop machines to work 60% of the time as opposed to current designs which tend to offer around 40% efficiency. Software which will not load or perform; hardware which continually crashes; modems which will not communicate and programmes which will not speak to each other, are features which we have all come to expect from modern technology. It seems that downtime is the default expectation when it comes to IT.

Now the technology company, Indofax Computer Hardware, has managed to break through the 50% barrier and produce computers which work more than half of the time. Managing Director, Peter Mullone, is delighted with the increase in performance. "My twelve year old son changed the design. I don't know what he did, but it seems to be working". "Complaints are down from between 3,000 and 4,000 a week to just 2,700 on average".

Encouraged by their recent success, the company are now working on designs for a printer which will work more than 10% of the time and which uses printer ink cartridges which will cost less than twice the price of the actual printer.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

BBC: Is John Prescott a planet?

Sunday - London. Following the recent discovery of a body in the Solar System bigger than Pluto, a conference has been organised to search for a definition of a planet which can be accepted once and for all and against which all structures can be measured. Scientists have come up with a definition which has now been ratified by all participants.

New rules governing the characteristics of planets indicate that "Any body which has sufficient gravitational pull to form the shape of a sphere, can be classified as a planet".

Following receipt of the above definition, a Parliamentary Committee has been formed to determine whether or not the Deputy Prime Minister can be classified as a planet given that he seems to meet all the essential criteria. The remit of the cross-party committee is either to classify the DPM as a planet using the definition above, or to accept the recommendation of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has always claimed that Mr. Prescott is "A complete and utter Star".

The Chair of the committee, Alistair Burt M.P., announced that, although he did not want to anticipate or forecast the findings of the committee, "Most of the ingredients seem to be in place". "He is definitely spherical in shape". In addition, he is full of gas, overheats from time to time and is inhospitable in the extreme, in common with many planets". Following a period of consultation, a Green Paper is due in the Autumn.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The beneficial effects of Rhubarb in the diet

Leeds, Yorkshire, England, Wednesday. The findings of a three year study into the beneficial effects of rhubarb in the diet were published today by the Metropolitan University of Leeds. The study found that some athletes who included rhubarb in their diet, even in quite small quantities, had shown up to a staggering 22% increase in their performance on the track and in the field.

The study was commissioned when it was noticed that even mediocre sports men and women were turning in greatly increased performances after following a diet plan which included a daily intake of rhubarb.

Rhubarb ( from the Latin eubarbarum, rhabarbarum) is made from the fleshy leaf-stalks of a Chinese and Tibetan plant of the genus Rheum. It is produced in very large quantities in the area around Leeds in Northern England, known as the Rhubarb Triangle, and shipped to supermarkets and grocery stores around the country. It is also exported to the country's European neighbours.

Local people claim to have been aware of its properties for decades. One Leeds resident told us "This study is only telling us what we Northerners have known for years". "Some of our best athletes, footballers, and cricketers are from the North and have been brought up on rhubarb". Some Northern sports clubs have even gone so far as to try to devise a test to detect rhubarb in the bloodstream in a bid to make competition fairer, particularly at times when rhubarb is out of season and only available to those sportspeople who can afford to have it imported. At these times, it is bought and sold on the black market and changes hands for huge amounts of cash.

Its beneficial effects have been shown to be somewhat dissipated when partnered, as it often is, with custard, but enhanced by the inclusion of sugar, which is just as well as it makes the tart fruit more palatable and increases energy as a by-product.

Local producers are expecting acute shortages of rhubarb in the shops and supermarkets later this Summer and into Autumn following publication of the findings coupled with the fact that the long hot Summer has resulted in a poor crop this year.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Royal eavesdropping - the transcripts - exclusive

London, England - Following the arrest yesterday (Tuesday 9th August) of the two people accused of the interception of voicemail messages to the Royal household, Skeldor is now, for the first time able to publish a partial transcript of the recorded communications:

  • 23rd July - 16.32hrs Message left for the equerry of Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh - "This is Elizabeth. Please tell Phillip that I have left his dinner in the microwave oven. I shall be dining at the Queens Head this evening. Remind him that we are opening a new hospital or hospice or borstal or something tomorrow in Yorkshire and I shall expect him to be on his best behaviour. (Please hide the bottles). Leave the front door on the latch. I don't know what time I will be back, but it will be very, very, late. Tell Phillip not to wait up. Oh, and leave a note for the milkman - we will need two extra pints in the morning, Camilla will be joining us for breakfast..." (The next section of the tape has been censored for legal reasons).
  • 24th July - 10.17hrs Message left for footman. "That grinning buffoon who lives not un-adjacent to Whitehall will be visiting this afternoon for his weekly audience. Get out the cheap cups and saucers and let the dogs out. Keep him waiting in the drawing room for about 20 minutes before you let him in to see me. I'll teach him to try and upstage me with his 'special relationships'. And Gerald, plain biscuits."
  • 25th July - 22.37hrs Message from the owner of Harrods (This message censored for legal reasons and in the interests of good taste).
  • 26th July - 02.15hrs Message from the owner of Harrods (This message censored for legal reasons and in the interests of good taste).
  • 27th July - 21.06hrs Message for Prince Harry from unknown source. " The merchandise will be in the usual place at the usual time. Be careful, we have changed our suppliers and you may find this batch unusually strong".


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Proof! - Omega 3 does work miracles

To the claims made for Omega 3, can be added the story of Bryan Henderson of Telford, Shropshire, England, who asserts that discovery of the dietary supplements has changed his life. "Before I started taking the tablets, I was always depressed and I visited my doctor so often, I had my own coffee cup with my name on it in his consulting room. Since I became aware of the properties of Omega 3 and started taking a daily dose my life has been transformed. I shed over 20 pounds in weight in the first three weeks; my wife moved back in to the family home and my kids are no longer ashamed to walk on the same side of the street as me. My halitosis has all but disappeared and the strange rash I have been treated for for over 20 years seems to be clearing up nicely. Strangest of all, my left leg, which I lost back in '83 in a boating accident, has grown back and I played soccer recently for the first time in twenty years".

Over the pond in America, Wendle Speers, of Kentucky is equally impressed by the efficaciousness of the wonder supplement. "My mother has been eating raw fish for over 50 years and thanks to the health giving properties of the Omega 3 contained in the oily fish, she is now over 120 years old. Although my sister and I have not been able to travel to Texas to see her for the last 30 years, she writes to me every week from the $4000 a month retirement home where she has lived since 1976. Her writing, if anything, looks like the writing of a 40 year old (further proof of her sound condition) and the owner of the home insists she is in the very best of health when we ring him at the end of every financial year. The only drawback is that because she is so active, she always tends to be out when we call and so the staff say she cannot come to the phone".

Next week: How Omega 3 helped Italy win the Soccer World Cup in Germany earlier this year.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Americans agree to learn how to spell correctly

In an unprecedented Transatlantic agreement, the so called "Special Relationship" between Great Britain and the United States of America, is to be further cemented by an agreement that has taken over ten years to negotiate. Academics, book publishers and newspaper proprietors amongst others have been working with politicians and educationalists to negotiate an agreement that, in essence, will lead to America adopting the British model of spelling. No longer will the phrase "Two nations divided by a single language" be an apt way to describe the relationship between the two countries. Changes will be phased in over the coming years, with a complete move to the correct form of spelling by 2018. America, home of the "Spelling Bee", is about to adopt the rules of the mother country in terms of the origin of the language in a bid to offer consistency and continuity.

The missing "u" will be returned to words like Neighourhood and colour. From now on, celebrities will be the Centre of attention and not as previously in the Center. Programmes will replace the old American spelling programs and many other words will be transformed forever.. Economists have calculated that the extra letters needed for the new spelling format will add 6% to the cost of newspapers and books and that nationally the project will cost the Country over $800 million when the cost of changing stationery and up-dating text books and forms is taken into consideration. The new spelling will initially be introduded on a voluntary basis, but after the first five years, fines will be levied on anyone producing publications or public signage using the out-dated spelling regime.

Some resistance is expected at first, but officials are confident that once the first cohort of children who will be taught using the new spelling systems have reached High School, people will begin to accept that a change was sensible and be fully supportive of the project.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott loses Jags

Labour's second in command, John Prescott has announced that his trade mark Jaguar cars are to be to be mothballed. Going too are the are the second, third and fourth homes in London, Hull and the continent. "To be frank, I could do with the exercise" says Prescott, who famously has used the cars repeatedly for journeys of less than 200 yards. In a 22,000 word statement, issued earlier today, the Deputy Prime Minister claims that he made the decision after becoming aware of, and studying, a political philosophy which is called "Socialism". Speculation is rife that Mr. Prescott has been a closet "Socialist" for some time now and that this is just the first manifestation of his desire to become a member of the previously forgotton political movement. Already, there have been calls from Cabinet colleagues for his resignation should he continue to persue his interest in Socialism. "There is no place in the modern Labour Party for out-moded and irrelevant left wing thinking" said one.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bush and Blair - "We were wrong" - Exclusive!

American President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair today issued a joint communique which amounted to an admission that the decision to invade Iraq was "foolhardy in the extreme" and "carried out without any real consideration of the consequences." "I cannot imagine what we were thinking of" Prime Minister Blair admits. "I was sure that once the dictator had been removed, all that was left to do was to receive the abject thanks of the Iraqi people, jointly issue contracts for the re-building of the infrastructure, and secure economic and political stability in the region".

American President George Bush was equally candid: "We messed up; I was badly advised." "The fact that I am still in office is something of a miracle for which I daily pray and give thanks to the Lord". "I feel like the luckiest man alive".

Both men have agreed that, given their appalling lack of judgement, the only honorable way to proceed is to offer to resign. Consequently, later this week on Wednesday 9th August at 19.00hrs GMT both men will tender their resignations: Prime Minister Tony Blair to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the second; President George Bush to Congress. Interim arrangements for the governance of both countries will be announced in a joint broadcast arranged for Tuesday 8th August, again at 1900hrs GMT.